Jeremy Corbyn: Labour administration ‘desperately needed’ at Holyrood

Jeremy Corbyn meets with local party supporters and residents during a walkabout in Penicuik, Midlothian. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Jeremy Corbyn meets with local party supporters and residents during a walkabout in Penicuik, Midlothian. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
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A Labour administration is “desperately” needed at Holyrood to stop Conservative cuts being passed on to local communities, Jeremy Corbyn will say today.

Scottish councils are being forced to provide food for hungry children outside school term times because the SNP is content to simply “manage” Tory austerity, the Labour leader will claim.

Speaking on a campaign stop during a week-long tour of the Scotland, he will highlight the issue of holiday hunger and pledge to eradicate it if Labour is elected.

Mr Corbyn is expected to travel alongside Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard to North Ayrshire, where the local council provides food to primary school pupils during the holidays.

Last summer catering staff served around 13,500 meals to children over the six-week holiday, with those eligible for free school meals not required to pay.

The service has proved so popular that it was repeated over Christmas, with lunches served at schools over the festive period.

“Scotland desperately needs a Labour government in Holyrood,” Mr Corbyn will say. “The SNP has passed on Tory cuts to local communities.

“Labour councils, like North Ayrshire, are stepping in and doing what they can but councils shouldn’t be forced to be the last line of defence against austerity.”

He will add: “Labour in power in Holyrood would unlock the potential of devolution to deliver across Scotland. Holiday hunger is unacceptable - we simply shouldn’t have hungry children in Scotland in 2018.

“The system is broken. It can’t be managed more humanely as the SNP claims to do. It must be overhauled.”

Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner Bruce Adamson has said food bank usage spikes during summer holidays, with pupils who usually rely on free school lunches suddenly going hungry.

Last night Mr Corbyn addressed a Labour rally in Penicuik after spending the day in Selkirk, where he held a meeting with a local housing association.

Responding to the Labour leader’s comments, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said: “The single biggest threat to jobs and household incomes in Scotland is the prospect of a hard Brexit – and Jeremy Corbyn is completely behind Theresa May’s disastrous plan to drag us out of the single market.

“There is no majority in the House of Commons for a hard Tory Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn has it in his power to stop this disaster but refuses to do so. It is little wonder that Labour cannot pull ahead of the chaotic Tory party in the opinion polls.”

Mr Corbyn’s visit to Scotland is in danger of being overshadowed by criticism of the party’s response to racist and homophobic remarks made by Hugh Gaffney, one of its MPs.

The Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill MP has apologised after referring to a “chinky” takeaway meal and used the term “bent” during a Burns Night address to students.

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Lanarkshire Council group leader Davie McLachlan has also been suspended from the party after allegedly telling leadership candidate Anas Sarwar that members would not vote for a “brown, Muslim Paki”. He denies the claims.

Ms McAlpine criticised Mr Leonard for not openly condemning Mr Gaffney’s remarks.

“It looks increasingly like Richard Leonard is in charge of a boys club where his pals can get away with anything,” she said.