Scotland is desperate for change. We must show we are the party to deliver it

Anas Sarwar

Scotland’s political landscape is a very different place compared to the last time Scottish Labour met for our annual conference. Of course, it’s pretty different compared to last week, for that matter.

We have made a huge amount of progress over the last year. In the 2022 council elections, we made gains across Scotland, decisively reclaimed second place and pushed the morally bankrupt, scandal-ridden Tory party back into third.

But we are not settling for second place. Our ambition must always be to win, so we can deliver for communities and enact real change. Both the SNP and the Tories have been failing Scotland for far too long, squandering our country’s potential and settling for managed decline.

It’s clear this Conservative government doesn’t have anything to offer our country. They crashed the economy, inflamed division in our society and made a mockery of the rules that everyone else followed. They are out of touch and out of time.

This Tory chaos has been a gift to the nationalists, providing the SNP with constant cover for their own failures in government – and there are many. Right across the board, our institutions are buckling under the pressure of 15 years of the SNP. Our NHS is on life support, with grim new records being set almost every month and one in seven Scots stuck languishing on a waiting list. In our schools, Nicola Sturgeon’s so-called “defining mission” to close the shameful attainment gap in Scotland’s school system was seemingly abandoned long before she stood down, with the gap between the best and worst off growing last year. In our communities, homelessness is at a record high, and councils are facing yet another year of brutal cuts.

From Galloway to Shetland, Scottish Labour councillors are working to stand up for their communities, but the SNP has handed councils cuts on an unimaginable scale. Right across Scotland, libraries will be forced to close, roads will be left to crumble and bins will go unemptied. Vital services from social care to youth work will have to be done on the cheap, if at all.

These SNP cuts will lock our fantastic communities into a spiral of decline. Meanwhile, the public will be paying more than ever for services that are just getting worse. The SNP doesn’t have any answers to these questions – and if the last year has shown us anything, it’s that swapping out the person at the top can’t rescue a government that is out of ideas. This is a government that puts its own priorities before the country’s. They are arrogant, secretive and incapable of owning up to their failures. They are not the solution to the challenges we face – they helped create them.

But despite all of this, I truly believe Scotland’s best days are ahead of us. Not only do I think change is possible, but I am confident that change is coming. The next UK Labour government will deliver the change Scotland needs.

We have already been leading the way from opposition. In Scotland, we fought for and won an evictions ban and a rent freeze. Across the UK, Labour secured the energy price freeze and the windfall tax – albeit a watered-down version.

If this is what we can do in opposition, just imagine what we can achieve in government. It is on us to set out what that change looks like, and that’s what I want to do this weekend.

It is not enough to convince people that our opponents deserve to lose – and really they are making that case themselves. It falls to us to convince people that we deserve to win again. We need to set out what change a Labour government can deliver, both here in Scotland and right across the UK.

This weekend, and in the weeks, months and year ahead, our party will set out our detailed, positive, ambitious vision for this country. We will demonstrate how we can change this country for the better and deliver a stronger, more equal Scotland in a changing and modernising United Kingdom.

Our party is brimming with ideas, passion and optimism for both the future of the party and the future of this country. This weekend will be about discussing those ideas, channelling that passion and communicating that optimism.

Scotland deserves better than the same old division and decline under these two failing governments. Our country is desperate for change, and this weekend I will make the case that Labour can deliver that change.

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