Anas Sarwar: People across Britain are sick of Tory sleaze and incompetence
The last year has been one of seismic change in Scottish and British politics – with the tectonic plates of power shifting rapidly before our eyes.
When I sat down to write my annual review last year, Liz Truss was en route to being appointed prime minister after months of Tory bloodletting, and Nicola Sturgeon seemed unassailable in her position of first minister of Scotland.
In the space of just 12 short months, the political landscape has changed utterly.
Beginning with Liz Truss’s disastrous mini-budget which fanned the flames of the cost-of-living crisis and ending with the grotesque spectacle of police tents in Nicola Sturgeon’s garden, no one could have predicted the developments of this last year.
But while much of what has happened has led to political and economic tumult, it is clear that across Scotland and the whole UK, people are hungry for change.
On almost every front page, and every doorstep across this country, people are crying out for change to deal with the twin crises of the cost of living and the crisis in our NHS.
So for the last year Scottish Labour has focussed relentlessly on demanding the Tories and the SNP act to support those in need, while setting out our vision to deliver the change that Scots are demanding.
In the Scottish Parliament, we have led the fight on bringing down bills for families across Scotland, on developing a skills plan to equip our workforce for the future and on protecting family finances in the face of the Tories’ mortgage crisis.
And through all the chaos of Scottish politics, Scottish Labour has remained firm in holding this now disintegrating SNP government to account for its failings.
It was Scottish Labour who pressed Humza Yousaf on the scandal at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and it is Scottish Labour that is now fighting to get the rights of patients’ families enshrined in a ‘Milly’s Law’ so that the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) scandal can never be repeated.
It was Scottish Labour that exposed the SNP government’s abuse of public money – with millions of pounds of public money being spent on the government’s credit card to cover everything from heel-stoppers to pregnancy tests, VIP airport experiences to yoga classes and zoo trips.
When the CalMac scandal was scooping up front page after front page, it was Scottish Labour who led the call to compensate the workers and businesses who lost out due to SNP incompetence.
And when the Tories dropped their disastrous mini-budget and caused mortgage rates to soar sky-high, it was Scottish Labour not the SNP that developed a bold plan to revitalise mortgage support and ensure as many Scots as possible keep their homes.
And it was Scottish Labour that forced the SNP government into action to protect family finances after we produced our own cost-of-living action plan to keep bills and prices down for families across Scotland.
But it’s not just been at Holyrood where Scottish Labour has led the way.
At Westminster, our Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Ian Murray MP, has secured Labour support for the Acorn Project. This massive carbon capture project in Aberdeenshire will deliver jobs and investment for the area and put Scotland in the vanguard of the transition to green energy.
Not only that, Ian Murray has continually held the Tories’ feet to the fire over sleaze and scandal – particularly surrounding the Baroness Mone PPE scandal.
In local government too, Scottish Labour has been making a difference to people’s lives.
In Scottish Labour majority controlled West Dunbartonshire, the council has implemented a £5m cost of living fund to help those in need – including the scrapping of residential care charges.
But when it comes to laying out Scottish Labour’s bold vision for the future of our country, it is hard to see a more potent example of the change that Scottish Labour will deliver than Great British Energy.
GB energy – announced by Keir Starmer at Labour conference 2022 – represents the boldest energy plan in living memory. Labour’s plans for a publicly owned energy company will make the UK a green energy superpower and free the UK from the grip of energy rich tyrants like Vladimir Putin.
And this summer, it was my pleasure and honour to announce that GB energy will be headquartered here in Scotland. Not only will this make Scotland a global leader in green energy, it will also deliver some 50,000 well-paid, unionised clean energy jobs.
We’ve been hearing for well over a decade that we’re going to have a green revolution in Scotland, but instead we’ve had an endless string of broken promises. Climate targets have been missed, green jobs have gone abroad, and even our seabed has been flogged to foreign companies at bargain basement prices.
There is going to be a global leader in the race for a green transition – and under Labour, Scotland will be that leader.
The SNP broke its promise to create a public energy company, but Labour will deliver Great British Energy – headquartered in Scotland and delivering for all the UK. GB Energy, backed by the strength of the UK treasury, will unleash Scotland’s massive energy potential by making those strategic investments we need.
Labour’s plans will deliver what’s right for the north-east and for the whole of Scotland – and that is high-skilled, well-paid jobs for generations to come.
Our planet is at risk – that is a simple, unavoidable fact. The decisions this generation of leaders make will affect our children and our grandchildren.
I am determined to leave the next generation a better planet than the one we inherited – and Scottish Labour’s bold plans are a vital part of making that a reality. To smash the class ceiling and unlock the potential of everyone who lives on these islands. And this bold plan is just one of a raft of Labour policies that will deliver the change that Scots need.
This is part of the dream Labour wants to revive – the desire to leave things in a better state than we found them in.
Here, in the summer of 2023, we know that the chance to deliver change is coming. It is highly likely that there will be a general election within the next 12 months – and we know that the long-awaited Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election is only weeks away.
And at these elections, it falls to Scottish Labour to deliver the change we need.
We know that people across Britain are sick of Tory sleaze and incompetence. And here in Scotland, the implosion of the SNP continues apace, with Humza Yousaf looking increasingly out of his depth.
For 13 years now, Scots have been trapped between an SNP government at Holyrood and a Tory government at Westminster – with both sides more interested in conflict and point scoring than co-operation.
A Labour government will reset the relationship between our parliaments and focus on making devolution work in the interest of the people, not the politicians.
Labour’s New Deal for Working People will smash the class ceiling, giving everyone the chance to succeed. You will have a right to protection against unfair dismissal, parental leave, and sick pay from day one of any job.
We will ban zero hours contracts, end fire and rehire, and will tackle low pay by making sure the national minimum wage is a genuine living wage that people can actually live on.
And we’ll invest in people delivering economic growth not just in our big cities but across the country, creating the jobs of the future and securing the fastest growth in the G7.
That’s our vision to deliver the change that Scotland needs.
This article appears in Holyrood's Annual Review 2022/23