SCOTTISH Labour leader Kezia Dugdale today insisted her party can win back the trust of voters despite facing a “challenging” time at next year’s Holyrood elections.
As delegates gathered in Perth for the party’s three-day autumn conference – her first in charge – the Lothians MSP said she was confident and upbeat about the future.
The theme of the conference is a call for voters to take a fresh look at Scottish Labour.
In brief remarks, Ms Dugdale is due to tell delegates: “We gather here as a party well aware of the challenges we face. Nobody in this hall is in denial about how difficult things have been. We got a resounding message from the voters in May. It was painful but the message was clear.
“Now a new generation of leadership has taken up the challenge of renewing our party.
“We can be the party that people put their trust in once again. It won’t happen overnight. But the changes we are making under my leadership will make us fit for the future.”
Ms Dugdale will also announce support for young people who were in care who make it to higher education, offering them student grant support of £6000 a year.
She will say: “As children looked after by the state, we all have a responsibility to give them a better chance in life.
“I want them to do anything and be anything they want to be. I want them to have access to the same opportunities as any other young person in Scotland.”
Shadow Scottish secretary and Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray will use his speech to the conference today to talk about how the Scottish Parliament could use new powers to tackle poverty and inequality.
He will say: “We have parts of the country that appear in the top ten richest parts of the UK and the bottom ten – some of them nestling next to each other, poverty and prosperity; side by side.
“In total, 730,000 of our fellow Scots are living in poverty. Four families in Scotland are wealthier than the entire poorest 20 per cent in our country.
“This is an affront to our common decency.”
But Mr Murray will say new powers proposed by Labour would allow Holyrood to deal with such problems.
“If the government accepts our changes to the Scotland Bill, we will have the power to create a new social security system in Scotland that responds to our circumstances.
“We will have even more powers to deal with the deep problems of poverty and inequality in our society. To make good on the promise that everyone should get the best start in life. They will be powers that will allow us to take a different path, if we want. This is the powerhouse parliament we were promised, a Scottish Parliament fit for a modern and progressive Scotland, with even more powers to make a difference.”