Conference it is good to see so many members and supporters here today and all the organisations that have joined us in the exhibition area. It was also good this morning to hear from the Leader of Glasgow City Council Frank McAveety, and listening to Frank, it reminded me that across Scotland it is Labour councils and Labour councillors who are on the front line fighting to protect vital services and jobs.
Jobs and services at risk because of John Swinney’s austerity budget.
So let me begin by asking you to join with me in recognising the hard work of our councillors across Scotland.
Conference as we meet here today it is clear that we have a great deal of work to do if we are going to shift the polls and persuade people in Scotland to vote Labour on May 5th.
But I would say to you today, it is important that we do that work. We as candidates, as members, as councillors and as supporters must take our discussion about the kind of Scotland we want to see, the kind of Scotland we want to build into every community across Scotland and let us be clear – we will work every day for every vote in May.
Our message is clear, it is Labour that stands up for people, for communities and it is Labour that is standing up for Scotland.
In these last few months, it is Labour in Scotland under the leadership of Kezia Dugdale that has shifted the debate to focus on the future of Scotland.
We have moved the debate away from grudge and grievance to a place where we are talking about the kind of Scotland we can have and the kind of Scotland we want to have.
Away from just talking anti-austerity, to using the powers of our Parliament here in Scotland to doing something about austerity. Using the powers to invest in Scotland’s future, in Scotland’s children, in their nurseries, in their schools, in the colleges, investing in people and investing peoples futures.
For our goal, our purpose must be a more fair, more just Scotland where everyone regardless of birth has the chance to succeed.
My desire, my ambition throughout my life has been to live in a society where there is no longer the haves and the have not’s but instead a society where everyone no matter what family they are born into or what circumstances they are born into, they have an equal chance to achieve their full potential.
A society where if you are unable to work and provide for yourself there is a social security system to support you along with a minimum income, a society where if you are able to work you will work and you will earn a fair pay and be treated with dignity and with respect in the workplace.
That is why I joined the Labour Party and that is why today it is the Labour Party that is standing up for Scotland and for the people of Scotland.
Now you may say surely that is what all parties want for Scotland in the 21st century but the evidence would suggest otherwise.
Take George Osborne’s budget this week – not only did he do nothing to address inequality – he created even more unfairness by delivering tax cuts for the better off and spending cuts for everyone else.
It was Nelson Mandela who said: “Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings”.
Sadly the actions of the Tories are making poverty worse in our country. As the Trussell trust recently said; ““The UK government are trying to find ways of eating into the national debt, while many people are just trying to find ways to eat”.
Is it not a disgrace, a national disgrace that in Scotland in 2016 we have food banks in almost every community. People dependent on charity to feed themselves and their families.
So let us today say loud and clear – we reject Tory welfare policies and we reject Tory austerity –
The Tories have no ambition for Scotland and no hope for Scotland – all they offer is cuts and more cuts, and failed economic policy.
And be Chrystal clear, it is not just the Tories in Westminster that are for hand outs for the rich whilst attacking the old, the young and the vulnerable.
They also sit in the Scottish Parliament and they defend failed austerity that inflicts such misery on Scotland and damages Scotland day in and day out.
So whilst the Tories in London and in Edinburgh attack the poor – we will attack poverty.
But other parties have a choice – are we going to simply jump up and down and complain or are we going to use the powers of our Parliament in Scotland to do something about.
Labour in Scotland is clear, we say, we are going to do something about it, we will use the powers of our Parliament to take us on a different course, to take us in a different direction for Scotland.
We must use the benefits system to help and support people, not to drive them into desperation – you cannot starve people back to work – you must support people.
We need a social security system based on respect for those it aims to help treating people with dignity and with a focus on increasing peoples opportunities and peoples choices.
I am always reminded that throughout the history of the Labour movement, the Jarrow marches, the upper Clyde sit ins, the miners strike of the 1980s, these people they did not march for benefits they marched for jobs.
And today our ambition must be to use all powers at our disposal to support people get the skills and the opportunities to get the jobs.
It was Labour that created the welfare state, founded for an economy where people were helped at the times when out of work.
Today we need a welfare state that equips people for the modern economy. That doesn’t mean just giving people money when they lose their jobs it means giving them support, giving them training and giving them skills to get another job.
For the key issue is jobs, good jobs, jobs for young people, jobs for the long term unemployed, jobs that are quality jobs, jobs that will last, jobs that we can build our future and the future of Scotland around.
And that is why we are putting fair and full employment at the heart of our vision for the future of Scotland.
Scotland needs a revolution in skills and the economy. We need to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to build Scotland’s future.
In 2017 the Scottish Parliament will gain new powers over welfare, employment support and government work programmes.
We aim to use those powers to chart a different course for Scotland’s future.
We propose the creation of Strategic Sector Forums in Scotland to bring together employers, government, trade unions and other stake holders.
These Forums will oversee and drive productivity, procurement, investment, and ensure the skills, the training and the apprenticeships that are needed, are delivered.
These Forums will be established in all key strategic sectors including energy, tourism, housing, oil and gas, and manufacturing.
We will also invest in the Scottish Development Bank. £50m a year in new capital for the lifetime of the Parliament. Allowing it to expand its scope and attract more funds for industrial development and to grow Scotland’s businesses.
We will establish a new ‘Skills Scotland’. This will combine the powers and the resources of Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, the Work Programme and the proceeds of the apprenticeship levy.
The focus must be about work Scotland, the drive must be about jobs Scotland, everyone who can work should be able to get a job, no one left to a life of worklessness.
Working with our schools, colleges and universities there will be a clear focus on building the capacity Scotland needs to provide full employment and fair work.
Within the framework of the new ‘Skills Scotland’ we will set up Regional Economic and Skills Partnerships, led by local councils and with a remit for;
Bringing the economy to life with training for those seeking work, lifelong learning for those in work and, good well paid and sustainable employment.
These bodies will coordinate training and enhance skills to meet the needs of their local economies.
They will be charged with promoting social procurement by Local and Scottish Governments and will coordinate the activity of all local major stakeholders toward a common purpose of increasing skills and jobs.
They will also support workplace and mutual ownership, co-operatives and business start-ups as well as helping existing businesses to locate, to grow and develop within the local areas.
All of this will bring a renewed vigour to driving Scotland’s economy and support for Scotland’s workers at a national, a regional and a local level.
Having a job is a key priority, but it is also crucial that government takes responsibility for ensuring fair work with fair pay.
It is a scandal that in 2016 in Scotland, 60 per cent of children in poverty have a parent in work.
That is why we say our ambition for Scotland must be to become a ‘Living Wage Nation’ and to do this, we will establish a ‘Living Wage Commission’ to drive forward our ambition that no one in Scotland is paid below the living wage.
The reality in Scotland today is Scotland’s economy is not keeping pace with global change, our industries are left to fend for themselves, and our people are denied access to the skills they need to succeed.
That is why we say we will choose to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to build Scotland’s future.
Let us not forget the SNP have been in power for 9 years and they say judge us on their record.
Well what is that record when it comes to skills, training and jobs.
Unemployment higher than the rest of the UK, manufacturing workers being laid off at the rate of 100 a week, tens of thousands of jobs going in the North sea and in the communities around it – in factories up and down Scotland jobs are being lost.
And alongside that nothing to tackle the deep rooted generational unemployment, poverty and deprivation that is far too common in many communities.
The SNP have made their choices for Scotland
- cutting education by 10%
- Slashing College budgets
- Opposing the living wage for public sector contracts and
- Failing to stand up for blacklisted workers
Those are just four of the choices they have made that our Scottish Labour Party would never have made.
They say they are progressive, but we know them for what they are, a party that talks left but fails to act when the country needs them.
They have spent the last decade attacking Labour when they should have been attacking poverty
Attacking Labour when they should have been attacking falling standards in education
Attacking Labour when they should have been attacking the crisis in our NHS
You know – in Scotland today, we have a housing crisis, not my words but the words of Shelter Scotland and at the same time, the building industry tell us we have a skills shortage, a shortage of brickies, plumbers, joiners, indeed a shortage in most trades.
In our communities we have a GP crisis, not my words but the words of the Royal College of General Practitioners, we simply have not been supporting and training enough GPs.
In many health board areas we a shortage of consultants and boards are also finding it difficult to recruit trained and qualified nurses.
In schools across the country Education authorities cannot recruit teachers, we have a teacher shortage.
And companies up and down Scotland cannot recruit the engineers and the skilled labour so a shortage in engineering.
Across Europe and across the world there are recruitment agencies trying to find skilled workers to come to Scotland to fill Scotland’s skills gap.
So on training, on skills on investing in Scotland’s greatest asset, its people the SNP governments record is not just one of arrogant complacency it is one of abject failure
So I say to you, they would not be attacking Labour if they were proud of their own record. They are attacking us to deflect from their record – but let us be clear. It is Labour that exposes their failure to support and create jobs, their failure to give young people the educational and skills opportunities they and our economy need – and it is only Labour that has the vision, the drive and the determination to deliver a more fair, more equal and better Scotland for everyone.
At every turn, with every choice they make, they drag us further and further from the kind of Scotland we want to live in. They drag us further and further from a Scotland of progress and opportunity.
But conference, I know where we stand and I know the choices we would make for our country, and that’s why I am proud of our vision for the future.
In the coming weeks all of us in this hall and many more outside will be working hard to share our vision, to make sure Scotland sees our passion for the future of our country, I am proud to be here with you and I am proud to be Labour and I am proud to go on the door steps and ask people to vote Labour.
So, never has the divide between the Parties in Scotland been clearer.
The SNP doing nothing for the poor while the Conservatives make the position of the poor worse,
And Labour standing up, our historic mission in society: the eradication of poverty and unemployment and setting out very clearly how we will use the powers of our Parliament to do this.
So I say to this conference. Hold your heads high, we will not let the people of Scotland down.
The Tories will fight against the poor, we will fight against poverty.
The SNP will do nothing for the unemployed: we will fight unemployment.
I stand for a Labour Party whose policy is home rule for Scotland;
A Scotland that has its own strong Parliament and a Scotland that will use the powers of that Parliament to create opportunity and prosperity for all of Scotland’s people.
So let us repeat the message from now until polling day Vote for Kezia Dugdale Vote for Labour Vote for the one party of and for the Scottish people, Vote Labour