Kezia Dugdale wants to champion young people

Kezia Dugdale with four-year-old Hollie Stewart. Picture: Hemedia
Kezia Dugdale with four-year-old Hollie Stewart. Picture: Hemedia
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NEW Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale put children and young people at the top of her list of priorities as she launched her party’s fightback.

The Lothian MSP, who was elected as Jim Murphy’s successor with 72 per cent of the votes at the weekend, declared: “I came into politics to make a difference to the lives of Scotland’s next generation. The single most important task for me as Scottish Labour leader will be to champion Scotland’s young people.”

She said she wanted a Scotland where a child’s ability to get on in life was determined by their potential, hard work and ambition, not where they were born or how much their parents earned.

Ms Dugdale said: “The collective performance of Scottish politics in recent years just hasn’t been good enough. Those in government – both the Tories at Westminster and the SNP in Edinburgh – haven’t taken the bold action needed to close the gap between rich and poor.

“For as long as there remains a single child in poverty we can never be satisfied as a nation that we are doing enough. 
Everybody in Scottish politics must get their priorities in order and put our young people first.”

Her comments came on her first working day in charge of the party which is still trying to come to terms with its drubbing at the general election in May, when Labour’s Westminster contingent of 41 Scottish MPs was reduced to just one – Ian Murray in Edinburgh South.

Ms Dugdale said: “Today we start the hard work of rebuilding the Scottish Labour Party. We are under no illusions about the scale of the challenge, but ask that people in Scotland take a fresh look at us under the leadership of a new generation.”

She is not endorsing any of the four candidates for Labour’s UK leadership, but with left-winger Jeremy Corbyn in the lead she said Scottish Labour should not be afraid of a debate on Trident nuclear weapons and would be willing for the subject to be discussed at Scottish Labour’s conference in October as part of plans to democratise the party.

She said: “I want people to join the Labour Party and to be active in it, not just so that they can vote for a Labour leader . . . but so that they can be part of political debate, so that they can debate ideas and so they can vote for Labour policy.

“I’m proud that my party is a party of nuclear disarmament. More warheads were abandoned under Labour than in any other country in recent history. The question that you have to ask is what is the best way to get other countries to give up their nuclear weapons? I think the way to do that is together on a multilateral basis.

“I recognise, however, there are people in the Labour Party that take a different view. So why can’t you have a situation where we’re not afraid to debate these ideas?”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com