I’m standing for leader of the Scottish Labour Party because I believe only Labour can deliver the change Scotland needs. But in saying that I am aware that before we will be given the chance to change Scotland, Labour itself will have to change. We need a different approach in policy, strategy and leadership. We are the party of more powers for Scotland. But that will count for little if we aren’t telling people that we are the party of more and better jobs, more houses and more college places.
While we advocate further devolution, we must never lose sight of the fact that constitutional change is not social change – and it is social change that is our purpose. There is in truth little that is radical in the devolution of powers. It is putting those powers into action for the benefit of working people that will make a difference – and frankly our political debate could do with a good deal more discussion of the purpose to which powers will be put.
We need an economy that works for all the people – where all the people are able to work, and work in jobs with decent pay. We should have a politics where all of our efforts should be going in to devising and delivering the policies that will make that happen. Instead, we have children relying on food banks, huge housing waiting lists, creaking public services and the scandal of fifteen minute care visits.
Politics as usual won’t address these problems. Nationalists, ever more shrilly, blame all of our problems on external influences whilst completely ignoring the role that policy choices made by the Scottish Government have had in contributing to our current problems. The role of welfare reform in driving up child poverty across the UK is incontestable, but questions need to be asked as to why it has increased faster here than elsewhere.
One hundred and thirty thousand college places have been lost under the SNP. We have had the Council Tax frozen for seven years, so councils have had to implement regressive policies of charging for services at the point of use – where they haven’t just withdrawn them entirely. Councils have lost 40,000 staff under the SNP, and leaving aside the impact on services and the individuals who have left there is a knock on effect in reduced demand in local economies. Usage of the private sector in our NHS is on the increase, as is the use of agency staff in hospitals and incidentally the employment of nurses via casual ‘bank’ shifts ( zero hours contracts by any other name).
We have 180 000 people on council house waiting lists which is scandalous. For Labour to be able to put ourselves in a position to change things we will need a different approach in policy, strategy and leadership. We need policies that recognise the challenges people face and are radical enough to tackle them. We need to improve our organisation and structures to make sure those policies are communicated effectively. We need to be – and be seen to be – the party of more and better jobs, more houses and more college places.
These are policies that will have an impact on people across Scotland — especially those who have been victims of the Tory war on the poor and who those who have been left behind as the SNP try to be all things to all people.
So to rebuild our support we must contrast ourselves to an increasingly vulnerable SNP. It has not protected the NHS and it has failed to use their powers of procurement to enforce the living wage. It has made no commitments on workers’ rights beyond talk about partnership. It has taken no action on blacklisting. It still sees economic growth in terms of cutting taxes on big business and the super-rich. Those on the left should remember all this. The SNP is not a social-democratic party – it is a nationalist party with a populist approach. All it really wants to change about Scotland is the flag. Our concerns are more serious – we want to change Scotland by making a difference to their lives by creating jobs, building houses and providing opportunities. That is what I will do if elected leader of the Scottish Labour Party.
• Katy Clark MP said of her decision to stand for deputy leader: ‘I am standing to help deliver the social and political change that the people of Scotland are demanding. After a hard-fought referendum campaign we need to acknowledge that we cannot go back to business as usual. To reclaim the ground we have lost we must recognise that the mainstream of Scottish opinion is opposed to Trident, austerity, privatisation and attacks on welfare. We all need a secure job, a decent home and good public services but this is prevented for too many by so much wealth and power being held in the hands of a few. Labour has a proven track record of fighting for Scotland. The NHS, the Equal Pay Act, health and safety legislation, minimum wage and the establishment of the Scottish Parliament are just some of the measures taken by Labour Governments that have improved the lives of people across Scotland. We now need to demonstrate how Scottish Labour will continue to fight for Scotland. We need to build council houses to tackle the housing crisis, stop privatisation and redistribute wealth and power within Scotland’.