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."




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.”




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.”




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 RBS PROFIT

27 April 2018

Commenting on RBS announcing a further profit, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard MSP said:

“The trebling of profits by RBS will be of no comfort to the communities across Scotland still facing local bank closures.

“RBS – and other banks – risk decimating high streets with these ill thought out closures, as well as depriving local people – particularly older people – of a vital lifeline service.

“RBS should urgently reconsider these planned closures.”





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.”




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.”




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.”




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.”




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.”




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."




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.”




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.”








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