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by Anas Sarwar
15 February 2024
Anas Sarwar: The election is a chance to turn our backs on a decade of pitting Scot against Scot

The Scottish Labour Party conference begins in Friday | Alamy

Anas Sarwar: The election is a chance to turn our backs on a decade of pitting Scot against Scot

Last year will go down in history as one of the turning points in the politics of Scotland and all of the UK. And I am convinced that this year can be the year when Labour delivers the change people across the country so desperately need and want.

The challenge before us is stark.

This time a year ago, Nicola Sturgeon was still the first minister of Scotland and Rishi Sunak was mere months into the job of prime minister.

Since then, there has been nothing short of chaos from both governments and a sea change in our politics.

From the ongoing police investigation into SNP finances to the layers of deception and cover-up that have been revealed during the Covid-19 inquiry, it is clear that trust in our politics has been broken and that thousands of people feel betrayed.

The industrial scale deletion of vital WhatsApp messages and jokes about “plausible deniability” have left the people of Scotland entirely unable to trust this SNP government.

At the same time, the Tory government has lurched from crisis to crisis, desperately stoking up culture wars to try to hang on to power while working people pay the price of its incompetence. From the immoral and unworkable Rwanda scheme to endless leadership challenges and infighting, it’s clear that this is a Tory government on its last legs.

2023 was the year that the SNP and the Tories finally ran out of road. But it was also the year that the desire for change became an irresistible force.

After 17 years of the SNP and 14 years of the Tories, people across the country are telling us it is time for change.

Against the odds, Scottish Labour won the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election with a clear message – that this is not as good as it gets, that trust in politics can be restored, and that change is possible.

Scottish Labour took its positive message to the people and the people decisively chose change.

As the party gathers in Glasgow this weekend it is this same desire for change that we must harness if we are to transform the political landscape of Scotland for good. That all starts with a general election.

For too long, Scotland has been failed by politicians who are more interested in stoking division than standing up for the people who they are supposed to represent.

With a general election we have the chance to turn our back on more than a decade of division and decline, a decade of incompetence and failure, and a decade of pitting Scot against Scot and community against community.

With Scottish Labour MPs, the people of Scotland will have champions for their communities who are focused on the job at hand. This year we have a chance to bring our country back together again and begin the next phase in Scotland’s fantastic story. 

We have a chance to end a broken political system that means government doesn’t work for you and put integrity and trust back at the heart of our politics.

The people of Scotland deserve a government that is on their side and has their back.

That’s what’s on offer.

 At our conference in Glasgow, Scottish Labour will lay out how we can deliver the change that Scots need and how we will rebuild and reunite Scotland again and change our country for the better.

This starts first and foremost with Scotland’s economy. We do not believe that if you earn over £28,500 in Scotland, somehow you have the broadest shoulders. Income tax is no substitute for economic growth.

 If Scotland’s economy had grown at the same rate as the north west of England it would be £11.5bn bigger. That is more money to invest in schools, on keeping our streets safe and in our hospitals.

Our priority must be to grow Scotland’s economy – to create the jobs and opportunities our country needs.

We know that without economic growth we will not have the funds we need to modernise our public services and put money into workers’ pockets.

That’s why it is so important that this year at Scottish Labour conference we have so many great Scottish businesses engaging with our plans and letting us know how we can work together to deliver that economic growth.

Through that economic growth, we can reform our public services and deliver the renewal we need.

Nowhere is this clearer than Scotland’s NHS, where almost one in  six Scots is on an NHS waiting list.

  The NHS is Labour’s proudest achievement but its very existence is on the line. Fixing that means bringing the NHS and social care system into the 21st century so that it provides for the people it serves and so that it supports the heroic workforce.

We must also make sure that the economy works for working people. That’s why Scottish Labour is standing for a New Deal for Working People that will transform working conditions and wages for thousands of Scots. An end to the scandal of fire and rehire, an end to exploitative zero-hour contracts and a real living wage for Scotland’s workers.

And with GB Energy – a publicly owned energy generation company headquartered here in Scotland – we can deliver tens of thousands of new, clean-energy jobs. No more will the UK be dependent on energy from tyrants like Vladimir Putin. Under Labour’s plans, Scotland can become a clean-energy powerhouse at the forefront of the global transition to clean energy.

These will be our priorities as we set out a vision for what Scotland can look like beyond 2026. That’s why it is too simple to think that all the change that Scotland needs comes in 2024 alone.

I’ve always been clear we have to get rid of not one failing government but two.

The job over the next 12 months is to boot the Tories out of power and remove the SNP’s last remaining excuse for failing Scotland.

Here in Glasgow, we can see the chance for a better future for Scotland and all of the UK ahead of us. This is a chance we must take. To deliver a New Deal for working people to make work pay for thousands of Scots. To get our economy back on track and deliver the growth we need. So we can save our NHS and modernise it for the future.

A chance to serve the people of Scotland – that is all we ask.

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