Kezia Dugdale: The seven seats which sent a signal to Sturgeon

TWELVE days ago, ­voters across Scotland returned seven ­Labour MPs. ­People chose to back Labour to send Nicola Sturgeon a message to drop her plans for'¨a divisive second independence ­referendum and get back to the job of fixing the mess she has made of our public services.

Tuesday, 20th June 2017, 7:00 am
Ian Murray celebrates holding his seat at the Edinburgh count in Meadowbank. Picture: Neil Hanna

The SNP was expecting to not only hold on to its gains in 2015, but perhaps make even more progress – but Nicola Sturgeon faced a public backlash.

Nowhere was this more the case than in Edinburgh South. The pundits wrote Ian Murray off. He was, after all, defending a majority of just 2000.

But he had two things that no SNP slur or Tory tactic could overcome –his record and our message.

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Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale. Picture: John Devlin

Ian is the hardest working MP in Scotland. On one of the many ­campaigning days I did with him, just a week away from polling day, I spoke to dozens of people who were backing Ian because of his record of sheer hard work that delivers for people in ­Edinburgh South. But people were also sick and tired of Nicola ­Sturgeon’s obsession with forcing a divisive second independence referendum on the people of Scotland.

Voters did not want a return to the arguments of the past – they wanted answers to the problems of the future.

They knew with Ian and Scottish Labour they would get a local champion who would force the SNP to rethink its plans to drag us back to 2014.

They knew a vote for Ian would force Nicola Sturgeon to address her woeful record on public services.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale. Picture: John Devlin

That’s why Ian did not just hold his seat – he increased his majority by more than 13,000.

That was a fantastic result that was echoed across Scotland on June 8, including in East Lothian, where the wonderful Martin Whitfield won.

But Labour’s campaign was about more than just opposing another referendum. We won seven seats because we offered a vision for hope and change. Labour’s manifesto truly invigorated people. It offered people a better future – a future for the many and not the few.

Voters are genuinely excited by the chance to fundamentally reform our economy and transform our society.

Theresa May and the Tories, in contrast, had a disastrous campaign – and paid the cost. Their manifesto was torn to shreds before the ink was dry. Theresa May was found out as a weak and bungling leader, whose rhetoric on social justice was exposed as just that. But most of all, voters rejected Theresa May’s vision of a hard Brexit, which would wreck our economy and destroy our international standing.

People refused to back an insular Tory Britain, believing instead we should be progressive, forward-facing and outward-looking.

Here in Scotland, Labour remains on an election footing. Theresa May gambled on a snap election and lost her majority.

Now, her power rests on a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party.

Not only is such a deal precarious and fragile, but it means the Tories are now beholden to a party that holds even more extreme views than themselves.

Another election may even come this year – and Scottish Labour is ready to build on its success of 12 days ago.

We have a vision that has excited people and relish the chance to turn that into a reality.

Kezia Dugdale is leader of the Scottish Labour Party and is a Lothian list MSP.