SCOTRAIL CANCELLATIONS WORST ON RECORD



13 November 2018

The number of ScotRail services being cancelled is the worst on record, with new figures spelling further woe for the failing franchise.

According to new performance targets, almost 4 per cent of ScotRail services were cancelled between September 16 and October 13 in 2018 – more than three times the rate of cancellations for the same period in the first two years of the franchise.

Scottish Labour said the figures were further evidence of how Abellio was failing passengers in Scotland.

The new figures come ahead of Labour forcing a parliamentary vote on the future of ScotRail.

Scottish Labour’s Transport spokesperson Colin Smyth MSP said:

“ScotRail’s cancellations are now the worst on record, with more and more passengers being left stranded.

“The number of services being cancelled is now more than triple the same period of previous years – meaning ScotRail’s failings are getting worse.

“That is a failing franchise, in a failing franchising system and passengers have had enough.

“SNP Transport Secretary Michael Matheson should use the break in the franchise agreement to take ScotRail back into public ownership so we can deliver train services that work for the many.

“Labour will force a vote on the future of ScotRail. For the sake of passengers across Scotland, the Scottish Parliament must join with Labour and vote to end this franchise.”




RICHARD LEONARD : ARMISTICE COMMENT

11 November 2018

Commenting on the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard MSP said:

“On the 100th anniversary of the Armistice we remember all those who fought and died in the First World War.

“We remember also the sacrifice of those on the Home Front, as well as the often terrible legacy which conflict leaves on the mental health of those who survive.

“But as well as remembering those who endured, suffered and lost during the First World War, the 100th anniversary of the Armistice should also serve as a catalyst to renew our collective effort to fight for peace, equality and an end to the sufferings of war that continue to afflict people across the globe.”




LOW PAY GROWS IN HEALTH AND EDUCATION UNDER THE SNP



11 November 2018

Low pay across health and education has grown under the SNP in Scotland, according to a new analysis from Scottish Labour.

A new breakdown of Scottish labour market figures shows 470,000 people are now earning less than the living wage – up from 417,000 in 2012, an increase of 53,000.

The biggest growth has been in the Human Health and Social work sector, which has seen a 46 per cent increase in the number of people earning below the living wage.

This follows a recent report from the Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland and the University of Strathclyde which found that although the living wage for social care workers was a ‘progressive effort’ that it has been ‘bedevilled by a series of major flaws in the implementation process’.

The number of people earning less than the living wage in the Accommodation and Food Services sector in Scotland has risen by 26 per cent between 2012 and 2017, while in Education it has risen 28 per cent over the same period.

Labour has a detailed five-point plan to tackle low pay, including:

• A £10 per hour real living wage

• A ban on zero hour contracts

• An interventionist industrial strategy to deliver high wage, high skill jobs

• Putting trade union and collective bargaining at the heart of economic growth

• Equalising rights for workers in the gig economy

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard MSP said:

“The rise in low pay across health and education in Scotland is alarming. The SNP should hang it’s head in shame.

“Those in the health and education sectors perform valuable work – they deserve much better than poverty pay.

“Under Labour work will pay, with a £10 per hour real living wage, a ban on zero hours contracts and better rights with more security at work.

“Under the broken economy of the SNP and the Tories, more and more people are on poverty pay in Scotland this year, than last – including some of the most valued workers in society.

“Labour governments at Holyrood and Westminster have a plan to end poverty pay, including introducing a real living wage of £10 an hour and an industrial strategy that will deliver high-wage, high-skill jobs across Scotland.”




Comment on Fraser of Allander report

8 November 2018

Commenting on today's Fraser of Allander report on Scotland's Budget, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard MSP said:

“This is an important report that makes crystal clear the choices facing Scotland – either investment or cuts.

“The SNP has repeatedly refused to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to raise revenues, including refusing to introduce a 50p top rate of tax that would make the richest pay their fair share.

“Meanwhile the Scottish Conservatives are advocating for tax cuts that would risk cutting even further our already under resourced lifeline services, such as the NHS.

“Labour is the only party seriously advocating sustainable solutions to fund and grow public services in the long-term, including using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to make the richest pay their fair share, and considering a wealth tax.

“The choice facing Scotland’s voters is now clear: investment and growth with Labour, or cuts and division with the SNP and Tories.

“Only Labour has the ideas to build a society that works for the many, not the few.”




LABOUR TO LAUNCH BILL ON CULPABLE HOMICIDE TO PROTECT WORKERS

8 November 2018

Scottish Labour MSP Claire Baker will today launch her Culpable Homicide Member’s Bill to reform the law over fatal workplace incidents.

If passed, the Bill will create new legal avenues for the families of victims killed by recklessness or gross negligence by their employer.

Despite 17 people dying on average in industrial incidents each year in Scotland over the last five years, there has not been a single prosecution under existing legislation in the last decade.

Speaking ahead of its launch at the Scottish Hazards Conference, Claire Baker MSP, said:

“Far too many people in Scotland each year do not return home to their loved ones after going to work.

“It is simply unacceptable, in the 21st century, to have workers dying as a result of negligence or recklessness by their employers.

“Sadly, the law currently does not provide enough protection for workers and that’s why I have launched my private member’s Bill to ensure that is brought to an end.

“New legal avenues for prosecution and statutory punishments would send a clear message to employers that health and safety must be the number one priority for any business.

“I hope all political parties in the Scottish Parliament will join with me to end the scandal of death and injury at work.”




HOLYROOD MUST STEP UP IN BATTLE AGAINST THE TORIES' CALLOUS UNIVERSAL CREDIT

6 November 2018

Scottish Labour has called for Holyrood to step up and prove it is better than the callous Tory government on Universal Credit.

Social Security Spokesperson Mark Griffin said it was essential Holyrood joined together to protect people from the worst of Tory policies.

Figures from the Trussel Trust this week showed food bank use was increasing as a result of Universal Credit’s botched roll out, while Tory MSP Michelle Ballantyne also recently defended the introduction of the rape clause.

Scottish Labour has now called on the SNP to get on with talks on how the worst of Tory welfare changes can be reversed.

Scottish Labour’s Social Security spokesperson Mark Griffin MSP said:

“Here in Scotland, we should have serious, thorough that discussion about how we can make people’s lives easier.

“We have the powers to do so – and it is essential people across Scotland are reassured Holyrood does act and is better than this callous Tory Government.

“While Tory MSPs defend the rape clause, and the SNP refuse to support a child benefit top-up that would lift 30,000 children out of poverty, it is Labour that is fighting for a dignified welfare state that truly supports the most vulnerable.

“It is high-time MSPs across the chamber started backing their warm words with proper actions.”




NEARLY 350 OFFICERS LOST UNDER THE SNP

6 November 2018

Nearly 350 police officers have been cut under the SNP’s watch, new figures reveal.

The latest staff survey of Police Scotland show 349 officers have now been lost since the peak in 2013.

The number of officers cut now equates to the size of almost the entire Dumfries and Galloway policing division.

The new numbers come after the SNP spent years making civilian staff redundant and forcing frontline officers to take on civilian roles in their place, in order for the Nationalists to maintain their commitment to increase officer numbers.

Scottish Labour said it would give Police Scotland the resources it needs to keep officers on the front line.

Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson Daniel Johnson MSP said:

“There are now nearly 350 fewer police officers in Scotland under the SNP.

“The loss of so many officers – the equivilant of the entire Dumfries and Galloway policing division – will rightly concern people across the country, who are already seeing a police presence disappear form their community.

“The reality is, the SNP’s con-trick on police officer numbers has been exposed for what it was – pure spin and no substance.

“While SNP ministers maintained police officers, they sacked civilian staff and made officers who should be on the frontline do their jobs.

“The foolishness of that policy has now been exposed. Labour would make different choices: rather than cutting officers, we would ensure they are on the frontline where they belong.

“SNP Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf must urgently explain to parliament and the public how many officers will be cut and what the impact will be on public safety.

“You can’t keep people safe on the cheap.”


STURGEON'S BILLION POUND NHS BOMBSHELL

25 October 2018

Health boards have had to make cuts totalling £1.1billion since Nicola Sturgeon took office.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard highlighted the “abject failure” of the SNP to properly fund the NHS.

The new figure comes after Audit Scotland warned that the SNP’s underfunding of the health service was “not sustainable”.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Health boards have had to make cuts totalling £1.1 billion since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister.

“This week’s Audit Scotland report exposes the mismanagement of the NHS under the SNP, with too many staff under too much pressure, too many patients waiting far too long and too many health boards having to make swingeing cuts.

“The SNP has been in office for eleven years and the Auditor General has concluded that the NHS in Scotland is not financially sustainable - that represents nothing less than an abject failure of government.”




COMMENT ON GLASGOW STRIKE ACTION

24 October 2018

Commenting on reports that SNP-led Glasgow City Council may take legal action against workers refusing to cross picket lines, Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay said:

“The action in Glasgow is legitimate industrial action in pursuit of a long-standing grievance.

"This can only be resolved through proper negotiation.

“Glasgow City Council should not be using anti-trade union laws to attack those showing solidarity with their fellow workers.

“The SNP council must immediately withdraw any threats of legal action.”




SNP MISMANAGEMENT PUTS NHS’ FUTURE UNDER THREAT - MONICA LENNON

24 October 2018

Audit Scotland’s damning report into the SNP’s mismanagement of the NHS shows that the future of our health service is threatened under Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Labour has said.

The watchdog report found:

• The financial standing of health boards “is not sustainable”

• Nicola Sturgeon cut the health budget by 0.2 per cent in real terms last year

• The number of people waiting over 12 weeks for an inpatient appointment is up 26 per cent and for an outpatient appointment is up 6 per cent on 2016/17

• The number of unfilled vacancies is up for nursing & midwifery, consultants and GP posts

• Performance declined against all eight key national targets between 2016/17 and 2017/18

Nicola Sturgeon has ignored staff and patients, and put the future of Scotland’s NHS at risk.

Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Monica Lennon MSP, said:

“This damning report confirms the devastating consequences of SNP mismanagement of our NHS.

“Nicola Sturgeon’s government has routinely ignored the problems raised by staff and the people who rely on the NHS. Her inaction has put the future of our NHS under threat, with the financial and workforce problems worsening under her watch.

“In recent years the number of unfilled vacancies for nurses, midwives and GPs has soared, creating a staffing crisis on our hospital wards. Worryingly, only a third of NHS workers believe there is enough staff to give patients the care they deserve.

“Three of our country’s health boards had to be bailed out last year whilst the rest were forced to make unsustainable cuts to services because the SNP cut the health budget in real terms.

“After more than a decade of SNP complacency our NHS is in crisis. Nicola Sturgeon must now put the country before her party and use the full powers of the Scottish Parliament and the resources and expertise available to the Scottish Government to halt this NHS crisis."

Key quotes from ‘NHS in Scotland 2018’:

“The NHS in Scotland is not in a financially sustainable position. NHS boards are struggling to break even, relying increasingly on Scottish Government loans and one-off savings.” (P5)

“The NHS faces significant workforce challenges. Recruitment remained difficult in 2017/18, while sickness absence and turnover increased.” (P8)

“The overall health budget in 2017/18 was £13.1 billion, a 0.2 per cent decrease in real terms on the previous year.” (P8)

“In the 2017/18 annual audit reports, auditors highlighted significant levels of risk around boards’ ability to break even in 2018/19. At May 2018, NHS boards were predicting a deficit of £131.5 million in 2018/19” (P11)

“In 2017/18, the [savings] figure rose to £449.1 million. This represents 3.6 per cent of total revenue allocations to NHS boards. Despite this, the NHS did not meet its overall savings target of £480.8 million in 2017/18, falling short by seven per cent, £31.7 million.” (p12)

“It is becoming more and more difficult to identify areas in which NHS boards can make one-off savings... At the start of the 2017/18 financial year, NHS boards were unable to identify where 28 per cent of all planned savings would come from, up from 17 per cent the previous year, and three per cent five years ago” (p13)

“Backlog maintenance remains significant across the whole estate at £899 million in 2017/18 and a number of hospitals and other health facilities will require significant investment to ensure they remain fit for purpose.” (p16)

“As the way healthcare is delivered changes, the existing NHS estate will need to adapt to reflect this. The Scottish Government has not planned what investment will be needed.” (p16)

“The NHS met only one of eight key national performance targets in 2017/18… Performance declined against all eight key national targets between 2016/17 and 2017/18.” (p18)

“In the final quarter of 2017/18, 93,107 people waited more than 12 weeks for their first outpatient appointment, an increase of six per cent on the previous year. The number of people who waited more than 12 weeks has increased by 215 per cent in the last five years. People waiting more than 16 weeks increased by 13 per cent between 2016/17 and 2017/18, and by 558 per cent over the last five years.” (p19)

“2017/18 annual audit reports of NHS boards indicated that financial pressures will continue to have a detrimental impact on performance.” (p19)

“the percentage of patients rating the quality of care provided by their GP practice as positive has declined from 90 per cent in 2009/10 to 83 per cent in 2017/18.” (p20)

“There are indications that finding effective leaders and support teams is becoming more difficult.” (p26) “Only 62 per cent of respondents to the 2017 national health and social care staff survey felt that the senior managers responsible for the wider organisation were sufficiently visible. 64 per cent of respondents had confidence and trust in the senior managers responsible for their wider organisation.” (p27)

“The majority (63 per cent) of board members surveyed by the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee in 2018 thought their board had the right skills, knowledge and expertise. However, a third thought their board only partly had the right skills, knowledge and expertise.” (p29)

“If health and care services are to change to meet the needs of Scotland’s people, then the NHS and the Scottish Government must become more open.” (p30)

“There is still no overall picture of how the NHS is performing and the difference the NHS is making to people’s lives.” (p31)




SNP SPEND JUST £1MILLION OF £200MILLION BUSINESS FUND



1 October 2018

The SNP government has spent just £1million out of a £200million fund to help Scottish businesses announced more than a year ago.

Iain Scott, the Chief Financial Officer of Scottish Enterprise, admitted at the Economy Committee that just one deal had been concluded since the Scottish-European Growth Co-Investment Programme was announced by Nicola Sturgeon in 2017.

The fund’s stated aim is to help “businesses in all areas of Scotland looking for equity investment to meet their growth ambitions”.

Scottish Labour said the fact only one deal had been done showed the SNP’s plans for the economy were “just spin, not substance” and warned that, with Brexit fast approaching, more needed to be done to protect Scottish business.

Scottish Labour’s Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:

“This is a startling revelation.

“Once again, the SNP’s high profile announcements on the economy are shown to be just spin, not substance.

“With Brexit creating unprecedented challenges for the Scottish economy, it is essential that the SNP government is doing everything possible to support business and increase investment.

“This admission from Scottish Enterprise shows that is anything but the case. Given that Brexit is just round the corner it is clear much more needs to be done, but should have been done a lot sooner.

“SNP Economy Secretary Derek Mackay must stop sleep walking and urgently outline what he will do to ensure this money is used to boost Scotland’s economy.”




LESLEY LAIRD : RBS CLOSURES PROGRAMME 'A SHAMBLES'



28 September 2018

Commenting on the news that only two of the RBS branches given a reprieve earlier this year are to remain open, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland Lesley Laird said: “This just confirms what we already knew – that this was never a reprieve, it was a stay of execution.

"The handling of the branch closure programme has been a shambles and communities across Scotland will be devastated by this news.

“The UK Government has been hiding behind the fact that this is apparently a commercial decision for the bank.

“It is time for that attitude to change and for them to intervene – taxpayers are the majority shareholders and they deserve better."




SCOTTISH BUDGET UNDERSPENT BY MORE THAN £300MILLION – WITH EDUCATION THE BIGGEST LOSER



27 September 2018

The Scottish Government’s budget has been underspent by nearly £340million, according to a damning Audit Scotland report.

Departments failed to spend £339million 2017/18, up from just £85million the previous year.

The investigation reveals Education and Skills is the biggest loser with a £115million underspend – despite widespread issues and Nicola Sturgeon claiming it is her top priority.

Other big losers include Rural Economy and Connectivity - despite warnings the SNP will fail to effectively roll out broadband to rural areas.

Scottish Labour said the figures showed how timid the SNP was in government, and called on Nicola Sturgeon and Derek Mackay to use the powers available to them to tackle Tory cuts.

Scottish Labour’s Finance spokesperson James Kelly MSP said:

“These figures show just how timid the SNP is when it comes to stopping the cuts and ending Tory austerity.

“In the week where we learned that life expectancy has fallen for the first time in 35-years in Scotland – and crime has risen – the SNP should be doing everything it can to improve the lives of people in Scotland.

“But rather than using the money available to them, SNP ministers have simply sat on their hands and done nothing while services suffer.

“The fact there is a £115 million underspend on education, while schools are in crisis and pupils are being failed, is simply unacceptable and will rightly anger parents across the country.

“SNP ministers must immediately heed Audit Scotland’s concerns – and it is high time they started acting to stop the cuts and used the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in lifeline services.”




LABOUR DEMAND ACTION ON SNP PROCUREMENT SHAMBLES



27 September 2018

Scottish Labour has demanded action amid fears Scottish firms could miss out on public contracts because of the SNP’s mishandling of procurement.

The contract to handle printing for Scotland’s 53 public bodies – the Print and Associated Services (PAS) contract - is due to be put out to tender imminently.

But industry leaders fear small businesses in Scotland could miss out on the contract entirely because of the SNP’s insistence on a single supplier which effectively freezes them out of the tender process.

Last month, the entirety of a £70million contract to handle the Scottish Government’s printing was handed to Manchester-based firm APS because of the government’s insistence on a single supplier - and the industry fears the same process will be repeated in this case.

Trade body Print Scotland has already warned that Scottish firms could go bust due to a lack of government contracts.

The fears come after the Federation of Small Businesses said public contracts going to smaller firms had halved under a decade of SNP government.

Scottish Labour has repeatedly called for a review of public procurement and has committed to giving more contracts to small and medium sized firms as part of the party’s Small Business Strategy.

Scottish Labour’s Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:

“This is such a wasted opportunity and so disappointing.

“Under the SNP, we have a situation where Scottish firms are effectively being forced out of the market by arbitrary rules, leaving public sector contracts to be swept up by national and multi-national firms.

“This is taxpayers’ money and it should be used to grow the economy locally and nationally here in Scotland, rather than boost the profits of big firms based elsewhere.

“Public procurement could be a way to boost Scotland’s economic performance, with more contracts going to businesses in our local areas, but that simply isn’t happening under the SNP.

“We need a wholesale review of public procurement in Scotland, so it is working for Scottish companies and taxpayers – and the SNP should match Labour’s commitment to spend more on procurement with small businesses.

“But in the meantime, SNP Economy Secretary Derek Mackay must change the terms of the PAS tender to ensure local companies are not excluded.”




SNP HAS NEVER HIT CANCER WAITING TIME TARGET UNDER STURGEON



25 September 2018

The SNP has never hit a key cancer waiting-time target since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister, Scottish Labour analysis reveals.

The health service is expected to ensure that 95% of patients urgently referred with a suspicion of cancer do not wait more than 62 days to start treatment.

This key target has never been met under Sturgeon’s stewardship of the NHS, with just 84.6 per cent of patients being treated within the 62 days in the latest quarter to June 30 this year.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet for Health, Anas Sarwar MSP, said:

“We all know the faster a patient begins cancer treatment the greater chance it gives them to live.

“It is shameful that Scots are failed on this each day in our NHS.

“The key 62 day target has never been met under Nicola Sturgeon’s stewardship since she became First Minister almost four years ago.




MORE THAN 1,400 BEDS CUT FROM NHS UNDER THE SNP



25 September 2018

More than 1,400 beds in acute care services in the NHS has been cut under the mismanagement of the SNP government, official figures show.

New statistics from ISD Scotland show that the number of beds decreased by 2 per cent year-on-year in 2017/18 and a total of 1,434 beds have been cut under the SNP since 2008/09.

The slashing of beds has coincided with the SNP’s failure to honour their promise to end delayed discharge and the growing number of vacant nursing posts, creating an NHS’ capacity crisis.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet for Health, Anas Sarwar MSP, said:

“Scotland’s NHS is being mismanaged by the SNP government.

“Our health service has 1,400 fewer beds than it did a decade ago.

“This comes amid the SNP’s broken promise to end delayed discharge and the skyrocketing number of vacant nursing posts, causing a capacity crisis in hospital wards.

“Unlike the SNP, Labour has listened to hard-pressed staff and established a workforce commission to design a blueprint for the health service’s future.

“Labour built the NHS and only Labour has the vision and the ideas to protect it.”

“It’s time for her to stop putting the SNP before the NHS and give patients the care they deserve.”




LIFE EXPECTANCY FALL SHOULD SHAME SNP AND TORY GOVERNMENTS



25 September 2018



Commenting on today’s appalling life expectancy figures, Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Anas Sarwar MSP, said:

“For the first time in 35 years the life expectancy of both men and women has fallen in Scotland.

“That is a statistic which should shame both the Tory and SNP governments.

“After more than a decade of the SNP in charge of the country’s health service, Scotland has the lowest life expectancy rates of any part of the UK.

“Only a radical Labour government will use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to fight poverty and health inequalities.”




SNP HEALTH SECRETARY MUST MAKE STATEMENT ON LATEST NHS TAYSIDE CRISIS



17 September 2018

Scottish Labour is today (Sunday) calling on SNP Health Secretary Jeane Freeman to address the latest crisis engulfing NHS Tayside with an urgent statement at Holyrood after a member of its audit committee resigned citing patient safety fears.

The crisis-hit health board has confirmed that three members of its vitally important audit committee, including a whistleblowers' champion who has cited concerns about patient care, have resigned from their posts.

Munwar Hussain, who was only appointed in April, told the Sunday Post he is leaving the committee as the concerns "are serious but they are not taking it serious".

NHS Tayside has already received £45.3 million in loans from the Scottish Government in recent years to keep it afloat, and official estimates show it is hurtling towards a £18.7 million black hole in its books come the end of the current financial year.

Scottish Labour's health spokesperson, Anas Sarwar MSP, said:

"These resignations from NHS Tayside’s vitally important audit committee plunge the health board into deeper turmoil.

“For a member of this committee to leave their post as they believe that serous concerns regarding patient care are not being dealt with is deeply troubling.

“SNP Health Secretary Jeane Freeman must now come to Holyrood as soon as possible give a full and frank statement of what has gone on inside the health board and, most importantly, what does she intend to do about it.

“The list of problems at NHS Tayside is a lengthy one.

"The health board is the subject of a live investigation into mental health treatment failures and is hurtling towards a fresh financial crisis with experts forecasting an £18.7 million black hole in its books by the end of the current financial year.

"The public have lost confidence in the heath board.

"In order to start repairing the damage and rebuilding trust with the people of Tayside, the health secretary must come to Parliament and answer questions as soon as possible.

“Scottish Labour will continue to stand up for hard-pressed NHS staff in Tayside and across Scotland who are being failed by the SNP’s mismanagement of our health service.”




MORE THAN 14,000 YOUNGSTERS FORCED TO WAIT FOR MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT UNDER STURGEON



16 September 2018

Over 1,000 young people wait more than a year for treatment.

More than 14,000 children and young people have had to wait longer than 18-weeks to receive Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister, Labour analysis reveals.

Since Nicola Sturgeon came to power in November 2014, 14,345 children and youngpeople were forced to wait longer than 18-weeks for mental health treatment, with a staggering 1,185 young people waiting for over a year.

The figures follow a joint report from the Auditor General and the Accounts Commission this week, which revealed that performance for Child and Adolescent Mental HealthServices have gone backwards under the First Minister.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Secretary for Health, Anas Sarwar MSP, said:

“More and more young people are coming forward to seek treatment for their mental health problems as the stigma surrounding the topic diminishes in our society.

“Sadly, thousands of these brave young people who have sought help have had to endure intolerable waits for treatment.

“Scotland’s young people deserve better than this.

“For far too long Nicola Sturgeon has put the SNP before the NHS and ignored the problems within our health system.

“Labour has listened to patients and hard-pressed NHS staff and established a workforce commission to ensure our NHS is fit for the future.”




SWINNEY SCRAPPED GLOBAL SCHOOLS STUDY TO SAVE MONEY



15 September 2018

The row over the SNP’s handling of education has intensified today, as it is revealed Scotland was removed from two global schools studies at the urging of then Finance Secretary and present Education Secretary John Swinney to save money.

In 2010 Scotland was a participant in three international educational standards comparisons, Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and the Programme for International Student Assesment (PISA).

Correspondence released to Scottish Labour under freedom of information laws reveals that Mr Swinney, as Finance Secretary in 2010, urged that Scotland leave PISA to save money.

In the end it was decided to remain in PISA, but leave PIRLS and TIMSS to make the savings demanded by Mr Swinney.

The moved saved around £800,000 over several years, and also aimed to ‘reduce the burden on schools’.

Part of the justification was the introduction of the Scottish Schools Literacy and Numeracy Survey (SSLN).

Since then John Swinney, now Education Secretary has abolished the SSLN survey, and overseen the introduction of standardised testing in Scotland, costing £4.6million and wasting hours of teaching time.

A Labour motion tabled this week, calling for standardised testing to be scrapped for Primary 1 pupils, has attracted cross party support at Holyrood.

Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“The SNP removed Scotland from these internationally recognised comparative testing, not for any sound educational reason, but because John Swinney as Finance Secretary didn’t want to pay for them – about £800,000 over several years.

“The only problem is that penny pinching Finance Secretary is of course now in charge of education. and has just spent £4.6m on national standardised testing which teachers say are a waste of time, educationalists say are of no educational value, and statisticians say cannot be aggregated.

“So we have dumped international tests just to save some money, ditched our own survey of standards because the government didn’t like what it was telling them, and introduced tests which no-one trusts.

“The SNP’s shambolic handling of the education brief simply gets worse and worse.”




ALMOST 1,800 WOMEN IN BREAST CANCER SCREENING FAILURE



13 September 2018

Almost 1,800 women have not been invited to their final breast cancer screening session in a serious failure in Scotland’s health system, the SNP government has admitted.

A total of 1,761 women aged over 71 were not invited to their final screening, some of whom should have been screened three years ago.

The serious failure has come to light after the then-SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison told Parliament in May in regards to a similar problem in England that “the issue does not affect the NHS in Scotland” and “patients should be reassured that there are no problems with our breast screening programme records or information technology systems.”

Scottish Labour’s shadow public health spokesperson, David Stewart MSP, said:

“This is a serious and deeply distressing failure in one of the most crucial diagnostic areas of our National Health Service.

“It is vital that those women who are overdue their final screening receive one as quickly as possible.

“I was in Parliament in May when the-then SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison said that there was no issue in Scotland’s breast cancer screening programme. "We now know that was not the case and that almost 1,800 women have been badly, and potentially fatally, let down.

“If the government can be wrong on an issue as crucial as this, then many members of the public will rightly wonder if there are additional diagnostic screening failures in the NHS.

“SNP Health Secretary Jeane Freeman must now quickly establish why this failure occurred and how many women have been subsequently diagnosed with breast cancer after missing their screening.”




ALMOST 25,000 REFERRALS FOR MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT REJECTED UNDER STURGEON



13 September 2018

Nicola Sturgeon’s failure to act on the crisis in child and adolescent mental health services has seen almost 25,000 referrals for treatment rejected in her time as First Minister.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions today, Scottish Labour leader revealed that there had been 24,923 rejected referrals for treatment in child and adolescent mental health services since Nicola Sturgeon took over as First Minister.

Richard Leonard revealed the numbers on the back of a damning report on the condition of mental health services, published today by the Auditor General and the Accounts Commission.

It also follows a review, published in June, showing that some young people were being turned away from mental health treatment because they did not appear suicidal.

Labour questioned why it has taken four years for the government to act on what is a crisis in mental health services for young people.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Today’s expert report makes clear that access to Scotland’s mental health services for children and young people has not got better during Nicola Sturgeon’s time as First Minister, it’s got worse.

“Almost 25,000 referrals for mental health treatment for young people have been rejected since Nicola Sturgeon took office First Minister.

“Today’s report calls for a “step change”, and Labour will work with the government to deliver the changes we need. That’s why we pressed for counsellors in schools and for a review of these rejected cases. But the reality is the government has been too slow act, because it did not take this issue seriously enough.

“Nicola Sturgeon has been too slow to act, and as a result has let these children and young people down for over a decade. The First Minister owes a sincere apology to these young people for her failure to act.”




OECD REPORT SHOW TEACHERS OVERWORKED AND UNDERVALUED



11 September 2018



A new report from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) has confirmed that teachers in Scotland are overworked and undervalued.

The report, Education at a Glance 2018, reveals that Scotland’s teachers work some of the longest hours of any OECD country with a very high percentage of time spent in front of the class.

The report reveals Scottish teachers on average, are well above the OECD average for teaching hours per week for primary and secondary.

Despite a generally higher starting salary for teachers in Scotland compared to England, pay progression in Scotland appears worse, with Scotland behind England for teachers’ pay at the top end of the pay scale in both primary and secondary.

Labour said the report highlighted the mess the SNP was making of its so called ‘ top priorty’ of education.

Scottish Labour's Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education spokesperson, Iain Gray MSP, said: “The figures are clear, Scotland’s teachers are overworked and undervalued under this SNP government, with some of the longest hours for the poorest pay in the OECD.

“The SNP government claim education is the top priority – but we will not close the attainment gap without properly paid teachers, with the resources and time they need to teach.

“Instead in getting themselves into a mess over reforms to primary school testing and school governance, ministers should be focused on the real reforms our schools need – more funding.

“Instead schools have been hammered by more than £400m worth of cuts since 2010. There has been a complete failure by the SNP to stop Tory austerity impacting on our schools.

"The first step towards a world class school system is a fair deal for teachers, the government has to deliver this, and soon.”




SNP DELAYED DISCHARGE BROKEN PROMISE COST NHS £125M IN SINGLE FINANCIAL YEAR



11 September 2018

The SNP government’s failure to honour their promise to abolish delayed discharge from the NHS cost the health service £125 million in just one single financial year alone.

A new report from the health service’s Information Services Division shows each bed day in 2016/17 cost the NHS an average of £234, with the failure to abolish it costing a total of £125m during the period in question.

Nicola Sturgeon’s government promised the Scottish people that they would end the scandal in 2015.

The SNP have broken their promise, leaving people to languish unnecessarily in hospital beds and costing the taxpayer millions of pounds.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Anas Sarwar MSP, said:

“The SNP government’s broken promise is costing Scotland hundreds of millions of pounds each year and putting our overworked NHS staff under even more pressure.

“Hundreds of patients each month are languishing unnecessarily in hospital beds when they could be receiving appropriate care at home.

“The vast majority of these patients are aged over 75. The failure to properly tackle the social care crisis and delays in care assessments – the result of the SNP government’s £1.5 billion cut to council budgets – are causing this multi-million-pound scandal.

“The next Scottish Labour government will deliver a National Guarantee for care workers, ensuring all care workers are given appropriate training and paid the living wage, including the time and cost for travel, to reform our social care sector.

“Labour built the NHS and only Labour can be trusted to give our health service a bright future.”




Comment on unemployment figures



11 September 2018

Scottish Labour's Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said, “While a fall in unemployment is welcome, the drop in employment once again points to the significant issues Scotland’s economy faces under the SNP. It is disappointing to note that inactivity rates remain persistently high.

“As the David Hume Institute recently pointed out, productivity in Scotland under the SNP has flat lined, leading to stagnating growth and worsening outlooks.

“Many working families are also feeling the pain with wages not keeping pace with the increase in the cost of living.

"The SNP's only answer to this is its infamous cuts commission, which will shackle Scotland to a decade of austerity and cuts, the cost of which will be borne by working people.

"We need a fundamental shift in how we grow our economy and Scottish Labour has an industrial strategy that seeks to develop the high wage, high skill jobs Scotland needs.”




STURGEON 'IS KIDDING HERSELF' ABOUT P1 TESTS



11 September 2018

Responding to the First Minister's comments on Primary 1 tests, Scottish Labour's Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education, Iain Gray MSP, said:

“Nicola Sturgeon is wrong to double down in defence of these shambolic tests.

“Delivered late and over budget, these tests do nothing to help teachers close the attainment gap and have reduced some P1 children to tears.

The First Minister’s assertions fly in the face of the views and experience of teachers, and she is kidding herself about their value.

“They should be scrapped for Primary 1 pupils.”




SCHOOLS SATISFACTION SLUMPS UNDER STURGEON



11 September 2018

The public’s satisfaction with schools has fallen by almost 10 per cent since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister.

Labour analysis of figures from the Scottish Household Survey, published early this week, shows that 70 per cent of the public are ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ satisfied with their local schools, a 9 per cent drop from 2014.

The results come as Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘top priority’ of education faces a series of problems, including a teacher recruitment crisis and ongoing concern from teachers and parents of the government’s standardised testing. Attainment in exams has also fallen for the third year running.

The Programme for Government, unveiled this week, offered no new ideas on education.

Labour said the figures underlined the government’s mishandling of the education portfolio, and the impact of £1.5billion worth of cuts to local councils.

Iain Gray, Labour education spokesperson said:

“These findings should be a wakeup call for the SNP government, satisfaction with local schools has slumped under Nicola Sturgeon, despite it being the so called top priority.

“Nicola Sturgeon came to power claiming that education would be the driving and defining mission of her government. Instead supersized classes are soaring and standards are falling, with Scotland’s teachers overworked and underpaid under this SNP government.

“The SNP’s big answer to this appears to be Tory reforms – but the real reform our schools need is more funding. Only Labour will make the richest pay their fair share so we can stop the cuts and invest in our schools.”




SNP FAILING ON 11 OUT OF 19 NHS STANDARDS



11 September 2018

The SNP government is failing on 11 out of 19 NHS standards, new analysis from Scottish Labour can reveal.

An annual summary of the state of the health service highlights the major challenges facing Scotland’s NHS, and the urgent need for action by new SNP Health Secretary Jeane Freeman.

Among the failings are standards to detect cancer early, and waiting times for both A&E patients and those waiting for routine operations.

In several areas, performance has declined since 2017.

LDP (Local Delivery Plan) Standards are priorities that are set and agreed between the Scottish Government and NHS boards to provide assurance on NHSScotland performance.

An independent review of the standards was carried out and concluded last year, with a number of recommendations.

In her programme for government, Nicola Sturgeon said a waiting times improvement plan will be published later this month.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Anas Sarwar MSP, said:

"After more than a decade of this SNP government, there has been yet another year of failure in our NHS.

"These failures are despite the tremendous efforts of our NHS staff, who have been let down by Nicola Sturgeon and her ministers.

“With former Health Secretary Shona Robison recently removed from her post, the scale of the challenge facing new SNP Health Secretary Jeane Freeman is now clear.

“Behind every failed standard are thousands of patients who have been let down, many of whom are desperate for treatment and are left in pain and anxiety.

"It simply isn’t good enough.

“The waiting times improvement plan promised by the First Minister is long overdue, but it has to be matched by staffing increases and filling vacancies.

"Too many patients have suffered as a result of the SNP’s failure to make our NHS fit for the future.”




Holyrood motion calls for primary 1 testing to be scrapped



10 September 2018

Labour will today (Monday) lodge a motion at Holyrood calling for standardised national testing from primary 1 pupils to be scrapped.

The party’s education spokesperson Iain Gray will lay a motion seeking cross party support for the proposal.

The SNP government has come under increasing pressure to scrap the assessments, with opposition parties and the teachers’ union the EIS opposing them, while the educational charity Upstart has organised a postcard campaign encouraging parents to boycott the tests.

Concerns over the assessments were raised earlier in the year by Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard at First Minister’s Questions.

Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“These tests are a shambles, and the SNP’s refusal to listen to the mounting evidence against them is bordering on farcical.

“Yet again John Swinney is refusing to listen to teachers and parents. These tests are driving children to tears, waste vital classroom time and provide no help to close the attainment gap.

“Labour will continue to work to build cross-party and non-party opposition to these tests. That is why I have lodged a motion at Holyrood this week calling from the tests to be scrapped for primary 1s.

“The SNP could have ditched these tests in the Programme for Government last week, if education really is the government’s top priority, ministers should listen to the sheer number of voices telling them these tests have to go.”




FLAGSHIP WAITING TIME LAW ‘NOT WORTH THE PAPER IT IS WRITTEN ON’



1 September 2018



The SNP’s flagship waiting time law has been broken over 150,000 times since it was introduced, new analysis from Labour reveals.

In 2012 the SNP introduced the Treatment Time Guarantee, which gave patients a legal right to treatment within 12 weeks for conditions such as knee and eye operations.

New figures released this week show that this law has been broken over 35,000 times so far in 2018, and 153,170 since it was introduced.

What’s more, performance appears to be getting worse.

Since the beginning of 2018, 24.8 per cent of patients seen had waited longer than 12 weeks, compared to 18.3 per cent in same time period in 2017.

Labour said the figures were indicative of a health service under strain.

Labour health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“The SNP’s flagship waiting time law now looks more like an ill-advised PR stunt than a piece of legislation giving patients proper rights.

"Over 150,000 people have waited longer than the 12 weeks the SNP government promised.

“This is more than another broken promise from the SNP – these rights were written into law and are now being broken on what appears to be a daily basis.

"Many patients across Scotland will conclude this law simply is not worth the paper it is written on.

“With performance appearing to get worse, we need to see some proper action from the SNP government in Edinburgh, with a workforce plan to solve the NHS workforce crisis.

“Labour is working alongside trade unions, charities, social care groups and other health organisations to develop the blueprint that our NHS needs to deliver the care patients deserve in the future; we need an end to sticking plaster solutions.”




AMBULANCE RESPONSE TIMES WORSENING UNDER SNP



27 August 2018

Scottish Labour can today reveal a shocking rise in ambulance response times under the SNP government.

Between 2013/14 and 2017/18, the number of emergency calls which took more than 10 minutes to be responded to almost doubled to 305,000.

Meanwhile patients waiting over two hours for a response rose by 645%.

The shocking figures come after Labour revealed last month that the number of single-crew ambulances being dispatched in Scotland rose by almost 50% during this same period.

It's clear that the SNP government is not giving the Scottish Ambulance Service enough funding to cope with demand.

Scottish Labour MSP, Daniel Johnson, said:

"Our ambulance staff perform lifesaving work every day, but are under pressure like never before, and these are shocking figures which will concern many members of the public.

"It's well known that for a number of illnesses a swift response time can make all the difference.

"Not only are thousands of Scots having to wait more than two hours for an ambulance, we know that the number of ambulances being dispatched with a single crew has rocketed.

"These new figures make clear that the SNP government is continually letting down the public and letting down paramedics due to its chronic under-funding of our NHS.

“Labour would invest in the Scottish Ambulance Service, ensuring it has the equipment and staff it needs to continue its life-saving work.”




STUDENT CAP SEES MORE THAN 1,000 STUDENTS MISS OUT EVERY YEAR


24 August 2018

Commenting on research showing that an average of 1,099 students miss out on university places each year due to the student funding cap, Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“The SNP government should review the cap with a view to raising it.

“Education is critical to realise our full potential.

"When it fails, it isn’t just the individual that is held back, but all of us.

"A government that claims education is the priority should be raising the cap on student places.

“The SNP must also commit now to extend the cap post-Brexit.

“Investing in education is vital for our long term economy and society.

"Labour would make the richest pay their fair share to ensure that education is open to all, and that there are fewer barriers to university access.”




SNP MUST STOP DRAGGING THEIR HEELS OVER PUBLIC SECTOR RAILWAY BID


23 August 2018

The SNP government must stop dragging its heels over a public sector bid to run Scotland's railways, Scottish Labour has said.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson has used a government initiated question to repeat the news that David MacBrayne Limited has expressed an interest in exploring the possibility of a bid for a Scottish rail franchise contract.

It's time for the SNP government to stop re-heating announcements and bring our railways back into public hands.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, Connectivity and Transport Scotland Colin Smyth said:

“Instead of trying to save the current franchise until 2025 and dragging their heels over a public sector bid, the SNP government should use the growing evidence of poor performance to end the contract sooner rather than later.

“When the SNP handed the franchise to run Scotland’s railways to Abellio, they said it would be a 'world leading' deal, but the reality for Scotland’s hard-pressed passengers has been anything but with hikes in fares, overcrowding, delays and stop skipping.

“Under Labour’s plans franchising would be scrapped and our railways would be brought under full public ownership, so we have a railway system for the many, not the few.

“Only Labour has a resolute commitment and promise to take our railways back into pubic hands.”




CALLS FOR EDUCATION COMMITTEE TO PROBE FALLS IN ATTAINMENT


13 August 2018



Holyrood’s Education Committee must launch an investigation into exam results, Labour said today.

Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray makes the call in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper , urging Education Secretary John Swinney to ask the Committee to investigate.

Iain Gray also outlines the mounting failures in the education brief, supposedly the SNP's top priority, including:

- Huge cuts to school and college budgets

- The ongoing controversy around standardised testing in primary schools

- Questions over how the government handled concerns over the ‘Yammer’ social media app in schools

- Growing discontent from overworked and underpaid teachers, with the looming possibility of industrial action

- The mishandling of the Education Bill

- The 'fiasco' around the attempts to appoint Gillian Martin as Minister for Universities and Colleges

The full text of Iain Gray's article is below:

In the coming weeks school children begin returning to school, re-energised by six weeks or so of holiday, spent for the lucky ones, without a care in the world.

Not so John Swinney, the Education Secretary charged with improving those schools and raising the attainment of those pupils.

His summer “holidays” have been marked by one bad story after another.

The Parliamentary term had already ended on a humiliating note, with evidence of new tests reducing five year olds to tears, the curriculum narrowing, and finally, the shelving of the SNP’s “flagship” Education Bill, the very symbol of the Government’s “defining mission” to improve schools and raise attainment. Mr Swinney had spent two years on this Bill, but had failed to garner any support for measures which seemed designed more to undermine local authorities and centralise control of schools into his own hands than to empower schools as he claimed.

In a Parliament which he had realised would not vote for his Bill, the Education Secretary ditched it, claiming that this would speed up the reforms it contained. No-one was fooled.

It then emerged that the Government’s International Education Advisers had advised Mr Swinney not to legislate, in a report which went on to warn that his reforms could lead to more marketisation of education, as had happened in England.

The final week fiasco was not yet over, though, as Mr Swinney found himself without a Minister for Universities and Colleges when Gillian Martin was sacked before her appointment could even be formalised. With Parliament in recess, the vacancy has stretched to two months.

If Mr Swinney thought recess would bring relief, he was wrong, initially thanks to a series of Freedom of Information requests. The first of these revealed his department’s attempts to “doctor” the Education Advisers’ report to suggest great progress where none had been demonstrated.

Then, more damagingly, the revelation that the Cabinet Secretary had been told directly that a pilot of Yammer, Education Scotland’s social media platform for schools, had seen a pornographic image uploaded and possibly viewed by children, yet he allowed the project to go live nonetheless. It seems likely the intervening weeks will not stop Parliament wanting some answers on this astonishing decision as soon as we return.

Finally, the Government was forced to publish some 170 pages of a submission to them, from teachers, on their experience of those “standardised tests” in P1. The evidence of distress and upset for four and five-year-old children sitting tests which many teachers believed to be pointless was overwhelming. The Education Secretary’s response, that the tests should be “fun” was, in contrast, underwhelming.

If Mr Swinney was by now hankering for his halcyon days as Finance Secretary, he could find no solace there. This week Labour published independent research showing that spending in schools is now £400m less per year than it was in 2010. Meanwhile, colleges have seen their budgets slashed by 10% in 10 years.

Of course for most of those years of cuts to education, the purse strings were in the hands of, Mr Swinney. The Education Secretary’s attempt to dismiss cuts to schools as due to falling pupil numbers was not just weak, it was wrong. There are more pupils in our schools now than there were in 2010. The cuts are worse than they look, not better.

Then came the exam results. Attainment fell at both National and Higher level, for the third year, in what is now a trend. Worst of all, attainment in National exams is now 33.8% lower than it was in the Standard Grades they replaced. Some subjects, such as Modern Languages, have fallen even further off a cliff edge.

So, it has been a long hot summer in more ways than one for Mr Swinney, and the new school year is unlikely to bring relief.

Pupils return to schools which have 700 unfilled teacher vacancies, while the teachers we have are close now to strike action, tired of seeing their salaries eroded year on year – some 20% less than they were when the SNP came to power.

It is just over two years since Nicola Sturgeon declared that raising attainment was her government’s “defining mission”, and that there was “no better person” than John Swinney to deliver it. In fact, rather than proving to be a safe pair of hands, he has fumbled the ball on education time and again.

New school, and Parliamentary years are traditionally seen as a fresh start. If the Education Secretary wants that, he has to come to Parliament and explain his decision to allow Yammer to go ahead. He must drop, once and for all, that unloved, unnecessary Education Bill and its centralising reforms. He should end the testing of P1s, and go back to the drawing board on standardised tests generally.

He should ask the Education Committee to launch an investigation into those worrying trends in exam results, and if he will not, they should investigate anyway.

He should quickly agree a restorative pay rise with the teaching unions, to make the profession attractive again, and to avoid damaging industrial action no-one wants to see in our schools.

But above all he, and the First Minister, should commit to putting their money where their mouth is on education and restoring those cuts to schools and colleges in the next budget. Thousands of pupils did do very well in those exams, and that is testament to their hard work and their teachers, with the support of parents and carers.

They deserve a Government which backs them with the resources they need rather than warm words.




SWINNEY 'IN DENIAL' OVER STANDARDISED TESTING


13 August 2018



Commenting on reports in the Herald that sixty per cent of parents had a negative view of standardised testing, as the EIS calls for them to be scrapped for primary one pupils, Labour Education Spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“John Swinney is in complete denial about standardised testing, as he defends them in the face of opposition from parents, pupils, teachers and trade unions.

“These tests have been flawed from the very start. Delivered late, £2 million over budget and have led to weeks of valuable teaching time lost.

“They do nothing to help teachers close the attainment gap and are driving children to tears. It’s time to scrap these tests for primary one pupils. John Swinney would be making a grave mistake to press on the face of such mounting opposition.”




RICHARD LEONARD : REVIEW STUDENT CAP TO WIDEN ACCESS


10 August 2018



The Scottish government should review the cap on funded student places with a view to lifting the level to widen access to university, Richard Leonard will say today (Friday).

Places for Scottish and EU students’ are ‘capped’ by the Scottish government. Because their fees are covered by the public purse. This limits the amount of places available.

Mr Leonard's call follows Edinburgh University this week announcing that it would give all of its ‘clearing’ places to students from the poorest backgrounds.

The Scottish Labour leader will also seek assurances that the Scottish government will not seek to claw back funding as a result of EU students falling out of the cap after Brexit, saying the commitment would ensure greater continuity and stability for universities.

Speaking before a visit to Edinburgh University, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Edinburgh University is to be commended for its moves to attempt to widen access – now Scotland’s universities need support from the Scottish government around the student places cap.

“Education is critical to realise our full potential. When it fails, it isn’t just the individual that is held back, but all of us. A government that claims education is the priority should be raising the cap on student places.

“The SNP must also commit now to extend the cap post-Brexit.

“Investing in education is vital for our long term economy and society. Labour would make the richest pay their fair share to ensure that education is open to all, and that there are fewer barriers to university access.”




Comment on Scottish Trends analysis of the Growth Commission


9 August 2018



Commenting on the Scottish Trends analysis of the SNP's Growth Commission, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard MSP said:

“This report confirms yet again that the SNP’s plans for an independent Scotland would result in austerity cuts that not even George Osborne would have dared to impose.

“The weight of independent, academic evidence demolishing the SNP’s cuts commission is growing greater by the day.

“If the SNP’s proposals were put into practice Scotland’s already under pressure public services would be devastated, with spending slashed on the NHS, schools, and on other vital services

“For Nicola Sturgeon this is a price worth paying.

"The only change she is fighting for is for the lowering of one flag to be replaced by the hoisting of another.

“It is now clear that it is only Labour that it is fighting for real change for Scotland and the ending of austerity.”




WOMEN AND GIRLS COMPLETING APPRENTICESHIPS FALLS BY 11 PERCENT


9 August 2018



The number of women and girls completing apprenticeships in Scotland has fallen in the last four years, new analysis from Scottish Labour reveals.

Just under 8,000 women completed apprenticeships in 2017/18. This was the lowest level since 2011/12 when the data series commenced.

Female apprentices completing their training has fallen by 11 per cent in the last four years.

In 2013-14 just under 9,000 women and girls completed an apprenticeship in Scotland. The figures for the last financial year, 2017-18, show there has been a fall of over 1,000 to just under 8,000.

On top of the overall figure for Scotland, 20 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities have seen a fall in female apprenticeship achievements in the last year.

Labour Shadow Education Minister Mary Fee said:

“These figures should be a real cause for concern, we should be taking every step possible to ensure opportunities for women, instead we have seen a drop of 1,000 completions in the last four years.

“We need to know why there has been a fall and invest more in getting women into STEM apprenticeships in particular.

“One factor might be the rising cost of living, with some apprentices simply not being able to afford to finish their scheme.

"The government should launch an investigation into this as a matter of priority.”




STAGGERING FALL IN ATTAINMENT UNDER THE SNP


7 August 2018



Attainment in level 3, 4 and 5 exams has dropped a ‘staggering’ 34 per cent since the SNP government introduced the new National exams.

Writing in the Herald this morning, Professor Jim Scott of Dundee University revealed the figures following this year’s exam results.

In 2014 the National exams replaced the well-established Standard Grades, at the same levels on Scotland’s qualifications framework.

The result has been an astonishing fall in attainment.

In 2013 pupils passed 60,000 Standard Grades at level 3, compared to 16,138 'National 3' passes in 2018.

Overall attainment at standard grade equivalent level was down by 33.8 per cent.

Labour said the analysis was a damning indictment of the SNP government’s implementation of the new curriculum and their general management of education

Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

"This is a simply staggering fall in attainment that should blow away any sense of complacency in the SNP government, and finally get ministers to wake up and realise that botched reforms and years of cuts have harmed our schools.

"This drop seems to be driven by a narrowing of our curriculum - fewer young people studying fewer subjects, and that is simply down to course availability and a lack of teachers in the first place.

"It highlights the complete mess the SNP has made of the supposed ‘top priority’ in education.

"Reversing this mess will take time and energy but it can be done - starting with finally ending the cuts to schools and delivering a fair deal for our teachers."




A&E TARGET MISSED FOR 11 MONTHS


7 August 2018



The SNP’s A&E waiting time standard has been missed for 11 months in a row.

Official figures published today show 95 per cent of patients have not been admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours from Emergency Departments across Scotland at any point since July 2017.

Meanwhile the figures also show that 42,375 bed days were lost in June this year to delayed discharge – an increase of eight per cent compared to the same month in 2017.

That means 248,246 bed days have been lost to delayed discharge so far in 2018.

The figures, provided by ISD Scotland, also show that so far in 2018 more than a quarter of cancelled operations were scrapped due to capacity or non-clinical reasons.

Scottish Labour said the figures showed the scale of the challenge for new SNP Health Secretary Jeanne Freeman MSP – and urged the SNP to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in our health service.

Scottish Labour’s Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“For almost a year, thousands of patients across Scotland have had to wait more than four hours to be seen at A&E wards.

“That is unacceptable – and so is the huge increase in bed blocking due to delayed discharge, up eight per cent on last year, meaning there are already almost 250,000 bed days lost since the start of 2018.

“Our nurses and doctors do tremendous work, but the reality is they have been left overworked, understaffed and under-resourced by an SNP government that is focused on nationalism instead of fixing our NHS.

“These successive missed targets are down to years of mismanagement of our most important public service by the SNP Government.

“It is now clear new SNP Health Secretary Jeanne Freeman MSP faces a monumental challenge if she is to even start undoing some of the failings of her predecessors.

“A good place to start would be to follow Labour’s lead and use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to properly fund our NHS to ensure it works for the many, not the few.”




SCOTLAND’S SCHOOLS HAMMERED BY TORY AUSTERITY


6 August 2018



The SNP has failed to protect Scotland’s schools from Tory austerity, Labour said today, as new analysis reveals an over £400million cut to Scotland’s schools since 2010.

Independent analysis commissioned by Scottish Labour has revealed that spending on schools has been cut by 7.5 per cent in real terms since 2010.

The research, conducted by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) shows that local authority education spending has fallen from £5.3 billion in 2009/10 to £4.9 billion in 2017/18.

Crucially, the figures for 2017/18 include the Government’s Pupil Equity Funding, which isn’t supposed to be used to replace existing provision.

Labour said the figures showed the SNP failed to protect key public services from Tory austerity, and that only a Labour government willing to make the richest pay their fair share would deliver the investment education needs.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education Iain Gray said:

“Education is what empowers us all to realise our full potential. When it fails, it isn’t just the individual that is held back, but all of us. Protecting education spending should have been a priority for the SNP when the Tories came to power – instead there has been more than £400million worth of cuts since 2010.

“No wonder we are seeing soaring class sizes, overworked teachers and a stubborn attainment gap between the richest and poorest pupils.

"No amount of sloganeering from the Nationalists can hide the fact that they have not stood up for Scotland’s schools.

“Labour would take a different path, making the richest pay their fair share so we can invest in our schools and deliver a better deal for teachers, parents and pupils.”




TEN PER CENT CUT TO COLLEGE FUNDING UNDER THE SNP


5 August 2018



The SNP has cut college budgets by almost £75million in real terms since taking power in 2007, new analysis from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre has revealed.

The figures reveal a £74.7 million cut to combined capital and resource budgets for Scotland’s colleges, a 10.1 per cent cut in funding.

Since 2007 the capital budget for Scotland’s colleges has fallen by £29.1 million, meanwhile resource funding - the day to day spending – has fallen by £45.6million.

Labour said the failure to fund further education properly was closing off opportunities for a range of people – from working class school leavers to people seeking to build their skills base later in life.

The Government has been without a dedicated minister in charge of colleges since the SNP was forced to sack Gillian Martin from the role before she was even appointed, due to previous transphobic and racist comments she made.

Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education Iain Gray said:

“The SNP claimed that education was their ‘top priority’ but further education is bottom of the pile – without a dedicated minister in Government and having been hammered by 11 years of brutal cuts.

“A real terms cut of £75 million to Scotland’s colleges will have cut off opportunities for thousands of working class young people and people seeking to learn new skills later in life. It is a disgraceful record from the Nationalists.

“Colleges should be ladders of opportunity for people, engaging with schools, universities and employers to deliver opportunity for all. Instead they have become the whipping boy of successive education budgets.

“This cannot go on. Labour would make the richest pay their fair share to invest in education so everyone has the skills they need to get on in life.”




Comment on Trussell Trust figures on food bank use


3 August 2018



Responding to the Trussell Trust has reported a 20 per cent increase in the number of food packages it was handing out between summer 2016 and 2017, Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Eradication of Poverty and Inequality Elaine Smith said:

“It’s nothing short of a scandal that food bank use for children is increasing while the top 1 per cent in Scotland own more than the bottom 50 per cent put together.

“These shock figures must send a clear message to governments in Holyrood and Westminster - it is time to make the ending of poverty the priority.

“The SNP government must now finally back calls from Labour to use the powers and increase child benefit, lifting 30,000 children out of poverty.

“With the cost of housing pushing thousands into poverty, Richard Leonard has outlined Scottish Labour’s vision to end the housing crisis; by building more homes for social rent, ensuring affordable rents and reforming the private rented sector.

“In North Lanarkshire, the Labour run council has introduced a free school meal program to run every day of year. That’s the kind of services we need from councils who could do even more if they had not been hammered by £1.5bn in cuts by the SNP.

“Eight years of Tory austerity and SNP complacency has led to this. A UK Labour government would raise the minimum wage to £10 per hour and fix our broken energy market to tackle the cost of living.

“Only Labour has outlined an alternative for our country, making the richest pay their fair share and poverty proofing our policies to ensure a fairer Scotland.”




Comment on the latest population figures for Scotland


1 August 2018



Commenting on the latest population figures, Scottish Labour's Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

"These figures reveal yet again the challenges Scotland faces in terms of an ageing population.

"While more people living longer is a good thing, it will also put a greater strain on public services, particularly health and social care which are already under pressure.

“Also evident is the impact of Scotland’s health inequalities, with people from the most deprived areas facing shorter life expectancies and experiencing a greater burden of disease.

"That is why it is vital we use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to seriously tackle poverty and inequality, as well as invest in our lifeline services now to ensure they have the resources needed to deal with continually increasing demand.

"And, given Scotland's increasing reliance on migration, it is also why it is essential we secure a Brexit deal that respects the rights of those EU citizens who live and work in Scotland."




VIOLENT CRIME ON THE RISE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FIVE YEARS


1 August 2018



The number of violent crimes in Scotland has risen to its highest level since 2012/13.

Scottish Government figures show there were 7,164 violent crimes in Scotland last year, compared to 6,737 in 2015/16.

Despite a dramatic fall in recent years, thanks in part to the work of the pioneering Violence Reduction Unit, the number of violent crimes has risen sharply, with a jump of 14 per cent in the past two years.

The increase has also been matched by a fall in the proportion of the crimes solved by Police Scotland – falling from 84 per cent to 77 per cent.

Recent research also suggests that violent crime is linked to poverty, inequality, alcohol and experience of violence itself.

The figures come after Sheriff Marie Smart suggested Scotland was suffering a knife crime “epidemic”.

Scottish Labour said the figures reinforced concerns about SNP cuts to frontline policing, as well as the continuing impact of SNP and Tory austerity.

Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson Daniel Johnson MSP said:

“These are worrying figures that will concern people across Scotland.

“This is just one way to measure crime, but it does appear to suggest that recent progress on reducing violent crime may be stalling.

“Over the long term, violent crime in Scotland has fallen sharply. However, we cannot be complacent.

“With violent crime rising to its highest level for five years, it is clear SNP cuts to frontline policing are putting the public at greater risk.

“With more of these incidents than ever in Police Scotland’s history, it is no surprise that the proportion of crimes being solved is falling.

“We need continued action to ensure crime rates fall, and that includes making sure police officers are properly resourced.

“But there are also broader questions the SNP government should be asking about the kind of conditions – social exclusion, poverty, and direct experience of violence - that may have led to an increase in recorded crimes such as serious assault.”




RAILWAY UNIONS UNITE TO TELL NEW TRANSPORT MINISTER TO HALT POLICE MERGER


24 July 2018



The UK's three largest railway unions have united to tell the new SNP Transport minister to dump the unwanted plans to merge the British Transport Police with Police Scotland.

The RMT, TSSA and ASLEF have joined Labour in calling on Michael Matheson to re-think the proposal and come back to the negotiation table with the workers.

As Justice Secretary, Mr Matheson did not listen to police officers on the issue and gave the green light to former transport minister Humza Yousaf to drive through the changes.

It’s now time for him to listen to railway workers from across the industry.

Labour will continue to fight for safe, publicly owned railways that serve the many, not just the few.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, Colin Smyth, said:

“Labour has consistently opposed this merger as it is unwanted, unnecessary and uncosted.

“The gravity of the situation is underlined by this coming together of three separate transport unions, all pleading with the new SNP Transport Minister Michael Matheson to pause and re-think this plan.

"As Justice Secretary, Mr Matheson backed the merger and allowed Humza Yousaf to try and drive through these changes.

“The summer recess gives Mr Matheson the opportunity to chart a different course for Scotland’s railways once he returns to Holyrood in his new role.

“Labour hopes that he listens to British Transport Police officers, and the rest of the industry, and bins this divisive policy.

“Only Labour is fighting for safe, publicly owned railways that serve the many, not just the few.”




Comment on Teacher's Pay


24 July 2018



Commenting on reports that talks on teachers' pay have broken down, Scottish Labour's Education spokesperson Iain Gray MSP said:

"These are deeply troubling reports.

"No one wants to see strike action - but the reality is Scotland's teachers have been treated appallingly by this out of touch SNP government that claims education is its number one priority.

"SNP education secretary John Swinney must now be the only person in Scotland who thinks you can close the attainment gap with overworked and underpaid teachers - and his obstinance is taking Scotland's schools to the brink.

"Labour is the only party that believes in asking the richest to pay their fair share so we can invest in our schools and give teachers the support they deserve."




REPORT CONFIRMS SNP’S CUTS COMMISSION MEANS ‘INCREASING AUSTERITY’


22 July 2018



The SNP’s Cuts Commission report would mean ‘increasing austerity’ to the devastation of Scottish public services, a new report has confirmed.

Under Nicola Sturgeon’s austerity plans, an independent Scotland would slash spending on the NHS, schools and police services in a bid to paper over the country’s financial black hole.

If the plans were implemented over the last decade a further £60 billion of cuts would have taken place, a doubling-down of the brutal austerity cuts imposed by the Tories in recent years.

The report from the These Islands think-tank is the latest in a series of papers to confirm that the Nationalists’ plans for separation would lock Scotland into a never-ending cycle of spending cuts.

It’s now clear that Labour is the party proposing to end austerity and deliver the real change that many Scots are looking for.

Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Lesley Laird, said:

“It is now abundantly clear that the SNP’s plans for an independent Scotland would result in austerity cuts that not even George Osborne would have dared to implement.

“If these proposals were put into practice Scotland’s already under pressure public services would be devastated, with spending slashed on the NHS, schools, and on other vital areas.

“For Nicola Sturgeon this is a price worth paying. The only change she is fighting for is for the lowering of one flag to be replaced by another.

“It’s now clear that it is only Labour that it is fighting for real change for Scotland and the ending of austerity.

“The next Labour governments at Holyrood and Westminster will deliver real change with policies to increase child benefit to raise children out of the indignity of poverty and implement a real £10 per hour Living Wage to ensure that our economy works for everyone.

“Only Labour is fighting to build a Scotland that works for the many, not the few.”




LABOUR PROPOSE NEW ‘BUS PASS LAW’ TO PROTECT CITIZENS’ RIGHTS


20 July 2018



Scottish Labour will enshrine in law the right of all over 60s to a free bus pass, the party’s transport spokesperson has confirmed.

Colin Smyth will put forward a host of amendments when parliament returns from recess to radically overhaul the Transport Bill to give Scotland a public transport system that works for the many, not just the few.

The bus pass is under threat with SNP ministers recently conducting a consultation on raising the qualifying age and have chosen not to rule out the move.

Under Labour’s plans, the right of all over 60s to a free bus pass would be written explicitly into law with the qualifying age of 60 put into legislation to give it increased protection.

Labour also wants to see free bus travel extended to others including modern apprentices and companions traveling with disabled children.

It was a devolved Labour-led government that introduced the free bus pass for the over 60s and Labour will continue to defend their right to have one.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, Colin Smyth, said: “The free bus pass for over 60s was one of many great achievements of Scottish Labour governments.

“Sadly, the scheme is now under threat with SNP ministers refusing the rule out increasing the age citizens can qualify for a pass in a bid to try and save money.

“Ordinary people in their 60s should not be paying the price of Tory austerity because the SNP refuse to use the powers of the parliament to fund our services properly.

“That is why Labour will table amendments which would enshrine the qualifying age for older people into law if passed by Parliament.

“Labour will continue to fight for a publicly owned transport system that works for the many, not just the few.”




ALMOST 50 INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS DELAYED OR OVER BUDGET IN SCOTLAND


20 July 2018



Almost 50 major infrastructure projects are delayed or over budget in Scotland, Scottish Labour can reveal.

Analysis by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) shows 15 major projects have gone over budget between November 2016 and March 2018.

The analysis also shows that 30 projects have had their completion date changed to a later date over the same period.

That means that, of the 49 projects for which estimated budgets and completion dates are given, 45 of them are over budget, delayed, or both.

Some of the projects highlighted in the research include the Gorbals Health Centre - running £5million over budget and five months late – and the M8 M73 M74 Motorway Improvements Project, which cost £13million more than expected.

Other projects include the NHS Orkney New Hospital and Healthcare Facilities, which are almost £10million over budget and delayed by five months.

Scottish Labour said the scale of delays and spiralling costs strengthened the case for a review of public procurement.

Scottish Labour’s Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:

“The scale of these delays and the spiralling costs seriously calls into question the SNP’s handling of major infrastructure projects.

“The fact that so many projects are over budget, delayed, or both is unacceptable – and, given financial and timescale details are only available for 49 out of 87 projects, this could just be the tip of the iceberg.

“We already know the SNP government is putting billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money for public projects in the hands of private companies – and these figures show that people in Scotland are not getting value for money.

“There needs to be a wholescale review of public procurement in Scotland, including spending on major infrastructure projects.

“People in Scotland deserve better than a policy that lines the pockets of shareholders only to leave important works delayed and over budget.”




SNP ABSTAIN ON LABOUR BID TO DEFEND DEVOLUTION



17 July 2018

The SNP today failed to defend the devolution settlement by abstaining on Labour's New Clause 4 amendment to the Trade Bill.

Labour’s amendment would have ensured that there was no "power grab" on devolved areas from UK Government ministers in any future trade deals and that the Governments from the devolved nations would have to consent to any proposals on devolved issues.

Labour said that the SNP's failure to support this amendment while trying to push their own New Clause 20 and Amendment 25 exposed their real agenda of undermining the devolution settlement.

Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland Lesley Laird, said: "The SNP could have ensured that the devolved administrations were defended by supporting Labour's amendment, but their amendments were simply a spoiling tactic to frustrate negotiations and further their quest for independence.

"The SNP are only ever interested in what is best for the SNP and this was shown up today. They could have voted with Labour to land a blow on a weakened Tory government and defend devolution. But instead of partnering with Labour to improve legislation the SNP left the field and gave the Tories an open goal.

"At every stage Labour MPs have sought to protect devolution and force a constructive way through the mess of the Tories' handling of the Brexit process.

"But at every opportunity the SNP have used the smokescreen of parliamentary amendments to undermine the settled will of the Scottish people. The SNP have used every vote as a veiled attempt to frustrate progress. All of this towards their ultimate goal of narrow separatism."




SCOTS DO 115 MILLION HOURS OF UNPAID OVERTIME A YEAR



17 July 2018

Workers in Scotland do 115 million hours of unpaid overtime a year, new figures released from Scottish Labour have revealed.

Analysis of the 2017 Annual Population Survey by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) estimates that, on average, Scots do 7.7 hours of unpaid overtime per week.

If these figures are taken to be representative of the year as a whole, they would imply a total of 115million hours of unpaid overtime in the year.

Labour said the figures revealed structural problems in the economy and effectively cut the wages of working class people in Scotland.

Scottish Labour’s Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:

“These figures reveal that we desperately need to rebalance our economy so that it works for people, rather than just people working for the economy.

“This overtime effectively represents a cut to the wages of working people across Scotland. It also reveals how desperately understaffed some of or our key public services are.

“We should be looking to strengthen the working time directive by ending the opt out.

“Instead under the SNP and the Tories, workers are doing more hours on unpaid overtime while the incomes of the richest soar.

“That is not an economy working for the many, it is one rewarding a privileged few.”




GENDER PAY GAP REVEALED: WOMEN MORE THAN £70,000 WORSE OFF THAN MEN



16 July 2018

Women in Scotland will earn more than £70,000 less over their lifetime than men because of the gender pay gap, new analysis from Labour has revealed.

Fresh analysis by Labour shows that in every age group women earn less than men on average.

Over the course of a woman's working life this amounts to £73,620 less on average.

Labour has a plan to close the gender pay gap, including:

- Introducing a civil enforcement system to ensure compliance with gender pay auditing – so that all workers have fair access to employment and promotion opportunities and are treated fairly at work

- Introducing a £10 real Living Wage

- Ensuring that more businesses publish pay ratios

- Introducing gender audits of all policy and legislation for its impact on women before implementation.

Scottish Labour’s Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:

“It is shameful that under the SNP and the Tories women in Scotland could earn £73,620 less than men on average well into their careers. "Closing the gender pay gap isn’t just a question of fairness – it is essential for our economy.

"There is so much more to do to shatter the glass ceiling for women.

"Only Labour will take the radical steps to close the pay gap for good, like a real living wage and forcing companies to publish pay ratios.

"If a company thinks a woman is worth a lower wage than a man then under Labour we’ll force them to admit it.

“This gross inequality is wrong and is holding Scotland’s economy back - it must be tackled by the SNP and the Tories as a matter of urgency.”






COMMENT ON BI-FAB JOB LOSSES


12 July 2018

Scottish Labour's Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Jackie Baillie, said:

“This a dark day for the Scottish economy.

“BiFab workers are highly skilled and the Scottish Government should be doing everything it can to protect these jobs - but instead these skills are at a real risk of being lost for good.

“Protecting BiFab’s workforce should have been at the top of SNP minister Derek Mackay’s in tray, but despite the Scottish Government having a stake in BiFab, he’s already failing workers and communities.

“Derek Mackay must immediately outline what steps he will take to ensure that these jobs are protected and what prospects lie ahead for future contracts.”


 

FAMILIES STRUGGLING TO COPE AMID RISING SCHOOL UNIFORM COSTS


12 July 2018

Commenting on the Education Committee’s report into poverty-proofing schools, Scottish Labour's Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education, Iain Gray, said:

"The rising costs of school uniforms and trips leaves far too many families struggling to cope.

"It is important that schools and local authorities take this into consideration and make a concerted effort to drive down prices as much as possible.

"The committee's report also lays bare the devastating impact of the loss of free school meals during holiday periods. Some children are sometimes left to go hungry as their families are forced to choose between heating and eating.

"Labour-run North Lanarkshire Council's groundbreaking initiative to feed children through school holidays was rightly recognised as a way to tackle poverty.”




REGRESSIVE COUNCIL TAX HITS THE POOREST THE HARDEST

12 July 2018

Council tax payers in lower bands pay a larger proportion of the value of their home compared to those in more expensive properties.

Analysis by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) shows that a band A household pays 1.4 per cent of their property value in council tax.

At the top end of the scale, a band H property only pays 0.4 per cent of its value in council tax.

Labour said the figures underlined that the council tax is regressive and should be scrapped and replaced.

The party highlighted the figures as part of its ‘summer of socialism’ campaign, which this week is focusing on income inequality and the cost of living.

Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Eradication of poverty and inequality Elaine Smith said:

“Labour wants to redistribute wealth and power from the richest to the poorest, because the system is not working for working class people.

“People in lower banded properties are likely to pay a higher percentage of the value of their home compared to those at the top. That isn’t fair.

“The SNP came to power promising to scrap the council tax, but after 11 years of government the tax remains in place.

“We need a new approach to taxing wealth in Scotland. That’s why Labour backs a 50p top rate of tax on the richest and believe it is time to start a debate around taxing wealth.”



 

ALMOST £700 PER WEEK INCOME GAP BETWEEN THE RICHEST AND POOREST HOUSEHOLDS


10 July 2018

Income inequality has widened under the Tories, new figures from Scottish Labour with a near £700 gap in weekly income between the richest and poorest households.

Analysis of household income data published by the Scottish government reveals a £698 gap in weekly household income after housing costs between the richest and poorest households.

The gap is created not just by soaring incomes for the richest households, but plunging incomes for the poorest. There has been a near 9 per cent increase in weekly income for the richest against a 4 per cent drop in income for the poorest households.

Labour said the revealed a need to rebalance the economy and redistribute wealth in our economy.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance James Kelly MSP said:

"Under the Tories and the SNP income inequality has widened, with a near £700 gap per week in income between the poorest and richest households.

“This gap has been caused by soaring incomes for the richest alongside plunging incomes for the poorest.

“We need to rebalance our economy and redistribute wealth to make it work for working class people.

“Labour would make the richest pay their fair share and introduced an industrial strategy to deliver high skill, high paid jobs for more workers in Scotland.”




MORE THAN SEVEN THOUSAND PEOPLE WAIT TOO LONG FOR CANCER TREATMENT IN SNP SCOTLAND


9 July 2018

More than seven thousand people have waited too long for cancer treatment under the SNP since 2011, Scottish Labour can reveal.

An analysis by the party of ISD Scotland figures shows 7,220 patients had to wait more than 62 days between being urgently referred for cancer treatment and that treatment actually starting over the last seven years.

The figures also show the problem is growing, having increased by 285 per cent between 2011/12 and 2017/18.

The analysis comes after a controversial move from the SNP government to review cancer waiting times, leading to a proposal for different standards – namely different waiting times for different cancer types.

Scottish Labour revealed the analysis ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the NHS as part of a week that will shine a light on how the SNP is failing our health service - and outline what Labour would do differently to make our NHS fit for the future.

Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“Cancer remains Scotland’s biggest killer and swift treatment can have a dramatic effect on outcomes - instead the SNP government is failing patients across Scotland.

“Even one person having to wait too long for treatment for cancer is one too many – having thousands of people wait too long is a national scandal.

“The reality is the SNP has left our NHS doctors and nurses over-worked, under-staffed and under-resourced.

“The SNP's legacy at health is one of horrendous mismanagement and then total denial over performance – and new SNP Health Secretary Jeane Freeman faces a mammoth task to give patients the treatment they deserve.

“Labour will deliver the support our NHS needs and cut waiting times so that if your GP suspects cancer under Labour you see a see a specialist and get results within a fortnight."




DRIVE FOR EQUALITY WILL MAKE THE NHS FIT FOR NEXT 70 YEARS

7 July 2018

Labour has said that tackling health inequalities is the key to ensure the NHS is fit for the next 70 years.

To mark the 70th birthday of the health service the party has announced that a Scottish Labour government will assess every policy for their impact on health inequalities.

These ‘health inequality assessments’ would extend to all government decisions from its budget, to policies in areas such as housing, transport, education and justice.

Scottish Labour Leader Richard Leonard said:

“Labour founded our NHS, based on need not ability to pay. The health service is our proudest achievement, socialism in action and Labour will always fight for it.

“On our health service’s 70th birthday, only Labour has a plan to ensure it is fit for the next 70 years. The sticking plaster solutions of the Tories and the SNP will only go so far – we need real and radical change in our society to take the pressure off of our hospitals.

“Right now in Scotland, life expectancy and quality of life has as much to do with the privilege of the postcode you are born into as anything else.

“The next Scottish Labour government will ensure a ‘health inequality assessment’ of every policy. That doesn’t just mean our health and social care policies, but all across government from our budget to housing, transport, justice and education.

“The fundamental reform our health service needs isn’t service closures – it is changing our society to work for the many, not the few.”




SARWAR OUTLINES 10 POINT ‘PRESCRIPTION’ FOR THE NHS

7 July 2018

Scottish Labour has revealed a 10-point prescription plan to ensure the National Health Service is fit for the future.

The NHS celebrated its 70th birthday this week, but services and staff are under immense strain after years of underfunding.

Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Anas Sarwar, has today [Saturday] put forward plans that will ensure the NHS cannot just survive but thrive for the next 70 years.

The plans include using the tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to give the health service a cash boost and ensure every school in Scotland has access to a mental health counsellor.

Labour built the NHS in 1948 and it is only Labour in 2018 that is putting forward radical plans to ensure our grandchildren have a health service that is there for the many, not just the few.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Anas Sarwar, said:

“The creation of the NHS is Labour’s proudest achievement in government. “We have had events across Scotland celebrating its 70th birthday, but we have to be honest and admit that it is a service under immense pressure and our NHS staff are overworked, undervalued and under-resourced.

“We have been exposing a decade of mismanagement by the SNP government, but we have also been developing plans outlining what we would do differently to make it fit for the next 70 years.

“Labour’s 10-point prescription plan would transform our NHS and ensure it is there for everyone who needs it.

“Our plan would deliver more resources, a stronger workforce and take head on the challenges of cancer, mental health and social care.

“It would mean a generational shift in mental health services with access to a mental health counsellor for every school and crisis mental health services. It will mean a diagnosis within 2 weeks if your GP suspects you have a cancer and dignity in retirement with a proper social care package.

“Labour built the NHS and it is only Labour that has a radical and bold plan to ensure it is fit for the future.”


Labour’s 10-point prescription for the NHS

1. Use the tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to deliver more money for our NHS.

2. A health inequality assessment of every government policy to ensure a positive impact on health outcomes.

3. A credible and deliverable workforce plan. Reverse cuts to training places made by Nicola Sturgeon and delivering a meaningful pay increase and a return to collective bargaining.

4. A generational shift in mental health services with access to a mental health counsellor for every school and crisis mental health services.

5. Protection of local NHS services to stop threats to paediatric, maternity and Out of Hour services.

6. Taking the fight against Scotland’s biggest killer head on with a cancer diagnosis within 2 weeks.

7. Access to vital lifesaving medicines, so patients don’t have to share their intimate stories on the front pages of newspapers or by protesting outside Parliament in order to get the medicines they need.

8. Adequately fund local government so we can end cuts to social care budgets and the scandal of 15 minute care visits.

9. Access to free sport and a bold obesity strategy so we can prioritise prevention and promote good health and wellbeing.

10. Impose a cap on what private agencies can charge for a single shift so that we can reduce agency spending which has skyrocketed under this Government.






Comment on Drug-related Deaths

4 July 2018

Commenting on new figures showing drug-related deaths in Scotland have reached record levels, Scottish Labour's Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

"Scotland's drug strategy has failed.

"These are absolutely shocking figures that should be a wake-up call for the SNP government.

“The fact that drugs deaths in Scotland are two and half times the rate of the rest of the UK is particularly troubling – as is the more than 200 per cent rise in the number of women dying from drug-related causes.

“Lives have been ruined and families left to cope with grief and trauma for years to come.

"The SNP government has slashed alcohol and drug partnership funding at a time when drug deaths were hitting record levels.

"SNP ministers need to give themselves a shake and take responsibility for their actions. If you underfund vital substance misuse services people die.

"I urge the SNP Government to have the courage to take a different course to ensure this shameful record is reversed."




SNP DELAYED DISCHARGE FAILURE COST NHS £440 MILLION UNDER STURGEON

4 July 2018

The SNP government’s failure to abolish delayed discharges in the NHS has cost the health service £440 million since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister, Labour has revealed.

Former SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison vowed to eliminate delayed discharges from the health service in 2015, but the only thing that has been axed since is herself.

Figures released from ISD Scotland show a total of 43,244 bed days were lost in May, meaning 205,871 have been lost so far in 2018 .

Nicola Sturgeon’s new Health Secretary Jeane Freeman must get to grips with this problem immediately, or patients will continue to suffer unnecessary stays in hospital.

Labour said years of SNP cuts to local council budgets has put social care services under significant strain leaving many hospital patients unable to access the services needed to return home.

Labour founded the National Health Service 70 years ago and the party will always fight to secure its future.

Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“The SNP government’s broken promise is costing Scotland millions of pounds each year, and putting an intolerable strain on NHS wards.

“Hundreds of patients each month are languishing unnecessarily in hospital beds.

“Much of the delay in discharging patients is due to social care issues and delays in care assessments – the result of the SNP government’s £1.5 billion cut to council budgets.

“Labour’s would end the cuts to our councils and deliver a National Guarantee for care workers, ensuring all care workers are given appropriate training, paid the living wage, including the time and cost for travel.

“As the NHS approaches its 70th birthday it is only Labour - the party that founded the health service - that has a sustainable plan for its future.




ALMOST 500 OPERATIONS CANCELLED IN MAY

4 July 2018

Almost 500 planned operations were cancelled in May because hospitals couldn’t cope, new figures reveal today.

Data published by ISD Scotland shows that 489 operations were cancelled due to issues with capacity in May.

This means 4,236 operations have been cancelled so far in 2018 due to a lack of capacity in the NHS – meaning an average of 28 cancelled operations each day this year solely because the NHS couldn’t cope.

Scottish Labour said thousands of patients are being badly let down by the SNP government and the new Health Secretary must break from the decade of mismanagement.

Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“Thousands of operations have been cancelled so far this year because our NHS couldn’t cope, leaving staff frustrated and patients in discomfort and pain.

“As the NHS approaches its 70th birthday our health service is seriously struggling to cope with a staffing crisis created by the SNP government.

“Each of these cancelled operation leaves a patient waiting for vital treatment that hospitals have not been able to give because staff are overworked and undervalued.

“The new Health Secretary must quickly give our NHS the support it needs or she will end up dumped out of office like her predecessor.

“Only the Labour Party will use the powers of the parliament to fund our NHS to ensure Scotland has a health service that it fit for the future.”




A&E WAITING TIME TARGET MISSED FOR NINTH CONSECUTIVE MONTH

4 July 2018

Scotland’s monthly interim A&E waiting time target has been missed for the ninth consecutive month, new figures show.

The SNP has an interim target of 95 per cent of patients admitted, transferred of discharged within four hours of arriving at A&E.

New figures from ISD Scotland show just 93 per cent of patients were seen within the target time.

Labour said it is time for the SNP to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to fund our NHS properly.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Anas Sarwar, said:

“For nine long months thousands of patients across Scotland have had to wait more than four hours to be seen at A&E wards.

“Our nurses and doctors do tremendous work, but the reality is they have been left overworked, understaffed and under-resourced by an SNP government that is focused on nationalism instead of fixing our the NHS.

“These successive missed targets are down to years of mismanagement of our most important public service by the SNP Government.

“This week marks the 70th anniversary of the Labour Party creating the NHS, only the Labour party will use the powers of the parliament to properly fund our NHS for the future and ensure we have a health services that works for the many, not the few.”




REVEALED: HUGE COST OF LOCUM GPS

3 July 2018

The huge cost of the SNP GP crisis has been revealed today, with freedom of information requests exposing some health boards are paying up to £1,400 a day for cover.

Freedom of information responses released to Scottish Labour has revealed GPs charged as much as £1,400 per day for cover in Orkney in 2016/17, the latest year for which figures are available.

The problem is not contained to rural Scotland and the Islands however, with charges in NHS Lanarkshire as high as £1,132 per day and £885 per day in NHS Ayrshire and Arran.

Two of the biggest health boards in the country – Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the Lothians, were unable to provide the information.

However, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde does admit that out of hours locums are able to charge over £100 an hour.

Labour released the figure as part of a week spent campaigning on the health service, ahead of the 70th birthday of the NHS.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Anas Sarwar said:

“The NHS is our most valued public service and Labour’s proudest achievement.

“It is utterly shocking that the SNP GP crisis has created a situation where locum costs are over a thousand pounds a day.

“The reality is the SNP has underfunded primary care for over a decade and as a result family doctors are left over stretched, overworked and under too much pressure.




MORE THAN SEVEN THOUSAND PEOPLE WAIT TOO LONG FOR CANCER TREATMENT IN SNP SCOTLAND

2 July 2018

More than seven thousand people have waited too long for cancer treatment under the SNP since 2011, Scottish Labour can reveal.

An analysis by the party of ISD Scotland figures shows 7,220 patients had to wait more than 62 days between being urgently referred for cancer treatment and that treatment actually starting over the last seven years.

The figures also show the problem is growing, having increased by 285 per cent between 2011/12 and 2017/18.

The analysis comes after a controversial move from the SNP government to review cancer waiting times, leading to a proposal for different standards – namely different waiting times for different cancer types.

Scottish Labour revealed the analysis ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the NHS as part of a week that will shine a light on how the SNP is failing our health service - and outline what Labour would do differently to make our NHS fit for the future.

Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“Cancer remains Scotland’s biggest killer and swift treatment can have a dramatic effect on outcomes - instead the SNP government is failing patients across Scotland.

“Even one person having to wait too long for treatment for cancer is one too many – having thousands of people wait too long is a national scandal.

“The reality is the SNP has left our NHS doctors and nurses over-worked, under-staffed and under-resourced.

“The SNP's legacy at health is one of horrendous mismanagement and then total denial over performance – and new SNP Health Secretary Jeane Freeman faces a mammoth task to give patients the treatment they deserve.

“Labour will deliver the support our NHS needs and cut waiting times so that if your GP suspects cancer under Labour you see a see a specialist and get results within a fortnight."





SCOTLAND'S HEALTH BOARDS SET TO BE £131 MILLION IN THE RED

30 June 2018

Commenting on consolidated financial reporting which shows that Scotland's health boards are set to be £131 million in the red for the year, Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“This report confirms what SNP ministers are desperately trying to hide – Scotland’s NHS is underfunded, staff are undervalued and the health service desperately needs to be under new management.

"We are only two months into the financial year and Scotland’s health boards are already £34million in the red – with a projected funding gap of £131m for the year.

"As the NHS approaches its 70th birthday it is clearer than ever that the service needs better support.

“Only Labour will deliver the backing our health service needs.”




JEREMY CORBYN: LABOUR IN POWER IN WESTMINSTER WILL PROVIDE MORE MONEY FOR THE NHS IN SCOTLAND

29 June 2018

Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party, will outline the how the next UK Labour government will provide more money for pubic investment and services in Scotland on a visit to Livingston today (Friday).

At the 2017 General Election, Labour pledged £3 billion of additional revenue spending per year by 2022 paid for through tax rises on big business and the richest, and £20 billion of additional investment over a decade from Labour's National Transformation Fund.

The party will also establish a Scottish Investment Bank with £20billion worth of lending power.

The UK Labour leader will say the NHS is "Labour’s proudest achievement" and that "NHS values - everybody looking after everybody else - are Labour values".

Corbyn will highlight the pressures the NHS is facing by referencing the closure a year ago of the children's ward of the local St John's Hospital.

Alongside local MSP Neil Findlay and Labour's Parliamentary Candidate for Livingston Rhea Wolfson, Corbyn will also describe the pressures currently facing GP practices in Lothian.

These pressures have led to the recent closure of a local GP practice in Stoneyburn and 99 practices closing patient lists to new patients across Scotland - including 51 in Lothian.

Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party, is expected to say:

“The NHS is Labour’s proudest achievement. NHS values - everybody looking after everybody else - are Labour values.

“Labour will give the NHS the money it needs because we're not afraid make the rich pay their fair share. And we'll put people's health before the profits of the few by ending NHS privatisation.

“Our Government will invest in every region and nation.

“At the last election, we set out how we would provide an extra £3 billion per year by 2022 for the Scottish government to spend on schools, hospitals and homes.

“With a Labour Government in Westminster, and a Labour Government, led by Richard Leonard, in Holyrood, we can give everybody in Scotland the best possible chance in life.

“We've had enough of austerity, with its falling living standards, rising NHS waiting lists and growing insecurity. We need real change - a real change for the many not the few.”




Comment on Trump visit costs

28 June 2018

Commenting on reports that Donald Trump's possible visit to Scotland could cost police £5million, Scottish Labour's Justice spokesperson Daniel Johnson MSP said:

“There is rightly a sense of outrage at the prospect of Donald Trump visiting Scotland, given his appalling views, obnoxious behaviour and offensive policies.

“While public safety is a top priority, it simply cannot be right that £5million of taxpayers’ money is going to be spent policing an event no one wants and Scotland does not need.

“The Scottish and UK Governments should insist that the White House pays for any additional security that is required for Donald Trump's visit – or better yet just ask him to cancel the trip entirely.”




SNP PERFORMANCE ON CANCER WAITING TIMES A 'NATIONAL SCANDAL'

26 June 2018

Scottish Labour has accused the SNP of failing cancer patients after new figures showed declining performance in cancer waiting times with hundreds of patients missing the government’s key waiting time targets.

Official statistics show more than 500 people suspected of having cancer had to wait longer than 62 days from referral to treatment in the first three months of 2018 alone.

The target is that 95 per cent of patients urgently referred with a suspicion of cancer should wait a maximum of 62 days from referral to first cancer treatment.

However, performance was 10 per cent below that target - at 85.0 per cent. That is a drop from the 87.1 per cent in the previous quarter and 88.1 per cent at the same period last year.

The figures also reveal 382 people had to wait longer than the 31-day standard for treatment to begin after doctors decided to treat them.

Performance saw 93.5 per cent starting treatment within the 31-day standard, which is a decrease from 94.6 per cent last quarter and 94.9 per cent at the same point in 2017.

The figures follow a controversial move from the SNP government to review cancer waiting times leading to a proposal for different standards – namely different waiting times for different cancer types.

Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“Cancer remains Scotland’s biggest killer and swift treatment can have a dramatic effect on outcomes, but instead the SNP government is continually failing patients across Scotland.

“Having one person waiting too long for treatment for cancer is one too many – having thousands of people wait too long is a national scandal.

“The reality is the SNP has left our NHS doctors and nurses over-worked, under-staffed and under-resourced. Health Secretary Shona Robison’s legacy at health is one of horrendous mismanagement and then total denial over performance.

“Labour will deliver the support our NHS needs and cut waiting times so that if your GP suspects cancer under Labour you see a specialist and get results within a fortnight."




Comment on BMA survey

26 June 2018

Commenting on a BMA survey showing two thirds of doctors believe inadequate resources are significantly affecting the quality and safety of care provided by the NHS, Scottish Labour's health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

"These are deeply troubling reports that once again show just how badly the SNP has mismanaged our NHS.

"As doctors say themselves, the SNP has left our health service staff overworked, under-staffed and under-resourced - and it is patients who are paying the price.

"It is increasingly clear that SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison is out of her depth and out of time, with the SNP government presiding over a recruitment crisis in our health service.

"Scottish Labour has already launched an NHS workforce commission to find solutions to the SNP's workforce crisis in our health service - and we would end SNP and Tory austerity and invest in our health service so our doctors and nurses get the support they need."




Comment on NASUWT survey

26 June 2018

Commenting on a survey by the union NASUWT, showing only half of teachers feel satisfied in their jobs, Scottish Labour's education spokesperson Iain Gray MSP said:

"These are shocking figures that once again expose how teachers and pupils across the country are being failed by this SNP government.

“With thousands of fewer teachers since the SNP came to power, and salaries now down by 20 per cent in real terms, it is no surprise so many are feeling dissatisfied or would choose a different profession.

“While SNP Education Secretary John Swinney wastes his time on school governance reforms which will not improve our schools, overworked and underpaid teachers are having to manage ever larger numbers of children in classes.

“No wonder the attainment gap between the richest and the poorest kids remains stubbornly large with teachers increasingly unable to give pupils one-to-one support. No wonder we have a teacher recruitment crisis.

“It is time John Swinney restored teachers’ pay and gave our children the resources they need to succeed in school.

“Scottish Labour will always be on the side of teachers and pupils.”




EXPERT REPORT BACKS LABOUR CALL ON TAXING WEALTH

25 June 2018

An expert report has revealed that wealth in Scotland has now surpassed £1 trillion, and warns that it is not being taxed effectively enough.

The Resolution Foundation report, The £1 trillion pie: how wealth is shared across Scotland – looks at both the scale of assets in 21st Century Scotland and who holds them.

It says that wealth is playing a bigger role in shaping Scottish society, and calls for a greater focus on wealth in political debates to reflect this shift.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has said that the time has come for Holyrood to consider a wealth tax to generate billions for public services.

Labour has set up a Tax and Investment Commission to consider how Holyrood should use its tax powers to redistribute wealth and fund public services.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“This report lays out the real divide in Scotland – between the richest few and the rest of us.

"That’s why I believe it is high time to have a once in a generation debate around taxing wealth.

“It cannot be right that, while 1 in 4 children are growing up in poverty, the richest 1 per cent own more personal wealth than the poorest 50 per cent.

“Just a 1 per cent windfall tax on the wealthiest 10 per cent in Scotland could raise £3.7billion and put wealth back to work for the economy as a whole.

“This is no time to tinker around the edges.

"We need real change, not just more of the same: a more balanced economy in a more equal Scotland built on higher investment, better public services and one where the broadest shoulders bear the biggest burden.

"That’s the kind of Scotland Labour wants to build.

“That’s why Labour will continue to argue that the richest should pay their fair share.”




LABOUR LAUNCHES NEW CAMPAIGN ON RAIL NATIONALISATION

25 June 2018

Labour has launched a fresh campaign to highlight plans to bring the railways back into public ownership.

As the East Coast mainline returns to public hands following another failed private sector franchise, Labour will step up its campaign for public ownership of all the railways.

Leader Richard Leonard will join activists at Glasgow Central station today to launch a new ‘scratch card’ style leaflet, as the party campaigns at stations across the country.

The party will also target commuters during rush hour with an online advert highlighting SNP rail failures and outlining Labour’s plans for public ownership.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“East Coast coming back into public hands should make clear, once and for all, that the franchising model does not work.

"It is time to nationalise our railways and put public transport back into public hands.

“Getting to work shouldn’t be a gamble, but for too many passengers in Scotland the daily commute means an overcrowded, late running, overpriced train – if it turns up at all.

“Some passengers in Scotland are spending up to 20 per cent of their wages on rail fares.

“Labour offers a brighter future for our railways, with public ownership giving passengers more of a say and better services.”




VICTORY FOR LABOUR AS SNP SCRAP HUGE CHILDCARE HIKE IN GLASGOW

22 June 2018

SNP-run Glasgow City Council will dramatically reduce its planned hike in childcare fees after sustained pressure from families and Scottish Labour.

The council was planning to increase fees by 57 per cent in a bid to bridge the funding gap in its budget created by the SNP government in Edinburgh.

Nationalist councillors have now cut the hike to 18 per cent after sustained pressure from concerned families and local Labour representatives.

It's not up to ordinary families to properly fund Glasgow, it's up to the SNP government in Edinburgh.

It's time SNP councillors stood up for the city instead of passing on cuts to parents.

These families are owed nothing less than an apology by the SNP for the stress and worry inflicted upon them.

Commenting on the news, Glasgow Labour MSP Johann Lamont said:

"It is welcome news that thousands of families across Glasgow will not be facing such a substantial fee hike.

“It is frankly appalling it took so long for the SNP leadership in Glasgow to realise the damage their decision to increase nursery fees by 57 per cent would inflict upon thousands of hard-pressed families across the city.

"It is thanks to the sheer persistence of campaigners that forced this U-turn from the SNP.

“The SNP owe parents an apology and they must work fast to let families know exactly how much they will pay in August.

"However, the cost of childcare is still going by 18 per cent across the city as the SNP council tries to plug a budget blackhole created by SNP government ministers in Edinburgh.

"I will continue to work with parents across Glasgow who need support.

"Parents should not be forking out extra cash to sort out the city's finances.

"SNP councillors should instead be standing up for Glasgow and demanding that the city gets the funding it needs.

"Scottish Labour will always put families first and use the powers of the parliament to stop cuts to public services."




COUNCILS FORCED TO USE RESERVES AS SNP CUTS BITE

22 June 2018

Councils are having to dig even deeper into their dwindling cash reserves to plug funding gaps created by SNP government cuts, a new report has revealed.

A Scottish Government report states that local authorities spent £126 million from their funds in the last financial year, that’s up from £79 million in the previous year.

The number of councils resorting to these emergency measures has also increased over the period from 19 to 24.

It should come as no surprise after SNP ministers cut council budgets by £1.5 billion in recent years.

As SNP cuts continue to bite, the report estimates an additional £113 million worth of reserves will be used during this current financial year in a bid to balance the books.

Scottish Labour says it is high time the SNP stopped cutting council budgets and used the powers of the parliament to end austerity.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance, James Kelly said:

“This is a deeply concerning report into the finances of councils across Scotland.

“The SNP government has cut £1.5 billion from local authorities and now they are forced to use emergency measures in a bid to balance the books.

“And while communities across the country bare the brunt of SNP austerity cuts to their much needed services, we now know SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay kept almost half a billion aside for his slush fund to bribe Green MSPs to get his budget passed.

“It is time the SNP government stood up for our communities and used the vast powers of the Parliament to end austerity.

“Scottish Labour will continue to fight for well-funded public services to help build a society that works for the many, not the few.”




SNP GOVERNMENT UNDERSPENDS NEARLY HALF A BILLION POUNDS WHILST CUTTING SERVICES

21 June 2018

The SNP government has underspent almost half a billion pounds last year whilst inflicting brutal austerity cuts across the country, new figures show.

SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has today [Thursday] admitted that he has set aside £453m of funds as an ‘underspend’. This is money that should be used to support our public services.

Instead of funding these vital services, the SNP government has opted to cut council budgets by £1.5 billion since 2011.

Scottish Labour is calling on Mr Mackay to apologise to workers facing the axe whilst he sits on millions of pounds in St. Andrew’s House.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance James Kelly said:

“Labour will always fight to protect Scotland’s vital public services.

“The news that SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay underspent almost half a billion pounds whilst cutting council budgets by £1.5 billion.

“Money is piling up in his slush fund for his annual bribe to win Green votes to get his budgets passed.

“This is simply a gross mismanagement of Scottish finances by a Finance Secretary that is clearly out of his depth.

"Throughout his tenure as Finance Secretary, Mr. Mackay his tinkered on tax instead of ensuring the richest pay their fair share to fund our schools, hospitals and other vital public services.

“Derek Mackay must apologise to communities across Scotland that have been damaged by his reckless actions.

“Scottish Labour will always put our public services first and will use the powers of the Parliament to end austerity.”




COMMENT ON EDUCATION STATISTICS

19 June 2018

Commenting on school leaver statistics published today, Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“The opportunity a young person has to succeed should be based on their talent and work ethic, not how much money their parents earn.

"That’s why Labour believes in ensuring funding our education system so it makes the most of a young person’s ability, not their ability to pay.

“Any progress in closing the gap between the richest and the rest is welcome but the SNP government should not be patting itself on the back too quickly, as there is still much more improvement is needed.

“These figures show that a young person from the richest background is almost three times more likely to go to university that a young person from the poorest, and that colleges, decimated by years of SNP cuts, remains a more likely route into education for working class young people.

“Figures of school leavers going onto employment – around 1 in 4 from the poorest backgrounds – also include young people on exploitative zero-hours contracts. The government should remove these jobs from positive destination figures. Labour does not believe insecure work is a positive destination for our young people.

“Meanwhile, having abolished the accepted survey to measure literacy and numeracy attainment, the Scottish government appears to have made up a new measure consisting of selected bits of various exams in order to show progress. This cherry-picking approach to measuring success may work for a headline but it will not help us improve our schools.”




SNP’S DAY OF SHAME ON HOMELESSNESS

19 June 2018

Scottish Labour has accused the SNP of presiding over a homelessness crisis in Scotland after new figures revealed a household was lost its home every 18 minutes last year.

Official figures published today show:

· The number of homelessness applications now stands at 34,972 – an increase of 402 compared to 2016/17

· The number of households in temporary accommodation now stands at 10,933 – an increase of 60 compared to 2016/17

· The number of children in temporary accommodation now stands at 6,615 – an increase of 577 compared to 2016/17

· A total of 20 breaches of unsuitable accommodation at March 2018 – a figure that has not exceeded 10 since 2011

Scottish Labour said the figures underlined the SNP’s failures to tackle homelessness in Scotland.

Scottish Labour is committed to building more homes in the social sector – including council houses - as well as properly funding the local authority services that can intervene and support people before they get to the point of losing accommodation.

Scottish Labour’s Housing spokesperson Pauline McNeill MSP said:

“These figures are truly shocking.

“Having just one person homeless in 21st century Scotland is unacceptable – but to see homelessness on the rise once again is a scandal.

“It is clear the SNP government simply is not taking Scotland’s homelessness crisis seriously and SNP ministers should be ashamed by these figures.

“The number of homelessness applications, people and families in temporary accommodation are all up under the SNP. That is unacceptable.

“Scottish Labour is the only party with a plan to tackle Scotland’s homelessness crisis, including building more homes in the social sector and ensuring people have support for their tenancies, as well as properly funding our local authorities to deliver real change for the many, not the few.”




TORIES JOIN SNP IN STICKING PLASTER APPROACH TO NHS - BREXIT DIVIDEND PROMISE PLUCKED ‘STRAIGHT FROM THE MAGIC MONEY TREE’

17 June 2018

Theresa May has joined Nicola Sturgeon in a sticking plaster approach to the health service, Scottish Labour said today.

The Prime Minister has announced a new funding plan for the health service in England, with no detail on how it would be paid for, and has already been criticised by expert groups like the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Normally additional funding for the health service in England results in additional cash for the Scottish Parliament under the Barnett formula.

Labour said any additional money should be directed towards health and social care in Scotland - but focused on fixing long term problems, not quick fixes.

The funding deal hits the headlines on the weekend where it was revealed that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said it did not have enough doctors on duty to staff out of hours centres over the weekend.

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“This is an uncosted announcement with a ‘Brexit dividend’ promised plucked straight from the magic money tree, and even then it falls short of what the health service needs to stand still.

“The SNP government must ensure whatever consequentials that do arise from this are passed on to health and social care in Scotland. We know health boards are already being forced to make huge cuts over the next 4 years and that the SNP has repeatedly failed to use the tax powers in the Scottish Parliament to properly fund the health service.

“What is becoming increasingly clear on both sides of the border is the Tories and the SNP only care about headline grabbing figures and sticking plaster solutions, rather than a plan to fix the health service for the long term.

“On both sides of the border our NHS is undervalued, under too much pressure and should be under new management.

“Only Labour is willing to make the richest pay their fair share to ensure the health service gets the support it needs.”




DELAYED STUDENT GRANTS PACKAGE FAILS TO REVERSE SNP CUTS

13 June 2018

The SNP government’s long delayed response to the student support review fails to reverse cuts made to grants and bursaries in 2013.

The government today outlines a range of new measures on student support – but falls short on a range of measures including:

• New bursaries for the poorest young students of £2,000 – £600 lower in cash terms than the value when the SNP slashed the value in 2013.

• Raising the repayment threshold for loans to £25,000 – but not until 2021, well behind the rest of the UK.

• The review recommended an equivalent ‘living wage’ for students of £8,100 a year, a figure the government applies to care experienced young people, but no other student.

The SNP government claim that around 31,000 students will benefit from an improved package of support – there are over 200,000 students in higher education in Scotland.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for education Iain Gray said:

“The student support review wanted to see a shift from loans back to grants for higher education students but the government told them to abide by financial restraints.

“Even with that, the government has still effectively ignored the key recommendation from the group that all students have access to the equivalent of the Real Living Wage at £8,100.

“The increase in grants the government is proposing does not even restore them to what they were in 2012, when the SNP slashed them by 35 per cent.

“The SNP promised to abolish debt, but yet again it is going to pile even more debt onto students. Only Labour will make the richest pay their fair share to ensure a fairer deal for Scotland’s students.”




UNEMPLOYMENT INCREASE IS 'EXTREMELY TROUBLING'

12 June 2018

Commenting on the news that Scotland's unemployment rate has increased, Scottish Labour’s shadow cabinet secretary for the economy, Jackie Baillie, said:

“It is extremely troubling to see Scotland’s unemployment rate increase over the last year despite a UK-wide fall over the same period.

“Many working families are also feeling the pain with the growth in wages slowing across the country.

"The SNP's answer to this has been a Growth Commission that is really more of a Cuts Commission, meanwhile the Economy Secretary Keith Brown seems to spend more time marching for unwanted referendums instead of looking at the deep problems in our economy.

"We need a fundamental shift in how we grow our economy. Scottish Labour has an industrial strategy which shifts the power from the market to the people and that seeks to develop the high wage, high skill jobs Scotland needs.

"A starting point for this should be reviewing the £11billion Scotland spends on public contracts each year to ensure the best possible value for the taxpayer alongside the best conditions for workers."




TRANSPORT BILL LEAVES PUBLIC CONTROL ‘BY THE ROADSIDE’

12 June 2018

The SNP government’s Transport Bill will leave public ownership 'by the roadside', Scottish Labour’s transport spokesman has said.

Colin Smyth has expressed his disappointment after the long-awaited bill was shown to be a mere sticking plaster on the country’s mounting bus problems, far from the real change needed to fix our country’s ailing public transport system.

The bill will only allow local authorities to run bus services in very restricted circumstances where there is no private provider and the legislation would not allow any public sector bids for bus franchises.

In practice, the legislation would only allow public control of the routes that private providers deem unprofitable, leaving local councils to pick up the pieces and all the losses going forward.

Scottish Labour will now put forward a series of amendments to radically overhaul the bill and give the country a transport system that works for the many, not the few.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, Connectivity and Transport Colin Smyth said: “Under the SNP government bus fares have soared but passenger numbers have plummeted as bus services have been dismantled route by route.

“This bill was a chance to deliver real change on our buses and start to reverse the SNP’s decade of decline but instead it is a huge missed opportunity.

“We know the SNP prefer private to public ownership when it comes to our railways, now we know it is the same on our bus routes.

“Under the SNP’s plans, public ownership of bus routes can only happen in very restricted circumstances. This would leave local councils picking up the pieces, running the very few loss-making routes whilst transport tycoons line their pockets on the rest of the bus network.

“This SNP bill would leave public control of our buses by the roadside. Brian Souter and company will be rubbing their hands at this.

“Labour will now put forward a series of amendments to change the bill. We will safeguard the free bus pass for older people, improve concessionary travel for young people and allow local authorities to deliver a people’s bus service where passengers, not profits are the priority.”






REDISTRIBUTE WEALTH TO IMPROVE SCOTLAND’S HEALTH – SMITH

12 June 2018

The best long term plan for improving Scotland’s health is the redistribution of wealth, Labour said today.

The party highlighted the findings from the Scottish Centre for National Research, showing:

- 62 per cent of respondents think that large gaps in incomes is unfair.

- 58 per cent of respondents would be willing to pay more tax to help the health of poorer people in Scotland.

- 72 per cent believe that people in better off areas tend to be healthier than those in worse off areas.

- 71 per cent felt that those with more money are better able to live healthier lives.

Labour said the findings supported its call to make the wealthiest pay their fair share, and use revenues to tackle poverty and inequality.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Eradication of poverty and inequality Elaine Smith said:

"It is clear that the best long term plan for improving Scotland's health is re-balancing Scotland's wealth.

"This report shows that the majority of people in Scotland accept that health inequalities in our society are driven by wealth inequalities. The top 1 per cent in Scotland own almost as much wealth as the bottom 50 per cent put together. That is unacceptable and unsustainable.

"Scotland can only be a healthier country if it is a fairer country. That is why Labour is the only party with a comprehensive range of policies to tackle poverty in our society.

"Labour would poverty-proof all government policies and fix our broken energy markets and housing systems. We would make the richest pay their fair share and redistribute that wealth to those who need it the most.

"All of these actions would reduce the strain on our NHS, which already sees overworked and undervalued staff counting the cost of the SNP and Tory government's failure to tackle poverty effectively."




Delayed discharge failure has cost £392million

7 June 2018

Delayed discharge has cost our NHS over £392 million since the SNP Health Secretary pledged to eradicate it.

The figure was revealed by Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard at First Minister’s Questions today, who told Nicola Sturgeon to put patients before her party.

In 2015 Shona Robison pledged to ensure that delayed discharge - the process of a patient being stuck in hospital despite being medically cleared to leave - would be ‘eradicated’ out of the system by the end of the year.

Labour said the stark figure summed up the SNP government’s handling of the health service.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Shona Robison’s broken promises on delayed discharge has cost the health service over £392million.

“This week the government was forced to admit that it has not met its A&E waiting times target for eight consecutive months, hundreds of operations are being cancelled every single month, waiting times are up year on year, and our hardworking NHS staff are overstretched and undervalued.

“Patients deserve better than this. They deserve a Health Secretary who is up to the job.

“Nicola Sturgeon should finally put patients before her party and accept that it is time for Shona Robison to go.”




LABOUR GIVES “CAST IRON GUARANTEE” TO OPPOSE BUS PASS CUTS –Richard Leonard

5 June 2018

Scottish Labour will oppose any attempt by the SNP to cut the free bus pass for over-60s, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has pledged.

In a speech to the Scottish Pensioners’ Forum, Mr Leonard gave a “cast iron guarantee” that the party will fight any cuts to concessionary travel for older people, which was introduced by a Labour-led administration at Holyrood.

SNP Transport Minister Humza Yousaf has consulted on raising the age of eligibility for free bus travel, despite widespread opposition.

In his speech, Scottish Labour leader Mr Leonard said:

“I am determined that under my leadership the Scottish Labour Party makes pensioners a priority.

“For me that is about investing in public transport and that means investing in the concessionary travel scheme, not cutting it back.

“So I will give you this cast iron guarantee that the Labour Party will oppose in parliament and outside, any move by the SNP to cut our concessionary travel scheme for the over-60s.”




A&E WAITING TIME TARGET MISSED FOR EIGHTH CONSECUTIVE MONTH

5 June 2018

Scotland’s monthly interim A&E waiting time target has been missed for the 8th consecutive month, new figures show.

The SNP has an interim target of 95 per cent of patients admitted, transferred of discharged within four hours of arriving at A&E.

New figures from ISD Scotland show just 90 per cent of patients were seen within the target time.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Anas Sarwar, said:

“It is disgraceful that another month passes and another target is missed and it shows our accident and emergency wards are at breaking point under the SNP.

“Our nurses and doctors do tremendous work, but the reality is they have been left overworked, understaffed and under-resourced by an SNP government that is focused on nationalism instead of the NHS.

“A&E figures show the overall condition of the NHS, these missed targets are because of years of cuts to primary and social care.

“SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison has blamed everything except her own dismal performance for these successive failures. It’s time for her to step down.




WARM WORDS ON MENTAL HEALTH ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH – SARWAR

5 June 2018

Warm words from the SNP on mental health are not good enough, Labour said today, as new figures show the scale of failure on mental health services.

In child and adolescent mental health services, 1,147 young people waited more than 18 week target time for treatment in the first three months of 2018 – a jump of over 60 per cent from the 712 who waited over the target time in the same period last year.

On psychological therapy waiting times for adults, more than 3,300 patients waited longer than the SNP’s 18 week target for psychological treatment, an increase of more than 400 cases compared to the same time last year.

Labour has been pushing the SNP government to deliver better mental health services in recent months, with leader Richard Leonard raising the matter repeatedly at First Minister’s Questions.

Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Anas Sarwar, said:

“Warm words from the SNP government on mental health are not good enough.

“If these figures were replicated in our A&E wards there would be a national outcry. We hear plenty from ministers about parity of esteem for mental health services and acute services – but these figures show that just is not happening.

“Labour has pressed the government on these failures time and again, but the response simply has not been good enough.

“NHS patients and staff deserve better than these continued failures.”




NHS STAFFING CRISIS ‘OUT OF CONTROL’ - SARWAR

5 June 2018

- Almost 3,000 nursing and midwifery vacancies in the NHS

The staffing crisis in Scotland’s health service is spiralling out of control, new figures reveal.

Data released by ISD Scotland today shows that 2,812.7 WTE nursing and midwifery posts were unfilled in our health service as of 31 March 2018.

In addition to this there are 422.5 WTE vacancies for consultants. The number of consultant vacancies remaining unfilled for six months or more has seen a 23.7 per cent (48.6 WTE) increase to 253.9 WTE in the last year.

In 2012 Nicola Sturgeon cut the intake for nursing and midwifery students by nearly 300. Labour said the figures exposed the scale of the workforce crisis the SNP had created in our health service.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Anas Sarwar, said:

“The SNP’s NHS staffing crisis is spiralling of control, with a huge spike in unfilled posts for consultants and almost 3,000 vacancies in nursing and midwifery.

“These failures lie at the door of Bute House. Nicola Sturgeon cut the number of training places for nurses when she was Health Secretary in 2012.

“A recent survey of NHS staff found only around a third of staff believe there are enough of them to do their jobs properly. The result of that is patients not getting the care they need in time.

“That’s why Labour has established a workforce commission to establish a blueprint to fix the NHS staffing crisis for good.”




NEWS: OVER 500 OPERATIONS CANCELLED IN APRIL

5 June 2018

More than 580 operations were cancelled in April because hospitals could not cope, new figures reveal today.

Data published by ISD Scotland shows that 587 operations were cancelled in April – up from 490 in 2017.

This means 3,747 operations have been cancelled so far in 2018.

Scottish Labour said the figures show it is time the Health Secretary, Shona Robison, steps down before more patients are failed.

Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“Thousands of operations have been cancelled so far this year thanks to the shambolic management of SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison.

“Our health service is seriously struggling to cope with a staffing crisis created by the SNP government.

“Each of these cancelled operation leaves a patient waiting in pain for treatment that hospitals have not been able to give because staff are overworked and undervalued.

“Shona Robison needs to take her head out of the sand. She has been unable to face up to the challenges of the portfolio. It’s time for her to do the decent thing and resign.”




COMMENT ON FREE SANITARY PRODUCTS IN GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS

5 June 2018

The head of the civil service has agreed to provide free sanitary products in all government buildings, in response to an MSP’s campaign to end period poverty.

Labour MSP Monica Lennon lobbied government bosses to set an example for other Scottish employers.

It comes after the Scottish Parliament rolled out a free sanitary products scheme for staff and visitors last month.

Monica Lennon MSP said: “My member’s bill will eradicate period poverty but the wider campaign is about changing our culture so that periods are no longer a taboo subject.

“Free access to sanitary products in workplaces lets women know they are valued and makes good business sense.

“I hope other bosses will follow the Scottish Government’s lead and I’m hopeful NHS Scotland will roll out a similar scheme for staff and patients.”




CUTS COMMISSION WOULD SEE A ‘FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE’ IN THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT

3 June 2018

The SNP’s cuts commission proposes a fundamental change in the role of government in Scotland, new analysis from Labour reveals.

The commission proposes a decade of austerity to reduce a separate Scottish state’s deficit to under 3 per cent.

Analysis from Labour has found that, under the SNP's Growth Commission’s proposals, public spending as a percentage of GDP will fall by 4 percentage points, from 47 per cent to 43 per cent by year 10.

In 2007-08 and 2016-17, public spending as a percentage of GDP in Scotland was 47 per cent.

Labour said that this would lead to turbo-charged austerity for Scotland’s public services.

Scottish Labour Finance spokesperson James Kelly said:

“Nicola Sturgeon promised a growth commission but instead has delivered a cuts commission.

“Scotland has 1 in 4 children living in poverty. They cannot afford another decade of austerity that the cuts commission would bring.

“Our schools and hospitals need more support and the cost of living is squeezing pay packets.

“Nicola Sturgeon has bought into the George Osborne mantra that you can cut your way to economic growth. Instead we need to invest in and build our economy from the foundations up.

“A further decade of austerity would fundamentally alter the role of government in our society. The challenges of the next decade – an aging population, globalisation, and the rise of automation – cannot be dealt with by shrinking the size of the government to pay for independence.

“Only Labour now stands against austerity and for investment, with an economy that works for the many, not the few.”




LABOUR DEMANDS PARLIAMENTARY STATEMENT ON £600 MILLION EMERGENCY SERVICE FUNDING GAP

3 June 2018

Labour has demanded SNP Justice Secretary Michael Matheson be hauled before MSPs to explain the funding crisis gripping Scotland’s emergency services.

It emerged this week that both Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service need at least £600million of investment to keep people safe.

A senior officer warned the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) that “bad guys” have the “edge” over Police Scotland because of a lack of investment in technology for the force under the SNP.

Deputy Chief Officer David Page told the SPA a £200million investment was needed to bring IT systems up to scratch or else Police Scotland will “fall rapidly behind” serious organised criminals.

The comments came after Audit Scotland warned another emergency service – Scottish Fire and Rescue – is facing a more than £400million investment backlog that is so bad fire engines may not be able to run.

Scottish Labour said the revelations made it clear that the SNP’s underinvestment in emergency services could potentially put lives at risk – and demanded Mr Matheson urgently give a statement to parliament on the issue.

Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson Daniel Johnson MSP said:

“Our police officers and firefighters do fantastic work – but once again they are simply not being given the tools to do the job under the SNP.

“Senior police officers are warning at least £200million is now needed to make IT systems fit to tackle cyber crime – and it is absolutely shocking the SNP has let the situation get this out of hand.

“With the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service also facing an investment backlog of more than £400million, it is increasingly clear that the SNP’s failure to invest in our emergency services is putting lives at risk and potentially playing into the hands of criminals.

“SNP Justice Secretary Michael Matheson must urgently give a statement to parliament explaining how this funding crisis for our emergency services was allowed to develop – and what the SNP government intends to do to fix it.”




NEW GP TRAINING PLACES ARE 'STICKING PLASTER SOLUTION'

1 June 2018

Commenting on the news that the SNP government is to fund just 85 new GP training places Scottish Labour's shadow cabinet spokesperson on health, Anas Sarwar, said: “Of course Scottish Labour welcomes any investment in our NHS. But the reality is that after more than a decade in power the SNPs legacy on our heath service is creating a workforce crisis.

“This is yet another sticking plaster solution by an SNP government is putting Nationalism before our National Health Service.

“The Royal College of GPs estimate that Scotland will be short of 856 GPs by 2021, this scheme will deliver at best just 85 new doctors.

“Scotland needs far more GPs to keep local surgeries open to give people the care they need.

“Our NHS is stumbling from crisis to crisis. The interim A&E waiting time target has not been met in nearly a year, experts warned this week that radiology services are ‘starting to crumble’ and it was revealed 130,000 Scots have waited longer than the SNP’s flagship legal treatment time guarantee for conditions such as knee and eye operations.

“Many of these problems have worsened under Health Secretary Shona Robison’s watch and she has lost credibility with staff and patients who deserve better . It’s time she did the decent thing and go.”




LAIRD SET FOR DEPUTY LEADER ROLE

29 May 2018

Shadow Scotland Secretary Lesley Laird is set to confirmed as Scottish Labour’s deputy leader in the coming days.

As of the 12 noon deadline for nominations today (Monday 28 May 2018), Laird was the only nominated candidate for the vacancy.

Lesley Laird will be formally confirmed as the party’s deputy leader in the coming days at a meeting of parliamentarians and councillors.

Lesley said:

“I’m ready to get on with the job of holding the Tory and SNP governments to account and outlining a positive vision of what a Labour government can do in Scotland and across the UK.

“The SNP’s Cuts Commission shows that only Labour offers the real and radical change that Scots wants, with investment in our public services, infrastructure and our people.

“The 2017 General Election saw Labour win seats and slash majorities across Scotland. The next General Election will see Scotland help deliver a Labour government that works for the many, not the few.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Scottish Labour is ready to deliver real change for people across Scotland, with strong teams at Holyrood and Westminster.

“Lesley will be a great voice for our members and our movement, to make the case for the economic and social transformation Scotland so desperately needs.

“Together we will build a Labour Party which appeals to all people of goodwill who want justice, equality, co-operation and real change.

“The SNP’s Cuts Commission plots a further decade of severe austerity. Scotland has had enough of the economics of George Osborne and Phillip Hammond – they are ready for an investment led economy with workers’ rights and public ownership at the heart of economic growth.”




THE SNP’S BLIZZARD OF SPIN ON NHS PERFORMANCE

29 May 2018

Once again SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison is attempting to blame the severe weather created by the Beast from the East on NHS performance on her watch.

The Health Secretary attempted this at the start of May in an attempt to justify failed performance on Delayed Discharge soaring cancelled operations and unacceptable levels of patients waiting more than 12 hours at A&E.

Regarding the Beast from the East:

The Met first delivered an amber warning from the Met on the 26th February with a first red warning on the 28th.

By the 2nd of March the Met office advised that conditions were easing.

On the Treatment Time Guarantee the period covered is from January-March 2018

As Richard Leonard outlined at First Minister’s Questions this week, the trend for the Treatment Time Guarantee is actually a decline of patients seen in the past year – but more patients waiting more than the government’s legal promise of 12 weeks.




SNP EDUCATION BILL JUST A COVER FOR CUTS

29 May 2018

SNP education reforms have been branded unnecessary by Labour today.

Reports in the Sunday Herald this morning reveal that John Swinney has dropped certain aspects of his planned reforms following talks with local government.

However Labour believes the reforms remain unnecessary and the real issue that needs to be addressed is proper funding for schools.

Labour group leader on Cosla, Cllr David Ross said: “We have been clear all along that the best interests of the child should be paramount in any proposals to improve education in Scotland and that an isolated focus on the structure of the education system will not achieve our aim of closing the poverty-related attainment gap and allowing every child to fulfil their full potential.

“Local authorities have always been willing to work constructively with the Scottish Government to achieve this aim. The concessions made by Mr Swinney are sufficient at this stage, for local authorities to continue working with Government as it prepares to introduce its Education Bill, but serious concerns remain about the content of that bill.

“Ultimately we don’t believe further legislation on education is necessary and that this in fact this will be a distraction and a waste of time, energy and resources that could be better spent working together to improve education at the front line.”

Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for education Iain Gray said:

“John Swinney’s reforms have been opposed by teachers, parents and unions and now he has had to make significant concessions to get any measure of support from local government.

“The real reform our schools need is more funding, rather than the £1.5billion worth of cuts the SNP government has made to councils since 2011,leaving our schools with fewer teachers and more supersized classes.

“This bill is not needed and the reforms are not necessary.”




OVER 55,000 PATIENTS JOURNEYS LONGER THAN 18 WEEK STANDARD

29 May 2018

Labour has raised concerns over the health of the health service after new figures for the 18 week referral to treatment standard revealed over 55,000 patient ‘journeys’ took longer than the 18 week target in the first three months of the year.

The Scottish government target for that 90.0 per cent of patients should have a completed pathway within 18 weeks however performance only reached 81 per cent.

Labour said the failures on this standard speak to problems across the health service rather than one specific pressure point.

Labour has established a workforce commission to develop a blueprint to fix the NHS staffing crisis for good.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“NHS staff work round the clock to provide the care Scots need but it is becoming increasingly clear that they are facing an uphill struggle under this SNP government.

“Too many Scots are waiting too long between referral to treatment. That suggests problems across the whole health service, not just in one or two key pressure points.

“Labour has established a workforce commission to develop a blue print to fix the NHS staffing crisis for good. Shona Robison should reflect on these figures and reflect on her own position as health secretary. The problems in our health service are mounting up.”




WAITING TIMES FOR KEY CLINICAL TESTS BRANDED UNACCEPTABLE

29 May 2018

- 1 in 5 wait longer than six weeks Labour has branded waiting times for key diagnostic test for conditions such as cancer unacceptable, as new figures reveal almost 18,000 cases were taking longer than they should have in new data published today.

That means that 80.6 per cent of patients waiting for a key diagnostic test at 31 March 2018 had been waiting less than six weeks - a drop of almost 7 per cent compared to March the previous year.

A standard waiting time of six weeks was set by the Scottish Government in 2009 for diagnostic tests such as CT and MRI scans to aid early detection of conditions like cancer or brain tumours.

However, new figures released today show at least 17,139 as of March this year were waiting longer than the 6 week expected standard.

Labour said the figures were unacceptable, and are rooted in the SNP government’s long term mismanagement of NHS in Scotland.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“These figures are frankly unacceptable. Too many patients are waiting too long for these key tests.

“These standards are in place to ensure that people with potentially serious conditions get the benefit of early detection and have the best possible chance of a full recovery.

“Instead, the SNP government is presiding over growing waiting lists for patients and growing pressures on our NHS staff.

“We know the SNP Government has completely failed to workforce plan properly. Soaring vacancies for consultants and increasing vacancies for nurses are symptomatic of that.

“Nicola Sturgeon needs to put the NHS before the SNP – and find a new health secretary to deliver better support for our health service.”




SNP CUTS COMMISSION LEAVES SCOTLAND WITH A BIGGER DEFICIT THAN ANY OECD COUNTRY

27 May 2018

Plans laid out in the SNP’s cuts commission would leave Scotland with a bigger budget deficit than any country in the OECD, Scottish Labour can reveal.

Even taking the figures in the Sustainable Growth report at face value, the predicted 5.9 per cent budget deficit would still be higher than countries such as Greece, Italy and Spain.

It would also be higher than dozens of other economies around the world.

The startling figures come after it emerged that the growth commission’s proposals recommend turbo-charged austerity over a decade to be able to reach the target deficit of 2.6 per cent of GDP.

Even after a decade of accelerated austerity, the deficit will still be higher than the UK’s current deficit.

Scottish Labour’s Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:

“These are startling figures that show once again that the SNP is willing to wreck Scotland’s economy in its mindless pursuit of independence.

“Even if we take the SNP’s cuts commission’s rose-tinted figures at face value – which Scottish Labour does not – an independent Scotland would have the highest budget deficit of any developed economy.

“The only way to fix that would be swingeing cuts to public services over a decade.

“That is simply unacceptable and would hurt the poorest in our society the most.

“Rather than producing pseudo-academic papers outlining how the SNP’s vision would turn Scotland into the sick man of Europe, Nicola Sturgeon should start fixing the mess she has made of our schools and hospitals.”




RBS CLOSURES SHOULD BE HALTED AND REVERSED

27 May 2018

Today the Scottish Affairs Select committee published its report into RBS branch closures following the announcement of plans to close 62 branches in Scotland at the end of last year.

The report has criticised RBS for failing to understand the needs of the communities that it serves and has called on the bank to halt the branch closures programme.

The report argues that the running of these branches is a cost RBS can easily afford after the bank made profits of £792 million in the first quarter of 2018, three times higher than profits made in the same period last year.

The committee has also noted its disappointment that the UK Government did not use its influence to prevent branch closures. The UK Government retains a 71% stake in the bank after it was bailed out by taxpayers following the financial crisis.

The committee has recommended that Access to Banking Standards, a voluntary regulatory standard for banks should be transferred into statute should public confidence in the current regime fail.

Ross McEwan has stated that there will be no further reviews of branches until 2020. The committee has said that should any future review lead to more branch closures in Scotland, RBS must provide detailed information about how the local or technological situation has changed to such a degree as to justify a further round of closures.

It also emerged after the last hearing that RBS's claim not to have targets for switching customers to online banking was contradicted by a leaked document which showed precisely such a goal for staff.

Labour MPs on the Committee Ged Killen, Danielle Rowley and Hugh Gaffney have responded to the report saying:

Ged Killen MP: “RBS has claimed in its advertising campaigns to be the ‘Royal Bank for Scotland’, however these closures have seen those warm words turn into hot air.

“If RBS was the ‘Royal Bank for Scotland’ it would halt and reverse these closures, instead RBS will, I have no doubt, close those 10 banks it has given a stay of execution to irrespective of how they are used.

“Throughout this process Ross McEwan has dragged his feet when we have sought to engage with him. As a Labour group we will demand that he is re-summoned before the committee should any further branches be put under threat”.

“RBS’s actions have demonstrated that it is not the ‘Royal Bank for Scotland’ but the Royal Bank that left Scotland”

“Last week I introduced a bill in Parliament (Banking (ATM Charges and Financial Inclusion Bill) that would have transferred the Access to Banking Standards to the Government regulator, as well as introducing a penalty requiring banks to provide funds for communities to set up new banks if they fail to meet minimum standards.”

“Under these plans Scottish communities would have been left with funds to set up their own community banks, rather than nothing”.

“The committee has said that the Access to Banking Standards, should be transferred into statute should public confidence in the current regime fail. These closures and the public reaction have shown that public confidence has already gone. The Government should move towards statutory regulation as set out in my bill”.

Danielle Rowley MP:

“We’ve watched RBS representatives twist and turn in front of the committee but it does not feel like we are much closer to the truth.

“Indeed some of the evidence given just the other week about there being no targets to switch customers online was immediately contradicted by a leaked document which showed there absolutely were.

“While some of the switch to online is happening organically, it is not happening with the indecent haste RBS would like it to. These targets are less of a nudge to customers and more of a shove. It’s time people pushed back.

“If RBS will not behave in a responsible way towards its customers, who as taxpayers are also ultimately its owners, then it must be compelled to do so.”

Hugh Gaffney MP:

"Ross McEwan told the committee that ‘change is difficult’. Well, if it looks difficult to him he should try seeing it from my constituents' perspective.

"RBS keep telling us that they can close branches because more people are banking online, but what about those who don't, particularly older people who can't be convinced that it is secure?

“I accept that many people do bank differently these days but I take issue with the speed that change is being forced through at and the damage it is doing to communities along the way.

“Until RBS accepts that their closure programme will disproportionately affect the worst off and the most vulnerable, they will never understand the frustration felt by customers across Scotland.”




New independence blueprint a ‘cuts commission’ – Richard Leonard

25 May 2018

Labour has branded the SNP’s latest blueprint for independence a ‘cuts commission’ as it recommends a decade of unprecedented austerity.

The commission suggests a Scotland outside of the UK would retain sterling – known as ‘sterlingisation’ - leaving Scotland with no control over monetary policy and the value of wages, rent and mortgages, and the risk of no lender of last resort.

The commission also recommends a 5-10 year period of deficit reduction, aiming to get Scotland’s deficit to under 3 per cent from the current 8.3 per cent.

This would lead to a prolonged period of austerity with public spending slashed.

The report also proposes an annual £5billion payment to the rest of the UK to service and hold Scotland’s debt.

Labour said the two competing visions of Scotland are now clear - unprecedented levels of austerity with independence or an investment-led economy with public ownership at its heart with Labour.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“This was branded the growth commission, but it’s really a cuts commission.

“Proposals to cut Scotland’s deficit by almost two thirds over a decade would result in a level of austerity that not even George Osborne attempted.

“The people of Scotland cannot afford another wasted decade under the mantra of deficit reduction.

“Key arguments around currency and debt simply sum up why leaving the UK would not be in the interests of Scotland. The SNP suggest that a separate Scotland would pay the rest of the UK £5billion a year to hold and service our debt. That is the equivalent of the entire education and justice budgets.

“On currency, the SNP has outlined a plan which would mean Scotland has less independence, not more.

“A separate Scotland outside of the UK seeking to use the pound is a recipe for instability and is the economics of dereliction. We would give up our say over interest rate policy, exchange rate policy and inflation.

“The plans would leave an independent Scotland as a rule taker not a rule maker.

“The SNP is proposing a decade of unprecedented austerity and no control over the value of their wages, rent and mortgages.

“Labour offers the opposite. An end to austerity and an economy that works for the people, rather than people simply working for the economy.

“The economic and social transformation Scotland urgently needs will not come from another referendum on leaving the UK – on which the sovereign will of the Scottish people has been clearly expressed.

“It will come from radical Labour governments tackling poverty and inequality, extending public ownership and redistributing power; especially economic power from the few to the many.

“The people of Scotland do not want, this tired argument again. The SNP should recognise that, and focus instead on fixing the growing problems in our NHS and education system.”




Only Labour offers a vision of hope for Scotland – Leonard

25 May 2018

Only Labour in government in Scotland and across the UK offers a vision of hope for Scotland.

With the SNP Growth Commission looking at low tax, low regulation economies, and the prospect of an independent Scotland facing unprecedented levels of austerity, only Labour can deliver the kind of anti-austerity, pro-public ownership economy the people of Scotland want.

A UK Labour government would:

· Deliver a £20billion National Transformation Fund for Scotland to invest in jobs and infrastructure.

· Establish a Scottish Investment Bank with £20billion worth of borrowing power - ten times what the SNP propose.

· Ban zero hours contracts and raise the minimum wage to a real living wage of £10 an hour.

· Oversee a renaissance in public ownership in areas such as energy, mail and rail

At Holyrood a Scottish Labour government led by Richard Leonard would :

· Give our public services the funding they need by making the richest pay their fair share with a 50p top rate of income tax.

· Lay down rules on the £11 billion Scotland hands out in public contracts to drive productivity.

· Establish an industrial strategy so the government has an active, accountable role in driving growth.

· Invest in education and training so every person has the opportunity to succeed.

Labour would grow the economy from the foundations up, but cutting poverty and dramatically improving the cost of living for working class families.

Labour said this vision of radical governments at Holyrood and Westminster contrasts sharply with the SNP’s low tax, low regulation case for separation.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Only Labour, not separation, will deliver an economy that puts power, wealth and opportunity into the hands of the many not the few.

“There is no case for separation that matches Labour’s vision of an anti-austerity, pro-public ownership economy.

“The real divide in the UK is not between the people of the four nations - it’s between the richest and the rest of us.

“Rather than building borders between Scotland and England we should be building homes, schools, and hospitals.

“The SNP government can attempt to reboot the case for independence as much as it likes. The people of Scotland do not trust it and want a government focused on jobs, schools and hospitals instead

COMMENT ON GROWTH COMMISSION RELEASE

24 May 2018

Commenting on the SNP Growth Commission news release, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“The economic transformation Scotland needs and wants will not be delivered by Scotland leaving the UK. No amount of promises made by SNP advisers and politicians will change that.

"The people of Scotland will rightly be wary of fantasy numbers plucked from thin air by the SNP and promised to every man,woman and child in the country in the event of Scotland leaving the UK.

“Only Labour is proposing to change our economy and make it work for everyone,by making the richest and big corporations pay their fair share,and an industrial strategy with the state playing a more active role in economic growth.

“It is becoming clearer and clearer that only Labour offers the radical but credible vision of an anti-austerity Scotland that people want.”




SWINNEY IN HOT WATER OVER SWIMMING CUTS

23 May 2018

John Swinney has launched an attack on SNP-led Dundee City Council after local authority leaders told headteachers to use the attainment fund to pay for swimming lessons.

The Nationalist council in Dundee has scrapped free swimming lessons for pupils amid ongoing cuts from the SNP Government in Edinburgh.

Local authority chiefs then said attainment fund money – which is only supposed to be spent on closing the gap between the richest and poorest students in schools – could be used to cover the costs of the lessons.

However, at the Education Committee, John Swinney rounded on his council colleagues in Dundee and admitted that was not what the money was for.

Scottish Labour’s education spokesperson Iain Gray MSP said:

“John Swinney has got himself in hot water over these SNP cuts to swimming lessons.

“The reality is, the SNP has now underfunded education to such an extent that councils such as Dundee are having to cut services that expand life chances and promote healthy lives.

“Then headteachers are told by council leaders to use attainment fund money, meant to help the poorest pupils, to cover the cuts – only for John Swinney to later admit that isn’t what the money is for at all.

“This deeply embarrassing episode exposes the price of £1.5billion of SNP cuts to local government.

“Scottish Labour is the only party committed to ending SNP austerity and delivering real change for our children and young people.”




SNP-LED GLASGOW CITY COUNCIL SAY CHILDCARE FEE HIKE IS NEEDED DUE TO SNP GOVERNMENT CUTS

22 May 2018

SNP-led Glasgow City Council has blamed the Scottish Government’s cuts to local authority funding for a 57% hike in childcare fees.

The authority’s executive director of education said the move is needed to raise cash due to “the funding gap in the Council's budget for financial year 2018/19”.

Instead of asking their colleagues at Holyrood to give Glasgow the funds it needs, the SNP council has asked ordinary families to pay more.

The revelation comes after the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) said on Monday that the SNP Government has quadrupled austerity on local government, as result ensuring local government spending per head in Glasgow has fallen by £233 since 2013.

Scottish Labour is calling on the SNP Council to stand up for Glasgow and tell the Scottish Government to fund the city properly, not take more money out of the pockets of families.

Glasgow Labour MSP Johann Lamont said: “It is now beyond doubt that the SNP Government’s funding cuts is the reason why the Council are having to ask thousands of families to pay more each month in childcare fees.

“Instead of telling these families to pay more, SNP councillors should be demanding their colleagues in Holyrood give the city the funding it needs.

“New figures this week showed local government spending per head in Glasgow has been cut by £233 in real terms since 2013.

“It is simply not acceptable that ordinary working people have to pay more in fees because SNP councillors refuse to stand up to their own colleagues. It’s time they stood up for Glasgow and demand the city gets the funds it needs.”




SNP OFCOM SUBMISSION A GREATEST HITS OF NATIONALIST GRIEVANCE

22 May 2018

Commenting on the SNP's submission to Ofcom regarding BBC Scotland, Scottish Labour’s Culture Spokesperson Claire Baker MSP said:

“We welcome the new BBC Scotland channel and believe that this is a welcome boost to the sector in Scotland.

“However, the SNP’s submission seems more like the greatest hits of nationalist grievance towards the BBC than a mature discussion on funding for Scotland and our creative industries.

“After 10 years in government rather than fixing our schools, NHS and public services, we instead have a governing party trying to put undue pressure on a public service broadcaster to deliver news in exactly the way they want to.

“At a time when we should be putting on a united front to protect jobs at STV and win the bid to bring Channel 4’s headquarters to Scotland, the SNP have their priorities all wrong.”




A&E TARGETS MISSED AGAIN

22 May 2018

A&E targets have been missed yet again under the SNP.

More than 2,500 patients waited longer than four hours at emergency wards across the country during the second week of May.

Scottish Labour said the figures showed the extent of SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison’s mismanagement of our NHS.

Scottish Labour’s Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“These are truly shocking figures that show once again just how out of her depth SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison is.

“The SNP has left NHS doctors and nurses over-worked, under-staffed and under-resourced – and it is patients who are paying the price.

“Yet again, we see thousands of patients waiting longer than they should expect at emergency wards across the country.

“It is increasingly clear that SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison is simply incapable of turning this around.

“NHS staff and patients deserve better.”




BUSINESS PROFITS SOAR WHILE WAGES STAGNANT IN SNP SCOTLAND

21 May 2018

Business profits in Scotland have soared over the last decade while real wages have stagnated, Scottish Labour can reveal.

Research by the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) using latest figures available shows gross trading profit rose by 13 per cent in real terms between 2006 and 2016, while real wages stagnated, increasing by just 1 per cent in SNP Scotland.

Scottish Labour said that while business success is crucial to our economy, the figures revealed how economic growth is distributed unequally in Scotland under the SNP.

Scottish Labour’s economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:

“The success of business in Scotland is clearly a crucial factor in the success of our economy.

“But these figures reveal the extent of the inequality in how the benefits of economic growth are distributed under the SNP.

“Rather than raising pay for workers – and in turn boosting their spending capacity – soaring profits are instead being held in the hands of the few.

“That is an unacceptable example of how the SNP is mismanaging our economy in Scotland.

“Scottish Labour is the only party with a fully-fledged industrial strategy that will create high-skill, high-wage jobs and build an economy that works for the many, not the few.”




SNP GOVERNMENT QUADRUPLE AUSTERITY TO COUNCILS

21 May 2018

The SNP Government has quadrupled austerity cuts to local government, an independent report has found.

New figures published by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) show the Nationalists have cut revenue funding to local councils by 7.1 per cent in real terms since 2013-14, almost four times more than the cut to the Scottish budget from the Tories over the same period, at 1.8 per cent.

Labour said the impact of this SNP austerity was felt in classrooms, social care and vital local services across Scotland.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Monica Lennon, said: "These findings prove that the SNP government has not only passed on Tory austerity to Scottish communities but have quadrupled it.

“Working people in both urban and rural Scotland are paying the price of the SNP government’s deliberate strategy to undermine local government and the services it delivers to our communities.

"Local councillors, irrespective of party association, are shown no respect by a government that cuts their resources and increasingly blames them for the consequences.

“A Scottish Labour government would use the powers of the Parliament to end austerity and invest in our vital public services, in the interests of the many, not the few.”

Labour group leader on Cosla, Cllr David Ross, said: "This independent report confirms the significant real terms cut in the local government’s funding from the Scottish Government over the past five years.

"This is the main reason the councils are faced with making cuts to services every year. If anything, the report understates the financial pressures on councils as it doesn’t take into account the rise in demand for services like social care.

“The report also highlights that local councils have taken a much greater cut in funding than the overall Scottish Government budget.

"The Scottish Government claim they are treating local government fairly, but this is yet another report that shows this isn’t the case and that local councils are being expected to take far more than their fair share of cuts.”




COMMENT ON EAST COAST MAIN LINE

17 May 2018

Scottish Labour has welcomed the decision to remove the running of the East Coast mainline from Stagecoach and Virgin – but said the SNP’s silence on privatisation had been “deafening”.

Just hours before the UK Government confirmed it would operate the route through an Operator of Last resort, SNP Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said he was “agnostic” about the contract returning to public hands, describing it as a “red herring” and stating that he doesn’t “have a preference for either (public or private ownership)”.

Commenting, Scottish Labour’s Transport spokesperson Colin Smyth MSP said:

"When publicly run the East Coast franchise delivered over £1 billion to the UK Treasury, kept fares down, had record passenger satisfaction and engaged the workforce.

“But when in private hands it failed - not once, but three times and the Government has had to bail out the franchise once again.

“It is now essential both Virgin and Stagecoach are barred from bidding for any future franchises – but the SNP’s silence on this issue has been deafening.

“Just hours before the UK Government confirmed its failed privatisation experiment had come undone, SNP Transport Minister Humza Yousaf brazenly shrugged his shoulders and said he doesn’t even care whether the East Coast rail franchise is in public hands or not.

“That is an insult to passengers and hard-work rail staff, not to mention potentially damaging to Scotland’s economy.

“Unlike the SNP, Labour supports rail services run for people not profit. The East Coast mainline should be taken under public control permanently and we will now fight to ensure the ScotRail franchise contract is brought back into public ownership.”




Ged Killen MP introduces Bill to ban ATM charges

16 May 2018

Today Ged Killen MP introduced a bill to ban ATM charges and boost financial inclusion with the backing of MPs from all three major parties at Westminster.

The Banking (Cash Machine Charges and Financial Inclusion) Bill seeks to protect access to cash and banking services where demand remains for them.

The Bill accepts that the world is becoming more digital and increasingly financial activity is moving online.

However, recent evidence from Which? The FSB and a special inquiry into ATM use by the Scottish Affairs Committee has highlighted that demand for cash and physical financial infrastructure remains, and that these services are important to everyday life.

The Bill seeks to ban ATM charges, protect access to free cash withdrawals and introduce an enforceable access to banking standard.

During his speech introducing the bill Labour MP Ged Killen said:

“In my own constituency we have seen banking services gradually pushed out to the two larger towns of Rutherglen and Hamilton at either end of the constituency with towns in the middle like Cambuslang left with no bank branches.

In fact, there are now more ATMs in the Houses of Parliament than there in the entirety of Cambuslang main street.

“These reductions have a real-world impact, I regularly hear the concerns of small businesses on Cambuslang main street who rely on small, impulse cash purchases, telling me that the ATMs have run out of cash.

"That will have a direct impact on their takings for that day, and yet their views on changes to the interchange fee have not been sought.

“I accept that we are moving towards a cashless society, but we are not there yet.

“Without intervention to remove the option of ATM charges; bank branch closures and the reduction of the interchange fee will mean pay-to-use ATMs becoming the norm. We only have to look to the USA, where a similar reduction in the interchange fee has resulted in there now being an average of $5 for a withdrawal from a machine that is not owned by the customers bank.

“Currently the risk of a whether the ATM network collapses is borne purely by the public and not the banks or the LINK network which is behind the funding cut. This Bill seeks to shift that risk away from those communities who still rely on ATMs. If there is no option for an ATM machine to turn pay-to-use, the onus will be on LINK and the banks to ensure it remains financially viable using the interchange fee.

“To be blunt, ATM charges are a rip off.

“Society is changing, and technological advancements are to be welcomed but we cannot leave it to the banks to do the right thing on their own. I am pleased this Bill has secured support from Members of the three main parties.”




SNP NEEDS TO COME CLEAN ON FRACKING BAN

15 May 2018

The SNP has today dodged answering whether it is going to grant licences to fracking companies when they come up for renewal in June.

SNP minister Paul Wheelhouse refused to confirm that future applications for Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDL) would be turned down.

These licences allow companies like INEOS to search, bore for and extract petroleum, if the government and local authorities agree and planning permission is granted.

There are four active PEDL licences in Scotland. One, in the Central Belt, is due to expire on 30 June 2018. Fracking companies are likely to reapply shortly afterwards.

Claudia Beamish said:

"This just confirms how confused the SNP Government is over the issue of fracking. According to them we have a ban that is not actually a ban, we have licences to frack which may or may not be renewed, and we have a government saying one thing in court and another in Parliament.

‘People in Scotland need a clear, and simple commitment from the government that existing licences granted before the powers to ban fracking was devolved to Holyrood will not be renewed.




YOU CAN’T CLOSE THE ATTAINMENT GAP WITH CUTS TO COUNCILS AND UNDERPAID TEACHERS

12 May 2018

At a campaign event this morning (Saturday), Jeremy Corbyn has said the gap between the richest and poorest pupils in Scotland will not be closed while SNP cuts to councils leave our schools understaffed and our teachers underpaid and overworked.

As Scottish Labour campaigns across the country on cuts to council budgets, they warn that teachers in Scotland are overstretched.

Labour is highlighting:

A £1.5billion cut to council budgets under the SNP since 2011

Scotland having 3,500 fewer teachers since the SNP came to power

The number of primary school pupils being taught in classes with more than 30 pupils has increased by 44 per cent since 2011.

Labour is also warning that teachers are on the verge of strike action after years of real terms pay cuts and increasing workload.

Leader of Scottish Labour Richard Leonard said:

“Under the SNP 3,500 teachers have been cut, class sizes are growing and in the last decade pay has fallen dramatically.

“It is little wonder we face a teacher recruitment crisis and that teachers are saying they've had enough and threatening industrial action.

"Labour supports the teachers’ campaign for better pay and action on workloads.”

Speaking in Scotstoun ahead of a campaign session, Jeremy Corbyn said:

“We won't close the gap between the richest and the poorest pupils with overworked and underpaid teachers.

“Our schools need real change, with more teachers, more support and more resources.

"They do not need more Tory austerity from Westminster and more SNP cuts."




HOLYROOD MUST BACK FAMILIES’ DEMAND FOR TAYSIDE PUBLIC INQUIRY – SARWAR

9 May 2018

Labour will today (Wednesday) urge the Scottish Parliament to support a comprehensive public inquiry into mental health services in NHS Tayside.

The party will use a slot of opposition business this afternoon to call a vote for an inquiry into services at the troubled health board.

The move comes after Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard raised the case of David Ramsay at First Minister’s Questions last week.

Mr Ramsay took his own life after twice being rejected for treatment in 2016 by the Carseview Centre next to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.

The tragic case of Mr Ramsay is not an isolated incident in the area, with a campaign group called Lost Souls has been established in Dundee for campaign for better services.

On Friday, NHS Tayside announced an independent review of the Carseview Centre which would report to the Health Board.

Families in Tayside believe this does not go far enough and want a full public inquiry of mental health services across the whole region.

In his conference speech in March, Richard Leonard raised the case of Lee Welsh, who took his life in 2017, when he first backed the calls for a public inquiry.

Lee’s case would not be covered by the current Carseview review.

The Courier today also reports today that an unnamed father in Dundee has backed calls for a full inquiry into mental health provision at NHS Tayside following claims his daughter was left unable to speak after a year in their care.

Many of the details of this case would also be out with the scope of the Carseview review.

Families who have been affected by mental health services in NHS Tayside will be in the gallery to watch the debate.

Labour health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“Holyrood must listen to the families of Tayside and back a full public inquiry into mental health services.

“The tragic case of David Ramsay was not an isolated incident. There are clear problems with mental health services across the region. It is not confined to one unit in one hospital.

“The exceptional campaigning of the families of Dundee has pushed this to the top of the agenda in Scotland.

"It is now for MSPs to recognise this and show they are listening.

“These families deserve answers. Only a full, independent public inquiry can deliver that. These problems must not be swept under the carpet because it is politically embarrassing or damaging for local politicians.”




VICTORY FOR LABOUR AS GOVERNMENT SET TO AMEND CHARTER OF PATIENT RIGHTS - SNP WAITING TIME LAW BROKEN ALMOST 120,000 TIMES

9 May 2018

Labour has forced the SNP government into a commitment to amend the Charter of Patient Rights and Responsibilities to ensure patients get an accurate waiting time estimate.

The party will accept a government amendment to a Holyrood motion this afternoon which will lead to health boards giving accurate estimates under the Treatment Time Guarantee.

In 2012 the SNP introduced the Treatment Time Guarantee, which gave patients a legal right to treatment within 12 weeks for conditions such as knee and eye operations.

The law has been broken almost 120,000 times since it was introduced in 2012, analysis from Labour reveals.

Under the present system patients are told they have a legal right to treatment in 12 weeks, but not how long the waiting time for their procedure actually is.

Labour Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“This is a real win for patients across the country, and the government should commit to delivering it by the end of the month.

“In 2012 the SNP made a promise to the people of Scotland that they would have a legal right to treatment within 12 weeks. That law has now been broken almost 120,000 times.

“Patients deserve this transparency when it comes to their treatment. Long and unknown waits can have a negative impact on a person’s work, family life, mental and physical well being.

“NHS boards should communicate an accurate expected waiting time to patients. This upfront approach will at least provide transparency and comfort to patients rather keep them in the dark.

“The SNP has seen common sense here - now they must deliver for patients.”




Fracking trial sums up the SNP: spin before substance

9 May 2018

Claudia Beamish MSP spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change said:

“This sums up perfectly the SNP government's attitude - spin before substance.

“Nicola Sturgeon and her ministers told MSPs – and more importantly campaigners and communities – that Scottish towns and villages were no longer at risk from fracking and the environmental damage it can cause because they had banned it.

"Now the government's lawyer is saying the opposite - saying it is the language of a press release.

“SNP ministers need to explain this - fast. It isn't sustainable for the SNP to be saying one thing on their leaflets, website and in press releases and something else entirely in a courtroom."




MORE PEOPLE WAIT MORE THAN 12 HOURS IN A&E THIS YEAR THAN ALL OF 2017

9 May 2018

More people have waited more than 12 hours in A&E in the first five months of 2018 than the whole of 2017.

Weekly Emergency Department Waiting Time Statistics published today reveal 1,856 people have so far waited longer than 12 hours in A&E in 2018, compared to 1,820 over the whole of 2017.

Scottish Labour said the figures were symptomatic of how SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison has lost control of the NHS.

Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“These are truly shocking figures that show once again just how out of her depth SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison is.

“The SNP has left NHS doctors and nurses over-worked, under-staffed and under-resourced – and it is patients who are paying the price.

“Already in 2018, more people have waited longer than 12 hours in A&E than in the whole of 2017.

“For SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison to claim this shows the NHS is in recovery shows just how desperate and out of touch she now is.”




WEST LOTHIAN RESIDENTS VOICE HUGE CONCERNS ABOUT GP CRISIS

2 May 2018

Residents from the village of Stoneyburn, West Lothian came out in huge numbers to a public meeting on Tuesday night to voice concerns about the SNP's GP crisis.

300 residents, representing one in seven of the local population, came out to voice their concerns about the proposal to end GP provision at the local health centre.

In recent months all of the GPs at the Breich Valley medical practice have resigned with zero applicants to take over. This reflects a national crisis in GP provision.

According to the Royal College of General Practitioners, Scotland is short of 856 GPs and many local surgeries can only keep their doors open with locum cover at a cost of between £450- £1400 a day.

The number of whole time equivalent GPs has fallen by 125 since 2009.

The meeting piles pressure onto Health Secretary Shona Robison, already under fire for her handling of the health portfolio in multiple areas.

Labour MSP Neil Findlay, who attended the meeting, said:

“Here we see how a nationwide crisis is impacting on a local community. It is unacceptable that Stoneyburn could be left without a doctor to serve the needs of local people.

“The proposed change would mean that people would be forced to travel to neighbouring villages for treatment.

“For those with a car this would be possible but for the elderly, people with mobility problems or on a low income this will cause very serious problems.

“The minimum bus fare for a return journey is £4.00, £7.00 with a child, and there is no footpath between the villages.

“If this goes ahead then for those affected the NHS no longer becomes free at the point of need. And with no GP provision the local chemist would come under threat.

"The people of Stoneyburn have sent a message to NHS Lothian and the Scottish Government – go back and think again, we will not accept these proposals.”




SNP PROMISE ON POLICE NUMBERS “SHATTERED”

2May 2018

The SNP’s promise to maintain police officer numbers has been “shattered”, Scottish Labour has said.

It has been revealed that the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) is considering axing more than a thousand police officers over the next three years.

At the very least, the SPA will axe hundreds of police officers under the plans.

The move comes after the SNP spent years making civilian staff redundant and forcing frontline officers to take on civilian roles in their place, in order for the Nationalists to maintain their commitment to increase officer numbers.

Scottish Labour said any changes in Police Scotland staffing should see officers put on the frontline where they belong.

Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson Daniel Johnson MSP said:

“The SNP’s promise to maintain police officer numbers has been shattered.

“The public will rightly be concerned that the Scottish Police Authority is now looking at cutting hundreds, if not more than a thousand, officers.

“The reality is, the SNP’s con-trick on police officer numbers has been exposed for what it was – pure spin and no substance.

“While SNP ministers maintained police officers, they sacked civilian staff and made officers who should be on the frontline do their jobs.

“The foolishness of that policy has now been exposed. Labour would make different choices: rather than cutting officers, we would ensure they are on the frontline where they belong.

“SNP Justice Secretary Michael Matheson must urgently explain to parliament and the public how many officers will be cut and what the impact will be on public safety.

“You can’t keep people safe on the cheap.”




OVER 3,000 OPERATIONS CANCELLED SO FAR IN 2018

1 May 2018

Over 3,100 operations have been cancelled due to capacity or non-clinical reasons so far in 2018 because hospitals could not cope, new figures reveal today.

Data published by ISD Scotland shows that 1,201 operations were cancelled in March. Added to the 1,248 cancelled in January and 711 in February, this takes the total figure to 3,160.

Labour said the figures piled pressure on under fire Health Secretary Shona Robison.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“Behind each of these figures is a patients waiting in pain for treatment that hospitals have not been able to give.

“We have seen a staffing crisis develop in our health service, with huge unfilled gaps for consultants, nurses and midwives.

“This failure goes straight to the door of the Health Secretary. It is time for Shona Robison to step aside from the Health portfolio.”




OVER 52,000 PEOPLE WAIT TOO LONG AT A&E SO FAR IN 2018

1 May 2018

1 May 2018 Over 52,000 people have waited too long at Scotland’s major A&E departments in 2018, new data released today shows.

Information published by ISD Scotland today show that 52,025 people waited longer than the 4 hour waiting time target in Scotland’s hospitals so far this year.

This is almost half of the number for the whole of 2017 - which saw over 107,000 people wait longer than the 4 hours in Scotland’s emergency departments.

More than 7,000 have waited more than 8 hours and almost 2,000 have waited more than 12 hours.

In NHS Lothian, which faces a funding gap of £31 million, the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary at Little France recorded a performance of 68.6 per cent.

Meanwhile the flagship £850million Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow recorded a performance of 76.4 per cent.

The performance of Scotland’s A&E wards over the winter was the worst on record, with staff increasingly under pressure.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“NHS staff are not getting the support they need from the SNP government in Edinburgh and as a result over 52,000 patients have had to wait more than the A&E standard so far in 2018.

“This pressure on A&E is a wider symptom of problems throughout the health service – from primary care and social care, to mental health services and public health policy.

“Shona Robison has lost control of her brief – and it is patients and staff who are losing out as a result. It is time for the Health Secretary to do the decent thing and resign.”




STURGEON “ANYTHING BUT HONEST” OVER CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA

26 April 2018

Email exchanges between the SNP and toxic data firm Cambridge Analytica reveal First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has further questions to answer about her party’s dealings with the company, Scottish Labour has said.

Neil Findlay MSP said the emails – released late on Wednesday night as MSPs debated the Social Security (Scotland) Bill – showed the SNP was far more involved with the company than it has previously admitted.

The emails show the SNP continued to maintain contact and discuss work with Cambridge Analytica after a meeting in London – despite Nicola Sturgeon claiming their engagement with the company was a one-off.

Scottish Labour’s campaigns spokesperson Neil Findlay MSP said:

“The release of these emails, far from drawing a line under this scandal, make it far worse.

“These exchanges - quietly published late on Wednesday night as MSPs voted to introduce Scotland’s new social security system - prove without doubt that Nicola Sturgeon has further questions to answer over the SNP’s dealings with Cambridge Analytica.

“It is now clear the SNP First Minister has been anything but honest about the SNP’s engagement with this sham firm. Her claims the SNP has been transparent are now as hollow as Cambridge Analytica’s claims to be a legitimate business.

“The SNP’s handling of this clearly shows it has something to hide. Enough is enough.

“First Minister Nicola Sturgeon must urgently return to parliament and set the record straight on the SNP’s dealings with Cambridge Analytica.”




LABOUR SECURES SPLIT PAYMENTS FOR UNIVERSAL CREDIT

25 April 2018

Speaking after Labour secured split payments for Universal Credit during the Stage 3 debate on the Social Security (Scotland) Bill, Scottish Labour's Social Security spokesperson Mark Griffin MSP said:

“Labour has led the way in arguing that Universal Credit should be automatically split between the two partners in a relationship – and it is welcome the SNP government has, at the eleventh hour, finally agreed.

“Splitting payments will help women facing domestic abuse and ensure money for children goes to the main carer – and that is why this policy is supported by organisations such as Engender and Scottish Women’s Aid.

“Labour has long pressured for this simple, practical step to help vulnerable women and it is welcome it is now enshrined in law.

“This crucial change will help ensure we build a social security system that works for the many, not the few.”




SNP AND TORIES VOTE DOWN CHILD BENEFIT INCREASE

25 April 2018

Speaking after the SNP and Tories voted down Labour's plan to increase child benefit during the Stage 3 debate on the Social Security (Scotland) Bill, Scottish Labour's Social Security spokesperson Mark Griffin MSP said:

“Labour’s plan to increase child benefit would have delivered an extra £5 per week to families across Scotland.

“That simple change would have lifted 30,000 children out of poverty with the stroke of a pen.

“But instead of backing Labour’s plans to make Scotland fairer, the SNP has joined forces with the Tories to vote it down.

“That is simply unacceptable. With food bank use in Scotland at record levels, it is clear Scotland needs urgent action to tackle poverty and inequality.

“Instead, the SNP disgracefully chose to back Tory austerity.

“It is clear it is only Labour that has the ideas and the courage to build a social security system that works for the many, not the few.”




HOLYROOD HEALTH SUMMIT HEARS FROM OVERWORKED DOCTORS

25 April 2018

A Health summit at Holyrood has heard about the fears of doctors over staffing and workload pressures, burnout, and a potential blame culture of overworked NHS staff.

Labour organised a meeting today of senior consultants, GPs and trainee doctors to discuss the pressure on staff with representatives from NHS Scotland, the British Medical Association, the General Medical Council and a cross-party group of MSPs.

Attendees were warned that doctors are facing burn-out and stress, with hungry, exhausted and overstretched doctors at risk of making clinical mistakes.

The meeting heard from the Scottish Action for Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba campaign group.

The cross-party meeting was attended by representatives of the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives. Health Secretary Shona Robison did not attend, despite being invited.

Scottish Labour’s Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“This summit highlighted the stresses our health service is facing, particularly on staff.

“Our dedicated NHS staff are being forced to work hours at end without any breaks, juggling multiple complex cases, with budget and staffing cuts placing them under incredible pressure. They are under strain like never before.

“Those on the frontline say there is now a ‘perfect storm’ with a culture lacking compassion, where doctors suffering stress and burnout do not feel supported and instead are concerned about a blame culture.

“It is inevitable that this increases the chances of mistakes, and unless we care for our doctors and nurses, care for patients will suffer.

“This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed by all parties – I am disappointed the Health Secretary elected not to attend the meeting at any point.

“This snub confirms how much the Cabinet Secretary is in denial about the pressure our NHS staff face.”




SNP CUT ALMOST £2MILLION FROM SCOTTISH WELFARE FUND

23 April 2018

The SNP government has cut almost £2million in real terms from the Scottish Welfare Fund, Labour can reveal. Between 2015/16 and 2018/19, the SNP has frozen funding for the welfare pot in cash terms.

According to figures provided by SPICe, that means there has been a real terms cut of £1.8million.

Analysis by Scottish Labour also reveals the cuts have fallen hardest in some of Scotland’s most deprived communities, including:

· Glasgow: -25 per cent

· Dundee: -14 per cent

· North Lanarkshire: -16 per cent

· Inverclyde: -13 per cent

The Scottish Welfare Fund is designed to provide a safety net for those on low incomes through mechanisms such as crisis grants.

Scottish Labour’s Social Security Spokesperson Mark Griffin MSP said:

“These are truly shocking figures that reveal the extent of SNP austerity in Scotland.

“The Scottish Welfare Fund does important work, but rather than getting the support it needs it has actually had its funding cut by almost £2million in real terms.

“The worst of those cuts are falling in some of Scotland’s most deprived communities, where the Scottish Welfare Fund is needed most.

“Scottish Labour has always argued for a social security system that properly protects Scotland’s most vulnerable people.

“That is why we would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts and support our social security system – and why this week we will once again be pressing the SNP to support our plan to top-up child benefit.”




COMMENT ON UK GOVERNMENT FUNDING FOR CHILDREN WITH ALCOHOLIC PARENTS

23 April 2018

Responding to the UK government announcing £6 million of funding to help children with alcoholic parents get support and advice, Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Anas Sarwar said:

“This is a fantastic result from the campaigning of the Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth. It also shows what can happen when party politics are put to one side.

“My colleague Monica Lennon MSP has pressed for similar action in Scotland.

“The Scottish government should immediately consider the value of establishing a similar fund in Scotland.”




SNP DITCH OIL AND GAS BULLETIN

20 April 2018

The SNP government has scrapped its Oil and Gas Bulletin, Scottish Labour can reveal.

The bulletin was twice published in 2013 and then once in 2014 as part of a failed bid to justify an economic case for independence.

It was only published once – in 2015 – after the independence referendum vote and the oil price crash.

The Office for Statistics Regulation has now confirmed the SNP has no plans to publish a further bulletin.

Scottish Labour said the decision showed the SNP was now “actively disowning” the oil and gas industry.

Scottish Labour’s energy spokesperson Lewis Macdonald said:

“This is a disgraceful decision.

“It shows that not only have SNP ministers given up trying to help the oil and gas industry – but they are now actively disowning it.

“In the run up to the independence referendum, Nicola Sturgeon promised oil revenues of £8billion a year – and the SNP government published the Oil and Gas Bulletin twice in 2013 and once in 2014 in support.

“Since the oil price collapse, we have only had one Bulletin – as long ago as 2015.

That is simply a disgrace.

“With thousands of jobs lost and the industry still in recovery, we need as much information as possible on the state of the North Sea.

“Instead, Nationalist ministers have decided to bury their heads in the sand in an attempt to avoid a political humiliation.

“The SNP should reverse this decision and start helping the oil and gas industry rather than treating it as a political inconvenience.”

"If reports ahead of the publication of the SNP's growth commission are to be believed, the Nationalists no longer plan to use oil and gas in its creative accountancy around independence - it no longer serves the SNP's ends so the industry and workforce suffer the consequences.

"As always with the SNP, a choice between what is good for the Scottish people and what is good for Scottish independence has seen the people lose out.”




Comment on "school isn't free" reports

20 April 2018

Commenting on reports pupils are missing out on key subjects because of the potential costs involved in studying them, Scottish Labour's education spokesperson Iain Gray MSP said:

“These revelations by the Child Poverty Action Group are the shameful reality of the SNP’s £1.5billion cut since 2011 to local councils, who fund our schools.

“That young people are making subject choices based on their ability to pay for materials should put to rest any pretence that education is the SNP’s ‘number one priority’.

“Even given evidence such as this, the SNP continue with their unwanted and flawed reforms.

“Our schools do not need an SNP power grab, they need a government which will get a grip of the situation, properly fund our schools and give teachers the pay rise that they deserve and the resources that they need.

"Anything less will simply ensure that these disgraceful situations remain.

“Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts, invest in education and ensure our schools work for the many, not the few.”




SNP POSTCODE LOTTERY FOR PUPILS FROM POORER BACKGROUNDS

18 April 2018

Scottish Labour has today accused the SNP of failing school pupils from poorer backgrounds.

Joesph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) research, presented at Holyrood’s Education and Skills Committee, highlighted the ‘postcode lottery’ that pupils in deprived areas face.

The research found that, despite similar levels of deprivation, pupils from some local authorities can be twice as likely to secure good grades as those from other areas.

Labour said cuts to councils were at the heart of the matter.

Scottish Labour’s Education Spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“This important research from the JRF highlights the SNP’s failings in education.

“It shows the real effects which their £1.5 Billon cut to council’s finances has had.

“The committee heard of the importance that teaching has on attainment. Our teachers do fantastic work in increasingly difficult circumstances, but the truth is that they have seen 4000 of their colleagues disappear, their class sizes increase and their pay drastically cut.

“The government needs to get a grip of the situation, properly fund out schools and give teachers the pay rise that they deserve. Anything less will simply ensure that the attainment gap remains.

“But instead, they continue with their unwanted and flawed reforms which will do nothing to solve these issues.

“Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts, invest in education and ensure our schools work for the many, not the few.”




Comment on Air Quality Debate

17 April 2018

Speaking after his speech during a debate on air quality, Scottish Labour MSP David Stewart said:

“We welcome the introduction of Low Emission Zones as a strategy to improve air quality in Scotland – but once again we see the SNP government failing to properly fund its commitments.

“As British Heart Foundation evidence shows, 80 per cent of deaths related to outdoor air pollution are due to heart disease or stroke.

“In Scotland, this deadly air pollution is most likely to come from traffic – particularly older, polluting diesel vehicles and that is why Labour supports the creation of low-emission zones.

“But the SNP has failed to properly and clearly fund its commitments to improve air quality. London alone is spending more than £80million to retrofit buses to make them less polluting, for instance, while the SNP has committed just £10million.

“SNP plans for a retrofitting station for buses have also stalled, while there are concerns about a lack of technical and financial support to implement Low Emission Zones.

“The reality is the financial burden for improving the quality of our air cannot fall on councils, who have suffered more than £1.5billion of cuts since 2011.

“Scotland needs real action from the SNP, not warm words.”




SNP REFUSING TO PAY THE REPAIR BILL FOR SCOTLAND’S COLLEGES

15 April 2018

The SNP is refusing to pay the repair bill for Scotland’s college campuses, Labour analysis reveals today.

Scotland’s colleges need over £360million in repairs over the next five years to bring campuses up to scratch.

However, the government only plans to spend £39.4 million on maintenance in the next year.

Further analysis shows that in the last five years only £131.4 million has been spent on college maintenance, just over a third of what is needed in the next five.

Labour said the figures highlighted the government’s appalling record on colleges and further education.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Iain Gray said:

“Colleges and further education continue to get a rotten deal from the SNP government in Edinburgh.

“Any government serious about further education would be ensuring that there is a clear plan to make the campuses wind and watertight. Instead the SNP only plans to spend a fraction of what is needed.

“Refusing to pay this repair bill is just the latest sorry failure from the government on further education – a failure which sees 140,000 fewer college places since they came to power.

“Students deserve to learn in safe, secure and comfortable facilities. The SNP must quickly explain how they are going to give colleges the vital funds they need for these urgent repairs.”




RAPE CLAUSE HELPS WOMEN – MCVEY

16 April 2018

The controversial rape clause helps women, according to Tory Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey.

The astonishing claim was made by McVey in a shambolic appearance in front of Holyrood’s Social Security Committee.

Speaking about the rape clause, Esther McVey said:

“People will be supported and shown to the various other organisations - and again this could give them an opportunity to talk about maybe something that’s happened that they never had before.

“So, it’s potentially double support there - they’re getting the money they need and maybe an outlet they might possibly need.”

The Work and Pensions Secretary also defended the shambolic roll out of Universal Credit, ignoring Labour calls to pause and fix the system.

Labour said the performance underlined how out of touch the Tories are on social security.

Labour MSP Pauline McNeill said:

“This was a disgraceful performance from a Work and Pensions Secretary who is completely out of touch with the reality of life for low income women on tax credits.

“To badge up the vile rape clause as some sort of virtuous policy to provide support is simply skin-crawling.

“The rape clause is a policy created by the Tory government’s ideological obsession to deliver tax cuts for the richest and big business paid for by cutting support for the poorest.

“Scotland has an opportunity to build a social security system based on fairness, dignity and respect. Tory attempts to justify their welfare reform are getting more ludicrous by the day. The Tories should abolish the rape clause.”




LABOUR PLEDGES CAP ON NHS AGENCY SPENDING AS COSTS SOAR

15 April 2018

Labour will look to use the SNP government’s forthcoming NHS safe staffing legislation to cap private agencies profiting from the health service.

The SNP government is developing a ‘safe staffing’ Bill for the health service to enshrine in law the principles of safe staffing in the NHS, starting with nursing and midwifery workforce planning.

Labour is supportive of the aims of the proposed legislation, but said any new law had to help ensure staff had the support and resources they need on shift. As a result, the party will consider how to amend the Bill to stop private agencies profiting excessively from the health service.

The party announces the plans as new analysis shows spiralling agency spending in the NHS, with a 522 per cent increase in agency nursing and midwifery spending since the SNP government formed a majority in 2011.

The figures underline the impact of Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to cut training places for nursing and midwifery staff in 2011.

Labour has established a Workforce Commission to develop a blueprint to solve the staffing crisis.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Anas Sarwar, said:

“The soaring costs of agency spending for nursing and midwifery jobs in the past ten years shows the absolute mess the SNP government has made of workforce planning.

“It was Nicola Sturgeon as health secretary who force through cuts to training places for nurses and midwives.

"We are seeing the effects of that now with a 522 per cent increase in agency spending since.

“This cannot go on. The health service is our most valuable public service – it shouldn’t be boosting the profit margins of private companies.

“Richard Leonard has pledged that the next Scottish Labour government will legislate to cap the profits of private agencies in the health service – If the SNP wants to start fixing this workforce crisis it should work with Labour to deliver this cap in the safe staffing bill.”




ROBISON HAS LOST THE CONFIDENCE OF THE PUBLIC AND IS LOSING THE CONFIDENCE OF THE PARLIAMENT

15 April 2018

Scottish Labour has today demanded that the First Minister oversee a Scottish Government investigation into misuse of charitable funds at NHS boards and that the final report be presented to her.

The party said that following a pattern of financial mismanagement at NHS Tayside, over a number of years, there was no confidence that SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison would carry out the inquiry competently.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Shona Robison has lost control of her brief, has lost public confidence and she should consider her position.

Scottish Labour says Nicola Sturgeon must take ownership of the investigation into the spending of charity funds, and that it should report directly to her.

The party is also demanding a government statement on the issue. If the government fails to agree, then Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport Anas Sarwar will table an urgent question.

It emerged recently that more than £2million from NHS Tayside’s charitable trust was used to fund a new back office computer system.

That incident follows years of financial mismanagement at NHS Tayside, which has had to be repeatedly bailed out with loans from the SNP government during Shona Robison’s tenure as Health Secretary.

There are also now reports that this behaviour is not just isolated to NHS Tayside.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“The ongoing crisis at NHS Tayside is a national scandal. That this has happened on SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison’s watch, and in her own backyard, shows that she has lost control of her brief.

“Under her failed leadership our amazing NHS staff have been let down, too many patients have been failed and now public trust has been breached.

“We still don’t know if this is just an isolated incident or a more widespread practice. That is why we are demanding a swift and thorough national investigation. The public expects nothing less.

“But the reality is, it is Shona Robison’s ineptitude that has caused this mess – the public have lost confidence in her - so she cannot be the one to lead this investigation. It can’t report to her.

"She is out of her depth, out of ideas and out of time – and her position is now untenable.

“The SNP government must come to Parliament at the earliest opportunity and make a full statement. Anything less would be a betrayal of our NHS staff, patients and the public.

“The public deserve proper answers, not an SNP Health Secretary only concerned with trying to cover her own back.”




GOVERNMENT MUST EXPLAIN DISGRACEFUL PLANNING APPLICATION DECISION - IAIN GRAY

12 April 2018

The Scottish Government's decision to over-ride the local planning process in East Lothian so it can decide on a wind energy substation plant application was today branded a disgrace by Scottish Labour.

Iain Gray MSP said he would be writing to SNP Ministers demanding why the application by Inch Cape Offshore Limited (ICOL), had been taken out of the hands of East Lothian Council before any decision had been made.

And he raised concerns about the timing of the decision, as it has been announced while First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is in China promoting business links.

ICOL is owned by Red Rock Power Limited, a subsidiary of China's State Development and Investment Corporation. Nicola Sturgeon opened Red Rock's Edinburgh offices back in November 2016.

The company's application for the old Cockenzie Power Station site is to build a substation to bring offshore energy from a planned windfarm into the National Grid. However it would be operated remotely providing no local jobs.

Iain Gray said: “This decision is a disgrace. I have spent years arguing that local planning decisions must be taken in East Lothian, not by Scottish Government ministers.

"I am very concerned that ministers have chosen to remove this decision from our local representatives. The Cockenzie site is critical for local job creation and that could be jeopardised by the placing of a substation right in the middle of it.

"In the interests of democracy this is a decision that should be taken in East Lothian, with local interests put first, and I will be seeking an explanation from Ministers as to why they have taken it out of the hands of the council and the community and why this has occurred just now while the First Minister is in China."




Comment on High Street Closures

11 April 2018

Commenting on research from PWC showing more than five businesses a week are closing on Scottish high streets, Scottish Labour's economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:

“Small businesses are essential to our economy and the lifeblood of local communities.

“To see such extensive closures of high street shops is not just deeply troubling, it is economically damaging.

“The reality is the SNP has not done nearly enough to support small businesses. Its shambolic business rates changes have sent many firms to the wall.

“The number of appeals against revaluations are through the roof – and thousands have still to be processed.

“If the SNP really cared about our economy, it would support our small businesses and invest in our economy.”




SNP SET TO MISS CHILDCARE STAFFING TARGET BY FOUR YEARS

11 April 2018

The SNP is set to miss its childcare staffing target by four years, new analysis from Labour reveals.

The Scottish government has committed to increase the number of free childcare hours to 1,140 by 2020.

In a letter of guidance issued to the Scottish Funding Council, the government outlines plans to train an additional 1,813 childcare practitioners in the forthcoming academic year.

However, Scottish Labour analysis shows that this is just a fifth of the 8,000 extra childcare staff the government says it will need.

By 2020, the year the policy is meant to be in place, not even half of the additional number of staff needed will be trained based on current figures.

In fact it will take until 2024 to train the additional practitioners if current trends are kept.

The SNP’s childcare minister was previously embarrassed at Holyrood’s education committee by admitting she did not know how many staff presently worked in the sector.

Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Scratch beneath the surface of the SNP government’s spin and we are seeing huge problems with the implementation of this childcare policy.

“The government says it needs 8,000 additional staff to deliver this flagship pledge – but will be four years late in training them all if currently levels are not significantly increased.

“This is what happens when childcare policy is written to fit on an election leaflet, rather than to fit around the lives of Scottish families.

“Increasing the availability and flexibility of childcare would have a huge difference, not just in terms of tackling poverty and the cost of living crisis, but also in terms of fuelling economic growth.

“But as it stands there is not enough money, there are not enough staff, and there are not enough buildings to deliver it.

“The SNP minister needs to get across this urgently.”




FRESH PRESSURE ON SHONA ROBISON

10 April 2018

Pressure is mounting on embattled SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison after it emerged A&E targets have been missed again and another health board is demanding emergency funding.

An average of just 87.1% of people attending A&E in Scotland in the last week of March were admitted, transferred or discharged within the four-hour target.

At the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, almost a third of patients had to wait longer than four hours. Meanwhile, NHS Dumfries and Galloway has appealed to the SNP government for emergency funding of £4.5 million in order to maintain services.

SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison has been facing mounting pressure after it emerged cash-strapped NHS Tayside had used funds from its charity to pay for a back office computer system.

Scottish Labour said today’s revelations showed Shona Robison has lost control of the NHS in Scotland.

Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson, Anas Sarwar, said:

“SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison has lost control of the NHS in Scotland.

“Once again, A&E targets have been missed under her watch – and it is clear she has lost control of health boards across Scotland as well.

“While NHS Tayside stands accused of using charity money to make ends meet - and now NHS Dumfries and Galloway is desperately seeking £4.5 million from the SNP government just to keep services ticking over.

“On Shona Robison’s watch targets are being missed, standards are not being met and the SNP’s financial mismanagement of the NHS in Scotland is being repeatedly exposed.

“She has continually let down hard-working staff and patients – how can we expect her to fix the crisis in health boards when she can’t even properly fund NHS Tayside in her own backyard?

“Shona Robison is out of her depth, out of ideas and out of time. She should be considering her position.




ALMOST 4 IN 10 WORKERS FACE VIOLENCE AND ABUSE

9 April 2018

New figures have revealed the extent of violence and abuse against shop and bar staff in Scotland.

The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey shows four-in-10 workers faced verbal abuse and one-in-12 suffered physical abuse in 2016/17.

Visiting the Hermitage Pub in Morningside today, Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson, Daniel Johnson, said the figures strengthened the case for his Member’s Bill aimed at tackling abuse of shop and bar staff.

His Bill proposes giving protection to workers from physical and verbal violence, particularly when, in the course of their job, they have to ask for ID.

Mr Johnson has also written to hundreds of pubs across Scotland urging them to back his Member’s Bill, the consultation for which closes on April 20.

Mr Johnson said: “Violence and abuse at work is unacceptable – wherever you work, whatever the circumstance. It is never ‘just part of the job’.

“But these figures show too many Scots are experiencing violence and abuse while at work.

“Bar staff are particularly vulnerable given they often have to ask for identification when selling alcohol. That can trigger violence and abuse, and those staff deserve extra protection.

“My Member’s Bill aims to give those staff the extra protection they deserve and I am urging as many people as possible to respond to the consultation before April 20.”




COMMITTEES MUST INVESTIGATE IN WAKE OF NHS TAYSIDE SCANDAL

8 April 2018

Scottish Labour has written to the Scottish Parliament’s Audit and Health Committees urging them to take immediate action in the wake of the scandal at NHS Tayside.

Scottish Labour is calling for the Health Committee to take evidence from NHS boards across the country in a bid to reassure the public that charitable donations are being used as intended.

It is also calling on the Audit Committee to reinvestigate the financing and accounts at NHS Tayside in the wake of the scandal.

More than £2million from NHS Tayside’s charitable trust was used to fund a new back office computer system. That incident follows years of financial mismanagement by the SNP at NHS Tayside, which has had to be repeatedly bailed out with loans from the government.

Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar is also backing the call by the chair of the Audit Committee, Jenny Marra MSP, that there should be no so-called golden goodbyes for the senior managers who have left NHS Tayside following the scandal.

Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“The scandal at NHS Tayside has seriously damaged public confidence in our NHS.

“That is why it is essential all NHS Boards are now called before the Health Committee to establish how this came to happen and if it is more widespread – starting with NHS Tayside.

“The public need and deserve urgent clarification from other health boards on whether any funds have been misspent elsewhere.

“The Audit Committee must also urgently reinvestigate the SNP's financial mismanagement of NHS Tayside, which caused this scandal in the first place.

“SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison appointed John Connell to sort out NHS Tayside after years of chronic mismanagement by the SNP. It would be an outrage if senior managers now received any kind of golden goodbye.

“The reality is millions of pounds has gone missing from a charitable trust on SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison’s watch.

“That is a national scandal - and she must take full responsibility for it and consider her own position.

"If she can't manage the health board in her own backyard, how can she run the NHS across the country?"




COUNCIL WORKERS AT LOWEST LEVEL SINCE DEVOLUTION

8 April 2018

The number of local government employees in Scotland has fallen to its lowest level since devolution, Labour analysis has found.

In 1999 there were 210,000 local government employees, excluding police and fire staff – that grew to 230,000 under the Scottish Labour Governments before the SNP came to power in 2007.

The most recent figures, however, show that local government employee numbers have fallen even further to 198,000.

This is a 14 per cent drop in council employees since the SNP came to power.

Scottish Labour said that in any other sector the scale of job losses would have prompted a taskforce from SNP Ministers to protect jobs and help workers find other work, and that the figures make a mockery of claims that local government is getting a fair deal from the SNP.

Scottish Labour’s Communities spokesperson Monica Lennon called for the Scottish Government to undertake an impact assessment of local government cuts.

Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities Monica Lennon said:

“The only way we can build a Scotland that works for the many, not the few, is by ensuring vital local services that people rely on are properly resourced.

“Instead, the SNP government has taken Tory austerity and passed it straight on to Scottish councils and the communities they serve.

“Council services are crucial in the fight against poverty and inequality and these job losses hurt the poorest the hardest with lifeline services stripped back year after year because of the cuts.

“That’s why Scottish Labour has set out plans to re-empower local government including new powers to raise income including a tax on vacant land, a tourist tax and a social responsibility levy on alcohol sales.

“The Scottish Government should urgently undertake an impact assessment of local government cuts to understand how they are contributing to growing poverty and inequality and open its mind to the solutions Scottish Labour, councils and trade unions are suggesting.”




SHONA ROBISON MUST APOLOGISE TO NHS TAYSIDE CHARITY FAMILIES

7 April 2018

Scottish Labour has demanded SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison apologise to families who gave money to NHS Tayside’s charitable trust, as pressure mounts on her over the scandal at the health board.

More than £2million from the trust was used to fund a new back office computer system. That incident follows years of underfunding at NHS Tayside, which has had to be repeatedly bailed out with loans from the SNP government.

Scottish Labour is also demanding a speedy investigation by the charities regulator OSCR into the actions at NHS Tayside, as well as a national probe in order to urgently determine whether such behaviour is happening at other health boards and to ensure we can maintain public trust in charitable activity.

The party’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said that public confidence in the NHS was being seriously damaged by Shona Robison’s mismanagement.

Mr Sarwar said:

“Patients across Scotland are growing used to SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison’s mismanagement of the NHS meaning missed waiting times.

“But they will not stand for missing millions from charity funds under her watch.

“She should immediately apologise to the families who donated money in good faith - and explain when the SNP Government will properly fund NHS Tayside.

“This scandal took place on her watch, in her own backyard. It is absolutely essential there is a full and swift investigation by OSCR, as well as a national probe to reassure the public this is not going on elsewhere.

"If she thinks simply sacking a chairman she herself appointed just two years ago will resolve this scandal, she is not just incompetent but negligent.

“SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison cannot wash her hands of the scandal at NHS Tayside. It is her responsibility and, if she had any sense of decency, should be considering her own position.”




Comment on NHS Tayside

7 April 2018

Commenting on the latest developments at NHS Tayside, Scottish Labour's health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

"I think it is right that the NHS Tayside chair and chief executive resign from their positions.

"They have let down local staff, they have let down local patients and they have broken the trust of local people by misusing charitable money in this way.

"But there are also still serious questions for SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison to answer.

"This is not an isolated incident – there has been a series of incidents over a number of years, reflecting a complete lack of leadership and mismanagement of our NHS by the SNP minister. "Shona Robison must now consider her own position as she has serious questions to answer."




HOUSING CRISIS HAS PUSHED 50,000 ADDITIONAL CHILDREN INTO POVERTY

6 April 2018

Scotland’s housing crisis has pushed 50,000 additional children into poverty in the last three years, according to analysis from Scottish Labour.

According to the latest three-year average, 50,000 additional children are living in poverty because of high housing costs.

Analysis of the most recently produced poverty statistics shows that there were 180,000 children living in relative poverty before housing costs were taken into account in the three-year period between 2014 and 2017.

However, after housing costs have been taken into account the figure increases by 50,000, to 230,000.

Labour said the figures underlined the SNP government’s failure to halt Tory austerity.

In his keynote speech to Scottish Labour conference last month, Richard Leonard outlined a vision to end the housing crisis by building more homes for social rent and reforming the private rented sector with a ‘Mary Barbour Law’.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“A home should be a basic fundamental human right. That’s why a Scottish Labour government would ensure access to a safe, secure, habitable, and affordable home.

“But a decade of SNP complacency on housing and rising rental costs is pushing additional children into poverty.

“The shameful levels of child poverty in this country may be driven by Tory austerity – but they are amplified by the failures of the SNP government at Holyrood.

“Ending the housing crisis would be a huge step towards tackling child poverty, and it is entirely within the gift of the Scottish Parliament.

“That is why, under my leadership, housing has been put front and centre of our plans to transform Scotland. Labour will argue for more innovative ways to build homes for social rent, and deliver the radical reforms the private rented sector needs to make it work for tenants.”




PRESSURE MOUNTS ON ROBISON OVER NHS TAYSIDE SCANDAL

5 April 2018

Scottish Labour has today written to SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison to demand an investigation into the finances of health boards in the wake of the NHS Tayside scandal.

The party’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said a full investigation was necessary to ensure other health boards are not misappropriating charitable donations.

Earlier this week, it emerged NHS Tayside had used money from its charitable trust to fund a new computer system.

Scottish Labour is also demanding an urgent investigation into the NHS Tayside case – and is urging Ms Robison to make sure other health boards are not engaging in similar practices.

In his letter, Mr Sarwar said:

“Public confidence in our NHS has been damaged by this incident. An investigation would, at the very least, help restore some of that lost confidence, particularly for those families who have given money to NHS Tayside’s charitable trust in good faith.

“The reality, however, is it is not just the patients and residents of Tayside who have been affected by this incident. Such behaviour clearly has national ramifications and will cause deep concern across the country.

“That is why, while an investigation into NHS Tayside specifically is essential, we also need to establish whether or not such practices have been carried out more broadly.”




FURTHER FAILURE ON DELAYED DISCHARGE AS BROKEN PROMISE TOPS £370 MILLION

4 April 2018

The cost of the SNP’s broken promise on delayed discharge has now cost Scottish taxpayers more than £370million.

Scottish Labour recently revealed that at least £360million had been lost to delayed discharge since SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison’s pledge.

But new figures for February 2018 reveal 38,394 days were spent in hospital by people whose discharge was delayed.

That means that a total of 1,596,175 days have been lost to delayed discharge since Ms Robison pledged to eradicate it, costing the NHS an estimated £371,908,775.

On Wednesday February 25 2015, the SNP Health Secretary told the BBC Good Morning Scotland Programme that: “I want over the course of this year to eradicate delayed discharge out of the system and I am absolutely determined to do that.”

Meanwhile, A&E wards across Scotland have also once again failed to meet the SNP government’s waiting times target, and the number of operations cancelled because hospitals could not cope has increased compared to this time last year.

Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“Just last week, Scottish Labour revealed that, despite SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison’s promises, her failure to get a grip of delayed discharge has cost our health service more than £360million.

“Now these latest figures prove that the problem continues to cost our NHS millions of pounds. Shona Robison’s broken promise on delayed discharge has now cost Scottish taxpayers more than £370million.

“That is a staggering figure that could have been reinvested in our NHS to deliver better patient care and staff support.

“Much of the delay in discharging patients is due to social care issues and delays in care assessments – the result of years of an SNP government slashing local authority budgets, with £1.5billion cut since 2011.

“Labour’s alternative would end the cuts to our councils and deliver a National Guarantee for care workers, ensuring all care workers are given appropriate training, paid the living wage, including the time and cost for travel.

“That’s the kind of radical change our health and care services need.”

Commenting on the latest A&E figures, Mr Sarwar added:

“SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison’s silence on the delays in our A&E wards is deafening.

“It is clear there are real pressures in emergency wards across Scotland. The fact that almost a half of patients had to wait longer than four hours at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary is extremely concerning.

“The reality is the SNP has left our doctors and nurses over-worked, under-valued and under-resourced.

“We have already established a Workforce Commission to tackle the SNP’s staffing crisis in our health service – and Labour would use the power of the Scottish Parliament to deliver more investment to build an NHS that works for the many, not the few.”

Responding to the figures for cancelled operations, Mr Sarwar said:

"Patients are not getting the care they need because hospitals simply do not have the capacity to cope.

"SNP ministers need to ask hard questions as to why staff are not better supported. We know that NHS staff don't believe there are enough of them to do their jobs properly, and the numbers of cancelled operations show that SNP ministers need to act.

"With so many patients being denied treatment and living in pain it is not sustainable for ministers to bury their heads in the sand any longer."

Note : Delayed Discharge

In February 2018, 38,394 days were spent in hospital by people whose discharge was delayed. This is a decrease of 5% compared with 40,246 days in February 2017.

This means a total of 1,596,175 days have been lost to delayed discharge since Shona Robison pledged to eradicate it. This has cost the NHS an estimated £371,908,775

The average number of beds occupied per day in February 2018 was 1,371. In January, the daily average was 1,248.

At the February 2018 census point, there were 1,297 people delayed.

Of those delayed at the February 2018 census point, 1,077 were delayed more than three days. The most common reason for delays over three days was health and social care reasons (798), followed by complex needs (253), then patient and family-related reasons (26).




REVEALED: THE INDIVIDUAL COST OF SNP AUSTERITY

4 April 2018

Scottish Labour can today reveal the cost of SNP austerity to individual people across Scotland.

Analysis commissioned by the party shows that SNP cuts to council budgets since 2013-14 have cost residents in Edinburgh and Glasgow more than £200 a head.

Residents in Aberdeen are £111 a head worse off, East Lothian £129, East Renfrewshire £133 and Stirling £148.

Scottish Labour said the figures, provided by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe), showed the price of SNP austerity for individuals across Scotland. Across all 32 local authorities in Scotland, spending has been cut by an average of £137 per head over the same period.

Scottish Labour has persistently called on the SNP to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to end austerity and invest in lifeline services.

Scottish Labour’s finance spokesperson James Kelly MSP said:

“These figures show the price of SNP austerity for individuals across Scotland.

“The SNP has slashed funding for lifeline services in recent years – and that translates as more than £200 a head since 2013-14 for people in Edinburgh and Glasgow. “It means residents in places such as Aberdeen, East Lothian and Stirling have lost more than £100 of spending per head over the last five years.

“That is simply shocking.

“Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to end austerity and invest in our lifeline services for the many not the few.”




SCOTLAND’S SQUEEZED PRIVATE RENTERS

2 April 2018

Scotland’s private renters are increasingly being squeezed into properties, as new analysis from Scottish Labour reveals that the number of overcrowded households in the private rented sector has more than doubled since 2012.

In 2012 10,000 households in Scotland’s private rented sector were defined as overcrowded. By 2016, the year for which the latest figures are available, that figure had soared to 23,000.

A property is considered overcrowded if there are insufficient bedrooms to meet the occupants’ requirements.

Labour has made reforming the rented housing a priority and has pledged a ‘Mary Barbour law’ to radically change the private sector.

Named after the leader of the historic Glasgow rent strikes, the law would ensure proper standards in the private rented sector.

Scottish Labour’s housing spokesperson Pauline McNeill said:

“More and more of Scotland’s private renters are finding themselves squeezed into unsuitable accommodation. We cannot continue to ignore conditions in the fastest growing part of the housing sector.

“The private rented sector has grown dramatically in last 15 years but our laws haven’t kept pace to support tenants.

“Renting should be a secure and viable long term housing option, the means to live in a location that you choose and a way to save up for a deposit if you want to buy a home. However, for too many people it is none of these things.

“That’s why Labour is proposing a ‘Mary Barbour law’ to reform the private rented sector, so no one is overpaying for an overcrowded property.”




THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY

1 April 2018

Labour has accused the SNP of presiding over a ‘great train robbery’ as analysis reveals some commuters in Scotland will spend 20 per cent of their monthly wage on rail fares.

Analysis from the party has revealed that someone on the typical gross salary in Scotland traveling from Edinburgh to Glasgow Central will have to fork out 20 per cent of their monthly wage for a season ticket – about £380 per month.

In comparison, a worker commuting from Étampes to Paris would spend just two per cent of the average monthly pay in France on rail tickets.

Labour said the figures strengthen the case for public ownership, where profits could be reinvested to reduce fares.

Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity Colin Smyth said:

“SNP Ministers are presiding over a great train robbery – passengers are having their pockets picked in comparison to commuters on the continent.

“Ministers used to claim that the deal they agreed with Abellio was world leading – instead it is lagging behind other parts of Europe.

“Passengers are paying a fortune, often for delayed and overcrowded trains and when their train isn’t cancelled they can't be even be guaranteed to stop at the stations they are supposed to.

“This strengthens Labour’s case to bring the railways back into public ownership.

“While SNP Ministers are acting as cheerleaders for the privatised rail system, Labour is making the case to nationalise our railways including ScotRail at the earliest opportunity and deliver a public transport service that works for the many not the few.”




SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT NEED TO RISE TO BREXIT ECONOMIC CHALLENGE

29 March 2018

The SNP government needs to strengthen Scotland’s economy to prepare for Brexit, Scottish Labour said today.

With today marking a year to go until the UK leaves the EU, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said that Brexit made the challenge of tackling Scotland’s sluggish economy even more vital.

His comments come after two concerning economic reports published this week. The FSB reported that small Scottish businesses are not optimistic about the future compared to those in the rest of the UK and a Fraser of Allander report said the number of Scottish Government strategies and consultations were getting in the way of economic growth.

Mr Leonard said: “Both the UK and the Scottish governments need to be focused on ensuring the best deal for workers and the economy from the Brexit deal. Labour has consistently put them at the heart of our arguments around the deal that needs to be negotiated so we can rise to the challenges Brexit will undoubtedly present.

“Scottish Government analysis has forecasted a decline in productivity which will account for a 5.8 per cent reduction in our GDP. So, the challenges of Brexit reinforce a belief I have held for a long time - that a more pro-active approach to the economy is needed.

“Scotland has got to change. It has got to change in terms of how economic power is exercised and by whom. It needs a different and more active approach from government and the public sector. Critically it needs new forms of ownership and higher levels of investment and an economy where the proceeds are shared more equitably.

“Brexit, with all its challenges, only reinforces this need for a step change in how we sustainably develop jobs and our economy.

“The Scottish Government needs to act. Only Scottish Labour has an industrial strategy which will deliver the high skill, high wage economy Scotland needs, an economy that works in the interests of the many not the few.”

Mr Leonard was backed by Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Lesley Laird, who said the devolution project also needed new urgency as a result of Brexit, to re-empower Scottish councils and enable them to strengthen local economies.

On the final destination of powers returning from Brussels she criticised the Tories attempted power grab - and the centralisation of powers by the SNP at Holyrood.

Ms Laird said: “Labour established the Scottish Parliament and has led the way in adding to its powers. We have no intention of seeing that progress threatened in any way by Brexit.

"The governments should be working constructively now to ensure that additional powers coming back from Brussels end up where they belong. The attempted power grab by the Westminster government was wrong. But we must not condone the centralisation of powers by the Scottish Government either.

“Amid all of the challenges of our withdrawal from the EU, there is a wider opportunity here to take devolution to the next level - to re-empower and reignite the spark that local government provides to local communities.

“Now is the time to seriously devolve powers and funding to local government. Now is the time to develop stronger, local delivery channels, particularly in the areas of economic and skills development and industrial strategy.

“I am calling on the Scottish Government to seize this opportunity and work with CoSLA on this issue.

“It is the many not the few who depend most upon council services, it is the many not the few who are hardest hit when these cuts are forced upon councils.

"The Scottish Government now has the opportunity to take bold and decisive action, to work with CoSLA about the powers and the funding that can be devolved directly to local government and invigorate economies and communities across Scotland.”




SNP AND TORIES UNITE TO BLOCK DEMANDS TO SCRAP UNFAIR COUNCIL TAX

29 March 2018

SNP and Tory MSPs have united to vote down a motion which said the unfair council tax must end.

The SNP came to power in 2007 pledging to abolish the tax – but after more than 10 years has not done so.

Labour supports calls to scrap council tax and has proposed replacing it with a new property tax that would see 80 per cent of homes pay less.

But SNP and Tory MSPs joined forces to block a motion calling for the current council tax system to end.

Scottish Labour’s Finance spokesperson James Kelly MSP said: “Like much else, instead of being radical, the SNP has joined forces with the Tories to oppose the principle of abolishing the hated council tax.

“The SNP came to power more than ten years ago promising to scrap the unfair council tax yet its successive governments have failed to do so.

“Now SNP MSPs have joined forces with the Tories, it is clear they simply can’t be trusted on council tax reform.

“Scottish Labour has put forward proposals which would see the council tax abolished and a new property tax introduced which would make 80 per cent of households better off and support councils having the choice to raise income in different ways including a tax on vacant land, a tourist tax and a social responsibility levy on alcohol sales.”




SNP KEEP SOCIAL SECURITY PAYMENTS TO DWP SECRET

29 March 2018

29 March 2018 The SNP is keeping its payments to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) for Scotland’s new social security system secret, Scottish Labour can reveal.

Nationalist ministers have agreed to pay the DWP for the use of its IT systems to administer payments – but are refusing to reveal how much this will cost Scottish taxpayers or the details of the deal.

The revelation comes after Audit Scotland suggested SNP ministers have not adequately budgeted for the implementation of the new social security system.

There are also concerns about the reliability of the DWP’s IT system, which will be depended on to deliver payments in Scotland.

Earlier this week it emerged some welfare payments were delayed because of what the DWP described as a “computer glitch”.

Scottish Labour’s Social Security spokesperson Mark Griffin MSP said:

“This veil of secrecy from the SNP is deeply concerning.

“Audit Scotland has already warned that SNP ministers have not properly budgeted to deliver the new powers over social security.

“Now it emerges they won’t even be honest about how much taxpayers are handing over to the callous DWP to deliver payments for up to 5 years.

“There are also widespread concerns about the capability of the DWP systems, with payments not being delivered on time because of a glitch just this week.

“Scotland has the opportunity to build a radically fairer country with these powers – but SNP ministers must be honest if we are going to ensure we get the foundations of this new system right.”




LAIRD CALLS FOR DEVOLUTION OF POWERS TO COUNCILS AFTER BREXIT

28 March 2018

The Scottish Government should "take devolution to the next level” after Brexit, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Lesley Laird said today.

Ms Laird said it was time for a re- empowering of local authorities to “reignite the spark” they provide to local communities.

On the final destination of powers returning from Brussels she criticise the Tories attempted power grab - and the centralisation of powers by the SNP at Holyrood.

Ms Laird said: “Labour established the Scottish Parliament and has led the way in adding to its powers. We have no intention of seeing that progress threatened in any way by Brexit.

“The attempted power grab by the Westminster government was wrong, but we must not condone the centralisation of powers by the Scottish Government either.

“But amid all of the challenges of our withdrawal from the EU, there is a wider opportunity here to take devolution to the next level - to re-empower and reignite the spark that local government provides to local communities.

“Indications are that the devolved Parliaments and Assemblies will end up with more powers. That’s why Labour has and will continue to resist any power grab as a result of Brexit.

“But we also believe we should be working constructively now to ensure that additional powers coming back from Brussels end up where they belong.

"The attempted power grab by the Westminster government was wrong.

"We must not condone the centralisation of powers by the Scottish Government either.

“Now is the time to seriously devolve powers and funding to local government.

"Now is the time to develop stronger, local delivery channels, particularly in the areas of economic and skills development and industrial strategy.

“I am calling on the Scottish Government to seize this opportunity and work with CoSLA on this issue.

“It is the many not the few who depend most upon council services, it is the many not the few who are hardest hit when these cuts are forced upon councils.

"The Scottish Government now have the opportunity to take bold and decisive action, to work with CoSLA about the powers and the funding that can be devolved directly to local government and invigorate economies and communities across Scotland.”




CONCERN OVER VIOLENT CRIME

28 March 2018

A new Scottish Government report suggests that the number of violent crimes are on the rise.

The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey has estimated there were 231,000 violent crimes over the course of 2016/17 – up from 186,000 in 2014/15, the date of the last survey.

This trend is supported by the number of reported violent crimes, which have also risen over the same period.

Scottish Labour said the figures suggested progress on reducing crime has stalled.

The figures also revealed a decline in the number of adults who believed the police were doing a good or excellent job.

Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson Daniel Johnson MSP said:

“These are worrying figures that will concern people across Scotland.

“Surveys are just one way to measure crime, but it does appear to suggest that recent progress on reducing crime may be stalling.

“We already know that recorded violent crime is up, but this survey suggests a much larger increase – up by almost 1,000 cases a week.

“This report makes clear the SNP cannot simply rest on its laurels and tell us everything is fine.

"We need continued action to ensure crime rates fall, and that includes making sure police officers are properly resourced.”




Comment on Fraser of Allander report

28 March 2018

Commenting on the Fraser of Allander's latest Economic Commentary, Scottish Labour's Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:

“The SNP has held back Scotland's economy for more than a decade, doing nothing but tinkering around the edges.

"SNP ministers' handling of business rates has been shambolic, their economic strategy is out of date and they are complacent about the lack of growth in the economy.

“Even the Nationalists own economic advisors are now warning that growth is so low that independence is even less feasible than previously thought.

"Labour is the only party to have developed an industrial strategy that will create high-wage, high-skill jobs - and we are the only party that would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to end austerity and boost economic growth."




COMMENT ON AUDIT SCOTLAND SOCIAL SECURITY REPORT

28 March 2018

Commenting on the Audit Scotland report ‘Managing the implementation of the Scotland Acts’, which warns about the implementation of Scotland’s Social Security system, Labour Social Security spokesperson Mark Griffin said:

“This report must be taken seriously by the Scottish government.

“This is a vital year for delivering Scotland’s new powers over social security but it appears ministers have not adequately budgeted for how much this implementation will cost.

“Finding skilled staff is also a serious concern.

"Our public services are full of examples of the SNP government not being able to workforce plan adequately - that must not be replicated for Scotland’s new social security powers.

“Scotland has the opportunity to build a radically fairer country with these powers.

"The ability to do that must not be undermined by a failure to get the foundations right.”




SNP ACCUSED OF TRYING TO “STRONG-ARM” LOCAL GOVERNMENT ON PAY

27 March 2018

Scottish Labour has accused the SNP of trying to “strong-arm” local government after COSLA offered a “take it or leave it” pay rise of three per cent to workers.

The offer made by COSLA, which includes pay for teachers, is to increase pay by 3 per cent for those earning less than £36,500.

But the group has refused to listen to any trade union representations on pay, choosing instead to make a “take it or leave it “offer.

Scottish Labour said the move was an attempt to strong-arm local government and absolve the SNP government for cutting more than £1.5billion from lifeline services since 2011.

The comments come after it emerged today that teachers could strike over a best and final pay offer.

Councillor David Ross, Leader of the Scottish Labour Group of councillors on COSLA said:

“As a Labour Group, we are disappointed by the terms of the pay offer made to local government workers, including teachers, by COSLA.

“This offer falls short and, by making this a ‘best and final’ offer, COSLA is undermining the process of collective bargaining that has been in place for many years.

“It is effectively saying ‘take it or leave it’ without being prepared to enter into any discussion on the merits of the trade union submissions.

“We all know that local government in Scotland is under severe financial pressure and has seen its funding cut and cut again over the past 10 years.

"It is clear that local government on its own, can’t afford to meet the trade union pay claims without further significant cuts to local services and jobs.

“But we should be prepared to sit down and discuss this with the trade unions, and further, we should be going back together to the SNP Government to press the case for additional funding for the pay settlement.”

Scottish Labour’s Communities spokesperson Monica Lennon MSP added:

“The reality is that tens of thousands of council jobs have already been lost to the SNP cuts to local budgets and the remaining council workers have had their wages frozen for far too long.

"Once again, we see the SNP government trying to strong-arm local government, ignoring the concerns of councillors and trade unions.

"Scottish Labour is the only party that argued for additional money for local government to deliver a pay rise and rather than issuing ‘take it or leave it’ threats to local councils, the SNP should be listening to the concerns of the workforce.”




Comment on AWPR

23 March 2018

Commenting on the announcement of the delay to the AWPR, Lewis Macdonald MSP said:

“This is a deeply worrying revelation that will concern businesses and families across the north-east.

“SNP Cabinet Secretary for the Economy Keith Brown has repeatedly insisted the AWPR works will not be affected by Carillion's collapse - but that now seems to be anything but true.

“The SNP has been sleepwalking through this crisis, leaving workers and businesses in the supply chain facing uncertainty.

“Even now, Keith Brown cannot give a definitive date for completion – and, given the SNP’s history of spinning completion dates, late Autumn could mean Christmas.

“SNP minister Keith Brown must immediately visit the north-east to reassure residents and businesses this will be the final delay to the AWPR.”

Scottish Labour’s Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP added:

“SNP Economy Secretary Keith Brown statement went on for 10 pages but failed to mention even once the rights of workers employed on the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route.

“Last week, Labour raised the allegations of bullying and harassment of the workforce on the project, the breach of agency worker regulations, health and safety staff ignored and a sub-contractor who had deployed gangmasters in the past.

“At First Ministers Questions, we raised the use of umbrella companies and bogus self-employment.

“Nicola Sturgeon said it was a matter of choice – but it’s not a choice if you struggle to pay your mortgage, it’s not a choice if you don’t get sick pay, it’s not a choice when you don’t have a decent pension.

“We need urgent action from the SNP now, not warm words.”

Commenting on Nicola Sturgeon’s comments around workers having a choice to be employed directly or not, Stevie Dillon, Unite Regional Officer, said:

“Unite Scotland has no knowledge whatsoever of workers on major infrastructure projects in Scotland being offered a choice of direct employment with major contractors.

“One system dominates this entire section of the industry. A recruitment agency approaches the worker with a job offer. If the offer is accepted the worker is then directed to sign up with a specific company – which will be one of the rip-off ‘umbrella’ contractors.

“The only choice the worker gets in this process is ‘take it or leave it.’ To suggest otherwise is frankly, mistaken.”




FMQS: EXPLOITATION OF WORKERS ON PUBLIC CONTRACTS MUST END

- Union disputes Sturgeon claims on employment


23 March 2018

The exploitation of workers on government funded contracts must end, Richard Leonard said today.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, the Scottish Labour leader again raised the issue of umbrella companies, funded by public contracts, charging workers to access their wages.

And he revealed that the practice not only happened on the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route but also on the Waverley Platform Extension in Edinburgh.

A pay slip from a worker on the project reveals a ‘Sterling margin’ of £23 deducted from wages – Sterling the name of the umbrella company through which he was employed.

It was also revealed that no government minister or agency has approached the on site trade union following Richard Leonard raising concerns about worker exploitation on the AWPR.

The call comes as the Waverley Platform Extension is set to be handed to a new contractor, following the collapse of Carillion.

In her answer at First Minister’s Questions Nicola Sturgeon claimed that workers on the AWPR contract had a choice of whether or not to take up work as agency staff or as a direct employee – this is disputed by Unite the Union.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Last week I raised the serious issue of umbrella companies charging workers on Scottish Government contracts for the privilege of being paid their wages.

“Nicola Sturgeon said she was outraged by it but no one from her government contacted a trade union to investigate it.

“This exploitation is not confined to just one project. Workers on the Waverley Platform Extension just half a mile from the Scottish Parliament have also been charged just to get their wages.

“This is taxpayers’ money exploiting workers through unethical business practices half a mile from this Parliament and it is just not good enough.

“The Scottish Government should never underwrite the immoral exploitation of working people.

“That’s why Nicola Sturgeon should work with trade unions to protect the workforce, and ensure that no worker on government funded contracts is charged to receive their wages.”

Commenting on Nicola Sturgeon’s comments around workers having a choice to be employed directly or not, Stevie Dillon, Unite Regional Officer, said:

“Unite Scotland has no knowledge whatsoever of workers on major infrastructure projects in Scotland being offered a choice of direct employment with major contractors.

“One system dominates this entire section of the industry. A recruitment agency approaches the worker with a job offer. If the offer is accepted the worker is then directed to sign up with a specific company – which will be one of the rip-off ‘umbrella’ contractors.

“The only choice the worker gets in this process is ‘take it or leave it.’ To suggest otherwise is frankly, mistaken.”




COMMENT ON CHILD POVERTY FIGURES

23 March 2018

Child poverty is rising in Scotland, according to new figures released .

The statistics show one in four children and one in five adults are now living in poverty.

Scottish Labour said the figures should shame the SNP and Tory governments.

Commenting on the figures, Scottish Labour’s inequalities spokesperson Elaine Smith MSP said:

“No one in 21st century Scotland should have to live in poverty –especially children.

“But these figures show that poverty rates in Scotland are continuing to rise.

“It is simply unacceptable that one in five people and one in four children are forced to live in poverty.

“That is why Labour proposed using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to top-up child benefit and immediately lift 30,000 children out of poverty – but the SNP is joining with the Tories to block it.

“It is why we would end austerity, invest in our public services - and why we have presented an industrial strategy that would create more high-skilled, high-paid jobs.

“With 1,000,0000 people in Scotland living in poverty, we cannot afford to continue to tinker around the edges. The SNP reconsidering its alliance with the Tories to oppose Labour’s plan for a £5-a-week child benefit top-up would be a good place to start.”




TORIES ALL AT SEA ON BREXIT FISHERIES POLICY

23 March 2018

Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland today slammed the Tories' approach to Brexit and UK fishing policy as "incoherent".

Lesley Laird said the pledge by Ruth Davidson and Michael Gove to “take back control of our waters” just a week ago had “spectacularly backfired”.

And she said the fishing communities of Scotland would no longer be able to trust the Tory MPs they had put their faith in at the last General Election, who had pledged that Scotland would be out of the Common Fisheries Policy by March 2019.

Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Lesley Laird, said:

"Today's fish-dumping stunt on the Thames by Nigel Farage – while the Scottish Tory MPs were all at sea with their chum, Jacob Rees-Mogg – exposes the truth about their party's incoherent approach to Brexit.

"Just as with their demands on Clause 11 and the need to protect the devolution settlement, they have once again been outmanoeuvred, outvoted and ultimately overruled.

"Ruth Davidson and Michael Gove's tough posturing on fisheries policy has spectacularly backfired. It’s proved as false as Mr Gove’s referendum fibs about extra millions for the NHS.

"Either they completely misjudged their party's position or that position has shifted dramatically in a matter of days.

"Scotland's fishing industry is either being sacrificed as a pawn in a much bigger game or it is not on Theresa May's radar at all.”

She added: "Every time the Scottish Tories fail to deliver for Scotland they are playing into the hands of the SNP and its politics of grievance.

"It is becoming clear that making any progress in Brexit talks will require compromise, but is the Scottish Tories themselves who have been left compromised by this latest fiasco.

"The SNP would like to posture on this too, but the truth is that their preferred option is to go straight back into the EU and therefore the Common Fisheries Policy.

"Only the Labour Party has a grown up approach to Brexit which is informed by the concerns of the fishing industry and would negotiate the best deal to support fragile coastal communities."




SWEENEY BLAST AT SNP'S 'SQUANDERED' WELFARE BILL

20 March 2018

The Social Security Bill, which is currently at Stage 3 of the Scottish Parliamentary process, transposes 11 reserved benefits into Scottish legislation and introduces powers to top up reserved benefits among other powers.

But the bill has been criticised as a ministerial power grab and a timid attempt to address poverty and the vicious targeting of the most vulnerable in society by the Tory government at Westminster.

At a Westminster Hall debate today on Scottish Welfare Powers, Shadow Scotland Minister, Paul Sweeney MP, attacked the empty rhetoric of a Scottish National Party which talks left in London and acts right in Edinburgh.

Mr Sweeney said: "The SNP resisted attempts to improve the Social Security Bill at every turn. It is further proof that they talk left and act right.

"Labour has won important concessions including preventing a means test on winter fuel payments, disability and industrial injuries benefits.

"But the SNP blocked a £260 a year child benefit top-up by joining forces with the Scottish Tories, and did the same to an amendment which would have enshrined the automatic splitting of Universal Credit to protect women from financial abuse – only to then introduce their own bill in Westminster days later that would achieve the same outcome.

"The only way to ensure real change and properly tackle poverty is by electing Labour governments north and south of the border.

"This another missed opportunity to deliver for the people of Scotland. Once again, powers have been devolved to Edinburgh then squandered.

"The Scottish Parliament's mission statement is 'to make a positive difference to the lives of the people of Scotland'. Sadly the SNP, in league with the Tories, have failed that test."




LABOUR DEFEAT GOVERNMENT PLANS TO ABOLISH FORESTRY COMMISSION

20 March 2018

Scottish Labour has defeated SNP Government plans to abolish the Forestry Commission in Scotland.

Successful amendments from Scottish Labour to the Forestry and Land Management bill during Stage 3 of the bill today (Tuesday 20 March) blocked the SNP government’s proposals to centralise forestry into government department.

Many organisations within the forestry sector, including the Royal Scottish Forestry Society, the Woodland Trust, the Institute of Chartered Foresters, Ramblers Scotland, Reforesting Scotland, and the Forest Policy Group oppose the SNP’s plans for new forestry structures due to fears that it will see the loss of decades of forestry expertise.

Scottish Labour tabled amendments to the bill to effectively maintain the existing structure but to devolve it to the Scottish Parliament.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy Colin Smyth said:

“The handling of the devolution of forestry by the SNP government has been a shambles.

“Labour backs the overall Forestry bill but it was vital that it was amended to address the concerns of key stakeholders who fear that taking powers currently with the Forestry Commission and passing them to a government department was simply more centralisation.

“It was also clear that SNP plans would have made it easier to privatise the forestry estate which they tried to do in 2009.

“The SNP’s unsavoury attempts to push people into line behind those plans backfired spectacularly and failed to address the real concerns that their proposed new structures would lead to a loss of expertise.

“The Forestry Commission has been a successful brand and that would have been lost under the SNP’s centralisation agenda.”

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Environment Claudia Beamish added:

“Scottish Labour fully supports the devolution of forestry but we need to get the new structures right.

“Labour’s amendments maintain the Forestry Commission but within a devolved settlement and adds a vital layer of parliamentary scrutiny.

“We don’t agree that turning the Forestry Commission into a department of the Scottish Government would have been the best way forward for forestry in Scotland.

“After 100 years of success by the Forestry Commission, forestry’s long term vision must be free from ministerial whim.

“In addition to blocking the SNPs plans to scrap the Forestry Commission, Labour also successfully amended the bill to ensure that climate change, deer management and biodiversity must be considered in the forest strategy.”




"RUST BELT" TORIES HAVE BRASS NECKS - ROWLEY

20 March 2018

The Labour Party's youngest MP, Danielle Rowley, today launched a scathing attack on a new attempt by the Tories to woo young voters.

The Conservative campaign, called FREER, launched by so-called "rust belt" Tory MPs, claims millenials can be won over by offering "social freedom and economic liberalism."

But Ms Rowley, MP for Midlothian, said it was already clear that younger voters rejected Tory austerity.

At last year's General Election 66 per cent of young people aged 18 and 19 voted for Labour, compared to just 19 per cent for the Tories and 62 per cent of those aged 20 to 24 voted Labour, compared to just 22 per cent for the Tories.

Danielle Rowley said: "These MPs have brass necks trying to sell free market economics to the generation most blighted by the damage those unfettered markets have done.

"This is the first generation who will end up poorer than their parents. They will not get the job security enjoyed by baby boomers and indeed are more likely than any other to be trapped in the zero-hours gig economy or on a minimum wage which bears no relation to the real cost of living.

"They will not enjoy the comfort of home ownership and, in a further bitter irony, the money young people pay in inflated rents to private landlords is often subsidising the kind of retirement lifestyle they will never know.

"And all this from the party which actively campaigns against giving 16 and 17-year-olds the vote - because they know that young people will reject their false overtures when they are finally considered old enough to have an opinion.

"The Labour Party has, throughout its history, argued for policies which support working people from the cradle to the grave. We have always fought for the many and our manifesto at the last general election was incredibly attractive to young people across the UK which showed in the numbers who voted for our positive message."




RAIL INVESTMENT STRATEGY

19 March 2018

Commenting on the publication of the Scottish Government's rail investment strategy, Scottish Labour's Rural Economy and Connectivity spokesperson Colin Smyth MSP said:

"The reality is that for more than a decade the SNP has failed rail travellers across Scotland and passengers simply won’t believe a word when improvements are promised now.

"Passengers have been left facing delayed, cancelled and overcrowded trains thanks to SNP blunders and a failure to properly invest in our rail network.

"Major infrastructure projects are consistently behind schedule and over budget.

“While an initiative such as the Local Rail Development Fund is welcome, it is just a sticking plaster on a broken railway system that cannot be fixed by simply publishing a new strategy.

"Scotland's railways need the real change only Labour can deliver, including bringing ScotRail back into public ownership and radically reforming the way we procure major infrastructure projects.”




LABOUR REPEALS THE FOOTBALL ACT

16 March 2018

The SNP has been defeated and the controversial Football Act repealed thanks to a Scottish Labour bill.

Labour united opposition parties behind James Kelly MSP’s member’s bill, which has repealed the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act (Scotland) 2012.

SNP ministers used their parliamentary majority between 2011 and 2016 to force through the Football Act.

It was the first piece of legislation passed at Holyrood with no cross-party support and has been repeatedly criticised by legal experts, fans’ groups and equalities organisations.

The repeal of the Football Act is the first major reverse of any SNP legislation since the SNP first formed a government in 2007.

Scottish Labour has now urged all parties to support proper investment in anti-sectarianism initiatives.

Scottish Labour MSP James Kelly said:

“This legislation has been completely discredited and I am delighted that my bill has led to its repeal.

“Since the SNP government used its previous parliamentary majority to force the legislation through, it has been repeatedly criticised by legal experts, fans’ groups and equalities organisations.

“The law was a simplistic attempt to solve a complex problem. Sectarianism is a problem in Scotland that goes back generations. It can’t be solved in 90 minutes on a Saturday. The way to fix it is in classrooms and community groups.

“Now the Football Act has been repealed, I hope all parties can get behind the need to support proper investment in anti-sectarianism initiatives, which have seen their funding cut under the SNP.

“Opposition parties have united to defeat the SNP and repeal the Football Act – it is now essential every party unites to tackle sectarianism at source.”




WORKERS EXPLOITED ON FLAGSHIP GOVERNMENT PROJECT

15 March 2018

Labour today reveals worker exploitation on a flagship government infrastructure project.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard revealed the practice of umbrella companies charging workers to access their wages on the flagship Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR).

The practice sees money deducted from payslips and described as a ‘company margin’.

He also told how construction companies in Scotland use umbrella companies, including employment agencies, to pay staff working on government contracts, which allows them to dodge tax, cut costs and exploit workers.

In the case of the AWPR, workers employed on constructing the route, have been charged to be paid their wages from a number of umbrella firms, including DLP Payroll Solutions.

Workers have shared their payslips with Unite the Union, showing the “margin charge”.

The revelation follows a Labour led debate on public procurement earlier in the week, where the party raised concerns over workers’ rights on government contracts.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“The SNP government is handing over millions of pounds of public money to these companies and they are treating workers shamefully.

“Redacted pay slips from workers on the flagship Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route project show that they were being charged for the privilege of being paid.

“Workers have been blatantly exploited on a contract funded by the SNP government. SNP ministers now must take steps to ensure this never happens again.”




SPRING STATEMENT: AUSTERITY BRANDED A 'FAILED EXPERIMENT'

14 March 2018

Commenting on the Spring statement, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“It is time once and for all to end the failed experiment of austerity.

“The Tory handling of our economy has hammered wages and living costs. Workers are stuck in low paid, insecure work while the price of housing and rents have soared.

“Nothing sums up the Tory failure on the economy more than the shameful levels of poverty and inequality our country faces. All Philip Hammond has ever offered are tax cuts for big business and the rich, and public spending cuts for the rest of us.

“It’s time the economy started working for people, rather than people working for the economy.

“A Labour government would do things differently. We would ask the richest to pay their fair share and ensure the billions we spend on procurement works for the economy, not the shareholders of big business. Scotland could see a stimulus of £70 billion from a Labour government in the next decade.

“That’s the kind of radical change our country needs, to build an economy that works for the many, not the few.”

Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Lesley Laird, said:

“Today’s Spring Statement showed more breathtaking complacency from a Chancellor who claims he can see light at the end of the tunnel.

“But his party’s discredited economic policies have brought the darkness of austerity to communities across the country.

“The underlying economic picture tells the true story – we now have the lowest growth in the G7, wages are stagnating and are still lower than in 2010 and every household is shouldering £22,000 of national debt.

“In Scotland, the only growth we see is in the use of food banks with a rise of 20% in the last year, and the numbers of children living in poverty – 260,000 children right now, with another 100,000 expected to be added to that number in the next four years.

“The roll-out of Universal Credit will go down in history as this government’s poll tax – this time targeting misery and devastation on the most vulnerable in our society.

“Mr Hammond asked us to judge him on his record – well we are, and those in insecure work and low paid jobs, and those in poverty will be doing the same.

“Only Labour will govern for the many. The Tories continue to – and have only ever – looked after the few.”




PLUMMETING ASN TEACHER NUMBERS BRANDED A ‘NATIONAL DISGRACE’

13 March 2018

Commenting on new analysis from the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition showing escalating numbers of children needing additional support as specialist teacher numbers slump to a record low, Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education Iain Gray said:

"The plummeting number of ASN teachers under the SNP is a national disgrace.

“A government that has preached for years that education is the top priority has systematically cut off opportunities for vulnerable young people.

“This is the result of years of SNP cuts to local councils and the only way to fix this problem is to provide the funds councils need. That's why Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in education."




LABOUR DEMANDS REVIEW ON CHRONIC PAIN WAITING TIMES

13 March 2018

Responding to the latest set of chronic waiting time figures, which have never been met since the government started regularly reporting performance in 2015, Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“It is now time for a review on chronic pain waiting times. The standard has not been met since the government began regularly reporting performance, and there are clearly issues in certain health boards.

“Across Scotland over 7,000 patients had to wait longer than they should have to for their first appointment

“Ministers now need to ask tough questions about why this is happening. The failure on chronic pain waiting times ultimately just piles more stress onto other parts of the heath service.

“After a decade of SNP government, these figures are simply not good enough.”




A&E FIGURES REVEAL A HEALTH SERVICE UNDER SEVERE PRESSURE

13 March 2018 Commenting on A&E performance figures published today, which shows the SNP 4-hour target missed and more than 300 people waiting more than 8 hours for the week ending 04 March 2018, Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“A decade of SNP mismanagement has left our NHS understaffed and under pressure. Patients aren’t getting the care they deserve because staff aren’t getting the support they need.

“A&E is the front door of the hospital but the all-round health service is not getting enough support – be it through public health, primary care or social care.

“Improving these key areas will reduce the pressure on our waiting rooms. Instead the SNP is lurching from one sticking plaster solution to another. It isn’t good enough and it lets patients down.

“That’s why Labour has launched a workforce commission to deliver a blueprint that will fix the SNP NHS staffing crisis and deliver better care for patients.”




MCDONNELL: £70 BILLION COULD GO TO SCOTLAND UNDER THE NEXT LABOUR GOVERNMENT

13 March 2018 The Shadow Chancellor speaking to the Scottish Labour conference in Dundee today (Sunday), set out plans for how the next Labour government will help to transform Scotland.

John McDonnell will explain how under Labour’s proposed spending plans, Scotland could get a “Labour dividend” in additional investment of up to £70 billion over ten years.

This will come from Labour’s plans for Scotland within our UK investments plans: £30 billion in Barnet consequentials if Labour’s 2017 general election plans were maintained over ten years.

£20 billion in capital investment for Scotland from Labour’s National Transformation Fund.

£20 billion in capital from Labour’s UK National Investment Bank proposals for a Scottish Investment Bank.

When taken together this amounts to a £70 billion dividend for Scotland in additional resources under the next Labour government.

John McDonnell MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, will say:

“Our commitment to additional spending on public services in non-devolved areas such as education, health, social care, and childcare, meant an additional three billion pounds of Barnett consequentials in 2022 for the Scottish Government.

“We also pledged an additional two hundred and fifty billion pounds of investment spending over ten years across the UK through our National Transformation Fund.

“Rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, delivering key investment such as extending HS2 to Scotland, and investing in the industries of the future by boosting research and development.

“Again, through the settlement on devolved funding, that would mean twenty billion pounds of additional investment in Scotland over ten years.

“And that’s not all.

“Our UK National Investment Bank will be capitalised and built up to deliver another two hundred and fifty billion pounds of lending over ten years.

“Investing in small and medium sized business … environmentally transformative projects … supporting industrial strategy and rebalancing Britain’s economy away from London and the South East.

“This could mean an additional twenty billion for the Scottish economy over ten years. “Compare that, by the way, with the measly three hundred and forty million pounds of initial capital budgeted by the SNP for their so-called Scottish Investment Bank.

“Taken together, our commitments over a decade could mean an additional seventy billion pounds for the Scottish economy.

“That’s seventy billion pounds of potentially additional spending to support a Scottish industrial strategy, to support renewable energy generation, to build more houses, create jobs, and support growth.”




SCALE OF NHS MISMANAGEMENT EXPOSED

7 March 2018

• Almost 1,000 operation cancelled because hospitals could not cope.

The scale of SNP mismanagement of the health service has been exposed, Labour said today, as new statistics reveal problems across the NHS.

Figures released by ISD Scotland reveal:

• Almost 1,000 operations cancelled because hospitals couldn’t cope in January.

• The national A&E target missed, with the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary falling below 70 per cent.

• An increase in nursing and midwifery vacancies in the health service.

• A decrease in GP numbers.

• Only 71 per cent of patients seen within the waiting time target for child and adolescent mental health services.

• Only 76 per cent of patients seen within the waiting time target for psychological therapies.

Labour said the sheer scale of the problems within the health service points to fundamental mismanagement of the NHS by the SNP over the last decade.

Scottish Labour has established a workforce commission to consider the staffing crisis in the health service and develop a blueprint to make the NHS fit for the future.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“These figures point to a SNP government that has fundamentally mismanaged our health service for a decade. The time for short term, sticking plaster solutions must stop. These figures should be a makeup call for Health Secretary Shona Robison – the lack of support for staff means patients are not getting the care they need.”

On almost 1,000 cancelled operations in January because hospitals did not have the capacity to cope, Anas Sarwar said:

“More than 30 operations cancelled a day because our hospitals didn’t have the capacity to cope should shame this government. It is clear hospitals do not have the resources they need but ministers seem determined to bury their heads in the sand."

On staffing, Anas Sarwar said:

“This is shambolic workforce planning. We are seeing an increase in unfilled posts for nurses and midwives across the country while the number of GPs fall. It is no wonder health boards cannot hit the targets the SNP government set them – they don’t have the staff to do it.

“Our NHS staff do lifesaving work, but they are overworked and undervalued because the SNP has created a workforce crisis in our health service.

“That is why Labour has established a workforce commission to answer the long term problems with staffing in our health service, and give our NHS staff the support they need to deliver the care that Scots deserve.”

On mental health waiting times, Anas Sarwar said:

“There is a crisis in mental health services across Scotland and it letting vulnerable people down. Scotland is gripped by a mental health crisis.

"The figures for children and young people are especially worrying. Early intervention is needed, giving children and young adults the support they need, before anybody reaches the stage of needing clinical treatment.

"That is why Scottish Labour is calling for access to school-based counselling, a proposal the SNP government should finally listen to.”




Comment on adult apprenticeships

7 March 2018

Commenting on an FSB report that adult apprenticeships could help fill skills gaps, Scottish Labour's education spokesperson Iain Gray MSP said:

“The SNP government too readily treat the apprenticeship programme as a numbers game, complacent on the detail and quality of the programme.

“Apprenticeships are a great way into work for people – but businesses need support to deliver them.

“A few years ago the SNP restricted apprenticeships to young workers, and although it reversed that to a degree, there is still a problem here.

"Apprenticeships are critical for young people getting into work, but that should not come at the expense of those looking to retrain or return to work.

“If Scotland is going to have a strong economy, we need people in skilled jobs at all ages.

“Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to build a high-wage, high-skill economy that works for the many, not the few.”




SNP accepted a 'Budget for bankers' - Laird

6 March 2018

The SNP at Westminster accepted a 'Budget for bankers', Lesley Laird has said.

Writing for The Red Robin website, the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland Lesley Laird criticised SNP MPs for abstaining on the third reading of the Finance Bill.

The excuse given by the Nationalists was that they did not want to oppose measures which remedied the issue of police and fire service VAT liability.

However this partial fix for a problem of the Scottish Government’s own making was just a tiny part of the bigger Budget picture.

Lesley Laird said:

“The SNP, the party of perpetual grievance, which rightly condemned this Budget for its £500million cut to the resource block grant over the next two years, decided not to oppose it after all.

"Their spurious excuse for doing so was that the Budget resolved an earlier SNP Scottish Government blunder in centralising the police and fire services in Scotland without first securing an exemption from VAT.

"Emboldened by the SNP's compliance, the Tories have chosen to give a windfall to bankers rather than invest in public services, tackle poverty or inequality or invest in our young people.

"How cheaply the SNP's silence was bought – a resolution to the VAT farce going forward, but no refund of the millions already lost from police and fire budgets in the past four years.

“Silence too on a Budget which, combined with earlier cuts to the bank levy by George Osborne, amounts to a £4.7billion bonanza for bankers."

Lesley Laird added:

“Let there no longer be any doubt – there is only one party standing up to austerity at Westminster and at Holyrood and it is not the SNP.

“Opposing austerity means not rolling over for the Tories to tickle your tummy and throw you a few scraps.

“It means offering a principled alternative, not a watered down version of a bankrupt agenda.”




COMMENT ON IPPR SCOTLAND REPORT : ‘How much would it cost to reduce child poverty in Scotland?'

5 March 2018

Commenting on How much would it cost to reduce child poverty in Scotland?
, Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Eradication of Poverty and Inequality, Elaine Smith, said:

"This is an important contribution to the debate around tackling child poverty in Scotland.

“It is all very well for the SNP government to set targets for reducing child poverty by 2030, but this report highlights the scale of that challenge. It shows that bold action is needed right now.

"Labour agrees that we need a whole Scotland approach to tackling poverty.

"That's why our anti poverty strategy isn't just about social security, but also includes fixing our broken housing and energy markets, and ensuring better paid work with guaranteed hours.

"Reducing child poverty should be the overriding mission of every government, and run through the work of every government department.

“It is only a Labour government that will end austerity and poverty proof all policies to deliver the real and radical change that Scotland wants and needs."




LABOUR URGES LOW EARNERS TO CLAIM COUNCIL TAX EXEMPTION

5 March 2018

- Fewer than 2,000 households claim support

The SNP Government should be doing more to ensure low earners are claiming council tax exemption, Labour said today.

Freedom of information requests by Mark Griffin show that fewer than 2,000 households out of a potential 54,000 have been awarded the new benefit, which was introduced in April 2017.

The scheme was introduced to protect low income households being hit by changes to Council Tax band changes, was designed to exempt some households from the £110m Council Tax increases.

Up to a third of those eligible for the reduction are pensioners.

Labour has consistently pushed for Scotland’s new social security powers to deliver better cost of living support.

Scottish Labour’s social security spokesperson, Mark Griffin said:

“Over 50,000 households were meant to benefit from this exemption from higher council tax charges, but just a handful actually are.

“Struggling families and pensioners are missing out of key support and facing massive Council Tax bills as a result.

“Just days after voting down plans to top-up child benefit by £5 per week these figures show once again the SNP like to talk the talk on poverty, they aren’t up to the job of helping Scotland’s poorest.

“Labour pushed the SNP into doing more work to ensure everyone gets the benefits that they are entitled to, but these figures highlight just how little they are doing to help.

“We need to see more action from the SNP to boost take-up, and getting people the support they deserve."




SNP MUST START LISTENING TO NHS STAFF - SARWAR

3 March 2018

SNP ministers must start listening to NHS staff, as a new survey reveals the strain on health service workers.

The Health and Social Care Experience report reveals that only around a third of staff believe there are enough of them to do their jobs properly – a figure which drops to 20 per cent for Scottish Ambulance Service staff.

Meanwhile, less than half believe they have enough time to do their job properly.

The results are published days after Labour revealed a huge increase in unfilled nursing and midwifery posts in the health service.

Labour’s Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar has established a workforce commission to look at the staffing gaps in the health service and deliver a blue print to fix it.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“This week we have seen extraordinary stories about NHS staff battling through the snow to get to the hospital and deliver the care patients need.

“That shows the incredible commitment NHS staff have to their jobs, but they are being badly let down by the SNP government in Edinburgh.

“Ministers should hang their heads in shame that only a third of health service staff think there are enough of them to do their jobs properly, with less than half believing they have the time to do their job properly.

“Labour has been warning about a staffing crisis in our hospitals for years – if Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t listen to us she should listen to the staff, and make a start in fixing this mess.”




SNP MUST START LISTENING TO NHS STAFF - SARWAR

3 March 2018

SNP ministers must start listening to NHS staff, as a new survey reveals the strain on health service workers.

The Health and Social Care Experience report reveals that only around a third of staff believe there are enough of them to do their jobs properly – a figure which drops to 20 per cent for Scottish Ambulance Service staff.

Meanwhile, less than half believe they have enough time to do their job properly.

The results are published days after Labour revealed a huge increase in unfilled nursing and midwifery posts in the health service.

Labour’s Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar has established a workforce commission to look at the staffing gaps in the health service and deliver a blue print to fix it.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“This week we have seen extraordinary stories about NHS staff battling through the snow to get to the hospital and deliver the care patients need.

“That shows the incredible commitment NHS staff have to their jobs, but they are being badly let down by the SNP government in Edinburgh.

“Ministers should hang their heads in shame that only a third of health service staff think there are enough of them to do their jobs properly, with less than half believing they have the time to do their job properly.

“Labour has been warning about a staffing crisis in our hospitals for years – if Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t listen to us she should listen to the staff, and make a start in fixing this mess.”




SNP DAY OF SHAME ON CHILD BENEFIT

1 March 2018

The SNP has voted with the Tories to block a Labour amendment to deliver a child benefit top up of £5 a week.

Nationalist MSPs joined forces with Conservatives to vote down amendments by Scottish Labour to help over 500,000 families in Scotland.

Labour’s amendment would have deliver the ‘Give Me 5’ campaign call to top-up child benefit, which would have immediately lifted 30,000 children out of poverty.

But in a vote in the social security committee, the SNP and the Tories aligned to defeat Labour’s plan.

Scottish Labour’s social security spokesperson Mark Griffin MSP said:

“The SNP has joined forces with the Tories to stop a plan that would have lifted 30,000 children out of poverty.

“Labour’s amendment would have delivered a child benefit top up of £5 a week, which would help families right across Scotland.

“SNP MSPs like to talk the talk on child poverty, but now they have shown their true colours by not putting their money where their mouth is.

“The SNP and the Tories had the chance to lift 30,000 children out of poverty – but instead they aligned to stop it.

“Only Labour will deliver real change for Scotland’s children.”




POSITIVE DESTINATION FIGURES EXPOSE SCOTLAND’S CLASS DIVIDE

28 February 2018

New figures outlining what young people do after they finish secondary school has revealed Scotland’s class divide.

A new statistical publication, ‘Initial Destinations of Senior Phase School Leavers’ reveals that the poorest young people had the greatest percentage of school leavers going on to further education at 37 per cent.

Colleges have been hammered by ten years of SNP government, with 140,000 fewer college place under the Nationalists.

Meanwhile young people from the richest backgrounds had the greatest percentage of school leavers going on to university.

Just 24.9 per cent of the poorest school leavers go on to higher education, compared to 60.6 per cent of those from wealthier families.

The figures are the latest set of school leaver statistics to include zero-hours contract jobs as a positive destination for young people, after the SNP voted against Labour proposals to remove the jobs from the figures.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education Iain Gray said:

“The SNP promised a more equitable education system, but instead the stubborn gap between the richest and rest remains.

“In Scotland today,young people from the poorest backgrounds are more likely to go to college and less likely to go straight to university after school – but the SNP has slashed college places, with 140,000 fewer since 2007.

“That cut has closed off opportunities for working class young people – who are told by this government that a zero-hours contract is a ‘positive destination’ for them after school.

“The SNP should remove zero-hours jobs from these stats in the future, even if it makes it more difficult for them to spin the numbers. In the long term further education needs to properly funded.”




MISSED TARGETS AND FALLING PERFORMANCE ON KEY SNP NHS PROMISE

28 February 2018

A key Scottish Government promise on the NHS has seen missed targets and falling performance year on year, new figures released today shows.

In 2012 the SNP introduced the Treatment Time Guarantee, which gave patients a legal right to treatment within 12 weeks for conditions such as knee and eye operations.

However new figures today show that only 80.4 per cent of patients were seen within the 12 week waiting time.

This compares to a performance of 86.8% during the equivalent quarter in 2016.

Other data just released shows: • Declining performance for outpatient waiting times

• The 18-week referral to treatment standard missed

• Declining performance and a missed target for key diagnostic test waiting times

• The A&E target missed again, with 201 patients waiting more than 8 hours

Labour said the figures revealed a health service bucking under pressure, and said a decade of SNP mismanagement had left the NHS understaffed and under pressure.

Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“The SNP made a promise – in fact ministers made a legal guarantee – that inpatient or day case treatment patients would receive treatment within 12 weeks for certain conditions.

“Instead new figures reveal that promise has been broken and that performance is sliding.

“A decade of SNP mismanagement has left our NHS under staffed an under pressure.

"Patients aren’t getting the care they deserve because staff aren’t getting the support they need.

“That’s why Labour has launched a workforce commission to deliver a blueprint that will fix the SNP NHS staffing crisis."

On A&E performance Anas Sarwar said:

“A&E is the front door of the hospital but the all-round health service is not getting the support it needs – be it through public health, primary care or social care.

“Better support for our health service in these key areas will reduce the pressure on our waiting rooms. Instead the SNP is lurching from one sticking plaster solution to another. It isn’t good enough and it lets patients down.”




Commenting on the SNP government’s announcement of a Scottish Investment Bank

28 February 2018

Commenting on the SNP government’s announcement of a Scottish Investment Bank, Scottish Labour’s economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:

“After years and years of announcements but little action, the SNP is finally bringing forward plans for a Scottish Investment Bank.

“While this is welcome, it is disappointing that, even after all this time, the SNP is being so timid.

“Scotland’s economy desperately needs something much bolder and more ambitious.

“The SNP’s proposed Scottish Investment Bank is in danger of not having enough money to do the job required, to invest in business and grow our economy.

“The SNP should listen to Jim McColl - a member of the First Minister’s Council of Economic Advisers - who was very clear in his evidence to the Economy Committee that we need to be much more ambitious.

“Scottish Labour is committed to delivering a Scottish Investment Bank worthy of the name, with £20billion of funding over the next decade – ten times more than the amount proposed by the SNP, because that’s what it takes to really transform our economy.”

Note :

Extract from Scottish Labour’s Industrial Strategy

The Scottish Investment Bank should become the industrial investment bank for Scotland, providing loans and equity shares, not as a last resort on the occasion of market failure, but as part of a much more proactive agent of economic change. Its function and capacity to act as a catalyst to stimulate investment from other sources should be strengthened. At the 2017 General Election Labour pledged to create a National Investment Bank – which would ensure that its Scottish equivalent had £20 billion of capital to lend. However, the result doesn’t mean the SIB should stand still. Scottish Labour believes the SIB can have a greater reach into local business communities. This could be done through utilising the resources of local financial institutions, Business Gateway, Scottish Enterprise and local government to ensure local opportunities are being maximised.





COMMENT ON MINIMUM UNIT PRICING

26 February 2018

Commenting on the Scottish Government’s recommendation that the minimum price per unit of alcohol should be set at 50 pence, Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport Anas Sarwar said:

"Minimum unit pricing on its own will not be a sliver bullet to fix the harmful relationship many have with alcohol, we must also look to tackle the root causes of that relationship.

“As it stands the implementation of minimum unit pricing is set to hand the supermarkets a multi-million pound profit windfall. We believe that money should be clawed back and reinvested in improving public health.

“The legal provisions to enact a social responsibility levy have existed for seven years now, but SNP ministers have left them gathering dust on a shelf.

“The time has come to consider the levy as a way of investing to tackle inequality and Ill health. The SNP should not be afraid to stand up to big business when it comes to Scotland's health.“




COMMENT ON POVERTY AND INEQUALITY COMMISSION REPORT

26 February 2018

Commenting on the Poverty and Inequality Commission’s report ‘Advice on the Scottish Government's Child Poverty Delivery Plan’, Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Eradication of Poverty and Inequality Elaine Smith said:

"This is an important report from the Commission, which correctly highlights the potential of Scotland's new social security powers to tackle child poverty in Scotland.

“After a decade in power there has been a sense of complacency from the SNP government when it comes to lifting children out of poverty.

"Labour would use the new powers to increase child benefit by £5 a week. That's a move that would lift 30,000 children out of poverty. We would take action to end the brutal impact of the benefit cap on families across Scotland.

"The Commission is also right to highlight the need for a cross-departmental approach – we need to see better quality housing in the right places and the use of the powers of procurement to drive up wages while ending zero hours contracts.

"Instead we have an SNP government that takes Tory austerity and passes it on to Scottish communities.

“Councils have faced £1.5billion of cuts since 2011 - but councils remain the last line of defence against austerity, and the frontline in tackling poverty. “




REVEALED: 20 YEAR WAIT FOR WASPI WOMEN FOR ANSWERS TO COMPLAINTS

26 February 2018

It could take two decades for complaints by WASPI women to be investigated by the DWP, Scottish Labour revealed today.

Freedom of Information requests from campaigners and Parliamentary questions from Labour’s Ged Killen MP, have shown there are just three people dealing with more than 2200 complaints from women who have missed out on their pensions.

At the rate of progress it could take the government’s Independent Case Examiner (ICE) 20 years to clear the backlog.

Scottish Labour MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, Ged Killen said: “The Tory government has once again seriously underestimated the scale of the problem incurred by its reforms to the equalisation of the state pension age.

“The snail’s pace at which the government is processing complaints by WASPI women, because of woeful understaffing, means that these women may have to wait longer to get a response to a complaint than they would have to wait to receive their pension.

“Once again the government has shown its willingness to legislate without taking full account of the human cost.”

ICE was set up to investigate complaints from WASPI women regarding the equalisation of the state pension age.

According to FOI answers received by the WASPI campaign in November, the DWP has just three staff members investigating thousands of complaints.

But the scale of complaints and under resourcing has been further highlighted in answers to Parliamentary questions received by Ged Killen.

There are currently 2,205 complaints which are currently being processed by ICE. This includes 369 being assessed by the department on whether the case should be examined, 36 currently being investigated and 1,800 awaiting investigation.

Mr Killen added: “Since ICE was tasked with examining WASPI women complaints at the beginning of October, just 44 investigation reports into complaints about the equalisation of state pension age have been issued.

“The average waiting time for a response to a complaint is currently 9.75 weeks. At this rate, it would take 20 years for the DWP to finish examining the 2,205 outstanding cases.

“WASPI women already face huge disruption to their future financial plans.

“ The government needs to introduce a service standard so that WASPI women are not required to wait, wait and wait some more when they raise a grievance.

“The Department for Work and pensions has, however, refused them even that courtesy”.




FOUR-FOLD INCREASE IN UNFILLED NURSING POSTS

25 February 2018

Unfilled nursing and midwifery posts in the health service have increased four-fold since Nicola Sturgeon cut training places as Health Secretary in 2011.

The nursing and midwifery student intake dropped from 3,505 in 2010/11 to 2,713 in 2012/13.

That generation of students is soon to finish graduating – with the latest figures showing 2,789 unfilled nursing and midwifery posts in the health service.

That represents a 353 per cent increase since 2011, when the first round of cuts began and the vacancies have steadily grown every year since.

Speaking in 2012, as she announced a cut of around 300 places for the 12/13 academic year Nicola Sturgeon said: “A reduction in intake for the 2012 academic year is a sensible way forward. The intake sets a balance between ensuring the right number of nurses and midwives for the future while also minimising the risk of oversupply and graduate unemployment.”

At the time the Royal College of Nursing warned: “...all the evidence we’ve gathered shows that this further cut in numbers in 2012-13 risks there not being enough professionally qualified nurses graduating to meet the demand for health services in the future and that this cut will be bad for patient care.”

Labour has set up a Workforce Commission to develop a blueprint to fix the staffing crisis in the health service.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Anas Sarwar, said:

“When Nicola Sturgeon decided to slash training places for nurses and midwives, she claimed it was a sensible decision.

“Instead that generation of students graduate to a health service that has seen the number of unfilled posts soar every year since.

“During that period nurses, along with the wider public sector workforce, have faced a pay restraint policy which has forced staff out of the profession or into private agencies.

“Our hospitals simply don’t have enough staff – and that is a consequence of decisions made by Nicola Sturgeon when she was Health Secretary.

“It was a spectacular error of judgement that has piled the pressure on our hospitals, and let patients down.

“Labour has established a Workforce Commission to develop a blueprint to fox the staffing crisis in our health service.”




MCDONNELL CALLS ON THE SNP TO TRULY END AUSTERITY IN SCOTTISH COMMUNITIES

24 February 2018

The Shadow Chancellor is out on the stump today (Saturday) in Midlothian, Clackmannanshire and Glenrothes speaking to activists and local councillors.

He will call on the SNP to truly end austerity and provide the funding local communities desperately need in Scotland as a result of failed Tory economic policy and the SNP’s public sector pay restraint.

John McDonnell MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, said:

“Communities across Scotland have been suffering for too long under the impact of austerity. The SNP could have adopted Scottish Labour’s plans to halt austerity in Scotland, but they chose instead to pass a budget that doesn’t deliver a pay rise for the local government workforce and will leave lifeline local services under pressure.”

“Scottish Labour offered a budget for real change for Scotland that would have delivered a near £1 billion stimulus for the Scottish economy, secured an additional £100 million for the NHS in Scotland and a fully funded pay rise for all public sector workers. The SNP should stop playing politics with people’s lives, and listen to Richard Leonard’s plans to truly end austerity in Scotland.

“The truth is that only Labour at Holyrood and Westminster can provide the investment that the NHS, councils, higher education and all other public services in Scotland desperately need."




MCDONNELL CALLS ON UNIVERSITIES TO GET BACK ROUND THE TABLE WITH UNIONS

23 February 2018

The Shadow Chancellor attended a “teach-in” organised by the University and Colleges Union (UCU) today in Glasgow, where workers were protesting against plans by universities to reduce their pension rights.

John McDonnell MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, said:

“I went to the teach-in at Strathclyde and the picket line at Glasgow to express my solidarity with lecturing staff fighting to protect their pensions.

“I am also today meeting with university principals in Glasgow and I intend to directly raise my concerns about this attack on staff pensions with the principals when we meet.

“I will impress on them the urgent need for employers get back around the table, negotiate a decent settlement and stop threatening the pensions these lecturers now have.

“Higher education is entirely depended on recruiting and retaining staff and attacking and undermining pensions can only impact on that.

“Rest assured the next Labour Government will do everything to protect workers and their pensions while providing the investment that all our public services need to function and recruit and retain the staff that are the very lifeblood of all our public services.”




COMMENT ON EDUCATION CUTS

24 February 2018

Commenting on analysis from TES Scotland which shows education spending set to face cuts, including reductions in teacher numbers and local education budgets, Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education Iain Gray said:

“The SNP government claims that education and closing the attainment gap is its number one priority yet it is introducing a budget that will have a devastating impact on schools across Scotland.

“Local council budget plans show that councils across Scotland are being forced to look at cost cutting measures, some as severe as reducing the number of teachers. We’re already 3,500 teachers down since the SNP came to power and schools are already struggling because of the £1.5 billion cuts in local authority budgets in recent years.

“Further cuts to education services will have a direct impact on the attainment of our children.

“It is time the SNP used the powers of the Parliament to invest in local services and the future of our children.”




RBS SHOULD REVERSE BRANCH CLOSURES

23 February 2018

Commenting on today’s news of RBS profit figures, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Lesley Laird, said:

“Today, the Royal Bank of Scotland reports a profit for the first time in a decade.

“However, it is concerning that the benefits of these profits do not seem to have filtered down to customers.

“This year, we’ve seen announcements of local branch closures to save £9 million while profits of £752 million are posted by the company, the CEOs salary hit £3 million and fatcat bonuses have sky rocketed.

“It is increasingly clear that the taxpayers who bailed the bank out to the tune of £45 billion are at the very bottom of their list of priorities.

"In light of these profits, people will be increasingly angry that RBS plan to go ahead with branch closures. They should reverse these plans and keep the branches open."




LABOUR VICTORY ON WINTER FUEL PAYMENTS


22 February 2018


Labour amendments have ensured that pensioners will not be means tested for winter fuel payments.

MSPs have unanimously backed an amendment lodged by Mark Griffin MSP to the Social Security Bill to ensure pensioners’ payments are protected.

Disability benefit and employment injuries assistance - which covers industrial injuries – will also not be means tested after the Social Security Committee backed further amendments from Mr Griffin.

Scottish Labour said the amendments would help ensure protection for the most vulnerable in society.

Scottish Labour’s Social Security spokesperson Mark Griffin MSP said:

“It is welcome that the Social Security Committee has agreed with Scottish Labour that winter fuel payments are not means tested and disability benefits must be rights-based.

“These amendments will protect pensioners, those people experiencing a disability and those who have suffered an injury at work.

“The most vulnerable people in society should not have to prove they need support – and I am delighted my colleagues from other parties have also agreed with that.

“Scottish Labour will continue to fight to ensure the Social Security Bill is fit for purpose and protects the most vulnerable in society.”




CULTURE OF SECRECY AND SPIN IN THE NHS REVEALED

21 February 2018

A survey of health board members has revealed that almost 60 per cent believe their board is not always transparent with members of the public.

The anonymous survey into NHS corporate governance for Holyrood’s Health and Sport committee reveals that a total of 59 per cent of members do not believe their board is always open and transparent with the public about decision making.

In one damming reply, an anonymous board member said:

“We are terrible at admitting that we are financially constrained and pretend that decisions are based on clinical grounds when in most cases they are based on clinical, staffing and financial elements. The debate with the public is therefore fundamentally dishonest (and the public are not stupid).”

The responses are published with cuts and closures in the NHS in the spotlight. It is just weeks since the SNP government chose to shut down the children’s ward at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley.

Meanwhile, Labour MSP Neil Findlay will lead a debate around the repeated closure of St John’s children’s ward to out-of-hours in patients in Livingston.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“The survey reveals the impact of financial constraints from the SNP government to our health boards, leading to a culture of secrecy and spin.

“The responses suggest that health boards may be being forced into claiming decisions are based solely on clinical reasons, rather than due to financial pressure and staffing gaps.

“That simply is not good enough. SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison should explain why there are such transparency problems at these health boards.

“The reality is our health service has been treated to a series of sticking plaster solutions from the SNP government rather than the support it needs to deliver the care Scots deserve.

“Support for primary and social care isn’t good enough, which piles up pressure on acute services, meanwhile a staffing crisis means huge unfilled gaps in the workforce.

“That’s why Labour has set up a workforce commission to deliver a blueprint to solve the NHS staffing crisis, to deliver the care Scots deserve.”




Comment on latest unemployment figures

21 February 2018

Commenting on the latest employment figures, showing unemployment has risen by 0.5 per cent, Scottish Labour’s economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:

“These figures once again lay bare the extent of SNP and Tory mismanagement of our economy and their lack of an industrial strategy.

“In Scotland, unemployment is up, economic inactivity is up and employment is down. For SNP ministers to bury their heads in the sand and blame Brexit simply is not good enough.

“What’s more, we also see wages have failed to keep pace with inflation, squeezing pay packets and making the situation worse for many families who are already struggling to get by.

“This is unacceptable and it needs to end. The government should be using the £11billion a year we spend on public contracts and procurement to drive up labour standards, pay more workers a real living wage and ban zero hours contracts - because falling income and security for workers leads to falling productivity.

“Unlike the SNP and the Tories, Labour would build a high-wage, high-skill economy that works for the many, not the few.”




SNP FAIL TO SUPPORT PUBLIC OWNERSHIP OF OUR RAILWAYS

20 February 2018

Scottish Labour has criticised Transport Minister Humza Yousaf after he failed to back the party’s plans to take ScotRail into public ownership.

Earlier this week it emerged ScotRail had received record fines totalling £3million because of its poor performance.

That was followed on Tuesday with chaotic scenes across Scotland’s rail network, with hundreds of trains being delayed or cancelled.

It has also recently emerged that the number of carriages on trains between Glasgow and Edinburgh will be cut amid delays to the arrival of new rolling stock.

Scottish Labour said Mr Yousaf was more interested in “praising and propping up a broken privatised system” than in making Scotland’s railways work.

Mr Yousaf was directly asked if he supported public ownership of ScotRail, but failed to do so.

Speaking after he raised ScotRail’s performance with SNP Transport Minister Humza Yousaf at Holyrood, Scottish Labour’s Rural Economy and Connectivity spokesperson Colin Smyth MSP said:

“ScotRail’s performance has been nothing short of shambolic.

“This is unacceptable, but SNP Transport Minister Humza Yousaf still chooses to praise and prop up a broken privatised system.

“Just this week we have seen ScotRail not only receive record fines - but we have also once again seen commuters and families facing cancellations, delays, missed stops and overcrowded trains.

“Warm words are not enough – Humza Yousaf needs to get a grip.

“Scottish Labour would end this shambles by taking Scotland's railways back into public ownership and building a rail service that works for the many, not the few.

“It is disappointing that the SNP want to continue to support a privatised railway system that has come to the end of the track.”




Comment on the Fire Brigades Union passing a vote of no confidence in senior managers

19 February 2018

Commenting on the Fire Brigades Union passing a vote of no confidence in senior managers, Scottish Labour's Justice spokesperson Daniel Johnson MSP said:

"Firefighters and all public sector workers deserve a real pay rise after years of SNP and Tory austerity.

"But that cannot come at the cost of hundreds of jobs or totally changing the role hard-working professionals play in the make-up of our emergency services.

"The reality is the SNP has failed to support our emergency services, leaving them under-staffed and under-resourced.

"Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to deliver a much needed pay rise for public sector workers and invest in our emergency services."




Comment on reports that ScotRail has received record fines of £3million

19 February 2018

Commenting on reports that ScotRail has received record fines of £3million, Scottish Labour's Rural Economy and Connectivity spokesperson Colin Smyth MSP said:

"These are shocking reports, but sadly they come as no surprise.

"ScotRail has left passengers having to pay a small fortune for delayed and overcrowded trains - and even when trains are not cancelled, they can't be guaranteed to stop at the stations they are supposed to.

"This is simply unacceptable, yet the SNP Government buries its head in the sand and pretends everything is fine .

"Scottish Labour would take Scotland's railways back into public ownership and build a rail service that works for the many, not the few."




LABOUR URGES SNP TO SUPPORT PUBLIC OWNERSHIP OF EAST COAST MAINLINE

16 February 2018

Scottish Labour has urged the SNP to support its calls to take the East Coast mainline back into public ownership.

The party’s Rural Affairs and Connectivity spokesperson Colin Smyth MSP has written to SNP Transport Minister Humza Yousaf urging him to back the plans.

The UK Government recently announced the Stagecoach franchise would be terminated early – allowing the opportunity for the key route to be taken back into public hands.

In his letter, Mr Smyth said:

" I am writing to urge you and the Scottish Government to publicly support Labour's calls for the East Coast mainline to be renationalised following the collapse of its franchise.

"The decision by the UK Government to sell-off the franchise to Stagecoach was a betrayal of taxpayers and the travelling public. The failure of the Stagecoach franchise reflects the deep-rooted problems with our privatised railways but we now have an opportunity to put the East Coast mainline back into public hands.

"In the past the Scottish Government have claimed to support publicly-run railways in Scotland, so it is extremely disappointing that so far you have chosen not to support Labour’s call for a publicly-run East Coast mainline, particularly given how important these services are to passengers in Scotland.

"This is a highly profitable route, and it is one that thousands of Scots rely on each day. From 2009 to 2015 the route was publically run, raising more than £1 billion.

"Returning it to public hands would not only ensure the best service for customers, but it would provide a boost to public finances.

"I hope that you will reconsider your position, and that you and the Scottish Government will support Labour’s calls for a publicly-run East Coast mainline. "




RICHARD LEONARD WELCOMES FORMATION OF "SCOTLAND UNITED AGAINST TRUMP" COALTION

15 February 2018

Commenting on the meeting of organisations and campaigners against a Donald Trump visit to Scotland at the Unite the Union offices in Glasgow , Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, said:

“Today has shown there is a lot of anger at the prospect of Donald Trump coming to Scotland and a strong desire to show that he is not welcome here.

“I am appalled at the prospect of President Trump coming to this country on a state visit.

"It is my view, and that of the Scottish Labour Party, that someone who holds such misogynist, racist and anti-trade union views, not to mention dangerous beliefs on foreign policy and peace in the world, and who rejects the Paris Climate Change Agreement, should not be given the ‘red carpet’ treatment.

“So I am delighted to be involved in what will be a broad coalition of organisations and campaign groups to protest against any red carpet treatment laid on for this divisive figure. I hope that Scotland United Against Trump, as the coalition will be called, will ultimately ensure there is a mass protest against any such visit."




EXPERT REPORT BLOWS £160M BLACK HOLE IN SNP CHILDCARE POLICY

15 February 2018

An expert report has revealed a £160million shortfall in the SNP’s flagship childcare policy.

The report from the Accounts Commission reveals that raising the amount of free early learning childcare to 1,140 hours per year by 2021 is set to cost Scottish councils £1billion.

However, the SNP government’s own forecasting expects funding of the policy to be £840million – creating a spending black hole of £160million.

The report says there are ‘significant risks’ that councils will not be able to expand funded places due to issues such as workforce planning.

The government’s own estimates state that 8,000 additional whole time equivalent staff will be needed to deliver the expanded entitlement.

However the report says the Scottish Government ‘has not yet done enough to ensure they will be in place on time’.

The commitment to increase the hours of childcare entitlement by the end of this parliament, from 600 to 1140, was a key part of the SNP manifesto during the 2016 elections.

The report also details issues with the 600-hour entitlement, such as a postcode lottery in local provision.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education, Iain Gray, said:

“This independent report blows a £160million black hole in a flagship SNP Government policy.

“Raising the amount of free childcare families are entitled too has been a cornerstone of the SNP’s offer to families – but this report reveals that, not only does the Scottish Government not expect to fully fund it, but that it is also miles behind the levels of staff recruitment needed.

“This is what happens when childcare policy is written to fit on an election leaflet, rather than to fit around the lives of Scottish families.

“Increasing the availability and flexibility of childcare would have a huge difference, not just in terms of tackling poverty and the cost of living crisis but also in terms of fuelling economic growth.

“Instead, the SNP has slashed council budgets by £1.5 billion since 2011, and it is working families who will miss out.

“Labour’s alternative means using the tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to ask the richest to pay their fair share so we can fund local services, not continue to cut them.”




CORBYN SCOTTISH CAMPAIGN TOUR TO PLEDGE INVESTMENT INTO EVERY PART OF SCOTLAND

12 February 2018

Jeremy Corbyn will join Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard on a series of campaigns stops in Selkirk, Midlothian and North Ayrshire over the course of this week.

Jeremy Corbyn will pledge the next UK Labour government will invest in every part of Scotland and leave no community behind – from the urban communities of the central belt, to rural areas of the south and islands of the north.

Speaking in advance of the campaign tour, Jeremy Corbyn said:

“Our economy is broken. It is failing people right across Scotland, forcing 260,000 children into poverty, while more and more people in work are unable to make ends meet. These problems blight every community in Scotland: from Saltcoats to Selkirk and Stornoway we urgently need to transform a rigged system.

“The Tories serve the few, with tax cuts for the richest - and falling pay and cuts in public services for the rest of us. The SNP are too timid to take on the elite who are holding our people back.

"Scotland needs Labour governments in both Westminster and Holyrood with the strength and the will to work for the many, not the few.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “Poverty doesn’t respect borders. The impact of austerity isn’t confined to the central belt of Scotland and neither will Labour’s response to it be.

“Labour’s plan to protect public services, boost wages and tackle inequality will benefit everyone.

“In a country where the richest one per cent own more personal wealth as the whole of the poorest 50 percent, something needs to change. Communities are being left behind. Only Labour has the plan and the political will to deliver the real change Scotland needs.”




Richard Leonard : speech , David Hume Institute

5 February 2018

Good evening.

I want to thank the David Hume Institute for the invitation to speak tonight and for the important role it performs in providing a forum for serious and informed policy debate in Scotland.

Too often in our fast-paced world of twenty-four-hour news cycles, real debate and robust intellectual scrutiny of political ideas and policies can be overlooked in favour of a quick-hit headline, and an emotional rush in response.

Never is that clearer, than during the coverage of great political upheavals, be they constitutional referenda or the election of a President with itchy Twitter fingers.

Of course, Brexit is where most of our current political attention is focused.

Our newspapers, televisions, radios – and our smartphones – give us every alarmist twist and turn of the negotiations, inviting us to feel horrified or assured in our opinions in equal measure.

As a result, serious, informed, scrutiny is rarely on offer.

Institutes like this venerable one, are vital for giving us that space.

So thank you again for the work that you do.

David Hume would no doubt have found the EU referendum and its outcome endlessly fascinating given his interest in human nature, and the differences which lie between perception and experience.

And, importantly the impact that those differences have on our judgements and whether we always act in our own self-interest.

I have a feeling there could be a fine treatise written on that by a Hume scholar sometime soon .

The title of the series of speeches this year though is Scotland after Brexit .

It is hard to imagine that such a time will come, given how tortured the process has so far been.

And I should confirm that I am happy to accept this title in the spirit of heuristic endeavour and inquiry.

As it happens I do believe that the UK will leave the EU and that Scotland will remain part of the UK, but I accept that there are people engaged in the debate who take an opposite view on both of these points!

Some of my formative political experience came as a researcher to the late Alex Falconer who was the Labour MEP for Mid Scotland and Fife from nineteen-eighty-four to nineteen-ninety-nine.

I worked with him during those years when the foundations for the European Single Market were being laid, when the Single European Act was being guillotined through Parliament, when Economic and Monetary Union was being envisaged, and our priorities were then, all those years ago, as they are now today, around how best to promote the interests of working people, how best to build an economy that works in the interests of the many not the few.

So I bring a long view to this new challenge.

Let me be clear that I voted to Remain, and I campaigned for a Remain vote.

This was in part because of the level of economic integration that was evident after forty-five years of membership of this economic club.

It was my belief then and now that leaving would bring with it an economic shock.

But I also campaigned for a Remain vote because of the xenophobia which underpinned the predominant elements in the Leave campaign.

So I voted and campaigned for a Remain vote.

But I understand that no matter how you cast your vote, you undoubtedly did so in the belief that it was for a better future.

No one voted to be poorer.

No one voted to narrow the options of their children or grand-children.

We always vote in the belief that what comes after has to be better than what went before.

Unfortunately, my side lost – something my detractors will no doubt suggest I’ve had to get used to in recent years.

So here we now are: in the process of leaving the European Union.

And as a result, facing unique challenges, in uncharted waters.

It is the way we approach these challenges which will decide whether they will become opportunities, or threats.

To that end there needs to be a plan.

And in my estimation there simply isn’t one .

While the twenty-seven other EU member states act in consort, the UK government is in disarray with the divisions in the Cabinet plain for all to see :

whether it is the continual opposing statements of Philip Hammond and Boris Johnson, or whether there are, or are not, any Brexit impact statements.

Three little words the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davis has nightmares about.

The Scottish Government does appear to be more focused – but not necessarily focused on what is right for Scotland.

As always their approach is more about what is right for the SNP.

So on the one hand we have a Tory Government intent on turning its back on the European Union Single Market and turning its back on Europe

And on the other is an SNP Government intent on turning its back on the UK Single Market - on England, Wales and Northern Ireland , this even though four times as many Scottish jobs depend on exports to that Single Market as depend on exports to the EU.

The SNP position uncritically in favour of an ever deepening of the EU Single Market

Whilst at the same time advocating a dramatic breach with the rest of the UK and the economic and monetary union which underpins it, is illogical and incoherent.

Indeed, the whole SNP approach to Brexit is – in my view – intellectually and economically dishonest – and I’ll get to that later.

But Scottish Labour is clear, Labour in Westminster, is clear: the government needs to put our economy and jobs at the heart of the Brexit negotiations so we can rise to the challenges it will undoubtedly present.

Migration is one such important challenge.

Yet according to the Scottish Government’s own worst-case scenario analysis, published two weeks ago, which focused in their own words to “highlight the likely impact of a hard Brexit”, a fall in migration by 2030 will account for a two point five per cent decrease in Scotland’s income.

But in that very same analysis, a forecasted decline in productivity will account for a five point eight per cent reduction in our GDP.

It was the Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman – a fan of David Hume, I believe, - who said,

“Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run it is almost everything.

“A country’s ability to improve its standard of living over time depends almost entirely on its ability to raise its output per worker.”

So, the challenges of Brexit reinforce a belief I have held for my whole time in the Scottish Labour movement - that a more pro-active approach to the economy is needed.

Consequently, Scotland has got to change.

It has got to change in terms of how economic power is exercised and by whom.

It needs a different and more active approach from government and the public sector.

Critically it needs new forms of ownership and higher levels of investment.

And an economy where the proceeds are shared more equitably.

Brexit, with all its challenges, only reinforces this need for a step change in how we do things.

If we do not do this in the context of Brexit we will simply drift further from the high skill, high wage economy Scotland needs.

The Scottish Government claims that the Scottish economy is both resilient and diverse. I wish it were so.

In fact, just fifteen businesses account for thirty per cent of the value of all of Scotland’s international exports.

Just ten companies account for forty-five per cent of the total value of business research and development.

Before Brexit, economic diversification was necessary through an active Scottish industrial policy with less market and more planning in the economy.

Now with Brexit on the horizon this is more urgent than ever.

And so we will be pushing for the establishment of a Scottish industrial policy.

And, quite separately, we will be pushing the UK Government for an active regional policy too, both of which should be aimed at the development of indigenous ownership growth including a new and burgeoning co-operative and employee ownership sector.

That is where my focus will be this evening – how we make Scotland a more productive nation.

But before I discuss what needs to happen to future-proof Scotland’s economy, let’s take a look at the Brexit process so far. If you can bare it!

When the Scottish Parliament was created, many people – myself included– fought long and hard to ensure that it would be more than merely a democratic replacement for power exercised by Ministers in the Scottish Office – important though that was.

It was established to be a Parliament with real power and with real authority.

One of my first tasks when I went to work as an Assistant Secretary at the Scottish TUC in nineteen ninety-one was to contribute to a consultation document the General Council instructed us to draw up called “Power For Change”.

It was a programme for action for the devolved Scottish Parliament we were campaigning for.

We didn’t simply demand the establishment of a Scottish Parliament for the sake of it: it was power we wanted for a purpose.

Ultimately then, the 1998 Scotland Act was unambiguous in its construction that everything that was not expressly reserved to Westminster was to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

Unfortunately, the Tories appear to have forgotten that defining, founding principle.

In recent months, through the Brexit process, they have trampled all over the devolution settlement.

The EU Withdrawal Bill is not fit for purpose in terms of devolution, and the Tories’ authoritarian approach means an arrogant refusal to listen – even to its own Scottish backbenchers.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell is supposed to be Scotland’s man in the Cabinet but he certainly is not standing up for Scotland’s interests in his failure to have Clause eleven of the Bill, which specifically impacts on devolution, amended.

And what role has Ruth Davidson?

That is the problem. She let this disregard of devolution occur and this snub to the settled will of the Scottish people, on her watch.

As a result, in Holyrood we have voted against granting a Legislative Consent Motion as the EU (Withdrawal) Bill currently stands.

Playing fast and loose with the devolution settlement is unacceptable and the Labour Party, the Party which delivered devolution, will not stand for it.

Of course, this lack of trust in devolution from the Tories has been a straw for the SNP government to clutch at in its perpetual drive towards independence.

Yet, the SNP too seems to have no real idea what Scotland after Brexit should look like.

It has moved its position a number of times, from demanding full membership of the EU as an independent country, to retaining single market membership ; preferring EFTA to the EU ; and now back to full membership of the single market and customs union.

We should not be entirely surprised.

As Eric Hobsbawm put it “Nationalism has been a great puzzle to (non-nationalist) politicians and theorists ever since its invention, not only because it is both powerful and devoid of any discernible rational theory, but also because its shape and function are constantly changing.”

And disappointingly, we saw again that the constitution trumps all with the SNP, when its MPs refused to vote for our Labour amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill which would have established new procedures for the creation of UK-wide frameworks for retained EU law.

Without doubt, the SNP, is using Brexit to push its usual agenda and agitate for another referendum; not to remain in the EU but to leave the UK.

Labour has, at all times, based its strategy on protecting the economy, jobs and the interests of working people.

The four principles behind Labour’s position are clear and unambiguous: -

• We respect the result of the EU referendum

• The UK will leave the EU

• By doing so we will leave the existing single market and the existing customs union

• Therefore, we will need to negotiate a new deal because on leaving the EU our membership of all existing treaties will end

Laid out like that it all seems so simple – doesn’t it?

Of course it is vastly complex.

Which is why Labour is playing a critically important role in holding the Tories to account during their haphazard handling of the Brexit negotiations.

We have been the effective scrutineers.

We have ensured that there will be a transitional period, to protect and stabilise our economy after the negotiations are completed and agreement is reached.

We have focused on outcomes that retain the benefits of the single market.

We have proposed the amendments to protect workers’ rights, the rights of EU citizens living here in the UK, the economy, the devolution settlements, the environment and more.

And that is why I can tell you tonight that I am fully confident that Labour will not vote for a Brexit deal that is bad for workers and bad for the economy.

When the time comes we will judge the deal on the six tests set by Keir Starmer:

• Does it ensure a strong and collaborative future relationship with the EU?

• Does it deliver the “exact same benefits” as we currently have as members of the Single Market and Customs Union?

• Does it ensure the fair management of migration in the interests of the economy and communities?

• Does it defend rights and protections and prevent a race to the bottom?

• Does it protect national security and our capacity to tackle cross-border crime?

• Does it deliver for all regions and nations of the UK?

Labour is clear.

We want a deal that is a good deal for the people of this country, not no deal and not a bad deal.

That must mean a deal that retains the benefits of the single market and customs union but which negotiates in other areas that we believe have not been as beneficial for the UK economy.

That is Labour’s focus, it will continue to be our focus and we will dedicate all our attention on that until agreement is reached.

So what happens after the UK leaves the European Union?

The challenges will be multiple, but thankfully there are solutions.

In recent times we have seen both the UK and Scottish Governments hide behind the rules of the EU in order to stop the passage of progressive legislation.

There is no doubt the EU has been used to force through a market based approach to some areas of public policy where markets should have no place.

In turn this has driven down growth in our economy, driven up job insecurity and driven down wages for working people.

Here in Scotland the Competition Framework for the non-domestic sector in the water industry has been affected in this way, as has the tendering of the contract for Calmac routes and for the Northern Isles ferry link.

It has had a part to play too in the award of the Scotrail contract to Abellio and was the basis for the Scottish Government’s refusal to make the Living Wage a necessary condition for private contractors carrying out public works and supply contracts during the passage of the Procurement Act in twenty-fourteen 2014.

Labour would have advocated a renewed reform agenda in these areas if we were remaining in the EU.

I also believe that there are times when the “Brussels defence” has been used as an excuse and that a robust stance particularly on the provision of lifeline public services could and should have been taken.

At a UK level too, a different approach was possible.

Reliance on the so-called Swedish Derogation to remove equal rights from Agency Workers bestowed by the EU Directive has been the subject of a legal challenge led by the TUC.

The provision of the so called “UK opt out” from the Working Time Directive has allowed for excessive working hours to prevail in breach of a measure designed to provide health and safety based rights for workers.

As a result, currently an estimated quarter of a million workers in Scotland routinely work in excess of forty-eight hours a week.

This is no way to run an economy. In my view we need to retain the provisions of the Directive like the right to paid holidays, the right to time off between shifts and the minimum rights to breaks – including the additional protection afforded to young people and over time end the opt out by managing a planned reduction of excessive working hours in such a way that earnings do not drop and new secure employment is created.

This should be seen in the context of automation and the need to drive up productivity.

We also want to see a transfer of powers from the European Union and its institutions to the Scottish Parliament not to Westminster and Whitehall.

So decisions in key areas like environmental regulation, agriculture, fisheries, public procurement and state aid should be put in the hands of the Scottish Parliament.

By protecting vital rights and opting for a more active approach to planning our economy the challenges of Brexit can be met head on.

For if the current state of play shows us anything, it is that an active approach is vital to ensure that we shape and nurture a resilient economy.

As I said earlier the SNPs approach to Brexit is intellectually and economically dishonest.

The Scottish Government’s paper on Brexit, notes that the EU Single Market will still be seven times the size of the UK market, after we leave.

But that is purely in terms of population.

The analysis fails to recognise that the UK market is worth four times as much to the Scottish economy.

Further evidence that an active approach is needed is illuminated in the Scottish Government’s a worst case scenario, in that foreign investment to Scotland would drop by almost a quarter.

As Ernest and Young’s Attractiveness Survey of Scotland notes Brexit will “be a major change to the overall trade position and as such requires a clearly defined strategy setting out Scotland and the UK’s trade strategy and how this will be realised”

This underlines the need for an active industrial policy to reduce uncertainty for employees and investors alike.

It underlines the fact that the private sector is dependent on state decisions.

It underlines the need for a real plan which stops Scotland just being a consumer nation, but once again turns us into a nation which produces what people need.

Economist, Professor Mariana Mazzucato recognises that a strong industrial strategy has many benefits and it is the best way the state can help drive economic growth. I agree.

Which is why Scottish Labour last year launched an industrial strategy which lays out the steps which need to be taken to shape a resilient economy and a healthy society.

It is a strategy which advances democracy and equality in the economy, so that the proper role of trade unions as representatives of workers is recognised, and so that women, who are all too often shut out from the corridors of economic power, are finally let in.

We need to consider how we can use the existing and repatriated powers that we will have to expand the horizons of working people in this country, and thereby bring hope back to those communities that we are sent to the Scottish Parliament to serve.

There are profound inequalities in the real rate of unemployment

—the unequal burden of unemployment between the best and worst parts of Scotland —

which are far greater than the official figures would lead us to believe.

Indeed, Professor Steve Fothergill estimates that the real rate of unemployment is eight point six per cent of the workforce, which is double the official narrow measure.

Our economy is fundamentally unbalanced.

So, what is needed is a credible, radical and compelling strategy for reindustrialisation and a rebalancing for the post-Brexit Scottish economy.

Our new relationship with the European Union will provide a new path.

Having the right to determine our own procurement policy, to deliver apprenticeships and skills, to end bogus self-employment, to end zero-hours contracts and to pay decent wages must be policy objectives.

They are just some examples of areas in which governments have hidden behind EU procurement or state-aid rules to avoid making progressive decisions.

This active approach must support too, a just transition to a greener economy in which technology supports us all to live more fulfilling lives.

One of Scotland’s greatest missed opportunities has been in wind energy.

We should have had turbines that were financed, built, owned and operated in this country.

Communities and public bodies could have developed all of that in a truly sustainable way.

Instead, the kit has been built abroad and many of our wind farms are owned by foreign multinationals, venture capital firms or wealthy individuals, with the result that the profits float off with every turn of the turbine to boardrooms in places such as Bilbao, Munich and Copenhagen.

If ever there was an absence of planning and industrial policy, this is it.

With the Scottish Government’s worst-case scenario finding that the fall in income overwhelmingly comes from productivity, perhaps, Brexit should inject some added urgency to tackling the longstanding need to tackle the long term problem of Scotland’s productivity gap.

Because increasing the level of productivity is key to achieving sustainable economic development, to raising incomes and to creating better quality jobs.

Scotland is one of the better performing parts of the UK by measure of productivity, but it is still below the UK average.

To catch up would therefore require a significant, transformational, increase in Scotland’s rate of productivity.

But the prize of success is substantial.

Increasing Scotland’s productivity to the level of the top quartile of OECD countries would grow GDP by almost forty-five billion pounds (an increase of thirty per cent), and annual average wages could be over six thousand five hundred pounds higher (an increase of twenty-five per cent).

Scottish manufacturing can provide the engine for driving much of this transformational change in productivity.

It is manufacturing which continues to disproportionately drive innovation, investment and international exports.

The Scottish Government should take a more active approach to improving Scotland’s productivity problem by fully utilising the eleven billion pounds lever that is public procurement.

The discourse in the Scottish Parliament over the last few years has regularly focused on what powers the current government does not have rather than the ones that it does.

One of these areas is public procurement which has been devolved since the Parliament’s inception.

Public procurement is not some technical matter but one that has a major impact on people’s livelihoods, their workplaces and their public services.

The collapse of Carillion illustrates this well.

Indeed, such is the weight of that eleven billion pound purchasing power that it equates to almost ninety per cent of the value of what the Scottish Government raises in income tax, or a third of the overall budget.

Yet despite the leverage potential to drive up labour standards and corporate behaviours it is rarely used.

When the current First Minister was in charge of Government procurement she blocked the Living Wage condition.

And she refused to intervene and block the award of contracts to companies caught up in the construction industry blacklisting scandal even after they had been publicly exposed.

Tax avoiders are also to be found in the list of beneficiaries.

And then there’s the Scottish Futures Trust. An infrastructure delivery company owned by the Scottish Government.

Yet, you may be surprised to learn that the two-hundred projects it is delivering are not covered by the Scottish Government’s procurement guidance.

In the Scottish Labour leadership campaign, I sought – and won – a mandate for what I called a values-led public procurement policy.

The Scottish Government is simply not making the most of its purchasing power.

We can use this to improve workers’ pay and conditions.

In short, public sector contractors’ corporate social responsibility statements need to be more than a tick-box exercise.

So I have made clear that under a future Scottish Labour Government we will award public contracts only to organisations that meet standards like no blacklisting, no zero hours contracts,

Fair Tax Mark holders, with commitments to apprenticeships, pay ratios, tackling occupational segregation, paying at least the living Wage and with trade union recognition.

And this goes to a wider point that I want to make –

The people who create our country’s wealth should have a fairer share of the wealth they create.

Our society is deeply divided, poverty and inequality is rife : with the richest one per cent in Scotland today owning more personal wealth than the whole of the bottom fifty per cent.

Too much power rests in too few hands.

The role of political leadership is, I believe, to focus on the future – and to offer the people of the country a vision of the future

One they can believe in, and one that they can participate in.

A future where they know they will be able to get a decent job, with decent pay, and have a decent home to live in; that their children get a good education and go on to a good life.

I have focused tonight on productivity and workers’ rights, but there are, of course, other challenges facing us as a result of Brexit:

• How do we ensure our citizens have access to Environmental justice?

• How do we maintain environmental standards and protect our natural resources and habitats?

• What systems to we need to maintain product safety standards?



• How do we maintain consumer rights when purchasing goods and services?

• What type of trade deal would help Scottish Businesses prosper?

• How can we work cooperatively with developing countries?

• How do we support our farming and fishing communities to build a sustainable future?

• How do we support food production and develop food exports?

• How do we ensure our Parliament is ready to answer these questions?

There will come a point as the Brexit negotiations run on when we will cease to be defensive and start to become more affirmative.

Who knows, our new European style may be more in the tradition of Zurich and Belgrade, Rejkavik and Oslo or it may simply be in a tradition of our own making.

What is without doubt is the challenge ahead.

The challenge to ensure the lives of working people are improved and that they gain more, not less, control over their time and incomes.

The challenge of securing real full employment, focusing on the industries and jobs of the future – in decommissioning, in renewables, in FinTech.

The challenge of innovation and harnessing the advance of automation for the benefit of the people of Scotland.

The challenge to make Scotland a land of opportunity for all, because the right economic decisions are being made at the heart of government.

Decisions which put jobs and prosperity first.

The challenge, we hope, of a General Election sooner rather than later, which will enable a Labour Government put into action our plans for a £20 billion investment in Scotland, to further stimulate our economy.

And the challenge to build a new and co-operative relationship with our European neighbours.

That is a challenge which the Scottish Labour Party is ready to meet.

Thank you.



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SNP-GREEN BUDGET STITCH-UP FAILS TO STOP AUSTERITY AND WILL CUT LIFELINE SERVICES

31 January 2018

Labour is now the only party in Scotland standing for real change

The budget deal struck by the SNP and Scottish Greens does not stop Tory austerity, tackle poverty or redistribute wealth or power, Scottish Labour said today.

For the second year running the Green MSPs have backed a Nationalist budget which will leave councils’ lifeline services squeezed.

The backroom stitch-up by the Greens and Derek Mackay also means the Scottish Government’s budget fails to fund a proper pay rise for council staff and fails to tackle child poverty.

Despite local government budgets needing £545m to stand still, the “deal” struck today only delivers £159m.

Scottish Labour cannot support a budget which passes on Tory austerity to local authorities, which doesn’t redistribute wealth to tackle poverty, and which fails to ensure lifeline services are properly resourced.

Labour’s radical alternative tax plan would raise nearly £1bn extra this year to increase Child Benefit by £5 a week, give £545m to councils to stop cuts and reward staff with a proper pay rise, and send an extra £100m to the NHS.

Speaking after the Stage 1 debate on the budget, Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance, James Kelly, said: “Labour is now the only party at Holyrood standing for the real and radical change Scotland needs.

“Yet again the Greens have abandoned their principles and agreed a shoddy deal so they can shore up the minority Nationalist government.

“In their manifesto the Greens wanted radical income tax changes to raise money to properly fund services – today they failed all those who voted for that, and all those who rely on lifeline public services.

“The money they claim to have wrangled from the SNP is a drop in the ocean when councils need £545m just to stand still, when 260,000 Scottish children are living in poverty and when public service workers need a proper pay rise.

“Scottish Labour cannot support a budget which allows poverty to deepen and inequalities to widen.

“Our radical alternative would redistribute power and wealth, save lifeline services, tackle child poverty and allow for an additional injection of cash in our NHS.

“We don’t think a budget that tinkers around the edges is answer to the challenges our country faces. We can and must make radical use of the powers of the Scottish Parliament to deliver a fairer country.”




SNP-GREEN BUDGET STITCH-UP FAILS TO STOP AUSTERITY AND WILL CUT LIFELINE SERVICES

31 January 2018

Labour is now the only party in Scotland standing for real change

The budget deal struck by the SNP and Scottish Greens does not stop Tory austerity, tackle poverty or redistribute wealth or power, Scottish Labour said today.

For the second year running the Green MSPs have backed a Nationalist budget which will leave councils’ lifeline services squeezed.

The backroom stitch-up by the Greens and Derek Mackay also means the Scottish Government’s budget fails to fund a proper pay rise for council staff and fails to tackle child poverty.

Despite local government budgets needing £545m to stand still, the “deal” struck today only delivers £159m.

Scottish Labour cannot support a budget which passes on Tory austerity to local authorities, which doesn’t redistribute wealth to tackle poverty, and which fails to ensure lifeline services are properly resourced.

Labour’s radical alternative tax plan would raise nearly £1bn extra this year to increase Child Benefit by £5 a week, give £545m to councils to stop cuts and reward staff with a proper pay rise, and send an extra £100m to the NHS.

Speaking after the Stage 1 debate on the budget, Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance, James Kelly, said: “Labour is now the only party at Holyrood standing for the real and radical change Scotland needs.

“Yet again the Greens have abandoned their principles and agreed a shoddy deal so they can shore up the minority Nationalist government.

“In their manifesto the Greens wanted radical income tax changes to raise money to properly fund services – today they failed all those who voted for that, and all those who rely on lifeline public services.

“The money they claim to have wrangled from the SNP is a drop in the ocean when councils need £545m just to stand still, when 260,000 Scottish children are living in poverty and when public service workers need a proper pay rise.

“Scottish Labour cannot support a budget which allows poverty to deepen and inequalities to widen.

“Our radical alternative would redistribute power and wealth, save lifeline services, tackle child poverty and allow for an additional injection of cash in our NHS.

“We don’t think a budget that tinkers around the edges is answer to the challenges our country faces. We can and must make radical use of the powers of the Scottish Parliament to deliver a fairer country.”




Labour unveils £960 million plan for an Alternative Budget

30 January 2018

Labour today reveals a near billion-pound package of tax and investment proposals in the most radical set of fiscal policies ever to be presented at Holyrood.

Ahead of Stage 1 of the Scottish budget process this week, Labour’s alternative plan for the budget would deliver a near £1billion stimulus for the Scottish economy and allow for:

• Lifeline services to be protected across Scotland.

• An extra £100 million for the NHS.

• An increase in Child Benefit by £5 per child per week.

• A fully funded public sector pay increase.

Labour said the extra revenue could be generated by taking a more radical approach than the SNP on income tax and empowering local government with powers to raise more revenue.

Labour’s alternative income tax plan matches the SNP on a Scottish starter rate of 19p, but places the income threshold for a 45p rate at over £60,000 and introduces a new 50p top rate for those earning over £100,000.

Under these plans an MSP would pay over £7.50 more a week, compared to the SNP proposal where they pay just an extra 29 pence per week.

Someone earning £20,000, for example a nursing assistant or a child minder would pay £1.73 a week less.

Labour said the Scottish Parliament should also use the budget process to deliver huge economic powers to local authorities, by delivering a Social Responsibility Levy and enabling local authorities to charge a Tourist Tax and Land Value Tax.

Labour is announcing these proposals ahead of Stage 1 of the Scottish budget to outline how there can be a more radical alternative than the one currently proposed by the SNP, and will seek to build support for the proposals in Holyrood in the coming weeks.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“It is time to end the failed experiment of austerity by making radical use of the powers available to the Scottish Parliament.

“When we campaigned for a Scottish Parliament, we saw it as a bulwark against Tory austerity, but in recent years it has simply been a conveyor belt for cuts. That needs to end.

“It’s not good enough to tinker around the edges with as many as 260,000 children living in poverty. We should be looking at a budget that stops the cuts to lifeline services and increases Child Benefit.

“Labour is willing to ask the wealthiest few to pay more to benefit the many, and redistribute real economic power to local communities. The question now for other parties is do they agree with us?”

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance, James Kelly, said:

“Ahead of the Stage 1 debate of the budget, Labour has put together a revenue package that would redistribute power and wealth, save lifeline services, tackle child poverty and allow for an additional injection of cash in our NHS.

“We don’t think a budget that tinkers around the edges is answer to the challenges our country faces. You cannot cut your way to economic growth.

“We will look to work with other parties to deliver these changes, and will seek parliamentary avenues to put them to a vote. We can and must make radical use of the powers of the Scottish Parliament to deliver a fairer country.”

Download : A Budget for Real Change
>>>

 

EXTENT OF CARILLION’S INVOLVEMENT IN SCOTLAND LAID BARE

27 January 2018

Failed construction giant Carillion is involved in at least eight major public projects in Scotland, it has emerged.

The firm, which has gone into liquidation, runs facilities management services in hospitals, housing associations and major building projects across Scotland, including at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the West of Scotland Housing Association.

The level of Carillion’s involvement in the Scottish economy goes far beyond what the SNP has previously admitted.

Meanwhile, following a parliamentary question from Jackie Baillie MSP, it has emerged SNP Economy Minister Keith Brown is also unable to say exactly how many people are employed by Carillion in Scotland - but it is thought to be over 1,000 workers.

This follows Mr Brown’s appearance at a parliamentary committee where he was unable to say when another Carillion project – the AWPR – would now be finished.

Scottish Labour accused the SNP government of complacency over Carillion’s collapse, given the extent of its involvement in Scotland.

Scottish Labour’s Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP: “It is deeply concerning that Carillion is involved in so many projects in Scotland, including hospitals, housing associations and railway stations.

“The company is clearly far more involved in the Scottish economy than the SNP has previously admitted, while SNP economy minister Keith Brown does not even know how many people Carillion actually employs in Scotland.

“This is unacceptable. The SNP has been sleepwalking through this crisis, leaving workers and businesses in the supply chain facing uncertainty.

“Scotland’s economy cannot take more shocks – what we need now is transparency.

“Instead of tinkering around the edges like the SNP, Scottish Labour believes we should come up with a new way of funding public sector projects that does not put huge profits in the pockets of shareholders – and it is imperative that the SNP conduct a review of public sector infrastructure projects without further delay.”




STURGEON BETRAYED COMMUNITY OVER CHILDREN’S WARD

25 January 2018

Nicola Sturgeon betrayed the people of Paisley with her decision to close the Children’s Ward at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

During the leaders’ TV debate on 1 May 2016, Nicola Sturgeon was asked by Gordon Clark from Paisley about plans to close the ward.

The First Minister assured Mr Clark there were no proposals to close the ward.

Last Friday her government took the decision to close the ward.

Ms Sturgeon today refused to apologise to Mr Clark for misleading him, and the people of Paisley, during the election.

Nicola Sturgeon refused to acknowledge Gordon Clark’s presence in the chamber today, or offer an apology in an angry, abusive performance.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Nicola Sturgeon needs to understand the depth of anger about this.

"This is about her integrity. People feel betrayed. With good reason.

“Campaigners who raised concerns were accused of lying.

"SNP politicians were more interested in saving the local McDonalds than saving the local children’s ward.

“When a decision was finally made, it was sneaked out on a Friday afternoon.

"This government tried to bury bad news in the middle of a snowstorm.

“People dependent on NHS services across the country will now ask themselves how can they trust this First Minister, having betrayed the people of Paisley.”




"ROBISON HAS IGNORED LOCAL PEOPLE IN CHILDREN’S WARD DECISION"

23 January 2018

Shona Robison has ignored the concerns of local people in the decision to shut down the children’s ward at the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) in Paisley, Labour said today.

Having been forced into making a statement to parliament about the decision, the Health Secretary faced fierce criticism from Labour, raising the case of Karen Meikle and her son Alex.

West of Scotland Labour MSP Neil Bibby also highlighted concerns that the decision was ‘snuck out’ on Friday afternoon, rather than in a statement to the Holyrood chamber in the first place.

Ms Robison also faced questions about the children’s ward at St John’s Hospital in Livingston.

West of Scotland Labour MSP Neil Bibby said:

“Over 17,000 people supported the campaign to stop the closure of the ward, including NHS staff and parents with direct, first-hand experience of the excellent care it provides.

"Parents like Karen Meikle who has told her story to the Paisley Daily Express today.

“The way that SNP politicians nationally and locally have behaved has left local families feeling totally betrayed and without any trust left in this government.

“Throughout this process, the Cabinet Secretary assured the families that she would listen. Well they couldn’t have been clearer in what they were saying.

"Yet these families have been ignored. Shona Robison has snubbed parents. She should come to Paisley and explain her decision”

Labour Health spokesperson and Glasgow MSP Anas Sarwar said:

“I pay tribute the Save Lightburn Campaign and the Kids Need Our Ward campaign.

“Local residents and service users tirelessly fighting to protect their local services, services they were promised would stay open during the election.

“Sadly, while one is celebrating the other is rightly distraught and dismayed. The reality is we should never have been here in the first place.

“When faced with a leaked cuts paper the government denied any proposals to close Lightburn or the RAH paediatric ward even existed.

“Neil Bibby was called a liar. Kez Dugdale was called a liar. The campaigners were accused of scaremongering.

“Now the closure is confirmed and 8000 cases will be transferred to the already over-stretched Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

“This is a result of cuts imposed by this Government and a workforce crisis overseen by this Government.

“This is a betrayal.”

Labour MSP for Dumbarton Jackie Baillie said:

“There is no getting away from the fact that the First Minister was asked in a TV debate whether the children’s ward at the RAH would close.

“And she was clear, she would not close that ward. And the cabinet secretary knows that there were proposals to close the ward before May 2016.

“The First Minister has of course given similar commitments to my local community about the Vale of Leven Hospital. This is fundamentally a question of trust, and the key question for me is whether we can trust anything that the First Minister tells us.”

Labour MSP for Lothian region Neil Findlay said:

“In 2016 Nicola Sturgeon said live on TV during an election debate that there were no plans to close the children’s ward at the RAH in Paisley.

“For 6 years there have been staffing problems on top of staffing problems at St John’s children’s ward in Livingston with assurances that it would not be closed.

“Parents, children, grandparents and local people who joined me on Friday at a protest at St John’s will struggle to believe a word the cabinet Secretary or First Minister says about the future of Children’s services in Livingston given their blatant betrayal of the people of Paisley.”




LABOUR LODGE AMENDMENTS ON CHILD BENEFIT TOP UP

23 January 2018

Labour has lodged amendments to the Social Security Bill to deliver a top up to Child Benefit for Scottish families.

Under Scotland’s new social security powers, Scottish Ministers can top up reserved social security payments.

Increasing Child Benefit is supported by a coalition of groups across civic Scotland, including the churches and children’s charities. The move would benefit around half a million Scottish families and almost 1 million children.

260,000 children in Scotland are classed as living in poverty. The Give Me 5 coalition, led by Child Poverty Action Group, has previously estimated that a £5 top up would lift 30,000 children out of poverty.

Labour social security spokesperson Mark Griffin said:

"It's time to use the new powers to create a fairer Scotland and put money back into the pockets of working class families.

"That's why Labour has today laid amendments to the Social Security Bill to top up Child Benefit.

“This would help over half a million families across Scotland, and lift 30,000 children out of poverty.

“This is a radical way to use the new powers of the Scottish Parliament to deliver a real difference to families across Scotland."




Commenting on the latest homelessness figures

23 January 2018

Commenting on the latest homelessness figures published today, Scottish Labour's housing spokesperson Pauline McNeill MSP said:

“These are deeply troubling figures that are a mark of shame on the SNP.

“There are more than 6,500 children in temporary accommodation – an increase on last year. It is simply unacceptable that in the 21st century, so many children should be without a permanent home.

“It is deeply concerning that the long term downward trend in homelessness applications is slowing down and there has actually been an increase in applications this year.

“It is clear now more than ever that urgent action is needed if we are to eradicate homelessness once and for all.

“The SNP must use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to put an end to the austerity policies that are driving people into homelessness and start seriously tackling the rough sleeping crisis.”




COST OF AUSTERITY HITS CARE SYSTEM

18 January 2018

The SNP‘s failure to stop austerity and fund councils properly is leaving the care sector on the brink of collapse, Scottish Labour warned today.

At First Minister’s Questions, Richard Leonard raised the case of Nancy Sutherland, a 94 year old tenant of Bield care homes in Fife.

Mrs Sutherland, along with 166 other tenants, are being moved from their homes because Bield can no longer afford rising cost pressures.

The threatened care homes which Bield operates are in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Fife, Falkirk, the Borders, South Lanarkshire and West Lothian.

Labour said the case of Bield speaks to a wider problem around the funding of care services, in Scotland.

The party highlighted comments from Scottish Care’s chief executive Dr Donald Macaskill who has warned the government that the care home sector is in a fragile position. He has said that the Bield situation should “act as a wakeup call” to properly fund care in Scotland.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Last Saturday Labour MSPs attended the ‘Save Our Bield’ campaign group meeting in Glasgow. They heard families tell of the stress their frail, elderly relatives are under because they are about to be evicted from their specialist care home.

“These are people in their 70s, their 80s, even their 90s.

“One woman, Nancy Sutherland is 94. She’s been a Bield tenant for 23 years. She – and 166 other elderly people – are about to lose their homes.

“This government’s care policies are failing. It’s time for Nicola Sturgeon to stop the cuts to lifeline services, or she will continue to fail people like Mrs Sutherland.”


 

SNP AND GREENS UNITE TO AVOID SHOW OF NO CONFIDENCE IN BUDGET

17 January 2018

The SNP and the Scottish Greens united again this evening to back a draft budget that would deliver an effective cut of £700m to lifeline public services.

Last year, the Scottish Greens backed an SNP budget which delivered a £160m cut to local authority budgets.

Tonight the SNP supported a Green amendment to stop the Parliament registering a vote showing no confidence in its draft budget.

Labour said in backing the Green amendment the SNP has now committed to a fully funded public sector pay rise.

Patrick Harvie has previously made the case for a public sector pay rise, including local government workers, to be fully funded by the SNP government.

Labour has called on Finance Secretary, Derek MacKay, to explain how the government will fund a pay rise for all public sector workers, including local government employees.

Labour Shadow Finance Secretary, James Kelly said:

“This is a dramatic climb down from the SNP government.

“The Nationalists saw that parliament was set to vote for no confidence in their austerity budget, which will inflict an effective £700m cut on our councils, and capitulated to opposition demands for a fair pay rise for public sector workers.

“It is increasingly clear that the Greens are preparing to sell our local authorities short in this budget.

“Derek MacKay must now come back with an explanation for how he is going to fund an above inflation pay rise for all public sector workers, including local government employees.”


 

SCOTTISH TORIES VOTE DOWN LABOUR CLAUSE 11 AMENDMENT

16 January 2018

Commenting on Scottish Tories voting against Labour’s amendment to Clause 11 of the EU Withdrawal Bill, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Lesley Laird, said:

"Tonight in the Chamber the Scottish Tories rolled over to protect their party instead of protecting the devolution settlement.

“They gave excuses, but could offer no substantial reasons why they would not support Labour’s amendment to Clause 11.

“They acknowledged the fact that they have dropped the ball - but to add insult to injury they then decided to move the goal posts as well.

“Now peers such as Michelle Mone and Alan Sugar are to have more of a say on the future of the Scottish Parliament than elected MPs.

“The Scottish Tory bloc has bragged since the general election about the influence it has on Theresa May’s government.

“This sorry episode has exposed that boast as being as hollow as the promise from the Secretary of State for Scotland.”


 

COMMENT ON FSB RESEARCH ON BANK CLOSURES

16 January 2018

Responding to statistics revealed by the Federation of Small Businesses showing 70 per cent of Royal Bank of Scotland local branches have closed or are set to close, Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Richard Leonard said:

“These statistics show just how many communities across Scotland have lost their local banking branch in the past five years.

“The decisions by banks to close down vital high street branches is yet another example of big businesses putting profit before people.

“Not everybody is able to access online banking, and these closures have left individuals, in many cases elderly people or those in rural areas, and small businesses stranded without the facilities they need.

“RBS closures, in particular, are an insult to all those who worked to rescue the company with the use of public money when it was in trouble. We, the taxpayers, own the Royal Bank of Scotland and if RBS won’t listen to reason and put a stop to the additional closures already in the pipeline, the UK government must do the right thing and step in to stop the closures and protect these vital community services.”

Labour MP for Midlothian, and member of the Scottish Affairs Committee, Danielle Rowley said:

“Instead of the customer coming first it seems like they are a long way down the banks’ list of priorities.

“It is unacceptable for the banks to plead poverty as an excuse for the dismantling of the branch network while still paying out six and seven-figure sums to executives. The taxpayers who bailed them out just won’t buy that.

“RBS, which is to close two in three branches in my Midlothian constituency, scored lowest out of 21 high street banks in a Which? customer satisfaction survey. The latest RBS branch closure plan suggests that instead of trying to improve, it has thrown in the towel.

“Last June our manifesto pledged to ensure a branch cannot be closed where there is clear local need.

“The need for a Labour government and the chance to act on that promise is urgent – before there is no branch network left to save.”


 

SNP AND TORIES UNITE TO KEEP ZERO-HOUR CONTRACTS AS ‘POSITIVE DESTINATION’

12 January 2018

The Scottish Conservatives and the SNP today united in the Scottish Parliament to retain ‘positive destination’ status for zero-hour contracts.

Under the current system, 16-19 year olds who go on to work on a zero-hours contract are considered to have achieved a positive destination.

The SNP government’s methodology for assessing the destinations of school leavers takes no account of insecure or temporary employment, or retention in education courses, because it fails to track the progress of youngsters over a number of years - despite the current volatility of the employment market.

Across the workforce, the number of people in insecure work in Scotland has increased by nearly a third since 2011 under the SNP.

Labour would ban zero-hour contracts and introduce a real living wage of £10 per hour across the UK.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education, Iain Gray said:

“It is clear that we have to be more rigorous about how we measure success and we must face up to the fact that many young people are in temporary, insecure, part time or zero hour jobs.

“Across the UK, 36 per cent of zero-hours contracts are filled by young people – that would mean twenty-five and a half thousand in Scotland.

“We count this as a positive destination. It is not. This is not developing the young workforce, it is exploiting them. It is not opportunity, it is alienation.

“We should stop counting this as positive, and furthermore we should discourage it by ensuring that publicly procured goods and services are not rewarding companies who engage in this practice. “


 

FIRST MINISTER FOUND OUT ON NHS SPIN

11 January 2018

Nicola Sturgeon, has been ‘found out’ on her NHS spin, Labour said today. At First Minister’s Questions, Scottish labour leader Richard Leonard raised the case of Tom Wilson, an 80-year-old man from Newtongrange who waited more than 16 hours for treatment on New Year’s day.

Mr Wilson waited more than 3 hours for an ambulance, and then a further 13 hours on a trolley in a corridor at A&E.

Labour said the case showed that the SNP is not properly supporting our NHS.

The case follows a week were the Nationalists’ management of the health service has been under fire, with record low A&E performance and further concerns raised by BMA Scotland about the long term running of the NHS.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“This week we have heard apologies from the First Minister to the thousands of people who have experienced unacceptable delays for hospital treatment and have waited hours in pain for an ambulance to arrive.

“The BMA has previously said it is fed up with this government’s spin, and patients are too.

“Like 80-year-old Tom Wilson, of Newtongrange.

“He fell on New Year’s Day and lay bleeding for three hours and 17 minutes waiting for an ambulance.

“His son called 999 seven times - only to be told that an ambulance was coming, not from the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary just 14 minutes away, but from Kelso.

“Tom Wilson then spent 13 hours on a trolley in a corridor in A&E before being admitted to a general ward.

“That is an 80 year old man with underlying health conditions waiting more than sixteen hours for treatment.

“When Mr Wilson’s son wrote to the Health Secretary, he was ready for the SNP government’s excuses.

“The First Minister has been found out on her NHS spin. What staff, patients and families need is a long term plan to fix the mess she has made of our NHS.”

 

COMMENT ON BMA SCOTLAND WARNING OVER STAFF PRESSURE

11 January 2018

Responding to the warning from the British Medical Association -BMA Scotland- on the need for long term, sustainable staffing solutions, Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Anas Sarwar said:

“Scottish Labour has been making the case all year round that our NHS is under pressure and under resourced – a sentiment backed up today by the BMA.

“While the SNP accepts that demographic changes are impacting services, the government continues to shirk responsibility for previously cutting medical and nursing training places, a decision which has resulted in vast numbers of unfilled posts.

“Over the last month we have seen office staff having to volunteer to help GPs and hospital staff to cope with the demand.

"That is utterly unacceptable in the 21st Century NHS.

“Scottish Labour recognises the scale of the challenge facing our health service and our NHS workforce commission was launched in order to provide solutions to the serious staffing crisis in our health service.”



COMMENT ON STUC RESPONSE TO DEREK MACKAY'S PROGRESSIVE BUDGET "CONSENSUS" CLAIM

10 January 2018

Commenting on the STUC's criticism of Scottish Government Finance Minister Derek Mackay, who claimed today in Parliament that there was a "consensus" around his budget proposals, Scottish Labour's Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance, James Kelly, said:

"The STUC is right to highlight Derek Mackay's complacency when it comes to cutting the budgets of lifeline public services and tackling Tory austerity.

"There is no consensus around an SNP draft budget which does little more than tinker with tax bands, won't raise the money that local government desperately needs after £1.5bn worth of cuts since 2011, and does not fully fund a decent pay rise for public service workers.

"There is a £700m black hole in local government funding this year and Scottish Labour cannot support a budget which falls far short of meeting the challenge of tackling poverty and inequality in our communities."


OVER 100,000 SCOTS WAITED MORE THAN THE A&E TARGET IN 2017

9 January 2018

Over 100,000 Scots waited more than the SNP’s target to be seen within 4 hours at Accident and Emergency in 2017, new figures reveal.

Information published by ISD Scotland today show that 107,689 people waited longer than the 4 hours in Scotland’s hospitals last year.

A&E performance for the week between Christmas and New Year was revealed to be 78 per cent with one hospital, Forth Valley Royal in Larbert, Falkirk having a performance of 57.3 per cent.

Meanwhile the flagship Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow had a performance of 63.3 per cent.

Earlier this week Nicola Sturgeon and Health Secretary Shona Robison apologised for the pressure on the NHS.

Labour said today’s figures show that the health service isn’t getting the support they need from the government.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Anas Sarwar said:

“NHS staff are not getting the support they need from the SNP government in Edinburgh and as a result over 100,000 patients had to wait more than the A&E standard in 2017.

“The A&E figures for the festive period are some of the worst in memory. No wonder Nicola Sturgeon felt the need to apologise, but it will be a hollow apology without meaningful action.

“That’s why Labour is the only party to set up a workforce commission to tackle the staffing crisis in our NHS.

“The health service needs more than sticking plaster solutions.

"It needs a plan for long term real change.”


SCOTS MISS OUT ON MORE THAN HALF A BILLION IN TAX CREDITS

1 January 2018

Scots are missing out on more than half a billion in unclaimed tax credits according to new research.

The independent experts in the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) found that £545 million worth of working or child tax credits went unclaimed in Scotland according to the most recently available figures.

Labour said the UK and Scottish government must do more to ensure people get the tax credits they qualify for.

Labour said now is the time to set ambitious binding take-up targets to compel both governments to act, help boost family incomes and lift the Scottish economy.

Labour Social Security spokesperson Mark Griffin said:

“Scots are missing out on more than half a billion worth of tax credits. At a time of soaring child poverty and falling wages, both the Scottish and UK governments should be doing more to make sure people get 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. “In 2018 we will push the Scottish Government to set ambitious targets to ramp up take up and provide the vital support needed to help families claim.

“This should be one part of a serious anti-poverty strategy developed by the SNP government, including increasing child benefit, tackling the housing crisis and developing a proper industrial strategy so Scotland can be a home to high paid, high skilled jobs.”


A&E MELTDOWN UNDER SNP

27 December 2017

Scotland’s A&E services are enduring a winter meltdown under the SNP, Scottish Labour has said.

New figures show almost 20 per cent of patients were not dealt with within the four-hour standard last week.

At the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, almost half of A&E patients had to wait longer than four-hours, while a total of 24 hospitals failed to meet the standard.

Scottish Labour said the figures showed the scale of the SNP’s mismanagement of the NHS – and called for an urgent investigation.

Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“These figures are a disgrace and will cause real concern to patients and families across Scotland.

“Our doctors and nurses do fantastic work, but they have been left over-worked, under-valued and under-resourced by this SNP government.

“More than 20 hospitals failed to hit the A&E target last week, leaving hundreds of patients stranded in hospitals for more than four hours.

“These figures are sadly not a one off – this has been a regular occurrence this winter. It is now clear Scotland is facing an A&E winter meltdown under the SNP.

“Scottish Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to ensure we have a health service that works for the many, not the few.”

Commenting specifically on the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Mr Sarwar added:

“Across the country, A&E waiting times are appalling, but the situation at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh is particularly concerning.

“Something has clearly gone very wrong to have almost 50 per cent of patients waiting longer than four hours. This is not an anomaly – the A&E performance at this hospital has been declining for a number of weeks. “The SNP government has taken special measures at other hospitals when the situation has not even been this bad.

“Last week, Scottish Labour called on SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison to urgently investigate what is going wrong at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and fix it.

“So far, she has refused to do so. She must now immediately launch an investigation into these figures, or publicly explain why she will not.”


OVER A QUARTER OF A MILLION SCOTS TRAPPED IN INSECURE WORK

26 December 2017

Over a quarter of a million Scots are trapped in insecure work, new analysis has revealed.

Research, commissioned by Scottish Labour, from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) shows that an estimated 274,000 Scots are in some form of insecure work, with

160,000 Scots in low paid self-employment

43,000 Scots in insecure temporary work

71,000 Scots on zero hours contracts

Labour said the figures showed that precarious work was too widespread in the Scottish economy, and said a proper industrial strategy was necessary to build the high skill, high wage, secure jobs that Scotland needs for growth.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Jackie Baillie said:

“Too many jobs in Scotland are insecure, without guaranteed hours or income. That insecurity then flows through our economy holding it back – from the stress it puts on working people, to the pressure it puts on family finances.

“People can’t plan ahead if they don’t know what next month’s pay cheque will be – if it turns up at all.

“The reality is that, after a decade of SNP division and seven years of Tory despair, people are more likely to be working for poverty pay, with no guarantee that a job will keep their heads above water.

“The next Labour government will ban zero hours contracts, and we will press the SNP to stop handing taxpayer money, in the form of public contracts and grants, to companies who use them.

“But there is a wider issue here around the quality of jobs in our economy. We need a move towards high wage, high skill jobs that can only be delivered by a proper industrial strategy and an end to austerity.

“That is why Labour isn’t just about fair work – we’re for better work.”


 

WINTER FUEL PAYMENT WORTH NEARLY £4 BILLION TO SCOTLAND’S PENSIONERS

24 December 2017

The Winter Fuel Payment, introduced by the last Labour government, has been worth nearly £4 billion to Scotland’s pensioners.

Analysis from Scottish Labour, confirmed by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe), shows that the total value of the payments to Scotland’s pensioners has been worth £3.7 billion since they were introduced.

Labour highlighted the value after a year in which the Winter Fuel Payment had been threatened with the axe by both the Tories and the SNP.

Theresa May’s manifesto for the General Election included a commitment to means testing the payment, forcing Ruth Davidson into a pledge that the Tories would keep it universal in Scotland.

The Tories eventually had to drop the commitment completely following their confidence and supply arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party.

Meanwhile, the approach of the SNP in drafting laws for Scotland’s new social security system leaves the door open for means testing. Labour have now instructed Parliamentary officials to draft amendments which would prevent the Scottish Government from means testing the payment.

Labour Social Security spokesperson Mark Griffin said:

“The Winter Fuel Payment has been worth billions to Scottish pensioners since it was first introduced by the last Labour government but we cannot take for granted that the payment will always be protected.

“The SNP government has drafted legislation to set up a social security agency that leaves the door open for means testing, and only Labour can be trusted to protect it under Scotland’s new social security system.

“Meanwhile the Tories were planning to mean test it in the rest of the UK before Theresa May’s disastrous campaign backfired.

“Labour’s better deal for pensioners means we will protect the winter fuel payment, the triple lock on the state pension, and the free bus pass.

"People who have paid into the system all their lives deserve something back.”


 

 

DEREK MACKAY ‘TIN EARED’ OVER COUNCIL CUTS

21 December 2017

Scottish Labour has accused Derek MacKay of being ‘tin eared’ over council cuts after his appearance at the Local Government and Communities Committee this morning.

The Finance Secretary claimed he has treated councils ‘very fairly’ in the budget settlement, despite reducing local government funding at a higher proportion than the Scottish Government block grant.

Labour MSP Elaine Smith raised a letter sent to Mr MacKay by the chair of trade union UNISON’s local government committee, Mark Ferguson.

In the letter, the trade union condemned the real-terms cut to councils and asked the Finance Secretary to revise his announced spending plans to provide sufficient funding for local government.

At the same time as Mr Mackay’s appearance at the Local Government Committee, the Scottish Fiscal Commission appeared in front of the Finance Committee and confirmed their projections of lower than 1 per cent growth in the Scottish economy until 2021.

The SNP budget unravelled within days last week after it was revealed that the public sector pay rise will not apply to the 243,000 local government workers, who make up 43 per cent of public sector employees.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance, James Kelly said:

“Derek MacKay’s appearance in front of the local government committee gave no absolutely no assurances to local government workers.

“How on earth councils are expected to fund a much needed pay rise for their employees, while Derek MacKay is slashing their budgets is beyond reason.

“Meanwhile, the Scottish Fiscal Commission have confirmed their grim growth projections, with the Scottish economy under the SNP not set to see growth of above 1 per cent for the rest of the Parliament.

“When confronted with the effect his budget would have on councils, the Finance Secretary remained tin eared.

“It is time Derek MacKay listened to council leaders and council workers across Scotland and put an end to his brutal local government cuts.”


SCOTLAND’S A&E CRISIS UNDER THE SNP

20 December 2017

Scotland’s A&E services are in crisis under the SNP, Scottish Labour has warned.

More than half of emergency wards missed the four-hour standard to admit, transfer or discharge patients last week.

At the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, more than a third of patients had to wait longer than four hours.

More than 25 per cent of patients at the Hairmyres Hospital also faced a more than four-hour wait, while the same was true for a fifth of patients at the SNP’s flagship Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

Across Scotland, an average of 86.9 per cent of patients were seen within the standard time, down from the previous week. The number of acute hospital beds also fell by more than two per cent from last year.

Meanwhile, official figures also show more than 45 per cent of Musculoskeletal patients were not seen within the four-week target.

Commenting on the A&E figures, Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“These figures are a nightmare before Christmas for the SNP and Health Secretary Shona Robison.

“Our doctors and nurses do fantastic work, but they have been left over-worked, under-valued and under-resourced by this SNP government.

“Almost 20 hospitals failed to hit the A&E target last week, leaving hundreds of patients stranded in hospitals for more than four hours. The number of acute hospital beds has also fallen by more than two per cent.

“This is a disgrace and it is clear Scotland could now be facing an A&E winter meltdown under the SNP.

“Scottish Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to ensure we have a health service that works for the many, not the few.”

Commenting on more than a third of patients not being seen within four hours at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Mr Sarwar said:

“Across the country, A&E waiting times are not good enough, but the situation at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary is particularly concerning.

“Something has clearly gone very wrong to have more than a third of patients waiting longer than four hours. This is not an anomaly – the A&E performance at this hospital has been declining for a number of weeks.

“The SNP government has taken special measures at other hospitals when the situation has not even been this bad.

“SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison must urgently investigate what is going wrong at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and fix it.”

Commenting on more than 45 per cent of Musculoskeletal patients not being seen within the four-week standard, Mr Sarwar added:

“Thousands of people have once again been let down by the SNP and its mismanagement of our NHS.

“To have almost half of patients waiting more than four weeks for vital treatments such as physiotherapy is clearly unacceptable.

“Our doctors and nurses, and allied health professionals all do fantastic work, but they have been left over-worked, under-valued and under-resourced by this SNP government.

“Labour has already launched a workforce commission to tackle the SNP’s staffing crisis in our health service – and we would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to deliver real change in the NHS.”


HOLYROOD EXPERTS CONFIRM COUNCIL BUDGETS SET TO BE HAMMERED

18 December 2017

The Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) has confirmed that Derek Mackay’s budget is set to hammer lifeline local services. The briefing confirms:

• Day to day spending set to fall by £135million

• General support for capital spending falling in cash (£54.7million) and real terms (£63.4million)

• The SNP Government has consistently passed on a much larger cut to local government than the cut to the Scottish budget

• The maximum amount councils could raise nationwide is £77million from a 3 per cent council tax rise

• There is no additional funding for councils to lift the 1 per cent public sector pay cap

These cuts fall on top of Cosla saying they needed an additional £545million just to maintain services before the budget.

Labour said the briefing underlines the need for more radical use of the tax powers to protect local government and the lifeline services they deliver.

Scottish Labour Finance spokesperson James Kelly said:

"This briefing makes grim reading for local government across Scotland. When these numbers are taken with Cosla’s pre-budget calculations that councils needed over half a billion just to stand still then it is clear services will be stretched to breaking point.

“These cuts will end up falling the hardest on the poorest, the most vulnerable, and our children.

“These are more than numbers on a spreadsheet, these are our schools, our social care services, local housing and community centres.

“Meanwhile, Derek Mackay seems to expect councils to deliver a real-terms pay rise in the midst of this.

“The SNP budget has tinkered around the edges with tax yet has done nothing to invest in these services. It will be the poorest and most vulnerable who will lose out as a result. Scotland needs the real and radical change that only Labour can deliver.”


FAI BUDGET BRIEFING SHOWS THE ECONOMY NEEDS RADICAL CHANGE

18 December 2017

Scotland’s economy needs radical change to generate the tax revenues it needs to end austerity and invest in people, Scottish Labour said today.

A budget briefing from the Fraser of Allander Institute today, said that if forecasts of less than one per cent growth for the next five years are correct, it would be ‘unprecedented in a generation’ and the longest run of growth beneath one per cent for 60years.

The briefing follows warnings from IPPR Scotland that the Scottish budget still faces cuts to public spending, with the SNP’s tinkering to tax not raising enough revenue to protect public services.

Labour said the problem needed a different approach – a radical tax plan that raises the revenues to stop the cuts and invest instead, and an industrial strategy to drive growth, increase productivity and increase wages.

Scottish Labour finance spokesperson, James Kelly, said:

“As academic experts begin to analyse the numbers behind the headlines, Derek Mackay’s budget is falling apart. It’s clear this budget will do little to grow the economy, with sluggish growth being branded ‘unprecedented.’

“That means less revenue in tax to protect public services and less money in working people’s pockets as wages continue to stagnate.

“The SNP government has tinkered around the edges on tax rather than take the bold and radical decisions Scotland needs to see.

"As a result, lifeline local services face a cut of £700 million.

“Only Labour has a plan to grow our economy so that it works for everyone, with an industrial strategy that will boost wages and productivity.”

COMMISSIONER FOR FAIR ACCESS REPORT

13 December 2017

Commenting on a report by the Commissioner for Fair Access which states that young people from the most privileged backgrounds are still three times more likely to go to higher education than those from the most disadvantaged, Scottish Labour’s education spokesperson, Iain Gray, said:

“Scottish Labour has consistently supported the target that 20 per cent of new entrants to higher education should come from the 20 per cent most deprived areas in Scotland.

“The Commissioner for Fair Access has acknowledged that progress is being made but points out that “the current forward momentum may not be sufficient.” It is unacceptable that young people from a more privileged background are still three times more likely to go to university than those from a less well-off background.

“The SNP came to power in 2007 promising to abolish student debt, instead it has doubled during the decade the SNP has been in office. The SNP has slashed grants and bursaries, forcing students to turn to loans with the poorest students racking up the highest debts.

“As the Commissioner says, government and institutions must be bolder, so on the eve of the budget we call on the SNP to implement calls from the independent review into student funding to deliver bursaries for those who need them in higher and further education, which would go some way to help widen access.”

TORY AUSTERITY IS DESTROYING LIVES,
SNP MUST USE PARLIAMENT’S POWERS TO ACT - LEONARD


13 December 2017

The powers of the Scottish Parliament must be used to stop hard-right Tory austerity which is devastating people’s lives and public services, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard will say today.

In a Conservative Party business debate, the new Labour leader will challenge the Scottish Tories on their party’s seven years of failed economic and welfare policies.

He will also accuse Ruth Davidson of utter hypocrisy by claiming to want to protect low and middle income earners while her party’s economic policies have produced the worse decade of pay growth in 100 years and increased insecure working conditions.

And he will call on the SNP to be radical in finding real solutions, rather than just making Tory cuts more acute.

Mr Leonard is expected to say: “The reality of life under the Conservative Government is more children living in poverty, more people on zero hour contracts, more people working harder for less, more people sleeping rough on our streets, and the people with the least having even less because of systematic and cruel cuts to our vital social security system.

“And yet rather than acknowledging their own party has devastated people’s lives and is destroying public services with its dogmatic desire to force austerity on our country, the Tories come to this chamber, wring their hands and say nothing must change.

“It’s not good enough for Scotland’s people, Scotland’s public services or Scotland’ economy.”

Earlier this week it was revealed that Scotland’s councils were facing a budget blackhole of around £850 million which will decimate vital services. And today a report by IPPR Scotland spelled out the scale of public spending cuts facing Scotland.

Mr Leonard said: “When the Scottish Parliament was established it was done so to be a vehicle for change. That should mean that when the Tories force austerity across the UK, this place can do things differently, can take a different path. That is what we need to do.

“Yet for too long the SNP government has failed to oppose Tory austerity. It has used this Parliament as a conveyer belt for passing it on.

“That has to stop. Now is the time for real, radical change from this Parliament to end Tory austerity. The SNP has a choice – to make the right choices for the people of Scotland or continue to side with the Conservatives and their wanton destruction of our communities.”



TEACHERS NUMBERS SHOW NEED TO PROTECT COUNCIL BUDGETS ON THURSDAY

13 December 2017

New figures for teacher numbers show the need to protect council budgets on Thursday, Labour said today.

Analysis of the summary statistics for schools in Scotland reveals that there are over 3,500 fewer teachers than when the SNP came to power.

Of the 543 new teachers recruited in the past year, 506 of them are being funded through the Attainment Scotland Fund – funding meant to help close the attainment gap and be additional to core staff in a school.

Despite these additional teachers, Scottish class sizes remain amongst the largest in the developed world.

Labour said that while additional teachers would always be welcome, schools are being forced to use money earmarked for closing the gap between the richest and the poorest pupils to cover cuts to core budgets.

Scottish Labour education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“It was Labour who led the debate on targeted spending to close the attainment gap, but the SNP approach has been to introduce it while slashing core education budgets, forcing schools to use what is supposed to be additional money to plug gaps in provision.

“Any gains in attainment are welcome and are testament to our teachers working under the most difficult of circumstances in schools across Scotland.

“Additional teacher numbers, while welcome, mean that classroom sizes are the same as last year – amongst the largest in the developed world. This approach is robbing Peter to pay Paul, and as ever it is the poorest pupils who lose out.

“Every child in Scotland deserves a fair chance, but that will only happen under a government that is prepared to take radical steps to end austerity and tackle poverty. Only Labour will ensure our schools get the resources they need through re-empowered local government.

“The only way to fix this is to stop the cuts and invest in core education budgets. If education really is Nicola Sturgeon’s top priority, she’ll give our schools the funding they need.”



MORE THAN A QUARTER OF YOUNG PEOPLE WAITING LONGER THAN TARGET FOR MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT


13 December 2017

More than one in four young people are waiting longer than they should be for mental health treatment, figures published today show.

Waiting time statistics for Child and Adolescent Mental Health services (CAMHS) published by ISD Scotland today show that 26.7 per cent of children and adolescents had to wait longer than the 18-week target to see a mental health professional.

The figures show a worsening problem, with just 73.3 per cent being treated on time, compared to 80.7 per cent in the last quarter.

Data released today reveal that the percentage of unfilled posts for CAMHS NHS Scotland is at the highest level ever recorded.

Scottish Labour said the figures show the need for early intervention in the mental health of young people.

Scottish Labour’s inequality spokesperson Monica Lennon said:

“This is another set of extremely alarming statistics on child and adolescent mental health waiting times.

“There is a staff shortage right across our NHS, and now we can see vacancy rates within CAMHS is at the highest level ever recorded.

“Scotland is gripped by a mental health crisis. We were promised that a dedicated Mental Health Minister would give this the priority it needs but the SNP government is not taking the urgent action necessary to respond to demands on treatment services.

“Early intervention is needed, giving children and young adults the support they need, before anybody reaches the stage of needing clinical treatment.

“That is why Scottish Labour is calling for access to school-based counselling, a proposal the SNP government would do well to stop rejecting.”

SNP’S NHS WINTER MELTDOWN

12 December 2017

Scottish Labour has accused the SNP of presiding over an NHS “winter meltdown”.

New figures reveal more than 12 per cent of cancer patients missed the 62-day cancer referral to treatment standard under the SNP, while the 31-day standard that covers the time from the decision to treat and the patient’s first treatment was also missed.

Meanwhile, fewer than 90 per cent of A&E attendees were seen within the four-hour target, with the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary only managing to see 74.6 per cent of patients within the target.

Scottish Labour said the figures showed Scotland’s NHS was in a “winter meltdown” as a result of SNP mismanagement.

The figures follow a survey of nurses by the Royal College of Nursing, which shows 60 per cent feel unable to provide patients with the level of care they would want to.

Commenting on failed cancer waiting times, Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said:

“It is absolutely shameful that more than 12 per cent of cancer patients are missing the 62-day cancer referral to treatment target under the SNP.

“With just the three health boards meeting the target, the SNP has gone from creating a postcode lottery in our health service to ensuring that almost wherever patients are in the country, they won’t get the treatment they are entitled to on time.

“We are also once again seeing a failure to meet the 31-day target which covers the time from the decision to treat and the patient’s first treatment. This is a real concern.

“Cancer remains Scotland’s biggest killer and these figures clearly show the SNP is failing patients, families and staff across Scotland.

“As we heard this week from the Royal College of Nursing, a decade of SNP mismanagement has left our NHS staff under-resourced and under-pressure.

“Scottish Labour has launched a workforce commission to tackle the staffing crisis in our health service so we can build an NHS that works for the many, not the few.”

Commenting on the failure to meet the A&E waiting times target, Mr Sarwar said:

“This is a day of shame for the SNP.

“Our doctors and nurses do fantastic work, but they have been left over-worked, under-valued and under-resourced by this SNP government

“More than a dozen hospitals missed the waiting time target – and more than 25 per cent of patients at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary had to wait more than four hours.

“This is a disgrace and it is clear Scotland could now be facing an A&E winter meltdown under the SNP.

“Scottish Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to ensure we have a health service that works for the many, not the few.”



NURSES ARE UNDERPAID AND UNDERVALUED UNDER THE SNP – SARWAR

12 December 2017

Scotland’s nurses are underpaid and undervalued under the SNP, Scottish Labour said today.

A new survey from the Royal College of Nursing Scotland reveals that three quarters of nursing staff feel worse off than they did five years ago, with the pressure on personal finances has meant that only 38 per cent said they would recommend nursing as a career.

The survey also reveals that over 60 per cent of nurses said they were too busy to provide the level of care they would like.

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“This survey is utterly damning and confirms what Labour has been saying for some time - Scotland’s nurses are underpaid and undervalued under the SNP.

“Almost three quarters of Scotland’s nurses feeling worse off is an absolutely damning indictment of the SNP’s pay policy. Over sixty percent feel they are too busy to provide the level of care they would like.

“These figures should be setting off alarm bells ahead of the Scottish budget. We cannot expect our NHS to deliver the care Scots deserve if staff don’t get the support they need.

“NHS staff are foundations that our health service is built on, but a nurse is over £3,000 worse off thanks to the pay cap and there are thousands of unfilled nursing and midwifery posts across our health service.

“Labour has already launched an NHS Workforce Commission to deliver a blueprint to give our NHS staff the support they need and the care patients deserve, but we urgently need action from the SNP government.

“SNP ministers have promised to scrap the pay cap – despite voting against it in the spring. Derek Mackay needs to keep that promise on Thursday or our NHS staff will rightly feel betrayed.”


 

SNP BUDGET WILL ‘SHARPEN TORY CUTS’ LEONARD WARNS PLP

11 December 2017

- LABOUR THE ONLY REAL ANTI-AUSTERITY ALTERNATIVE FOR SCOTLAND

Derek Mackay’s budget is set to ‘sharpen Tory cuts’ while only Labour offers a real anti-austerity alternative for Scotland, Richard Leonard will tell a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party tonight.

Addressing the group for the first time since being elected Scottish Labour leader, Mr Leonard will tell the group not to be fooled by ‘progressive posturing’ on tax from the Nationalists.

Reports last week suggest that the budget is set to deliver an effective £850 million cut to local authorities. The largest amount of revenue any of the Scottish government’s income tax proposals raise is £290 million.

At First Minister’s Questions last week, Mr Leonard raised the human impact of these cuts, highlighting SNP-run Falkirk Council proposing cuts to children’s services like breakfast clubs holiday activities for disabled children and additional support needs teachers.

Mr Leonard will also say that Scottish Labour will outline a radical alternative to austerity using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to protect public services and make Scotland a fairer country.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“People across the UK should not be fooled by progressive posturing on tax from the SNP – it has taken Tory cuts and sharpened them for Scottish communities. Only Labour will offer a real anti-austerity alternative for the people of Scotland.

“Local councils are bracing themselves for an effective cut of over £800million in the Scottish budget.

“We cannot have a fairer Scotland with these cuts. To end poverty in Scotland, we must re-empower and properly resource local government to deliver the services that the poorest rely on the most.

“The Scottish Parliament has the power to radically change Scotland for the better, but instead the SNP has been content to devolve Tory austerity to local communities while centralising power and decision making.

“The Scottish Parliament was supposed to be a bulwark against Tory austerity, not a conveyor belt for it.

“Inequality, injustice and poverty are not inevitable. Austerity is a political choice not an economic one. Scottish Labour will choose fairness and equality over austerity.

“The poorest and most vulnerable Scots need a radical budget on Thursday – no one should be fooled into believing that tinkering around the edges of Scotland’s tax system delivers the real and radical change Scotland needs.”


FORMER SNP JUSTICE MINISTER SAYS POLICE 'RUN RAGGED'

11 December 2017

Former SNP Justice Secretary has claimed the public can no longer expect Police Scotland to attend ‘minor’ incidents, such as vandalism, as the force was ‘run ragged’.

Writing in the I newspaper today, Mr MacAskill said there was a ‘huge hole in the budget’, highlighting evidence from the Auditor General in January who revealed a £200m funding gap in Police Scotland’s finances.

2017 has been a turbulent year for the justice system in Scotland, with the chair and chief executive of the Scottish Policing Authority exiting and the Chief Constable of Police Scotland put on ‘special leave of absence’.

Last month, it was revealed that the cost of the controversial merger of British Transport Police in Scotland, which has been strongly opposed by police officers and trade unions, was ‘not known’. The SPA also admitted the merger would not be possible without outsourcing significant amounts of work, the cost of which is also unknown.

Scottish Labour has repeatedly called for the SNP government to halt the merger.

Scottish Labour’s justice spokesperson, Claire Baker said:

“This is deeply embarrassing for the SNP.

“The Nationalists’ longest serving justice minister has made clear that he believes the police force is not receiving the resources it needs from the SNP government.

“So much so, that he appears to be telling us to no longer expect officers to deal with crimes he deems ‘minor’.

“The public deserve better than the shambles in our justice system under the SNP. It’s about time Michael Matheson listened to the concerns of police officers, trade unions and even his former colleagues.”


 

COUNCILS FACING £850M BUDGET BLACK HOLE

9 December 2017

Scottish councils are facing an £850 million black hole as a result of the Scottish Government’s budget next week.

This morning The Herald reported that Scottish councils are preparing for a £300m cut to their funding.

The cut would be on top of the additional £545 million councils need to maintain present services, taking the total to an eye watering £850 million.

At First Minister’s Questions this week, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard highlighted the human cost of cuts to council budgets.

Mr Leonard raised proposals by SNP-run Falkirk council to end breakfast clubs, to cut back childcare to the statutory minimum, to cut Additional Support Needs teachers and holidays for disabled children, as a result of government cuts to its budget.

Labour said many vital public services run by councils would be unsustainable in the face of further cuts.

Labour Business Manager, James Kelly MSP, said:

“If Derek Mackay is planning cuts which would create a near billion-pound black hole in local budgets, then that is a level of austerity that would make a Tory chancellor blush.

“Since 2011 the SNP government in Edinburgh has cut £1.5 billion from local government budgets, directly impacting on schools, housing, social care and other vital local services.

“An effective £850 million cut in a single year would be simply unsustainable.

“These cuts will end up falling the hardest on the poorest, the most vulnerable, and our children. This week at First Minister’s Questions Richard Leonard outlined what that meant – breakfast clubs closed, ASN teachers cut, holiday time for disabled children, cut. These cuts will scar Scotland with inequality.

“There’s no muscle or fat left – these cuts will go straight to the bone and it will be the poorest and most vulnerable who will bear the brunt of it.

“The only way to protect local services is to properly use the tax powers of the Scottish Parliament.”


SNP JUSTICE SHAMBLES CONTINUES

9 December 2017

The SNP government’s shambolic record on justice has continued, with more critical reports out today.

A scathing report from Audit Scotland has accused the Scottish Policing Authority (SPA) of a series of governmental failings and a poor use of public money.

While a report from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary into the British Transport Police (BTP) has shown the Scottish division is among the best performing in Britain, prompting further calls for the SNP to halt the controversial merger.

The two reports today come after a difficult period for Scottish policing, with the Chair and Chief Executive of the SPA exiting and the BTP merger being forced through against the wishes of police officers and trade unions.

Commenting on the Audit Scotland report into the SPA, Scottish Labour’s justice spokesperson Claire Baker said:

"This damning report is just the latest of a long list of critical reports into the governance and leadership of the SPA and Police Scotland.

"The Government and Police Scotland may have avoided a vote of no confidence but make no mistake they still have serious questions to answer.

"No action is simply not good enough. Susan Deacon has a huge job ahead of her to regain the public's confidence in the SPA. She needs to Government to step up and take their part of the responsibility for the failings that went before."

Commenting on the report into British Transport Police Scotland, Claire Baker said:

"This report shows the the BTP D division is working in Scotland and the officers and staff deserve credit for the job they are doing in uncertain circumstances.

"It also shows the folly of the SNP's rushed attempts to merge BTP with Police Scotland. We still have unanswered questions over costs, terms and conditions, and pensions.

"That such a substantial change to policing in Scotland is taking place at a time when many at the top of Police Scotland and SPA are suspended, under investigation or new into their job is concerning. The SNP must listen to BTP workers and trade unions and halt their plans."


COMMENT ON LIFE EXPECTANCY FIGURES

9 December 2017


Responding to figures from the National Records of Scotland which show huge differences in life expectancy depending on how deprived an area a baby is born in, Scottish Labour Public Health spokesperson Colin Smyth said:

"These figures expose the postcode lottery Scotland faces. The prosperity of the family you were born into has a huge impact on your life chances, quality of life and ultimately life expectancy.

"The blunt truth is that there has been an utter failure from existing government strategies to tackle health inequalities. We need to see radical action to address the gap between the richest and the poorest in Scotland.

"The SNP need to realise that a government cannot tackle health inequalities without tackling the wealth inequalities in our society.”


COUNCIL BUDGETS MUST BE PROTECTED IN SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT BUDGET

7 December 2017

Further cuts to council budgets will deepen child deprivation, Scottish Labour said today.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard highlighted proposed cuts by Falkirk Council, including shutting down all breakfast clubs in the local authority area and reducing holiday activity programmes for children with disabilities.

Falkirk Council is also proposing to stop all non-statutory childcare.

The Scottish Labour leader also highlighted the work of The Cottage family centre in Kirkcaldy, where this week he met school pupils packing Christmas hampers of winter clothes for those less fortunate.

Mr Leonard said that further cuts in next week’s Scottish Government budget would deepen austerity in a ‘Dickensian’ Scotland, and highlighted new statistics showing the extent of material deprivation throughout Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly refused to guarantee local authorities will get the funding needed to maintain current levels of service. Last week Mr Leonard revealed that local authorities needed £545 million just to do that.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Austerity is not an abstract concept. It means real cuts to real local services. It means the closure of breakfast clubs and the axe falling on holiday activity programmes for children with disabilities. “The reality of Tory Britain and SNP Scotland is a Dickensian Scotland where too many families are forced to turn to food banks. A Dickensian Scotland where school children are despatching emergency parcels to help their classmates over Christmas.

“Further cuts to children’s services by the SNP government isn’t standing up for Scotland, it is failing the children of Scotland.

“In its budget the Scottish Government must use the powers and show the political will to stop Tory austerity in its tracks and protect the funding of these vital local services.”


WE MUST RE-EMPOWER LOCAL GOVERNMENT – RICHARD LEONARD


30 November 2017

Local government must be re-empowered, and local services given the resources they need, Richard Leonard said today.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions the Scottish Labour leader revealed that local government needs over half a billion pounds of investment simply to maintain the current level of public services.

The SNP government in Edinburgh has cut £1.5 billion from schools and local services since 2011.

Nicola Sturgeon repeatedly failed to guarantee that services would be protected following questioning from Mr Leonard.

With the announcement of the Scottish budget a fortnight away, Labour said it would be wrong to take Tory cuts to Scotland and amplify them for local communities.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“The SNP Government has taken Tory austerity and doubled it for town halls and city chambers the length and breadth of Scotland.

“How can the First Minister possibly promise to close the educational attainment gap between the richest and the poorest children in Scotland if she slashes the budgets for local schools?

“How does she possibly expect our elderly to live with dignity in retirement when she cuts into the budgets that provide social care?

“How on earth can we stop people sleeping in shop doorways in freezing temperatures when housing budgets are being cut to the bone?

“In the end austerity is a political choice, not an economic one. Nicola Sturgeon can choose Tory cuts, sharpened and deepened by her Government, or re-empowered local communities and properly resourced local services.”


QUEENSFERRY CROSSING IS LATEST SNP TRANSPORT SHAMBLES

30 November 2017

Scottish Labour has branded the SNP’s handling of the Queensferry Crossing a "shambles".

Earlier this week it emerged that the flagship project would be partially closed for “snagging” works, while Nicola Sturgeon failed to convincingly address the situation at First Ministers Questions today.

Scottish Labour said the debacle showed SNP Transport Minister Humza Yousaf was out-of-his-depth and must take responsibility for the shambles.

Scottish Labour’s Transport spokesperson Neil Bibby MSP said:

“The SNP’s handling of this project has been a complete shambles.

“Regular drivers on both sides of the Forth have been left furious and frustrated by yet another delay, while businesses will also pay the price as shoppers stay at home.

“The First Minister failed to provide convincing answers – and it is increasingly clear that SNP Transport Minister Humza Yousaf is out-of-his-depth and out of ideas.

“Humza Yousaf is a minister who either doesn’t know what he’s doing or simply does what he is told by the people he’s supposed to be in charge of.

“As a result, regular drivers over the have been kept in the dark and will miss significant time with their families over the course of the next week.

“Drivers and businesses deserve better than this SNP shambles.”

FIRST MINISTER URGED TO STAND UP FOR REAL CHANGE

23 November 2017

Nicola Sturgeon must use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to deliver real change for Scottish communities, Richard Leonard said today.

Appearing for the first time at First Minister’s Questions as Scottish Labour leader, Mr Leonard challenged the cuts to Scottish Fire and Rescue since the regional services were merged in 2013.

Mr Leonard also highlighted that the SNP government had ignored advice from Scotland’s Trade Union movement when creating the service, meaning a multi-million-pound VAT liability was placed on Fire and Rescue.

Mr Leonard laid down a challenge to the First Minister to use the extensive tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to protect public services and tackle poverty and inequality.

On protecting Fire and Rescue Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“This morning I had the honour of addressing a rally of firefighters from right across Scotland.

“These courageous men and women put their lives on the line to keep the rest of us safe.

“Since Scotland’s Fire and Rescue Service was centralised these heroic firefighters have seen over seven hundred frontline jobs axed, they have watched their pay being cut in real terms year upon year. They see a service in decline.

“Unison told the Scottish Government that the SNP’s changes to our emergency services would make them liable for tens of millions of pounds of VAT payments. But the SNP wilfully ignored them.

“Under my leadership, Scottish Labour will work with the Scottish Government and the Trade Unions to try and claw back the millions of pounds that have been lost but that in itself will not be enough.

“The people of Scotland will have to decide who they believe – firefighters on the front line, or the First Minister on the sideline.”

On the need for the SNP government to use the powers to deliver real change Mr Leonard said:

“After seven years of Tory austerity, a lost decade of SNP mediocrity and indifference, we have this result: falling real wages, shrinking public services, rising poverty, widening inequality, and local budgets decimated.

“A quarter of a million children brought up in poverty and hundreds of thousands of pensioners will be forced to choose between heating and eating this winter.

“More of the same just won't do. Scotland needs real change, radical change.”


LEONARD MEETS COSLA TO OPPOSE FURTHER CUTS TO COUNCILS

23 November 2017

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has met with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) to discuss how to oppose further cuts to council budget from the SNP government in Edinburgh.

Local authority budgets have been hammered under the SNP, with £1.5 billion cut from budgets for schools and social work services since 2011.

Mr Leonard will meet with representatives from the umbrella body to consider how to approach the forthcoming Scottish budget.

The Scottish Labour leader has also pledged to campaign for increased funding for councils, as well as delivering powers to local authorities to allow them to raise further revenues at a local level.

Speaking ahead of the visit, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Local government is at the coal-face of delivery in the most important day-to-day challenges we face: delivering community services that all of us depend on, providing education, maintaining and building housing and investing in and keeping our communities safe, clean and secure.

“Local councils can lead the way in the fight against poverty and inequality. But the SNP has starved Scottish local government and reduced its power to carry out that role effectively. Under my leadership Labour will lead the fight for increased central spending to local government, but we will not wait for office – we will use our power as a movement now to fight for change.

“Labour will campaign to get a better funding deal for our local services before the local government settlement is announced by the Scottish Government.

“More resources for our services is not just about grants from the government. It’s also about real powers. Local services have to be released from their shackles. Scotland’s local councils must also be allowed to raise additional revenue. I want to see more work to help local government raise revenue based on wealth, including land, as well as property.

“If we are to succeed in our mission to eliminate poverty, the role of councils must be recognised much more. I will do this and work closely and collaboratively at all times with my local government councillors and the trade unions.

“As part of my quest to improve local government I will make us work as Team Scottish Labour with an intention to meet monthly with Labour group leaders. The default assumption of public policy should be that ‘local’ is the starting point. That’s currently not the assumption by government – I would make it so with a Labour government.”


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