Richard Leonard 



27 November 2017

I was elected Scottish Labour Leader promising real change and it is real change that together we will deliver.

This task will not be easy. Change never comes without a fight.

But we must, and we will, face the future with confidence.

Confidence that we, the Labour Party and labour movement, will be the force to transform our society for the many not the few.

And confidence not just in our own abilities, but confidence in the capacity of working people to run their own affairs, to control their own lives, and to build a more prosperous and just Scotland.

We must give people the confidence that real change can happen.

That is the agenda for real change that I set out over these past few weeks – and I’d like to thank Anas Sarwar for his spirited campaign.

And it is this agenda – this plan for real change – that we must now take into our Party and out to the people of Scotland.

Real change, for the many not the few, is the beating heart of our Party.

It has been our mission and our inspiration ever since Keir Hardie stood as the first ever Labour candidate in the Mid-Lanark by-election of 1888.

But even the most powerful mission can and must always be reshaped and recharged.

That is what Jeremy Corbyn has done so successfully as Leader of the Party in Westminster.

His principles, policies and integrity - along with the energy and passion of hundreds of thousands of new members - has breathed new life into our party.

I pledge to do the same here in Scotland.

That is why I am announcing today plans to take my policy programme for real change, the programme that I stood on to be Scottish Labour Leader into the Party, out to our membership to be decided on at our Party Conference in Dundee next March.

We need these policies in our Party because we need these policies delivered by a Labour government in Holyrood.

This year is the twentieth anniversary of the Scottish devolution referendum.

I campaigned throughout the 1990s for a Scottish Parliament.

I believed that the Parliament would create opportunities for change.

But in my view, these past two decades have seen too little change, too many hopes unrealised and too many aspirations unfulfilled.

And the ten years since the SNP came to office has been a decade of mediocrity and timidity.

Rather than advancing as a country, in housing we are moving back towards a landlord-tenant society.

The re-emergence of exploitative private landlordism is a particular problem for young people.

We continue to live by a master-servant relationship at work: with young people more likely to be in insecure work, on zero hours contracts, or short term contracts, or stuck in agency work.

The SNP claim we have full employment.

But, as a recent Sheffield Hallam University Report shows, the real rate of unemployment here in Glasgow is not 3 per cent it is over 9 per cent.

In North Ayrshire it is not 4 per cent, it is 10 per cent.

We do not have full employment. We must make real full employment part of our real change - and a clear and specific goal of government again.

If we don’t, income inequality will continue to grow, as wealth inequality soars even more.

The richest one per cent in Scotland today already own more personal wealth than the poorest fifty per cent put together.

This is unjust. This needs to change.

That is why I said in my campaign that we need a once-in-a-generation discussion about taxation in Scotland.

So we will establish a Commission to review progressive approaches to tax that will benefit the many not the few: such as a wealth tax, a property value tax, a land value tax as well as a review of local tax.

Over the coming months, we will set up twelve policy reviews to further develop our policies on the vital issues facing the people of Scotland.

They will include: the funding and powers for Scottish local government, solutions to the housing crisis, improving the health and welfare of our children, access to further and higher education and skills and training, tackling climate change and developing green energy, extending public ownership and cooperative development to drive forward a Scottish industrial strategy, including a Scottish Investment Bank, and a Scottish Labour Market strategy.

These reviews will advance our mission to build a new economy and a new society with an expanded public realm.

This means more ownership and more control for the people in the economy.

The people of Scotland deserve public services publicly owned and publicly accountable: our railways, buses, energy and water.

These are the policies we will advance – that start to shift power from the market to working people.

We need forward planning, economic planning and also environmental planning to tackle humanity’s greatest challenge - climate change.

The recent crisis at BiFab shows that we cannot carry on with business as usual.

We need democracy in our economy, not just when things go wrong, but to help things go right in the first place.

Trade unions have a big role to play in the new economy, not just defending their members, but using their members’ knowledge, skills and capacities to plan for the future.

We need to look at who owns the Scottish economy and so why we are so vulnerable to external shocks.

And how so much wealth leaks out from our country.

To build a more democratic economy, we must also build a more democratic politics.

Scottish local government should be re-empowered and re-resourced

– these are where the battle lines of Scottish politics will be drawn over the next few weeks.

But they will also be drawn on Brexit.

We must stop this Tory government using Brexit to hoard powers in Westminster,

it should devolve them to Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

And we cannot let them use Brexit either as a power grab for big corporate interests over the rights and needs of working people.

With an ageing population, it is time we started thinking radically about social care.

So, I will also initiate a review into health and social care integration we need to capture the spirit of the 1945 generation, who pioneered public services

that are universal, comprehensive and accessible to all, built on the principle of from each according to their means to each according to their need.

Each policy area cannot be looked at in isolation.

Our children’s educational chances are not just hindered by cuts to spending on education and local authority budgets decimated year on year but also by homelessness and overcrowded housing, by poverty and inequality.

70 per cent of the quarter of a million children in Scotland living in poverty live in households with at least one adult in work.

That's why we urgently need a real living wage of £10 per hour by 2020.

A real living wage would help close the scandalous gender gap in pay, because women working in Scotland are twice as likely to be paid below the Living Wage as men.

This moment can be a turning point for our Party in Scotland but also for our Party across the whole of Britain.

We can and must change our society and our economy.

We will challenge austerity from the SNP in Holyrood and the Tories in Westminster.

We are a party of the present as well as the future.

We are winning a new generation of young people, energised by Labour’s new politics of change.

Young people are not simply following this movement for real change, not just participating in this movement for real change, they are leading this movement for real change.

And our politics of real change will be heard both in Parliament and outside it.

I understand the importance my first days and weeks as leader.

I am now one-tenth of the way through my first hundred days – and we have hit the ground running.

In the coming weeks we will argue that inequality, injustice and poverty are not inevitable.

We will argue that austerity is a political not an economic choice and that it is not inevitable either

We will develop bold, radical and practical policies for a government of real change to present to our Scottish Labour Party Spring conference in March.

We will work as a group of MSPs in the Parliament to bring forward Members Bills

But we will be campaigning too outside parliament, across Scotland, championing local communities, working with local councillors and trade unions to oppose the cuts to local jobs and services – and to build our movement for real change.

Our movement has a proud and powerful history.

The ideas of democratic socialism are as relevant now in today’s Scotland as they were in the days of Keir Hardie, John Wheatley, Jimmy Maxton and Jennie Lee.

And as we seek to be a government for real change, we will call on those radical Scottish Labour principles.

Together, we can seize this moment.

As John Smith said when he became Labour leader, our aim is to “persuade millions of the strength of our vision, the relevance of our policies and the urgency of our demand for change”.

Scottish Labour has a new unity of purpose.

Scottish Labour has changed, and now we are determined to change Scotland.

That is our task today; it is one I am confident that we can achieve together.





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