The SNP government has become complacent on cancer

26 September 2016

Commenting on official figures released today showing a fall in performance on the 62-day standard of urgent referrals for cancer treatment, Scottish Labour Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“These numbers should act as a wake-up call to an SNP government that has become complacent on cancer.

"The 62 day standard for urgent referrals to treatment has gone backwards, and the target has not been met for three years now.

“Only two out of Scotland’s fourteen health boards have met the standards - it would simply be wrong for SNP ministers in Edinburgh to try and spin their way out of this.

“These figures don’t just represent some sort of inconvenience - the sooner people receive treatment the better the outcomes can be.

“Equally the anxiety caused by waiting can have a huge impact on friends and family.

“The time between suspicion to diagnosis is also crucial, that’s why Labour have been making the case that if your doctor suspects you have cancer you should expect to see a specialist and get a diagnosis in two weeks.”



This is a damning indictment of the SNP's stewardship of our health service – Sarwar

26 September 2016

Responding to comments made by the Chief Executive of NHS Scotland that NHS staff feel they cannot raise concerns about the health service, Labour Health Spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

"This is a damning indictment of the SNP's stewardship of our health service.

“Our NHS is our most cherished public service, and the people of Scotland deserve an NHS workforce that are supported to deliver the care the public needs.

“It is unacceptable that our valued NHS staff do not feel they can raise concerns about the health service.

“Only a third of NHS staff feel there are enough of them to do their jobs properly, nine out of ten nurses believe their workload has gotten heavier – staff will rightly have concerns but today we are learning that few feel they can actually speak out.

“Making our NHS fit for the challenges of the 21st century means supporting staff properly. The SNP Government in Edinburgh should listen closely to Paul Gray’s comments, not turn a blind eye as they too often do when it comes to issues in our NHS.”



Labour to amend Scottish budget to stop the cuts

21 September 2016

25 September 2016 Scottish Labour will seek to amend the Scottish budget to introduce a 50p top rate of tax and a penny for public services, Kezia Dugdale will announce today.

With more cuts to come to Scotland, Ms Dugdale will say that the SNP Government in Edinburgh faces a choice - accept a Tory budget from Westminster, or use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts.

Kezia Dugdale will say that Labour will not support an austerity budget in Scotland, and will vote against proposals that do not use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop cuts to public services.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale is expected to say:

“With the cuts coming down the track from Holyrood, local Government is set to lose £1 billion over the course of this Parliament.

“Our health service is already beginning to show signs of strain as hospitals across the country face cuts or closure.

“When it comes to our schools, the SNP Government continue to refuse to protect the education budget.

“Conference, I accept what Nicola Sturgeon says about these cuts coming from Westminster. I don’t question that.

“What I do question is her refusal to do anything about it.

“Leadership does not mean marching to London to make your point, but refusing to take the tough decisions when you are at home.

“It doesn’t mean blaming someone else for your problems.

“And it certainly doesn’t mean demanding power and then refusing to act.

“Nicola Sturgeon is the most powerful First Minister that Scotland has ever had.

“In her hands, she has more power than any of her predecessors to change our nation.

“But for a woman who is famous for saying yes, her answer when you ask her to use the powers she has is always no.

“Conference, I’m only asking Nicola Sturgeon to do what she’s said she wanted to do her entire political life: to make different choices to the Tories.

“Labour will not sit back and do nothing.

“That is why today I can announce that when the SNP Government presents the budget to the Scottish Parliament in the coming months, we will place amendments to introduce a 50p tax on those earning over £150,000 and to add a penny to income tax to pay for public services.

“Making decisions for Scotland that the Tories would never make, and using the powers which we have argued for.

“This, together with our other tax proposals, will enable us to stop further cuts to public services; to protect our schools and hospitals and the services we all value.

“With the full range of powers the Scottish Parliament now has, the SNP Government faces a clear choice.

“Accept a Tory Budget from Westminster, or go our own way with proposals to grow the Scottish economy and protect our schools and hospitals.

“More and more cuts to Scotland’s budget harm our country’s growth and the prospects for our young people. We need to invest to provide the next generation of Scots with the chances they need to succeed.

“If the SNP minority Government do not accept these proposals, and try to force another austerity budget through Holyrood, we will vote against it.

“If they want support, they’ll need to look to the Tories for that. Labour will not help the SNP pass an austerity budget.”



Dossier reveals the SNP’s broken promises on council tax

21 September 2016

A dossier from Scottish Labour reveals the SNP’s broken promises on council tax.

Ahead of a debate in the Scottish Parliament on council tax, Labour has released a dossier showing:

• The SNP promised to scrap council tax a decade ago, but have failed to do so

• Experts urge bold reform – but the SNP aren’t listening

Labour’s fairer alternative

Labour said that the SNP should consider their bold plan to scrap Council tax and replace it with a fairer property based system which would see 80% of households pay less.

Scottish Labour Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:

“A decade on from promising to scrap the council tax all the SNP are proposing to do now is to scrap the council tax freeze. That isn’t big enough or bold enough.

“The SNP should work with Scottish Labour to abolish the council tax completely, and replace it with a fairer property based system which would see 80% of households pay less.

“Naomi Eistenstadt, the SNP Government's own poverty advisor,called for them to be bold on local tax reform.

“The SNP face a choice, they can work with Labour to scrap the council tax, or they can work with the Tories to scrap the council tax freeze.”



Experts confirm cuts to councils will hit services

21 September 2016

An expert report from Audit Scotland confirms that SNP cuts to councils will hit services hard.

The Audit Scotland report: ‘Social work in Scotland’ also reveals that fewer vulnerable elderly people are receiving home care since 2011 and says that the current funding model for social is ‘unsustainable.’

Following the Fraser of Allander report last week which revealed councils would face an additional £1 billion in cuts by the end of the decade, Labour said it was time for the SNP to back their plans to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts.

Scottish Labour Communities spokesperson Alex Rowley said:

“This expert report shows the human cost of the SNP cuts to councils. The fact that many pensioners are not getting the care they need is a clear demonstration of the failure of this SNP Government to fund these vital services.

“The demand on social work services continues to grow whilst the budgets fall putting increasing pressure on staff. The SNP government must reflect on the cuts they are imposing on these services.

“This failure to invest in councils who deliver children’s and social care services rebounds on our NHS, meaning more pressure on our hospitals.

“Ultimately these cuts mean less support for those who need it the most.

“This report says the funding model is unsustainable, the SNP need to wake up that they can’t continue to cut services that the poorest rely on the most. They should back Scottish Labour’s plans to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts.”

Key extracts from the report:

“Current approaches to delivering social work services will not be sustainable in the long term.” (p5)

“ There are risks that reducing costs further could affect the quality of services.” (p5)

“In 2016/17, councils’ total revenue funding, that is the funding used for day-today spending, will be five per cent lower than in 2015/16. This is a reduction of 11 per cent in real terms since 2010/11.” (p20)

“There have been significant long-term changes in spending per head among different age groups. The reduction in spending on older people is a combination of a lower percentage of older people receiving services…” (p21)

“Focusing services on people with higher levels of need resulted in a reduction in the percentage of older people receiving homecare between 2006 and 2015, from just under 70 per 1,000 population to 50 per 1,000” (p26)

Audit Scotland report in March this year confirmed a 11% real terms fall in revenue spending for local government - http://www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/report/an-overview-of-local-government-in-scotland-2016





SNP must explain why they have cut winter resilience funding for A&E

21 September 2016

Commenting on additional A&E winter resilience funding being cut to £9 million from £10.7 million, Scottish Labour Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

"More resource for our over-stretched NHS is always welcome, but the SNP Government should explain why they are delivering less funding for this winter than last.

"Our A&E wards are under pressure all year round but winter will always add even greater strain. Only a third of NHS staff think there are enough of them to do their jobs properly so it is vital that they get the support they need.

"The real way to take pressure off of our hospitals is to invest properly in social care, freeing up resources in the rest of our NHS. That's why Labour are making the case to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts to local services and meaning extra resources to deliver social care. "





A third of the Scottish economy owned by overseas companies

20 September 2016

A third of the Scottish economy is owned by overseas companies, Labour will reveal today.

The number has increased by more than 10% since the SNP first took office in 2007, with Scotland having the highest percentage of foreign ownership in the UK.

Labour will argue in today’s Economy debate that such high levels of foreign ownership leaves Scotland more open to economic shocks such as Brexit – or a second independence referendum.

Speaking before the debate Scottish Labour Economy spokesperson Richard Leonard said:

"Under the SNP a third of the Scottish economy is now owned by overseas companies. In just eight years going from less than a quarter to more than a third - the scale and speed of this takeover is simply breath-taking.

"More foreign companies own businesses in Scotland than any other part of the UK - including London. That makes Scotland more open to international shocks in the economy like Brexit or a second referendum on independence.

"Now more than ever is the time for a dual strategy of both working with foreign direct investors to retain jobs and investment whilst encouraging Scottish business, Scottish enterprise, and Scottish job creation."



Half of patients seen for key treatments are waiting longer than the expected standard

20 September 2016

A key NHS waiting time standard for treatments like physiotherapy and podiatry has been missed by a huge margin, new figures have revealed.

The expected standard is that 90% of patients referred for a clinical out-patient appointment for musculoskeletal services should have their first appointment within 4 weeks. This includes treatments such as:

· Physiotherapy

· Occupational Therapy

· Chiropody

· Podiatry

· Orthotics

Today’s new figures show that, out of 67,726 patients seen for treatment, more than 32,000 had to wait more than 4 weeks.

The figure is likely to be much higher as a number of health boards, including Fife and Tayside, have not published numbers.

Labour said the figures show the continuing strain on our NHS and has called for more investment in social care to take pressure off health service budgets.

Commenting, Scottish Labour Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“Half of patients seen for these treatments are waiting longer than the expected standard. That’s a brutal assessment of the SNP’s running of our NHS.

“Waiting longer for vital treatment like physiotherapy can set back recovery for patients or worsen their condition making it all the more likely they will end up having to go to hospitals and A&E wards that are already under pressure.

“The SNP Government can spin out figures about record resources but they aren’t being spent properly. That is why we need more investment in social care to take pressure off our hospitals and NHS staff, freeing them up to deliver the care Scots deserve.”



Comments on the 2015 Scottish Health Survey

20 September 2016

Commenting on the 2015 Scottish Health Survey, Scottish Labour Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“The SNP has been in charge of our NHS for nearly 10 years but nothing has changed on public health.

“We still face the same challenges in obesity, alcohol and smoking as we did ten years ago with little progress.

“We also know that if you come from a poorer background you are more likely to be in poorer health. That is why we need to tackle the root causes of inequality in our communities and that includes stopping the cuts to vital public services that impact most on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society."

Commenting on findings that women aged 16-24 have significantly lower levels of mental health compared to other age groups, Scottish Labour Inequalities spokesperson Monica Lennon said:

“It’s appalling that young women in Scotland have significantly lower levels of mental health, with almost a quarter having self-harmed.

“The Scottish Health Survey also reveals a postcode lottery with children and young people in the most deprived communities more likely to have lower levels of good mental health.

“The SNP Government admit that it has much more work to do to improve but it’s time for firm action and I would like to see the new mental health strategy bring forward evidence-based targeted programmes to improve this dismal situation.


“The most recent official figures show that a quarter of children and young people waited longer than the eighteen-week target for treatment so it’s also crucial that vital services are properly resourced using the new tax powers of the Scottish Parliament.”

Download the report at : http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0050/00505745.pdf




Answers needed from SNP over ScotRail dispute

20 September 2016

Scottish Labour has today demanded answers from Transport Minister Humza Yousaf over the government’s inaction in the dispute between ScotRail and the RMT.

ScotRail has reached an in-principle agreement with the trade union, which includes a guarantee that a conductor would be retained as the second member of staff on board new trains being rolled out next year. RMT will today present the proposal to its members in a company-wide vote.

The dispute over safety concerns led to 12 days of strikes on the rail network over the summer, causing misery for passengers.

Door panels will now be added to the design of the new trains enabling conductors to operate the doors, at an estimated cost of several million pounds.

Under the franchise agreement with the Scottish Government, ScotRail can apply for compensation for lost revenues as a result of industrial action. Scottish Labour today urges the Transport Minister to rule this out.

Scottish Labour transport spokesman Neil Bibby said: “Long-suffering passengers will be relieved that this dispute finally appears to be coming to an end. The chaos over summer caused misery for commuters and other travellers.

“But the question must be asked why the dispute ever reached this stage. Staff had raised legitimate safety concerns, and Scottish Labour repeatedly called on the Transport Minister to intervene.

“While there was inaction from the SNP government, passengers were forced to endure 12 days of industrial action.

“There are now legitimate concerns of a further cost to the taxpayer as a result of the chaos under this SNP government. Door panels will have to be added to the design of the new trains enabling conductors to operate the doors, at an estimated cost of several million pounds. The public has a right to answers from the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland, who must explain why such a design was not included in the first instance.

“Following the levels of disruption, it would also be inappropriate for the Scottish Government to provide any compensation to ScotRail in relation to lost revenues as a result of the industrial action. Ministers should rule that out as a matter of urgency.

“With engineering work on our railways running behind schedule, there is a real risk that passengers will lose confidence in our rail network unless the SNP gets a grip of the situation.”



There should be a renewed focus on the day job from the SNP - Dugdale

17 September 2016

Writing in The Times ahead of the second anniversary of the Scottish independence referendum, Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale has said that "there should be a renewed focus on the day job from the SNP" as she restated Scottish Labour's opposition to a second independence referendum.

Kezia Dugdale writes:

Tomorrow marks the second anniversary of the SNP’s referendum on Scottish independence that divided our nation.

Two years on, the divisions caused by that historic contest have not healed.

On social media and in the real word, the scars that are Alex Salmond’s political legacy remain painfully obvious.

Anonymous internet users hurl abuse at people they will never meet, politicians from all parties are on the receiving end of foul language, and too many people across Scotland feel they must now choose between being labelled a Unionist or a nationalist.

That is not why I got into politics, and it is not why people in the Labour Party got into politics. I want to make a difference to the public services that so many of us rely on, in our hospitals, care homes, our classrooms and elsewhere.

But the SNP’s election victory in 2011 meant that a referendum was inevitable, and I threw myself into that long campaign to keep Scotland in the UK.

I put in one heck of a shift. I travelled the length and breadth of the country, speaking to thousands of voters.

The campaign was gruelling – both physically and mentally. Nobody should dare to ever accuse me of not pulling my weight: I slogged my guts out for that result.

On the night of Thursday, September 18, 2014, I was in Glasgow to watch the ballot papers being counted.

Like many people who voted No, it was a sense of relief that I felt when victory was declared for the No campaign. The result was decisive, with more than 55 per cent of Scots choosing to reject the SNP’s bid to pull the United Kingdom apart.

Mr Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon promised voters that the result would stand for a ‘generation’.

I believe that when politicians promise something, the voters have a right to expect them to honour that.

Yet here we are again, two years later, and Nicola Sturgeon is agitating for another referendum.

In May’s Holyrood election, I put forward a radical vision for this country and called for the nation to move on from the divisions caused by the SNP.

Scottish Labour had an incredibly disappointing result, and I will not shy away from that.

I believed the country wanted to move on from the divisions of 2014, and I still speak to many Scots who tell me precisely that.

But I accept the constitutional divide remains in place in Scotland, and for many people in May this year they chose which party to support based largely on their personal view on independence.

Labour’s appeal to transform our public services was drowned out by Nicola Sturgeon’s talk of a second referendum, and Tory leader Ruth Davidson’s Unionist battle cry.

I say this to Ruth Davidson: you do not have to stand on top of a tank emblazoned with the Union Flag to prove that you believe in our family of nations.

Since the election, the Tories have been desperate to suggest that Scottish Labour’s opposition to independence has weakened. They are categorically wrong.

I stood on a manifesto in May that made Labour’s position on a second referendum crystal clear.

“Rule out a second independence referendum” was a commitment in that document.

It continued: “On September 18, 2014, the people of Scotland voted to remain in the United Kingdom. We believe this was the right decision for Scotland. It is time for both sides to move on.”

I believe Nicola Sturgeon should keep her promise not to hold another referendum for a generation and I therefore also believe that voters will expect Scottish Labour to stand firmly by our own commitment.

Labour is a democratic party, and the manifesto was the culmination of intense work that not only involved me and the leadership team, but all our elected representatives, affiliated organisations, trade unions and members. This was not just my personal opinion – the entire party agreed that it is opposed to a second referendum.

Opinion polls show that voters agree with us. The latest survey from Ipsos MORI, published just last Thursday, found that only 41 per cent of Scots want a second referendum within two years. Since June, opposition to such a move has increased to 54 per cent, up ten points.

The Brexit vote in June stunned all of us who campaigned for the UK to remain in the European Union.

I campaigned hard in that referendum too, and when I voted at the polling station in a church near my home in Edinburgh, I fully expected that 24 hours later I would be watching a Remain vote being declared across the UK.

But a majority of people across Britain voted to leave the EU – including more than 1million people in Scotland. Yet the public debate we’ve had since then would make you think that we voted unanimously for Remain.

I want to listen, and we should use the next few months to take stock, to look at all the options and work out where we should go next. We are in unchartered waters and the result will have a profound effect for years to come.

In the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum, I accept that some people who voted against Scottish independence had fresh doubts about our future in the UK.

Some opinion polls suggested there was a narrow majority for independence. But that has since evaporated.

With the global collapse of oil prices, which is causing misery for Scots workers in the offshore industry, the economic argument for splitting up the UK is weaker than ever.

The recent Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures for 2015-16 revealed the gap between Scotland’s spending and revenue represented a net fiscal deficit of £14.8billion or 9.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

That is the highest figure in the EU – and should be a reality check for those calling for another independence referendum.

Being part of the UK means higher spending on the public services like education and the health service that we all rely on.

The in-tray for the SNP Government is overflowing – the attainment gap between the richest and the rest in our classrooms, an NHS in distress, unacceptable levels of child poverty,150,000 scots trapped on housing waiting lists and a £15billion difference between what Scotland raises in tax and what we spend and public services.

There should be a renewed focus on the day job from the SNP.

This summer, I published an alternative Programme for Government, which listed some of the things we want the Nationalists to bring forward in the coming session.

Education is Labour’s priority, because only by giving our young people the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the future can we grow our economy and close the gap between the richest and the rest.

I lead the only party that is talking about plans for Scotland's future, while the SNP and the Tories simply want to repeat the arguments of the past.

Make no mistake: there will be no support for a second independence referendum from Scottish Labour – we will keep the government focused on the day job.

I have been through enough referendums for a lifetime.



Dugdale calls for a legal guarantee of flexible childcare for working parents

16 September 2016

There should be a legal guarantee of flexible childcare for parents in work or training, Labour said today.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale called for a statutory duty to form part of the forthcoming Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill.

Access to flexible childcare was a key recommendation from Naomi Eisenstadt, the SNP Government’s anti-poverty advisor.

Under the Childcare Act 2006 all local authorities in England and Wales have a legal obligation to make sure there is sufficient childcare for working parents and those undertaking training.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

“The Scottish Child Poverty Bill should have a statutory duty to provide affordable flexible, wrap around childcare for Scottish families.

“The debate around affordable childcare needs to move away from simply the number of hours the government are providing to parents actually being able to access those hours. There’s no point having a childcare policy that fits on an election leaflet if it doesn't fit round the lives of working families.

“The SNP’s own poverty advisor Naomi Eisenstadt made this a key recommendation in her report to the SNP Government.

"We are now looking to work with the SNP and other parties to make those recommendations a reality.

“This has the potential to be transformative for working families in Scotland, and grow our economy.

"The way we deliver it though, is to stop cuts to councils who deliver childcare services.

That is why Labour is making the case to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts to our public services.”



SNP needs to stop the cuts to deliver childcare promises

16 September 2016

The SNP needs to stop the cuts to deliver childcare promises, Kezia Dugdale said today.

Speaking on a visit to Dunbeth nursery in Coatbridge, the Scottish Labour leader said cuts to council budgets across Scotland would undermine any attempt at increase free provision.

The SNP Government has committed to doubling the number of hours of free early years education and childcare to 30 hours a week for vulnerable 2-year-olds and all 3 and 4-year-olds by 2021.

It is estimated that this will include 600 new childcare centres and require 20,000 more qualified staff.

According to the SNP manifesto, this policy will cost an additional £500 million per year by the end of the parliament.

This week, the experts at the Fraser of Allander institute revealed that local government budgets could be cut by around £1billion on a like-for-like basis by the end of the parliamentary term.

Labour has called for a legal guarantee of flexible childcare for parents in work or training to be part of the forthcoming Child Poverty Bill, and will continue to press the SNP to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts to local services.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “Affordable, flexible childcare for working families could transform our economy and slash poverty. That’s why Labour wants a legal guarantee for working families in the forthcoming Child Poverty Bill. But we can’t invest in working families unless we stop the cuts to our local services.

“We need to invest in our country, not carry on the cuts. So the choice Scotland’s politician’s face is whether to sit back and accept these cuts, or stop them.

“The SNP need to spell out how they will keep their childcare promises to working families on childcare whilst imposing huge cuts on the councils who will deliver them.

“Labour couldn’t be clearer. We will use the new tax powers of our Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts and invest in public services as well as grow our economy. The SNP face a choice – they can either work with Labour and stop hundreds of millions of pounds worth of cuts that will hit the poorest hardest, or they can work with the Tories and force them through.”



Fall in pupils taking STEM Highers confirmed

11 September 2016

Councils face swingeing cuts under the SNP 13 September 2016 The SNP’s grant for Scotland’s councils could be cut by around £1billion, according to the country’s leading economists. A new report from the University of Strathclyde’s Fraser of Allander Institute warns of further real-term cuts of up to six per cent in the Scottish Government’s resource budget by 2020-21. As an area of unprotected spend, the report reveals that the grant to local government could be cut by around £1billion on a like-for-like basis by the end of the parliamentary term. Scottish local authorities have already seen their block grant fall by around 11 per cent in real terms between 2010-11 and 2016-17. Councils and trade unions estimate that the cuts in the SNP budget passed this year will cost thousands of jobs across the country. Scottish Labour would set the income tax in Scotland 1p higher than the rate set by the Tory Government in Westminster to invest in education and stop the cuts. We would also bring back the 50p top rate of income tax to help fix the education attainment gap. Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley said: “This report lays bare that Scotland’s councils face swingeing cuts under the SNP. “This will have a devastating impact on vital services that millions of Scots depend upon. It will also put thousands of jobs at risk across the country. “Since they formed a majority government in 2011, the SNP has already cut more than £1billion from the budgets local services across Scotland. “It is simply not good enough for the Nationalists to blame Westminster for this. “Sweeping new powers are being devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Faced with the choice between hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts to schools and vital services or using the power of the Scottish Parliament to invest in the future, Labour would use the powers and invest in our country’s future.”



Fall in pupils taking STEM Highers confirmed

11 September 2016

There have been falls in the number of pupils taking science, technology and mathematics at Higher, and a lack of progress among girls taking STEM subjects.

SQA figures released today confirm the large drop in pupils taking Higher Mathematics, and show that no progress is being made in encouraging more girls to take STEM subjects. The figures show that there were 2,102 fewer Highers sat by girls in these subjects – a fall of 7% - and that girls are still under-represented in these subjects.

Figures released by the SQA show:

· Engineering – Only 88 girls took engineering compared to 941 boys

· Physics – Fewer than 2,500 girls sat Higher Physics, down by 8% on last year

· Mathematics – Down by 10% for girls and 11% for boys

· Biology and Human Biology – Down by 12% for boys, 6% for girls – overall 1,000 fewer sitting for Biology compared to last year

Labour said that STEM subjects are crucial for Scotland’s future economy, and called for the SNP government in Edinburgh to set out measures to encourage more young people, especially girls to take the subjects.

Scottish Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“The SNP government in Edinburgh need to sit up and take notice of these figures.

“STEM subjects are absolutely crucial for a Scottish workforce that can compete for the jobs of the future. We want to see more young people take these courses, not fewer.

“The SNP Government should be doing more to encourage young people, and especially girls, to study STEM subjects, but that will be made all the more difficult by hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts to schools and local services by the SNP Government.

“That is why we should use the new tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in our economy and stop the cuts to schools and local services. The SNP have a choice, they can work with the Labour Party to invest in schools or with the Tories to carry on the cuts.”



Funding for higher education is falling under Nicola Sturgeon

11 September 2016

Funding for higher education has continued to fall under Nicola Sturgeon, despite promises that education would be the driving and defining priority of her government.

A briefing produced by the impartial experts at the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) this week shows that revenue funding for higher education institutions is now more than £11 million less in real terms than it was when the SNP came to power in 2007 and has continued to fall since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister.

This research follows a summer report from Audit Scotland which shows that higher education has faced a 6% cut in real terms since 2010.

The Audit Scotland report says that funding will continue to fall under Nicola Sturgeon, saying; “Overall funding for universities has reduced in recent years, and will continue to do so through 2016/17”

This week, the convenor of Universities Scotland Andrea Nolan told the Scottish Parliament Education Committee that the sector cannot go on with the current levels of underfunding.

Labour will continue to make the case that the education budget should be protected by using the tax powers of the Scottish Parliament.

Scottish Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“Time and again the SNP tell us that education is their top priority, only for the reality of their record to tell us the opposite.

“Scotland’s universities should be the envy of the world and the engines of long term growth in our economy but they have faced cuts ever since the SNP came to power.

“Nicola Surgeon has a brass neck to claim that education is her top priority whilst presiding over cuts to universities, colleges and schools.

“Labour would protect the education budget and the funding for our universities using the new tax powers of our Scottish Parliament and will continue to make that case.

“The SNP face a choice, they can work with Labour to stop the cuts and invest in education, or they can collude with the Tories and carry on the cuts.”



Call for action as thousands of Scots miss out on tax credits

11 September 2016

- More than 100,000 Scots don’t claim what they are entitled to

- £428 million in working tax credit and child tax credit goes unclaimed

- Labour call for new legal duty to increase uptake of claims people are entitled to

More than 100,000 Scots are not claiming the tax credits they are entitled to, worth £428 million.

Scottish Labour has called on the SNP Government to use its forthcoming Social Security Bill to set a legal duty to increase the awareness and uptake of social security benefits in general.

Labour’s call builds on a key recommendation of the Scottish Government’s poverty advisor, Naomi Eisenstadt, who urged Nicola Sturgeon to ensure people claim the benefits they are entitled to.

Local authorities and third sector welfare rights organisations, already struggling with millions of pound in cuts, deliver extensive income maximisation programmes helping to tackle poverty and inequalities right across Scotland.

At present, there is no statutory duty to publicise social security benefits. Publicity drives could be done by individual local authorities on an ad hoc basis, but there is no responsibility to do so.

Scottish Labour Social Security spokesperson Mark Griffin said:

“Tax credits work. They have lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty and allow families across Scotland to aspire to more than just making it to the end of the month. That’s why the last UK Labour Government introduced tax credits, but more than 100,000 Scots aren’t claiming what they are entitled to.

“Making sure, in law, that cash goes to the people who are entitled to it could make a huge difference. Thousands of families across Scotland are one big unexpected bill away from really struggling. Too many are having to choose between putting money in the gas meter or feeding their kids. We can change that.

“Local Government and third sector welfare rights organisations do a huge amount of work to help lift household incomes but are struggling in the face of hundreds of millions of pound in cuts. Councils need the funding and support to carry on delivering these services and help boost the incomes of families across Scotland.

“Scottish Labour want a country where people get the help they need. That’s why we are calling on the SNP to make it a legal requirement that government does everything it can to make people aware of all the support they are entitled to.”



Increase in the numbers working on zero-hours contracts

8 September 2016

Commenting on new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showing the number of people working on zero-hours contracts has increased from 51,000 to 78,000, Scottish Labour Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:

“The 27,000 increase in the number of Scots employed on zero-hours contracts in the past year is shocking. Under the Tories, insecure work has rocketed.

“If Theresa May is serious about helping working people she should scrap exploitative zero hour contracts.

"The SNP government in Edinburgh could do much more to promote fair work as well, and should start by banning exploitative zero-hours contracts in jobs funded by the taxpayer through public contracts.

“To get the high skilled, well-paid jobs of the future we need to invest in our people and stop the cuts to public services.

“ The SNP face a choice, they can work with Labour to invest in our economy, or they can work with the Tories to carry on the cuts."




Dugdale calls for action on mental health treatment for young people

7 September 2016

Labour has outlined a plan to end the ongoing scandal in mental health treatment for young people at First Minister’s questions today.

Since the start of last year more than 600 children and young people waited more than a year for treatment, with more than 9,000 referrals for treatment being rejected.

Across Scotland the waiting time performance for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services is 77% against an SNP target of 90%.

At First Minister’s questions Labour leader Kezia Dugdale called for a review of rejected referrals, and for the SNP to commit to a counsellor in every school.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

“Over the summer Labour revealed that 460 young Scots had waited over a year for treatment that they desperately need. This week’s figures see that number rise to 608.

“That is utterly shameful and nothing short of a national scandal.

“But it is also just the tip of the iceberg. Since January last year more than 9,000 Scottish children have been referred for mental health treatment only to be have that referral rejected or denied.

“The First Minister must order a review of these rejected referrals.

“Labour’s manifesto proposed guaranteed access to a qualified counsellor for every high school in Scotland.

“It would cost a fraction of what the SNP Government are committed to spending and is exactly the type of early intervention the First Minister says she supports.

“If these figures don’t move the First Minister to act, it’s hard to see what will.”



 


The SNP must get a grip of the GP crisis

5 September 2016

Commenting on reports that one in four training posts in GP surgeries are going unfilled, Scottish Labour Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“For decades the family doctor has been at the heart of our communities,but we are facing a GP recruitment crisis under the SNP.

“Expert groups like the BMA and RCGP have been warning for years that primary care needs more investment and attention but the SNP has cut more than £1 billion from general practice in the last decade.

“After a decade of mismanagement we now need to see real progress in primary care.That begins with the new GP contract but it shouldn’t end there.

“Labour would take the pressure off of our family doctors and deliver better care for patients across Scotland by expanding the role of pharmacies and rolling out the Minor Ailment Service across Scotland.

“We know that not everyone who makes an appointment with their local surgery necessarily needs to see a GP.

“That is why Labour would also invest in specialist nurses and nurse practitioners, to make sure patients get the care they need from the most appropriate professional, freeing our GPs to focus on the cases for which they’re required.”





Fresh breakfast clubs call as Scotland lags behind the rest of the UK

5 September 2016

Labour today has renewed their call for a breakfast club in every school in Scotland ahead of the Programme for Government this week.

The party highlighted research showing that Scotland had the lowest percentage of schools in the UK without a breakfast club, with only 72% of schools hosting one.

Labour run Wales has a universal breakfast club scheme, with 96% of welsh schools having a breakfast club.

Labour said that extending breakfast clubs to every school will mean a healthy start to the day for every school child, help cut the attainment gap and start a move towards flexible, wraparound childcare for working families.

Labour's alternative Programme for Government, published last week, prioritised an Education Bill to establish a breakfast club in every school.

Scottish Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“The SNP should commit to a breakfast club in every school in their programme for government. It’ll mean that our children start the day with a healthy meal, that’ll help cut the attainment gap in our classrooms and inequality in our communities.

“For all the talk about education and childcare in Scotland recently, the most recent league table puts Scotland bottom of the UK with more than one in four schools missing out.

“We need to move our debate on childcare away from what fits on an election leaflet to what fits around the lives of working families.

“If the SNP are serious about cutting the attainment gap and better childcare for working families they should back Labour’s plan for a breakfast club in every school.”



NHS facing billion pound cuts bombshell under the SNP

2 September 2016

Scotland’s health boards are facing a billion pound cuts bombshell under the SNP government.

Analysis from Scottish Labour has revealed that Scotland’s health boards face more than £1 billion worth of cuts in the next four years, including:

- £258 million in Glasgow by 2021

- £382 million in Lothian by 2021

- £113 in Lanarkshire by 2018/19

- £105 million in Ayrshire and Arran by 2020

- £103 million in Highland by 2021

The figure across Scotland is likely to be much higher as boards such as Fife, Grampian and Tayside have not announced their ‘efficiency savings” for the next four years.

Labour’s Shadow Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

"After nearly 10 years in charge of Scotland's NHS the SNP cannot escape from responsibility for the performance of Scotland's NHS.

“The budget cuts they are forcing on Scotland's Health Boards are having a direct effect on patient care and a direct effect on the amount of pressure hard working and dedicated NHS staff are under.

“This year Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board are being forced to cut £69 million from their budget, with the result that valued local services at Lightburn Hospital, the Vale of Leven and the RAH are being lost.

“In Lothian, the SNP have already forced the Health Board to cut £192 million from their budget. But over the next 4 years the SNP are proposing an eye-watering £400 million in additional cuts in Lothian alone.

“This is not sustainable. Staff are already under pressure and valued local services are being closed or downgraded. Even the former Health Secretary, Alex Neil, is facing demonstrations from former employees over broken SNP promises.

“But there is a better way. The SNP Government could choose to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament and invest in Scotland's Health Service. Rather than grandstand on grievance and try and drag us back to the arguments of the past, Nicola Sturgeon should be focusing on bread and butter issues like our NHS."



£50 million bill for private procedures in our NHS in the last year

31 August 2016

The bill for private operations in our NHS has rocketed to £50 million in the last year.

Freedom of information requests from Scottish Labour also unveiled a £24 million bill in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and nearly £9 million in Lothian.

Labour said the spiralling private spend shows that our NHS is struggling to keep up with demand under the SNP.

Earlier this week Labour revealed the SNP were missing 13 out of 19 of their NHS targets, and that spending on private nursing agency staff had hit almost £60 million in the last five years.

Labour Shadow Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“When Labour established the NHS in the 1940s it was to deliver care, free at the point of delivery and based on patient need, not to line the pockets of private companies.

“These figures reveal the hypocrisy of the SNP on our NHS.

“They will campaign in elections against privatisation of our NHS while handing over increasing amounts of taxpayer cash to private health firms.

“These treatments will inevitably be costing more in the private sector than if they were being done on the NHS.

“This is money that could instead be invested in front-line care, doctors, nurses and hospitals.

“This follows on from figures which show a massive increase in the use of private nursing agencies too.

“Spending more taxpayer cash on private health services is an indication of the problems experienced by our NHS.

“It is clear they don’t have the capacity or the resources to deliver the care patients across Scotland need.

“This is unfair on patients and also to our dedicated NHS workforce who are under-valued, under-resourced and over-worked.

“It will also shock people to find that patients are being forced to travel long distances to be treated privately rather than being seen by their own local NHS.

“Instead of grandstanding Nicola Sturgeon needs to get serious about using the powers of the Parliament and doing things differently now.

“That’s why Labour would use the new tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in our public services instead.”



Commenting on the publication of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation 2016,

31 August 2016

Scottish Labour Communities spokesperson Alex Rowley said:

“These new figures are long overdue – they should have been published in 2015 but instead where pushed back until after the Scottish Parliament election.

“If we are serious about cutting the gap between the richest and the rest we need to fully understand the picture of poverty in Scotland.

“These numbers are an important start – and they show a Scotland which remains too unequal, and further SNP cuts will only make it worse.

“The most deprived communities in Scotland will suffer more because of hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts to schools and local services, whilst our health boards are faced with millions of pounds of cuts because the SNP aren’t giving our NHS the resources it needs.

“It doesn’t have to be like that, we can choose a different path.

“That is why Labour will continue to make the case to use the new tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts and invest in our public services instead.”



“Patronising platitudes” are unlikely to cut teacher workload – Iain Gray

29 August 2016

Commenting on the publication of guidance for teachers by John Swinney today, Scottish Labour’s Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“We welcome an attempt to reduce teacher workload so they can get on with what they do best - teaching.

“Unfortunately, though, patronising platitudes like ‘avoid unnecessary bureaucracy’ or ‘don’t do too many things at the same time’ are unlikely to cut teacher workload, particularly when delivered by the government who have created the bureaucracy in the first place.

“The ninety-nine pages of guidance also fail to address the key workload issue of over assessment in National 4 courses. They ignore the new burden of standardised national assessments the Scottish Government is about to introduce.

“The truth is that no warm words from John Swinney or guidance from Education Scotland can substitute for ending SNP cuts to education budgets, or replace the 4,200 teachers we have seen cut from schools. Until the SNP are prepared to use the powers of the Parliament to provide enough funds to our schools, the pressure on teachers will continue.”



Nursing crisis in Scotland’s hospitals revealed

29 August 2016

Scotland is facing a nursing crisis with staff over-worked, under-valued and under-resourced.

New analysis from Scottish Labour reveals that spending on private agency nurses has rocketed in recent years - from £3,939,107 in 2011/12 to £23,483,000 in 2015/16.

Between 2011 and 2016, the SNP Government spent almost £60 million on private agency nurses.

There have been huge increases in agency nurse spending in individual health boards, including:

· NHS Tayside (which covers Health Secretary Shona Robison's constituency) - private agency nurse spend increased from £567,289 in 2011/12 to £5,062,099 in 2015/16

· NHS Fife private agency nurse spend increased from only £2,219 in 2011/12 to £1,155,144 in 2015/16

· NHS Grampian private agency nurse spend increased from £70,139 in 2011/12 to £1,984,244 in 2015/16

Labour said the problem was down to huge vacancies across Scotland. There are more than 2,200 unfilled nursing vacancies in our NHS, including 292 mental health nurse vacancies and 840 alone in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

The last NHS staff survey found that only one third of NHS staff think there are enough of them to do their jobs properly, whilst an RCN survey found that only 12.8% of Scotland’s nurses believe that the health service is able to meet demand or exceed expectations. Three in ten in say the health service needs serious improvement.

Between 2009 and 2012, when Nicola Sturgeon was Health Minister, training places for nurses and midwives were cut by a fifth and 2,000 nursing jobs were cut.

Scottish Labour Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“We are in the middle of the biggest nursing crisis in the history of the NHS yet the SNP Health Minister appears determined to stick her head in the sand and deny a problem even exists.

“More than 2,200 nursing vacancies is a shameful statistic, leaving our dedicated but over-worked and under-valued nursing staff under extreme pressure. This is not fair on staff and not fair on patients they are being asked to care for.

“The SNP need to listen to what our nurses are saying – only a third of NHS staff believe there are enough of them to do their jobs properly and barely 13% of nurses think the health service can cope.

"It’s high time SNP Health Minister Shona Robison got a grip on her portfolio. If she doesn’t believe me, she should ask staff herself or visit a hospital with me where we can hear first hand about the impact of her government’s failures.

"What we are seeing is under-resourced NHS staff at the same time as huge increases in private agency staff. This shows that the SNP Government has lost control and have failed miserably with workforce planning. This money would be much better spent recruiting and supporting NHS nurses.

“It’s because of a lack of long term vision around our health service that our nurses today are being let down. When Nicola Sturgeon was Health Minister she cut training places for nurses and midwives and now that is coming back to haunt our hospitals."

Between 2009 and 2012, when Nicola Sturgeon was Health Minister, training places for nurses and midwives were cut by a fifth and 2000 nursing jobs were cut

Source: http://bit.ly/1N3KTxN





Kezia Dugdale calls for urgent review as thousands of young people denied mental health treatment

25 August 2016

Thousands of young people have been denied mental health treatment since the SNP introduced a new waiting time target.

In December 2014 the SNP government introduced a waiting time target of 18 weeks for child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). Since then 7,346 referrals for treatment have been rejected.

Given the recent rising trend Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has called on the SNP Government to launch an urgent review of the rejected referrals to ensure no child or young person is missing out on treatment they should be receiving.

The news comes after Labour revealed that one in five young people (almost 5,000) have waited longer for mental health treatment since the SNP introduced the new 18-week target.

Over the course of the next week Labour will focus on the SNP's failings on the health service during their near-decade in power.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

“These figures show thousands of vulnerable young people being denied the help they need. The vast majority of these referrals will be from health professionals and it raises questions about whether our NHS is getting the resources it needs to cope with demand.

“It’s easy for the SNP Government to talk a good game on taking mental health seriously, but the numbers just don’t bear that out.

“Thousands of vulnerable young people are being denied help, and one in five of those who do get help are still waiting too long.

“ The SNP Government must order an urgent review into why more than seven thousand young people are being denied mental health treatment.

“The SNP Government's cuts to public services that support our vulnerable young people don't have to happen.

“Labour will continue to make the case to use the new tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts and invest instead.”




GERS figures should act as a 'reality check' for the SNP - Kezia Dugdale

25 August 2016

Commenting on the publication of the GERS figures by the Scottish Government today, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

“Today’s figures should act as a reality check for those calling for another independence referendum. It's clearer than ever that Scotland benefits from pooling and sharing resources across the UK. Being part of the UK means higher spending on the public services like education and the health service that we all rely on. That's a strong, positive case for Scotland remaining in the UK - our most important social and economic union.

“During the independence referendum Nicola Sturgeon personally promised a second oil boom. Her own government’s figures show she misled people and that is unforgivable. The SNP's own figures confirm independence would mean severe cuts over and above those already being imposed by the Tories, at exactly the time when our public services need more investment.

“While these figures show the benefit of being part of the UK, they also show the need for the Scottish Government to invest in our economy to get us back on track. They should focus on getting people back into work, investing in education and providing public services that people can rely on, rather than another referendum. That should start with using the new tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to ask the richest 1% earning more than £150,000 a year to pay their fair share so we can invest in our schools.”


Comment on Audit Scotland Colleges report – Iain Gray

25 August 2016

Commenting on Audit Scotland’s report on College reforms, Scottish Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“This report shows the complete and utter mess the SNP have made of college reorganisation in Scotland.

“Last week the Funding Council produced a whitewash report trying to suggest all is well in the Further Education sector. This independent Audit Scotland report blows that out of the water.

“The report reveals huge drops in numbers of students going to college since the SNP came to power, with most of those “lost” students being women. Under the SNP women are being locked out of the opportunities that a college place brings.

“The report highlights huge cuts to our colleges in the past five years, with spending falling by almost a fifth. Audit Scotland still cannot find evidence of the benefits the SNP claim from the mergers of colleges.

“Worryingly, both attainment and student retention are also now in decline.

“The SNP record on colleges is simply shameful – budgets slashed, fewer students, falling attainment, inadequate student support and botched mergers.

"Nicola Sturgeon says that education is her top priority, she has put her best minister in charge and devoted plenty of warm words to it. It’s not time to go beyond spin and fix her party’s own record.

"The SNP have a choice, they can work with centre left parties like Labour to reject Tory cuts, or work with The Tories to force them through. Faced with the choice between carrying on with the cuts to education or using the powers of our Scottish Parliament, the SNP must use the powers to stop the cuts."



Despite SNP promises, our police force faces brutal cuts – Claire Baker

25 August 2016

Police Scotland are still facing brutal cuts despite SNP promises to increase their budget.

Before the Scottish Parliament election Nicola Sturgeon promised to increase the revenue budget of the SPA and protect the Police budget.

However papers published by the SPA today show that Police Scotland faces £20 million of cuts.

Scottish Labour Justice spokesperson Claire Baker said:

“Despite the rhetoric of the SNP’s police election promises, the reality is that Police Scotland's finances are in turmoil after years of cuts under the SNP.

“Officers and staff should be getting the support and resources they need but instead they are facing huge cuts and uncertainty about where the axe will fall.

"The SNP cannot continue to live in denial over their failure to fund our police properly. Hardworking officers who put their safety on the line deserve better than that.”



Derek Mackay needs to get his story straight – Baillie

25 August 2016

Commenting on Derek Mackay’s interview on Good Morning Scotland this morning, Scottish Labour's Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:

"Derek Mackay needs to get his story straight, and fast. The £100 million Nicola Sturgeon announced was from a previous SNP Government underspend, it's not new money - someone should have told the Finance Secretary.

"It's embarrassing that the man in charge of the accounts doesn't know where the money is coming from.

"The GERS figures show the real benefits that Scotland gets from pooling and sharing of resources across the UK,with more money to spend on our schools and hospitals.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that the promises the SNP made in 2014 were completely misleading, but rather than admit it, SNP ministers continue to spin utter fantasy to the Scottish people."



Spending on Scottish sport slashed due to SNP cuts

21 August 2016

The SNP Government cuts have forced spending on Scottish sport to be slashed, Labour reveals today.

As the 2016 Olympic Games draw to a close, it is revealed SportScotland has reduced spending halfway through a two year business plan, after the last SNP budget slashed spending on Scotland’s sporting agency.

Labour's analysis of the revised business plan highlighted a close to £2 million cut for schools and education, including PE, and more than £1.5 million cut from community sports hubs.

In total SportScotland has been forced to cut the amount it invests in the sports stars of tomorrow by 17%, from £55 million to £46 million.

Labour has called on the SNP Government to commit the Barnett consequetials from the UK government ‘sugar tax’ to invest in after school sports clubs.

Scottish Labour Culture and Sport spokesperson Lewis Macdonald said:

“The last month has been incredible for Scottish sport, as Scottish athletes as part of Team GB recorded their best ever results at an overseas Olympics.

“It may have been Rio rather than Glasgow but the spirit of Glasgow 2014 and London 2012 lived on this summer as we racked up the medals.

“Thousands of boys and girls across Scotland will have watched the exploits of Laura Trott, Mo Farah, and of course Andy Murray and be inspired to get on their bike or pick up a racket.

“Rather than build on this excitement and enthusiasm, the SNP have instead slashed funding for our sports agency.

“This isn’t just about discovering the next generation of gold medallists – more Scottish children playing sport will pay off in the classroom and, in the long term, in our health service.

“These short sighted cuts from the SNP will sell Scotland short in the long term.

“Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop these cuts and invest in our young people.”





Cutting air passenger duty would be the wrong move at the wrong time

19 August 2016

“Across Scotland our schools, NHS and police force are facing hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts - it shouldn’t be the SNP Government's priority to make a business class flight cheaper.

“Cutting Air Passenger Duty won’t make Scotland fairer or greener. It would be the wrong move at the wrong time.

“When the SNP Government consulted on this, they were embarrassed to find that most responses agreed with Labour.

"With record passenger numbers at Scottish airports it would be the wrong move to offer a huge tax break to airlines who simply don’t need it, and kick off a race to the bottom with other parts of the UK.

“The SNP need to scrap their plans to cut air passenger duty.”





SNP delivery plan for Scottish teachers already behind schedule

17 August 2016

The SNP’s flagship delivery plan for Scottish teachers is already behind schedule.

On June 28 John Swinney announced his Delivery Plan for education and excellence in attainment promising a clear and concise framework for teachers in time for the new school session in August.

However, as teachers go back to work this week the SNP Government has confirmed the guidance won’t be published until August 29th, well beyond the SNP target and at a point where teachers will have already set out lesson plans in advance.

Scottish Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“Whilst the First Minister is posing for photos at schools her flagship education plan is already behind schedule.

“Teachers were promised concise and clear guidelines to declutter the curriculum and clarify what is expected of them especially when it comes to teaching literacy and numeracy.

“Teachers were promised this for going back to work but the wheels have already come off that plan with the SNP now promising it by the end of the month, long after schools have come back and when teachers will be well on with lesson planning.

“If the SNP are going to make promises to teachers and parents they need to keep them. This was a fairly modest target and the SNP government have still missed it.

“After nearly a decade of the SNP treating education as an afterthought they need to do better than press releases and photo ops to convince Scotland’s teachers they are serious about sorting out education.”




SNP must publish details of European meetings

17 August 2016

The SNP Government must publish details of key meetings in Europe, Labour said today.

In an answer to a parliamentary question, Fiona Hyslop refused to publish minutes of meetings between the First Minister and the President of the European Parliament and the European Commission.

The SNP Government have also refused to publish the terms of the discussions it plans to have with European member states.

Labour supported the SNP Government’s attempts to secure Scotland’s place in Europe on the condition that the attempts would be transparent and parliament kept fully informed.

The SNP have also refused to confirm plans to publish any legal advice they commission on Scotland’s place in Europe.

Scottish Labour Economy spokesperson Richard Leonard said:

“The SNP promised to be open and transparent in their dealings with the EU on Scotland’s behalf, instead we are seeing a secretive, self-serving approach.

“The Scottish people have a right to know what was discussed in Brussels. Anything less would be unacceptable from the SNP.

“Whilst Labour supported Nicola Sturgeon going to Europe, the Scottish Parliament did not give the First Minister complete freedom of action, the SNP Government should not behave as though it did.

“The minutes of the meetings on the 29th of June in Brussels with Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Shulz should be published. The First Minister should authorise this herself.

“People in Scotland deserve to know whether these meetings have been substantive or if they are simply photo-opportunities to give the appearance of activity.

“This is about transparency, accountability and democracy. If it was simply about making Scotland’s voice heard what is there to hide? The Scottish Parliament and the Scottish people should have access to the details of these discussions.”




 

The SNP government must now step in to stop cuts to local services

16 August 2016

Commenting after the board meeting of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde today, which confirmed a consultation on cuts to local services including Lightburn Hospital, the Vale of Leven. Inverclyde Royal Hospital and Royal Alexandra Hospital, Labour Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“The SNP Government must now step in to stop cuts to local services in Glasgow and the West of Scotland. To do anything less would be unacceptable. The SNP promised to protect these services.

“The NHS in Greater Glasgow and Clyde is facing £69 million worth of cuts under the SNP Government, and that is putting local services on the line.

“Labour’s manifesto for the Scottish Parliament committed to protecting local services across Scotland, including the children's wards at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, emergency services at the Vale of Leven and Lightburn Hospital.

“Thousands of parents and children depend on the help and support they get from their local hospitals.

“Local candidates who warned of these proposed closures were branded as liars. It is now clear that they were right. The SNP must step in and keep their promises otherwise it will be obvious that they just said what they had to dupe the public."



Commenting on Nicola Sturgeon's visit to Burnfoot Community School in Hawick today

16 August 2016

Scottish Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

"Labour have outlined a series of positive policies to cut the gap between the richest and the rest. We would scrap unfair charges for exam appeals, which favour private school pupils over those educated in state schools, and we would introduce a Scottish Graduation Certificate to replace the failing baccalaureate.

"Whilst the First Minister poses for photo ops in the Borders her government is only delivering attainment funding to two schools out of sixty-three in the area.

"If the SNP were serious about cutting the gap between the richest and the rest in our classrooms they would deliver more investment by stopping the cuts to education and backing Labour's plan for a 50p top rate of tax for those earning over £150,000 per year to invest in our schools."



Time to secure trust and confidence in policing in Scotland – Baker

16 August 2016

Scottish Labour have today called for greater leadership from the SPA and Police Scotland on the big challenges facing policing in Scotland to “secure the trust and confidence of the wider public in policing in Scotland.”

The call comes as they respond to the Scottish Government Consultation on the Strategic Police Priorities which will give strategic direction for policing going forward.

Labour also use the consultation to call for a Scottish Parliament committee for Emergency Services.

Scottish Labour’s Justice Spokesperson Claire Baker MSP said:

“Since its creation only three years ago we have seen several high profile controversies hit Police Scotland.

“Local police stations and call centres have closed. We have had the tragic deaths of Lamara Bell and John Yuill at the side of the M9 and the death in police custody of Sheku Bayoh. We have seen the routine deployment of armed officers on the streets and spying on journalists.

“Under the SNP Government the reputation of policing in Scotland has been dragged through the mud. It is therefore vital that we use the Strategic Police Priorities to improve the levels of public satisfaction and confidence with the force.

“That is why the Priorities need to provide real leadership on the big challenges facing Scotland in the years ahead whilst tackling the problems that Police Scotland has been facing since its inception.

“That is why we are calling for greater efforts in dealing with crimes historically under-reported, the ability to respond to new and developing threats and a robust and accountable SPA.

“The public must be confident that Police Scotland and the SNP have learnt from their past failings and that hardworking officers and staff are giving the support and guidance they need to keep our communities safe.”



Fall in pupils taking STEM subjects at Higher

11 August 2016

Number of pupils studying Higher Mathematics drops by 10%

The number of pupils in Scotland studying Higher Mathematics fell by 10%, Scottish Labour said today.

Analysis by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) of results published this week shows a drop in pupils taking Science and Mathematics subjects at Higher compared to last year. There have also been drops in the number of pupils taking Physics and Chemistry.

These falls are disproportionate to the reduction in the number of pupils sitting exams overall. Across the board there was a 6.6% fall across the STEM subjects with 4,048 fewer sitting this year – from 61,483 to 57,435.

Labour said that STEM subjects are vital for developing a workforce with the skills needed to compete for the jobs of the future.

Last year’s Higher Mathematics paper attracted thousands of complaints for being poorly written, with the SQA ultimately having to drop the pass mark to 34%.

Scottish Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“These are concerning figures. STEM subjects will be absolutely vital if Scotland is to develop a workforce ready to compete for the jobs of the future. We want to see more young people take these courses, not fewer.

“The fall in pupils studying Higher Mathematics is particularly concerning. Given the problems with last year’s paper, with pupils leaving the exam hall in tears, the pass mark dropped and an online petition of complaint attracting thousands of signatures, some pupils may have been put off from studying Maths at Higher level. That is a great shame for our young people.

“The SNP Government should be doing more to encourage young people to study STEM subjects, but that will be made all the more difficult by hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts to schools and local services by the SNP Government.

“Labour will continue to make the case to use the new tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in our economy and stop the cuts to schools and local services.”



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