Labour will be the voice of radical change that the country cries out for – Kezia

20th January, 2017 10:53 am

kezia-dugdale

This is the full text of the speech Kezia Dugdale gave this morning at an event in Glasgow, where she called on the SNP to reverse cuts to local services. 

It is great to be here with you this morning.

And it is a pleasure to welcome Jeremy back to Glasgow.

A city where our Labour team – led by Frank McAveety – is taking the fight to the SNP each and every day.

Standing up to the SNP’s cuts to local services.

Defending the people of this city from SNP and Tory austerity.

And securing millions of pounds of investment for Glasgow so this city continues to grow.

In the past few weeks, the SNP Government’s priorities have been clear for everyone to see.

Our Parliament is now more powerful than ever.

With all the powers it needs to reverse Tory austerity.

But despite this, our services are still facing £327 million of cuts.

Cuts that come after a decade of SNP austerity where we have watched as teacher numbers have been cut, college places have been slashed and our NHS has been put under more and more strain.

Every week in the Scottish Parliament we are hearing stories of patients left on trollies, children turned away from A&Es and people being told to get treatment in Europe instead of staying on an NHS waiting list.

The SNP’s management and under-funding of our public services is a real and growing crisis in our country.

And that is why Labour will vote against the budget in the Scottish Parliament.

I say this to the Finance Minister today.

We take our responsibilities in Parliament seriously.

This decision was not taken lightly.

But we cannot vote for a budget that cuts into our country’s future.

That deprives opportunities to young people who are relying on us to give them the best chance in life.

That puts more strain on vital services.

And that fails to provide the support our economy needs.

We will not vote for our future success to be sacrificed because of a lack of political will.

Our country faces a twin threat from both Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May.

Brexit has changed the terms of the debate.

And listening to our leaders, people across Scotland would think that they are being presented with only one choice.

Hard Brexit with the Tories.

Or independence with the SNP.

Both options that break our relationship with some of our closest friends and allies.

And choke off opportunities for our economy now and in the future.

We in Labour are guided by the words on the back of our membership cards.

“By the strength of our common endeavour, we achieve more than we achieve alone.”

We will not seek to divide ourselves from the rest of the UK with independence, or from the rest of Europe with hard Brexit.

Here in Scotland, we want what the vast majority of people want.

A strong Scotland – with a strong Scottish Parliament – inside the United Kingdom.

I am pro-Union, but that doesn’t mean I’m pro status quo.

The Brexit decision now means that we face the biggest changes to the way we govern the UK since devolution.

Theresa May wants to have these decisions behind closed doors.

With deals struck between the UK and Europe, and the UK and Scotland without the most important people – the citizens – having their say.

It falls to Labour – the people’s party – to do what it has always done.

To be the voice for radical change.

Because that is what people across the UK want.

Whether you’re in Glasgow, or Glamorgan, Lanarkshire or London, people are crying out for change.

Just like those who voted yes in 2014, people who voted to leave the EU wanted change too.

They wanted change so much that they were willing to take a leap into the dark.

Brexit represents a failure of politics.

It was a failure of the politicians in charge to respond adequately and seriously to that call for change.

Instead of responding, they doubled down on the austerity policies that were punishing the very people who wanted politics to be done differently.

So, if our governments cannot respond to that call for change, it falls to us.

In the 1980s, when the dream of a Scottish Parliament seemed to have died, it fell to civic society, the churches and opposition parties to keep hope alive.

Both the SNP and the Tories refused to join that constitutional convention.

Through it, the aspiration for a modern Parliament in Edinburgh was met.

And then it fell to the Labour Government to make it a reality.

As we face the prospect of a hard Brexit, we need to ask what this will mean for Scotland.

I am clear about what it can’t mean: it cannot mean a race to a second independence referendum.

Our country is already divided enough. We do not need to be divided again.

What we need now is a solution that allows us in Scotland to protect people against the worst of Tory Brexit.

And maintains our relationship with the UK.

We trade over four times as much with the rest of the UK as we do with the EU.

Any attempt to take us out of the UK would be economic vandalism.

Instead, we need a more federal United Kingdom.

Where decisions are taken as locally as possible.

And solutions can meet the needs of the people who live and work there.

I’ve already laid out what I believe that could mean for Scotland.

Instead of social chapter rights returning to the UK Parliament, they could return to our Parliament here in Scotland.

They would then guarantee our employment rights with minimum standards guaranteed by being part of the UK.

The same could be true of the minimum wage, with MSPs in Holyrood free to decide to raise the minimum wage above a UK minimum, if they wished.

It could also mean further tax raising powers. Being part of the EU meant that VAT powers had to sit at Westminster. This could now change.

Our discussions should start with a simple principle.

That what is not reserved is devolved, and that no powers should be re-reserved to Westminster.

So, powers over agriculture and fisheries that currently sit with the EU should return to the Scottish Parliament.

None of this means that the nations of the United Kingdom should not work together on issues.

Fishing and agriculture will continue to cross borders, and climate change will carry on effecting people across the UK.

We will still need a cross UK solution.

But those decisions should be taken together by all the governments of the UK, as equals, negotiating based on their own local interests.

The decisions we make now will affect the future of our country for generations to come.

We have a decision to make.

And my message today is this.

With Scottish Labour, you do not have to make a decision between hard Tory Brexit and independence.

You can make a positive decision for Scotland to control its own destiny – which it did in 2014.

A positive decision for working people to be protected from right wing governments in Westminster.

And a positive decision for more of the choices that affect people in Scotland to be taken here in Scotland, underpinned by being part of the United Kingdom.

It is a plan for the future.

Working people protected.

Our economy secured.

Our Scottish Parliament enhanced.

Our partnership with the nations of the UK renewed.

It is what the people of Scotland want.

It is what Labour stands for.

It is how we will build a better country for all.

Thank you.

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