LOTHIAN MSP Sarah Boyack today launched her campaign to become the new leader of Scottish Labour, calling on the party to be “bold and radical” and promising to work with the SNP.
She said she would be “a listening leader” and argued she could be a unifying force not just for the party but for the country.
Ms Boyack was the first candidate to enter the leadership race after Johann Lamont’s decision to quit. Now she faces a battle with fellow Lothian MSP Neil Findlay and former Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy.
Ms Boyack said Labour’s challenge was to reconnect with the electorate. She said: “We need to rebuild our relationship with people who share our values, our former supporters who have not turned out for us in recent years and young people who don’t know what we did when we had power in the Scottish Parliament.”
She said as a member of Donald Dewar’s first cabinet in 1999 she was proud of its achievements, including free bus travel and free central heating systems for older people, free nursery places for three and four-year-olds, a huge expansion in training and massive investment in the health service.
Ms Boyack hailed the way people had engaged in debate and discussion during the referendum.
And she told the launch event at Augustine United Church on George IV Bridge: “Scottish Labour needs to get back out to talk to people. We need to listen like we’ve not done before. We need to connect our values to say how we’d use the powers of the Scottish Parliament.”
She described changes proposed by the review she and Mr Murphy carried out in 2011 as “unfinished business”.
And she continued: “I’d be the listening leader we need. As leader I’d work with the SNP government where they are doing the right thing for Scotland. But they need to be held to account when they get it wrong.”
“I believe we need to be bold and we need to be radical. We need to use power for a purpose.”
She said she wanted a properly funded health service, affordable and adequate child care, enough college places, “double devolution” with more power for councils, and a fairer system of local government funding.
Ms Boyack promised at the end of her campaign to publish 100 new ideas she believed needed to be debated to improve lives and to make Scotland a better place to live.
She said: “Over the next few weeks I’ll be listening to people up and down the country about their ideas and suggestions.
“We’re entering a new era in Scottish politics. The Labour Party needs to renew itself, we need to listen and we need to listen hard. But we also need to lead again – not following the debate, but leading the debate about how we move our country forward.”