Let’s make 2024 the year of change - Ian Murray

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer during Prime Ministers' Questions in the House of Commons on December 13Labour Party leader Keir Starmer during Prime Ministers' Questions in the House of Commons on December 13
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer during Prime Ministers' Questions in the House of Commons on December 13
In the House of Commons this week we all had flashbacks to the chaos of the Brexit deal votes that led to the end of Theresa May’s premiership. While the third Prime Minister to take the reigns since she left office may have won the vote on his Rwanda bill, it’s just pain delayed until after the festive break.

Then we can expect the right-wing rebels in Rishi Sunak’s party to cause him all sorts of problems.

May struggled because she didn’t have a parliamentary majority, unlike Sunak, who inherited the gains made in 2019 when the Labour Party was considered unelectable by too many of our fellow citizens. Since then there has been an incredible turnaround under Keir Starmer, and we head into 2024 not only as a changed party, but as a party ready to change the country in government. In contrast, the Tories are in utter disarray.

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At the final PMQs of the year yesterday, Starmer rightly highlighted the meltdown taking place behind Sunak. And, sadly, it’s the country paying the price.

In Scotland, we know all too well what happens when a party is so distracted that it loses sight of what really matters. Just like with the SNP, it means the Conservatives don’t give pressing issues like the cost-of-living crisis the attention required. They fight each other whilst the public fights to pay their bills.

So it emerged yesterday that the UK economy shrank by more than expected in October, with higher interest rates putting up bills for consumers. Growth is going backwards, leaving working people worse off.

As we reflect on 2023, there is no other way to judge the political year as one where Scotland has been utterly failed by two governments. A Tory government which crashed the economy and an SNP government whose incompetence has devastating consequences.

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The nation’s homelessness crisis is getting worse, we have plummeted down the education league table, and our cherished NHS is at breaking point. The average patient list per GP has increased by almost 200 over the past decade under the SNP’s watch. And nowhere is this felt more than in Edinburgh South, where it is increasingly challenging for my constituents to access a GP.

To make matters worse, the Scottish Government has scrapped a proposed new GP service as part of the redevelopment of Liberton High School. This new practice would have served 10,000 residents, but even that is only half the number that is projected to be required to meet demand.

This is terrible for new residents and existing residents in all communities across the area, as they continue to lack access to much needed public services. I have written to the Health Secretary, Michael Matheson, to request that funding be made available for the practice. Given the £11,000 bill he racked up using his mobile abroad on a previous Christmas holiday, I’m sure he will be able to respond to me over the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, in the coming days we’ll see the SNP’s draft budget for 2024-25. Tory economic incompetence has not created favourable circumstances for any devolved administration, but that’s no excuse for the SNP to impose even deeper cuts than even Rishi Sunak on our communities.

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The Tories’ ability to govern has collapsed and 2024 is the opportunity to choose a new government. In Scotland, the SNP has failed to govern – and the clock is now ticking for Humza Yousaf as well. Let’s make 2024 the year of change.

Ian Murray MP is Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland