Sturgeon’s “muck-raking” and the Tories’ “mean and miserable” offer – Dugdale launches Scottish Labour manifesto

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This is the full speech delivered by Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale as she launched the Scottish manifesto today.

Thank you friends for such a warm welcome.

This morning we launch our bold, ambitious and radical plan for a better Scotland.

It’s right here.

When people across our country go to vote on 8 June, we are asking them to give their support to this plan.

This is a manifesto in the finest traditions of the Labour movement.

It starts from some very simple principles.

That power and wealth in our country are concentrated in too few hands.

That for Scotland to succeed, each and every one of us has to do well.

And whatever the challenges that are thrown at us, we are better tackling them together.

Because together we’re stronger.

These principles – rooted in enduring Labour values – run right through this manifesto.

And I’ll tell you this.

When people say “you’re all the same”, and that politics can do nothing for them, I’ll tell them to look at this manifesto.

Because we are presenting people with a clear choice.

You can reject the divisive politics of the SNP and the Tories.

You can reject a second independence referendum and a hard Brexit.

And you can vote for a positive and hopeful plan for Scotland and the UK.

One that puts the things which really matter first.

Our jobs.

Our economy.

Our hospitals.

And our children’s future.
It’s in the pages of this manifesto where you will find that we’re not all the same – where you will find ideas to change people’s lives.

For the past seven years, a Tory UK Government has hurt our country.

First with David Cameron and now with Theresa May.

On all counts they have failed – in protecting our union of nations, in protecting our most vulnerable, in growing our economy.

They told us that they would be a different sort of Conservative.

Compassionate. Caring. Even kind.

Conservatives who had left the nasty party tag behind.

Just words.

Their actions were very different.

They delivered cuts to disabled people, the bedroom tax and the rape clause.

At every chance they slashed support and threatened opportunity.

And they dragged us into an ill-fated European referendum which could – if left to them – damage our economy and people’s livelihoods even further.

They pledged – and continue to pledge – to be a party of working people.

What a joke.

But it’s not funny. It’s offensive.

Working people today are set to be £1400 a year worse off by 2020.

They’ve cut tax credits, watched as wages have gone into freefall and turned our economy into one where low paid, insecure work and zero hours contracts are endemic.

Conservative Governments are supposed to respect hard work.

But all this government has done is made it harder to find a decent, well-paid, secure job.

They crow about employment figures rising, but that’s because of an increase in low paid, part time positions, and the forcing of people into self-employment, leading to lower wages and longer hours.

This country is in the extraordinary position where we have record levels of employment but working people are getting poorer.

People are working all hours but are still struggling to make ends meet.

But as always under a Tory government, the people at the very top carry on getting richer.
If you’ve worked all your life, and done the right thing, the least you can expect is a safe, secure and dignified retirement.

Instead, this Conservative Government isn’t going to reward you, it’s going to abandon the triple lock which protects pensions.

The Tories are breaking their promise to older people, just as they broke their promise to the WASPI women who have been hit by the changing of the state pension age with devastating consequences.

The Tories are standing in this election on a miserable and mean manifesto that will take our country backwards.

We won’t let them get away with it.

This is an election like no other.

Because the stakes are so high.

The choice people make two weeks on Thursday will shape the direction of this country for years to come.

That is why it is right that we present people with a clear choice.

And an opportunity to reject the politics of division that both the SNP and the Tories represent.

They are the two sides of the same coin. Both are intent on distraction and diversions, ducking the real issues in this election campaign.

It suits them both to only talk about independence or Brexit. For one to blame London and the other Brussels.

I stand where the majority of Scots stand.

Against independence and for a close relationship with Europe.

And for a plan which will put Scotland’s economy on track, which will see our public sector workers paid properly, and which will mean major investment in the services on which we all rely.

So in these 120 pages, you’ll find our cast iron guarantee that we will oppose a second independence referendum.

The Labour party – built on solidarity and co-operation – could never support taking our country down such a divisive path again.

Our country is divided enough.

We can’t afford to have the focus taken away from our public services.

We can’t risk pushing Scotland over the edge into a recession that will hit working people across our country.

And we absolutely cannot put a second independence referendum ahead of our nation’s schools, hospitals, our people and their future prospects.

That’s exactly what has happened in the past ten years of SNP Government.

From day one in 2007, the SNP has been focused on one thing at the expense of everything else.

And that’s why our schools, our hospitals and our economy have underperformed.

They’re running a campaign, not a government.

It’s not good enough for Nicola Sturgeon to say she is trying her hardest, when she has been a member of the Government for a decade.

That’s why across Scotland, people are angry about the push for a second referendum.

They know it means more wasted years where the things that really matter are sacrificed on the altar of a dogmatic, nationalist agenda.

And look at what happens when the voices of real people across Scotland are heard.

Last night’s TV debate was a watershed moment in this election campaign.

You know, the pundits are always quick to talk about the winners and losers from TV debates.

But we all know who won last night.

The nurses and the teachers, who shamed Nicola Sturgeon by exposing the reality of life under the SNP.

Those ordinary, decent, hard-working people of Scotland found their voice last night.

The nurse who challenged the First Minister to turn up at hospital one day without the red carpet and TV cameras.

The teacher who has experienced first-hand the declining standards in our schools.

And it’s not just in the TV studios.

I have toured the country in recent weeks and the tide has turned against the SNP.

At every street stall, on every door knock, it’s the same message.

It’s a message for Nicola Sturgeon: we’re fed up with your obsession with independence, and your indifference to what really matters to us.

These are the people who put faces to the statistics we read time and time again.

And what was the response of the SNP when confronted with that reality last night?

The Nationalists started a smear campaign.

They tried their usual dirty tricks.

But it won’t work this time.

Because more and more people are wise to the underhand ways of the SNP.

So here’s an idea for Nicola Sturgeon.

Stop the muck raking.

Stop the excuses.

Listen to what the people of Scotland are telling you.

Scrap your plan for another divisive independence referendum.

And focus on the day job.

And their views should be represented.

But mark my words.

If Scotland returns SNP MPs to the House of Commons in the same numbers as they did in 2015, Nicola Sturgeon will use that result as a mandate to demand another referendum.

And she will exploit every piece of Tory cruelty to make the case for independence.

That’s what their record in power tells us.

That’s why I want to talk directly this morning to the people in constituencies across Scotland where Labour is in second place.

In 2015, we lost out because people who wanted to stop the Nationalists voted for different parties.

It meant that places across the country which voted to stay in the UK ended up with SNP MPs who spent their time campaigning to rip it apart.

Today I’m asking people in those communities to think before they vote.

If, like me, you want to break the hold that nationalism has on our politics in Scotland, vote for the only party that can defeat the SNP in most places in Scotland – the Labour Party.

In many places – like Midlothian and Inverclyde – we beat the SNP in council elections just weeks ago.

In others – like Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill or in East Renfrewshire – we came second in 2015 but it doesn’t need to be that way this time.

In East Lothian and Hamilton and Lanark, people who have left the Labour Party are returning.

Help us beat the SNP. Help us break the hold of nationalism.

Help us get back to focusing on your schools, your hospitals and your children’s future.

Every Labour MP you elect to the House of Commons will be a champion for you and they will spend every hour in Parliament making the case to protect jobs and public services.

In the pages of this manifesto, you will find our plan for a Britain where we make fairer and better choices.

A Britain where everyone can lead fulfilling and dignified lives – from childhood right through to their later years.

It’s only by electing a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn that this transformation of our country as a whole can begin.

Only by electing a Labour government can Scotland benefit from the massive investment in public services and infrastructure that we need to repair the damage wrought by the twin evils of SNP and Tory cuts.

No other party is able to promise that.

And the transformation starts with our economy.

For the past seven years, the Conservative Government has used the financial crisis to build an economy that works for a few at the top, rather than the vast majority.

Our whole country needs to be firing on all cylinders, but instead some parts are racing ahead while others are left behind – including in Scotland.

We are struggling to increase productivity and get our economy on the move again.

That’s why Labour will create a Scottish Investment Bank with £20 billion of investment power to help businesses grow and stimulate the Scottish economy.

And we’ll invest in our crumbling infrastructure to connect our country together through a £250 billion National Transformation Fund to drive investment across the UK.

A strong, growing economy is the foundation we need to make sure working people across Scotland are doing well.

But it’s not nearly enough.

The last few years have shown that wealth doesn’t trickle down.

467,000 people in Scotland earn less than the living wage. Two thirds of them are women.

And 57,000 workers are on zero hours contracts.

So we need action to put more money into the pockets of working people and to make work more secure.
Labour will do that by introducing a real Living Wage of £10 an hour.

Labour introduced the minimum wage in 1998, despite the predictions of the Tories and others that it would wreck our economy.

Some are saying the same now, but the truth is our businesses can afford to pay a little more so that workers aren’t paid a poverty wage.

And when it comes to zero hours contracts, we’ll scrap them too.

Yes, employers need flexibility, but workers also need certainty of guaranteed hours and pay at the end of each week.

It’s not too much to ask that people at work shouldn’t have to put up with Victorian standards of employment.

Our economy needs to work for the many, not just the few.

Our entire manifesto is rooted in our belief that our economy, and the way our country is run, has to be rebalanced in favour of the majority.

Not the few who are benefiting right now.

And there is no issue where that is more important than with Brexit and the changes that are coming to the UK and Scotland over the next few years.

Brexit will change our country forever.

And let me be absolutely clear – the UK is leaving the European Union.

As someone who voted Remain and deeply values our relationship with Europe, that makes me angry and disappointed.

But if we are to work in the national interest we can’t pretend that we’re going to get a second chance at this.

We need to focus on getting best deal for the UK which is the best deal for Scotland.

Not by electing SNP MPs to exploit every grievance they can manufacture, but by electing Scottish Labour MPs who will always prioritise jobs, workers’ rights and growing the economy.

It also means strengthening the Scottish Parliament with a presumption of devolution for all powers that are returning from Brussels.

“Taking back control” can’t just mean more power hoarded in Westminster by politicians out of reach from the public.

Let’s use this as an opportunity to push power as close to people as possible.

And let’s do that by establishing a Constitutional Convention to come up with truly radical proposals for how our country should be run.
Labour reshaped the UK once with devolution – let’s do it again with a federal UK.

Friends, this manifesto represents a bold agenda for change.

It is radical, it is ambitious for Scotland and for the UK.

It is positive and hopeful.

It doesn’t seek to pit one part of the UK against another, or to exploit divisions in our society.

If you voted SNP in 2015 because you wanted a better future for Scotland, then vote for our plan to make us a fairer and more equal country.

When you vote on 8 June, think about the kind of change you want to see.

If you believe that it’s time this country is run for the benefit of the many, not the few, vote Labour.

If you think Brexit means we should think again about how our country is run and in whose interest, then vote Labour.

If you agree with us that people deserve a better deal at work, then vote Labour.

And if, like me, you are angry at how nationalism has put our politics in a straightjacket, then you have to vote Labour.

This is what we offer. A vote for Labour on 8 June is.

A vote against a divisive second referendum.

A vote for investment in our young people and education.

For a growing economy where everyone benefits.

Protection for the NHS from Tory and SNP cuts.

A vote for hope, for a better future.

Join us to create a majority for real change in this country.

Vote Labour on 8 June.

Thank you.

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