“Another Scotland is possible” – Richard Leonard’s launch speech

Below is the text of Richard Leonard’s Scottish Labour campaign launch speech.

Comrades and friends. This is the most important election in a generation. It is as simple as this. Scotland has the power to decide if Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn is in Downing Street by the end of the year.

And let me give you my conviction right at the start: this is an election which we can win not despite Jeremy Corbyn’s integrity and principles but precisely because of Jeremy Corbyn’s integrity and principles.

The choice before the people in this general election is clear. And it is becoming clearer by the day. The appeals that we must now make and the hopes that we must now lift must be built on the real change that a Labour government would make, because make no mistake this election is about who is the government of this country. It is not a proxy vote on constitutional arrangements, and any attempt to reduce it to that is to turn our backs on the real needs of all of those millions of working people who’s standard of living has been squeezed for ten long years.

And over those ten years we have witnessed not just a rise in the inequalities of income in these years of austerity we have witnessed a shocking rise in the inequalities of wealth. And as the super-rich have got getting richer almost everyone else has got poorer so that under the Tories and let’s not forget the Liberals there has been a fundamental redistribution of wealth, but it is a fundamental redistribution that has gone in precisely the wrong direction.

And as we have always said austerity is not an economic necessity. It is a political choice. You know, everywhere I go in Scotland I see the indecent impact on decent people of Universal Credit: sanctions, the two-child cap and the rape clause, the punitive five week wait for payment which is calculated to deliberately drive people into debt-

Just last Friday in Glenrothes at Fife Gingerbread, I listened to the real life experience – the feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness, and just how hard it is for families surviving from week to week and so our message at this election campaign launch to all those people worn down by austerity in work or out of work, young or old is that there is new hope with Labour.

That the real prospect of the election of a Labour government in five weeks’ time means that within our grasp is the chance not to simply mitigate or reform universal credit – but to scrap Universal Credit altogether once and for all, and to build a social security system which treats people with dignity.

We know that this rise in poverty that we have witnessed over the last ten years has driven more and more people to food banks like the one just four miles from here in Drumchapel where I met up with people just last Thursday. They told me that there was a community spirit here which would not be broken, that their action was built on the principle that no one should be left behind.

And be assured that community spirit will remain unbroken. Those labour values of solidarity will be given renewed support. But let me be absolutely clear about this – a Labour government will end the shame of food bank Britain.

Because this austerity, this squeeze in living standards, this attack on the most vulnerable through the discredited Universal Credit system: this is what we need to change and this is why we need a Labour government.

Those in work have seen their pay squeezed, their hours lengthened and attacks on their terms and conditions at work. They have faced even greater economic insecurity.

Just think what a difference there would be with the election Labour government which will deliver workers’ rights from day one.

Workers’ rights are important to me. Look at what is happening right now to low paid long serving predominantly women ASDA workers, GMB members, workers who have been blackmailed with the sack by a company owned by the richest billionaires on the planet, forced on to working longer hours for lower wages and fewer holidays.

Well we send out a message in this campaign that we stand by those working women and men and if ever there was an example of why we must create an economy that works not just for the idle rich at the top, but an economy that works for all this is it.

So when we say that we must have a fundamental redistribution of wealth and power those ASDA workers, they know exactly what we mean-and the WASPI women know what we mean as well!

The government’s own figures tell us that two out of three children living in poverty in communities up and down Scotland: urban and rural alike are being brought up in a household where at least one adult is in work.

That too many children in the fifth richest country in the world are going to school hungry makes me angry but it is what also drives me on and it is what makes me even more determined to bring about real change.

And so in this election we are offering hope out of despair. And let me be clear that it is only a Jeremy Corbyn government that will rescue our communities and our people from the hard years of austerity. It is only a Jeremy Corbyn government that will reverse this rising inequality. That only a Labour government will make sure that the wealth in the economy is shared far more equally.

This general election is about the direction of political travel in this country. It is a battle for votes and seats but it is also about what kind of society we are and what kind of society we want to be.

Do we want to put borders and national boundaries up? Or do we want to see boundaries and borders brought down? That’s the fundamental question which the people of Scotland must consider.

It is about whether we walk by on the other side or whether we say that this rise in inequality, this deepening of poverty, this spiral of personal debt, does not just damage those who are caught up in it – it diminishes us all as a society.

This is not even a question of right or left, but a question of right or wrong. And it’s about how we treat our pensioners which is why the next Labour government will restore the policy of the previous Labour government and guarantee a free TV licence to the over 75s and we will continue to invest in free travel, the winter fuel allowance and the basic state pension as well.

Today, with this election launch, a new path lies in front of us. And at this election with a cross on a ballot paper the people of Scotland can make the difference and take that new path which offers new hope.

A vote for Labour in this election is a vote for a real Living Wage of £10 an hour as the minimum rate of pay for every worker over the age of sixteen – so for the avoidance of doubt we will scrap age discrimination in the national minimum wage system as well.

And a UK Labour government would invest over £70bn into Scotland’s public services and economy. And at the very heart of that, We are proposing that ten billion pounds will be invested from Labour’s new National Transformation Fund to build 120,000 council and social homes in Scotland over the next ten years.

Labour will tackle Scotland’s housing crisis, we will provide a home for everyone – and we will end homelessness once and for all in Scotland. And in so doing, the investment will support nearly 50,000 jobs here in Scotland – giving our young people the work and the skills they need to prosper.

Scotland needs a UK Labour government and a Scottish Labour government at Holyrood which will put policies like this one at the very heart of our agenda. And to anyone who says this policy is not deliverable, I say this. You are letting the SNP off the hook.

Today I am challenging Nicola Sturgeon to commit to delivering this programme if a UK Labour government is elected on the 12th of December. We all rely on our publicly funded public services: education, transport and the NHS. But they are being eroded by a failing combination of Tory ideology and SNP complacency.

And whilst we’re on Tory ideology Boris Johnson wants to sell off control of the NHSt o Donald Trump as part of a post-Brexit trade deal which would be catastrophicfor Scotland’s health service.

So the Tories would sell it off to Trump and Nicola Sturgeon has fallen asleep at the wheel. You can only trust Labour with the NHS.

Only a Labour government will make available the investment needed to provide world-class public services. And Labour is the only party committed to the public ownership of transport, of mail and of energy to tackle the cost of living crisis and improve the quality of life for the many.

So to those who say that there is a short-cut to kicking Boris Johnson out of Downing Street through the SNP, I say this.

This is the transformational change that a UK Labour government can make. It is a transformational change that the SNP simply cannot deliver. And a transformation that the Liberal Democrats – whose leader yesterday confirmed that she would do all in her power to block the formation of a Labour government – cannot, and would not, deliver, even if they had the chance.

We are the only party offering radical change to the way the economy is run and an industrial strategy for Scotland to rebalance our economy and to tackle the climate emergency in a way that brings a jobs dividend here.

Scotland has got huge natural and renewable resources and a long tradition of engineering and manufacturing.

So on green jobs where the SNP has promised and failed we will deliver because we have an overall plan for our economy. We are the only party that can form a Government and get to work on these profound economic, social and environmental changes the day after the election.

And we are the only party promising to put the choice back to people on Brexit: because we believe that in the end the people should have the final say. We are the only party guaranteeing the option of remain and reform: because unlike the Tories and the SNP we want Scotland to stay in the UK and we want the UK to stay in the EU.

Because the real division in society is not the division between Scotland and England, as Nicola Sturgeon would have you believe. I’ve never understood why the leader of the SNP wants to defend unity across Europe and oppose it in the UK.

And it is not the division between the people of these shared islands and Europe as Boris Johnson would have you believe.

The real division is between those people who own the wealth and those people who through their hard work and endeavour create the wealth. That is the real division.

It is my strongly held view that Johnson represents a dangerous strain of nationalism and that is what poses the biggest threat to the future of the UK.

In stark contrast the election of a radical and redistributive Labour government is the most positive argument for the UK, and would eclipse the SNP’s case for the establishment of a separate Scottish state.

So we oppose independence and we believe another independence referendum is undesirable and unnecessary.

The SNP’s current argument for another referendum is predicated on Brexit at the very time when an incoming Labour Government is pledged to giving the choice back to the people, re-energising the chances of the UK remaining in the EU which under my leadership the Scottish Labour Party will help to lead.

This is obviously a pivotal moment in British politics. The status quo is not an option. So Labour is committed to securing new powers for the Scottish Parliament, including borrowing powers and the power to enhance employment rights above the UK level.

And we will abolish the unelected House of Lords and work towards its replacement with an elected second chamber that is representative of all regions and nations of the United Kingdom.

So if you want to get something done about Brexit but about poverty and inequality too including in-work poverty, you need a Labour government.

If you want an alternative government to a Boris Johnson government, only the Labour Party offers that alternative.

Scotland has the power to decide if Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn is Prime Minister.

And for the avoidance of doubt the only way to get a Labour government is to elect Labour MPs from Scotland. There is no short cut to a Labour government through the SNP.

We are fighting this election to form a majority Labour government. A Labour government would end the decade of cuts, cuts to living standards, cuts to the quality of life, cuts to services in our communities including our local Health Services.

We would renew investment in our public services, our NHS, in decent housing, In decent jobs and rebalance the economy so that it doesn’t just work for those at the top, but an economy that works for all.

That is the people’s agenda. That is the one Labour is fighting for at this election.

And through the din of Brexit and independence we will take this message so it is heard across every community in Scotland. We will argue our case on the doorstep and in meetings. We will spread the word through the social media and the mainstream media. We will share our message of hope about what a majority Labour government can do.

Because we know, everyone in this room knows, this is a once in a generation chance. This is a futur, which is ours to make, together. So let us take it. Let us make our own history because when Labour wins, Scotland wins.

Another world is possible. Another Europe is possible. Another Britain is possible. Another Scotland is possible. Let us go out and win it.

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