Labour outline new deal for working people - Ian Murray

Scottish Labour’s finance spokesperson Michael MarraScottish Labour’s finance spokesperson Michael Marra
Scottish Labour’s finance spokesperson Michael Marra
There was a moment during the Scottish Parliament’s budget debate this week which was very telling. Asked how a UK Labour government would grow the economy, Scottish Labour’s finance spokesperson Michael Marra outlined our commitment to a new deal for working people in the first 100 days in office.

There was an audible mocking noise from First Minister Humza Yousaf in response to this – described in the official report as simply “oh!”. So what precisely was the SNP leader mocking?

Well, the new deal will end the low wage, low investment, and low productivity cycle that our country has been trapped in for the last decade. It will increase people’s pay packets, lift people out of poverty and increase revenues for schools and hospitals.

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And it will end the scandal of “fire and rehire”, extend employment rights, deliver a real living wage, and ban exploitative zero-hours contracts. What part of that does the First Minister disagree with?

Given he thinks that anyone earning £28,500 or more in Scotland should be forced to pay more tax (while fossil fuel giants should pay less), I guess he dislikes anything which might help working people in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis.

The budget passed by the SNP and their Green helpers this week is a travesty for Scotland. It is based on the economically illiterate belief that income tax rises for nurses and teachers should be used to plug the hole that has been left by the SNP’s complete failure to grow the economy.

It is a budget that fails to support public services, or fight poverty, and it means fewer university places, fewer college courses, and fewer houses being built. It also means no new hospitals or health centres – with all building projects put on hold by the SNP.

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This is devastating for people in Edinburgh, where there is a chronic shortage of accessible health facilities – particularly GPs in the south of the city. More than a decade has passed since NHS Lothian warned that GP services in Edinburgh were at risk of ‘failure’ if there was no direct help from the Scottish Government - and now every single project in the country is on hold. We urgently need change.

The NHS may be devolved, but a UK Labour government has already pledged to scrap non-dom tax status and use the revenue this will generate to invest in the health service – which if replicated in Scotland would create tens of thousands of new appointments.

And a windfall tax on the billions of pounds of excess profits of oil companies will fund lower bills by accelerating the transition to renewables. These are the choices a Labour government will make, in stark contrast to the inaction on show from the SNP and Greens.

It should also be recognised that councils across Scotland have had to make difficult choices because of SNP decimating their funding. But I am pleased that the Labour administration in Edinburgh is going to spend more on protecting and improving crucial frontline services, with an additional £27 million for schools and young people and £12.5m to improve roads, pavements, lighting and drainage.

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Money will also be ringfenced to help tackle the homelessness crisis in the capital. These are sensible choices designed to improve people’s lives, which SNP ministers mock.

Ian Murray MP is Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland