‘There is a consensus across civic Scotland to regulate rents’ - Macintosh

30 August 2015

The Scottish Parliament should grasp the opportunity for rent reform, Scottish Labour said today.

Community Spokesperson Ken Macintosh will lodge a motion at Holyrood on Monday recognising “growing cross party consensus” for regulation of the private rented sector.

Scottish Labour would ban rip off rent rises in the private sector, as well as offer renters more secure tenancies.

The party proposed amendments to the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014 but saw them defeated by the SNP and the Tories.

Since then however a range of figures in the SNP, such as new MPs Mhairi Black and Tommy Sheppard have supported campaigns to reform the sector.

The Scottish Greens have also been campaigning for better rights for private renters for a number of years.

Now, Scottish Labour have called for a ban in rip off rent rises in the coming programme for government, pledging to work with the SNP and other parties to deliver a better deal for Scottish renters.

Scottish Labour Communities Spokesperson Ken Macintosh said:

"It's time to stand up for the thousands of Scots struggling pay their rent.

"There is a consensus across civic Scotland about the need to offer tenants in private lets more protection and security. It is now up to MSPs to reflect that consensus in Parliament.

“Renting privately is not just a temporary stage in some people's lives, for many, it is increasingly the only way to find a home, one that is becoming increasingly unaffordable. The majority of landlords are providing a vital service but there are too many rogues. It's time for Parliament to do something about it.

"With the private rented sector continuing to grow in Scotland and average rents reaching an all-time high it is clear to all that the whole system needs reform.

This is an opportunity we should not pass up.

We have the powers here in the Scottish Parliament to deliver a fairer deal for private renters and it is now a simple question of political will.

If the SNP Government bring forward proposals to cap rent increases in Scotland this coming week Scottish Labour will support them.”

The text of Ken Macintosh’s motion reads :

That the parliament recognises the growing difficulties facing many Scots in private rented accommodation; notes that private rents have been rising across every region of the country and are now at an all-time high; also notes recent figures showing that more tenants are falling into arrears; understands that the private rented sector has nearly doubled in size in the last decade with increasing numbers of tenants living in poverty; welcomes the momentum building behind those calling for regulation of the private rented sector including Shelter's Make Renting Right campaign and the NUS Living Rent campaign; recalls previous attempts to legislate to ban rip off rent rises in the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014 were not successful but believes there is now cross-party support for government intervention and for housing to be a priority in the last months of this session and calls upon the Scottish Government to bring forward plans in the programme for government that will offer protection to private sector tenants in Scotland from exploitative rent rises.

 

 

It’s time for the SNP to roll up their sleeves and get on with running the country’ - Jackie Baillie

30 August 2015

It’s time for the SNP to roll up their sleeves and get on with running the country.

That’s the message from Scottish Labour Public Services spokesperson Jackie Baillie.

Ms Baillie made the call ahead of Holyrood returning after summer recess, urging the SNP Government in Edinburgh to get to grips with a range of public service problems including: ·

A looming crisis in GP recruitment; The attainment gap in Scottish education ; A series of controversies involving Police Scotland ; Continuing problems with the ScotRail franchise ; Delays to the delivery of a range of capital projects like schools

Scottish Labour Public Services spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:

“It’s time for SNP Ministers to roll up their sleeves, because there is a lot in the in-tray to deal with.

“This summer we have seen a range of problems with public services across Scotland. It’s time for the Scottish Government to get on with the business of running the country.

“Sir Stephen House’s decision to stand down is the result of Police Scotland losing public confidence and public faith.

Michael Matheson needs to take responsibility for what has gone wrong on his watch and sort out the mess his government have made of Scotland’s once world class reputation for policing.

Officers and staff in the police deserve better.

“This summer has seen the first signs of the looming crisis Scotland will face in family doctors in the next decade.

We are seeing understaffed practices and overworked GPs as a result of a £1 billion fall in investment for general practice in the past decade.

Yet at the same time we are seeing cuts to medical student numbers.

It’s unsustainable and the time for action is now.

“The farce of the Higher Maths exam saw the pass mark having to be lowered dramatically because the paper was so flawed.

The First Minister herself has asked to be judged on her record on education – that record is 4,000 fewer teachers, 140,000 fewer college students, falling literacy and numeracy standards and an attainment gap which means you are three times more likely to be accepted to university if you are from a privileged background.

“Last year the SNP Government awarded, in controversial circumstances, the ScotRail franchise to the Dutch firm Abellio. This summer we have seen cancelled services, badly overcrowded carriages and accusations from trade unions that their industrial relations have been shambolic. It’s time for SNP Ministers to get a grip.

“In the middle of the summer, the level of the SNP government’s competence was questioned when we learned about delays to local capital projects like schools. They failed to take action when changes were made to European accounting systems dating back to 2010 and now we are facing cost increases and delays to construction of badly needed schools.

“Last week it was revealed that Scotland has been denied over £45 million in EU support for vulnerable people because the SNP Government botched the administration of the scheme. The public deserve answers on what went wrong, and how the Government plan to stop it ever happening again.

“The last action of the Government before recess was to finally sneak out their oil and gas bulletin to avoid scrutiny. This week oil fell to less than $50 a barrel - prices we haven’t seen since the global financial crisis. With thousands of jobs lost in Scotland already, the SNP Government need to deliver a long term strategy to reassure the industry, and commit to future, regular bulletins which focus on jobs.

“There’s plenty for the SNP Government to deal with now that they are back to work, so let’s see some action, not just warm words.”

 

Comment on Sir Stephen House

19 August 2015

Commenting on Sir Stephen House’s announcement that he will stand down in three months, Scottish Labour's Justice Spokesperson Graeme Pearson, a former Deputy Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police and former Director General of the Scottish Crime & Drug Enforcement Agency, said:

“This is the right thing to do, and on behalf of Scottish Labour I would like to extend thanks to Sir Stephen House for his years of service.

“However, we know the problems in Police Scotland extend far beyond the Chief Constable. It was only a few weeks ago that the First Minister gave her full backing to Mr House, and now the SNP Government can no longer hide behind him.

"Police Scotland has had to endure months of controversy which has seriously damaged public confidence in the police service. This could have been avoided if Ministers had taken responsibility.

"Even now it isn't too late for Nicola Sturgeon and her invisible Justice Minister to get a grip.

“Police Scotland has been an organisation without proper oversight for too long, and has had to endure cuts from the SNP Government which have left the force under resourced and over worked.

“Officers and staff work round the clock to keep people safe. The controversy of this summer has dragged their reputation unfairly through the mud. The process of reforming Police Scotland can begin now if the SNP Government are willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.”



Unison right to call for staff survey results

25 August 2015

Commenting on Unison's call for the publication of the Police Scotland Staff Survey, Scottish Labour’s Justice Spokesperson Graeme Pearson, a former Deputy Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police and former Director General of the Scottish Crime & Drug Enforcement Agency, said:

"Unison are absolutely correct to call for this, and I have no doubt they are speaking for the vast majority of their members.

“The reality is that recent controversies surrounding Police Scotland have dragged the once world class reputation of policing in Scotland through the mud.

“Cuts to civilian staff numbers and budgets mean that officers and civilian staff are doing more with less. These issues can't be swept under the carpet.

“Staff and officers are under enormous pressure due to the decisions taken by SNP government ministers and senior management at Police Scotland.

“We need full transparency from the SNP Government and Police Scotland, they should publish this survey without delay."



Fees for school exam appeals should be scrapped - Kezia Dugdale 

27 August 2015


Speaking ahead of a visit to Dunfermline High School to meet with pupils who recently received exam results, the new leader of Scottish Labour said a young person's ability to get on in life shouldn't be determined by how much money their parents have.

Pupils waiting for appeal decisions affecting applications for university or college will find out on Friday whether or not they have been successful.

Historically, exam appeals have been free of charge. However, last year the SNP Government introduced a fee if an appeal, or an exam ‘review’ is carried out but no change is made to the grade awarded. The cost now falls on the school, which has acted as a disincentive to many state schools submitting exam appeals.

Figures from 2014 show the disproportionate impact the fees have had on pupils from state schools compared to private schools. In the year following the introduction of fees, the number of state school pupils lodging appeals dropped by 88%. The proportion of appeals in state schools is less than half that for private schools.

Kezia Dugdale said:

"A young person's ability to get on in life should be determined by their potential, work rate and ambition, not how much money their parents have.

"An exam appeal decision can be the thing that means a pupil can get to college or university, with all the opportunities that brings. Money shouldn't come into it.

"The introduction of exam appeal fees by the SNP Government last year put pupils from state schools at a disadvantage compared to those educated privately. That's not fair.

"That's why I am calling for exam appeal fees for schools to be scrapped altogether so that no young person faces a barrier to getting the education they deserve."

From April 2014, the SQA replaced the ‘Appeal Service’ with the ‘Results Service’ and introduced a fee for using the services if there was no change to the original grade. This change affects all National Courses including Intermediate 1 and 2, National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher.

There are two different types of Results Services –

1. Exceptional Circumstances Consideration Service (e.g. Illness, bereavement)

2. Post-results Service (I.e. School or pupil concerned by result)

Schools and colleges will be charged a fee for using the Post-results Service where there is no change to the original grade following the clerical check or marking review.

Official guidance states – “It is at the discretion of the Head Teacher/Principal as to whether or not a candidate’s request will be submitted.”

The charges are as follows:

• Clerical Check £10

• Marking Review £29.75

• Priority Marking Review £39.75

First Minister must distance herself from Salmond's BBC remarks

27 August 2015

Scottish Labour is calling on the First Minister to use her Alternative MacTaggart appearance to distance herself and her party from Alex Salmond's recent remarks on the BBC.

The call comes from Scottish Labour's Democracy spokesperson Claire Baker MSP as she visits BBC Scotland's headquarters at Pacific Quay to discuss Charter Renewal and the BBC in Scotland.

During the visit Ms Baker reiterated her calls for calmness during the Charter Renewal process warning that it can't be "driven by political ideology or grievance."

She also confirmed her party's commitment to calling for increased investment for BBC Scotland from within the licence fee settlement and for the retention of the quotas system for commissioning from nations and regions.

For the first time in the charter renewal process, the Scottish Parliament will have a consultative role in the process, following the Smith Commission.

Speaking after the visit, Claire Baker said:

"The BBC is one of our most valued treasures, loved throughout the country and envied by many abroad. It is vital that the charter renewal process isn't driven by political ideology or grievance.

"That is why the First Minister must use her Alternative MacTaggart appearance to distance herself, her Government, and her party from Alex Salmond's consistent criticisms of the BBC.

"Charter Renewal must be about securing the best deal for the BBC both in Scotland and throughout the UK and the best deal for the licence fee payers. It is not, and never should be, about exerting undue political influence or dreaming of editorial control. This is as true for the SNP as it is for the Tories.

"With the Scottish Parliament having a role in the upcoming Charter Renewal process as a result of the Smith Commission it is vital that we all work constructively to get the best deal for viewers in Scotland.

"We must not have a situation where politicians use the renewal process to settle old scores. The public will not forgive them if they did."

 

Kezia Dugdale unveils new front bench team

 



19 August 2015


Kezia Dugdale has unveiled her new front bench team.

The new Scottish Labour leader was joined by her Equality Spokesperson Jenny Marra on a visit to the Punjabi Junction Cafe in Edinburgh to highlight the new team.

Ms Dugdale's instruction to every member of her front bench team is to get out around Scotland setting out a positive Labour vision of transforming the country. Members of the new team will no longer simply shadow SNP Government ministers, but will instead focus more on communicating Labour values to the public.

In the coming days Ms Dugdale will announce the junior members of her front bench team, as well as appoint the conveners of the Public Audit Committee, Welfare Reform Committee, Health Committee, Public Petitions Committee and Equal Opportunities Committee.

Kezia said:

"I am excited about the future. We all know the big task that faces Scottish Labour in the months and years ahead, but we're up for it. My new team has a good mix of experience and vision to start the task of renewing Scottish Labour.

"The most important goal of any party must be to ensure that the life chances of our young people are determined by their potential, work rate and ambition, not by their background. These values will drive my team in every portfolio.

"Everybody in Scottish politics needs to get up to speed with the changed mood of the nation. The public will no longer accept politicians from any party complaining about what we can't do. We all need to offer a positive vision of what we will do with the powers we do have."

Scottish Labour's new front bench team is as follows:

Leader - Kezia Dugdale

Deputy Leader - Alex Rowley Covering policy and strategy

Equality Spokesperson - Jenny Marra

Covering health, equalities, welfare, care, social inclusion

Opportunity Spokesperson - Iain Gray

Covering schools, childcare, skills, lifelong learning, sport, science, workplace issues

Justice Spokesperson - Graeme Pearson

Covering justice and policing

Public Services and Wealth Creation Spokesperson - Jackie Baillie

Finance, infrastructure, business, delivery of public services, tourism

Community Spokesperson - Ken Macintosh

Covering housing, local government, cities, planning, island communities

Environmental Justice Spokesperson - Sarah Boyack

Covering transport, environment and rural affairs, land reform, climate change, energy (including oil and gas)

Democracy Spokesperson - Claire Baker

Covering constitution, Europe, culture, power in society

Reform Spokesperson - Mary Fee

Covering party and parliamentary reform

Business Manager - James Kelly

Chief Whip - Neil Bibby

Both roles covering parliamentary business

Police and Ministers must break their silence on spying allegations

6 August 2015


Police Scotland and SNP Ministers must break their silence on allegations of illegal spying on journalists.

Investigative journalist Eamon O’Connor told the Scotland 2015 programme last night that he believed Police Scotland had been illegally monitoring his communications.

Mr O’Connor said a police source informed him he was being targeted as he investigated the unsolved murder of Emma Caldwell.

Scottish Labour has tabled a Parliamentary motion calling for transparency from the SNP Government over alleged spying on journalists and their sources by Police Scotland.

Last weekend the Sunday Herald reported that Police Scotland is one of two forces in the UK which has illegally monitored communications between journalists and their sources.

Both Police Scotland and the SNP Government have refused to deny the reports.

Scottish Labour Justice Spokesperson Hugh Henry said:

“SNP ministers have to break their silence about these shocking allegations. This goes to the heart of public trust in our police and our government.

“If Eamon O’Connor’s allegations are true, they could shatter the already fragile public confidence in a force which has stumbled from controversy to controversy in the last six months.

“What did SNP ministers know about this? Do Nicola Sturgeon and Michael Matheson believe this to be an acceptable way for Police Scotland to behave?

“Police officers in Scotland put their lives on the line on a daily basis to keep people safe. Officers deserve better than to have their reputations dragged through the mud due to the controversial decisions of senior management.

"We need full transparency from the SNP Government as to whether ministers knew about or authorised any surveillance of journalists and their sources by Police Scotland, including Mr O’Connor.


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Pupils who raised concerns about Higher maths exam “vindicated” – Gray

4 August 2015


Pupils who raised concerns about problems with the new Higher maths exam have been “vindicated”, Scottish Labour said today.

The SQA had to lower the pass mark for the new Higher maths exam to 33.8%. The pass mark for the ‘old Higher’ is 43%.

Acting Leader and Shadow Education Secretary Iain Gray called for a full review of the problems with the Higher maths exam to prevent the same issues being repeated next year.

At First Minister’s Questions in May, former Scottish Labour Deputy Leader Kezia Dugdale highlighted the worries of pupils who said the Higher maths exam was too difficult. At the time Iain Gray also wrote to SNP Education Secretary Angela Constance urging a full inquiry into the problems with the exam.

The SNP accused Labour of scaremongering, yet today the SQA has now admitted that the exam was too hard. In today’s Herald a former Principal Assessor of maths at the SQA said pupils sitting the new Higher were less likely to achieve the top grades.

Iain Gray also called for the SNP Government to scrap the charges they introduced for exam appeals, which put pupils from state schools at a disadvantage.

Scottish Labour’s Acting Leader and Shadow Education Secretary Iain Gray said:

“The pupils who raised concerns about the difficulty of the new Higher maths exam have been vindicated. It’s true that pass marks are adjusted each year, but it’s extraordinary to see this drop to just 33.8%. The Highers are the gold standard of Scottish education and this is a big concern.

“The SNP have spent the last few days crowing that there was no problem with the maths exam only for their own exams authority to say today that it was too hard.

“Pupils sitting the Higher maths exam next year shouldn’t have to go through what young people did last May. We need a full review by the SNP Government into the problems with the new Higher maths exam.”

Speaking about the appeals system, Iain Gray added:

“We know that the appeals charges introduced by the SNP Government have put pupils from state schools at a disadvantage. It’s not fair and they should be reversed.

“All pupils who didn’t get the results they hoped for should have a fair shot at an appeal, no matter what school they go to or how much money their parents have.”


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Call for SNP Government to come clean on the extra delays and costs of capital projects

1 August 2015

The SNP Government has been urged to come clean about the extra delays and costs of capital projects in Scotland.

Scottish Labour made the call after responses to Parliamentary Questions from John Swinney confirmed the building of eight schools, NHS centres and care homes have been delayed.

The SNP Finance Minister also confirmed that new rules mean there will be an increase in the money paid by the taxpayer to private firms for the building of roads, schools and hospitals.

On Friday the Office for National Statistics (ONS) ruled that the SNP Government’s flagship capital project – the Aberdeen bypass – does not meet new EU rules and must be classed as a public sector project. John Swinney said the contract for the project would now be renegotiated to increase private sector involvement.

This follows publication by the Guardian of a leaked document indicating increased private sector ownership and control across all Scottish Futures Trust hub projects.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Finance Secretary Jackie Baillie said:

“John Swinney might want to dismiss this as a minor accounting change but the reality is that the SNP Government’s whole infrastructure strategy has been thrown into doubt.

“When kids are having to wait longer on a new school to be built and pensioners face delays for a new care home this isn’t just some technical detail – it’s people’s lives that are being affected.

"Something has gone badly wrong with the way capital projects are carried out by the SNP Government. We need some honesty from the SNP Government about exactly how long these delays will last and how much more the taxpayer will have to fork out."


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Responding to Nicola Sturgeon's latest referendum remarks

31 July 2015

Responding to Nicola Sturgeon's latest referendum remarks, Labour's Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray said:

"Nicola Sturgeon made a promise to the people of Scotland that the referendum we had less than a year ago was a once in a lifetime event. People will rightly be concerned that the First Minister appears ready to break that promise.

"Scotland can't afford more years of division and arguments about the constitution.

"We have a GP crisis, a police service in chaos and thousands of kids leaving school without the qualifications they need to get on in life.

"All political parties need to focus on addressing the big challenges in Scotland's public services, not yet another argument about where power lies."


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Commenting on the ruling by the Office for National Statistics about the SNP Government’s flagship capital project

31 July 2015

Commenting on the ruling by the Office for National Statistics about the SNP Government’s flagship capital project, Scottish Labour’s Shadow Finance Secretary Jackie Baillie said:

“This decision is a hammer blow to the SNP’s entire investment strategy. The fact that this flagship project doesn’t meet EU requirements has huge implications for how we finance the building of roads, schools and hospitals.

“On the one hand John Swinney says this has no impact on the budget or timetable for the Aberdeen bypass project, yet on the other hand he says there will need to be a renegotiation of the contract.

It doesn't add up. It’s clear there will need to be an increased stake for the private sector, despite previous SNP assurances.

“We need a full investigation into this issue, which is why I have called on Audit Scotland to carry out an urgent review.

Future generations of Scots must not be landed with Wonga-style debts.”
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Comment on GCHQ

24 July 2015

Commenting on the report in the Daily Record that earlier this year GCHQ changed its rules on spying to allow it to monitor the communications of Members of the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Irish Assembly,
Scottish Labour's Acting Leader Iain Gray said:

"This is outrageous. It is utterly unacceptable for the communications between devolved representatives across the UK and their constituents to be monitored by GCHQ.

"There needs to be full transparency from the UK Government on this. We need to know urgently who decided on this major rule change and when. For the rules on spying on elected representatives across the UK to change without
any sort of public scrutiny or accountability is a democratic outrage.

“My colleague Ian Murray has today tabled a series of Parliamentary questions in the House of Commons to get to the bottom of this.

"We also need to know from each of the devolved administrations what, if anything, they knew about this change."


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Commenting on the EHRC report on pregnancy and maternity discrimination

24 July 2015

Commenting on the EHRC report on pregnancy and maternity discrimination, Siobhan McMahon, Scottish Labour Spokesperson for Women’s and Youth Employment said:

“These are truly shocking findings. Labour established laws to protect women in the workplace from being pushed out because they are pregnant or take maternity leave but this Tory Government has made it harder for women who
suffer discrimination to seek redress.

“Scottish Labour tabled amendments to the Scotland Bill to kick-start the process of abolishing tribunal fees in Scotland. Sadly neither the Tories nor the SNP would support our amendments but we will push them again at future stages
of the Bill.

“Since the introduction of tribunal fees, claims of maternity discrimination have fallen by over 70 per cent. It's time to look at how we can strengthen the law and scrap tribunal fees so cost is never a barrier to justice."

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Comment on HMICS inquiry

22 July 2015

Commenting on the publication of the HMICS terms of reference for the inquiry into police call handling, Scottish Labour's Shadow Justice Secretary Hugh Henry said:

"The car crash on the M9 was first and foremast a human tragedy. The thoughts and prayers of everybody should remain with the family of Lamara Bell and John Yuill.

"It appears that the police failure in this case wasn't an isolated incident and was the result of a number of major problems since the creation of Police Scotland. The inquiry by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland
must look closely at the impact of the decision to close a number of police contact centres across the country and the cut in the number of civilian staff by the Scottish Government.

"It is essential that this inquiry doesn't suffer from interference by SNP Ministers. The Justice Secretary Michael Matheson gave Police Scotland a clean bill of health before the inquiry had even started. Instead of telling us there's nothing
to worry about it's time ministers got a grip of the wider problems with policing in Scotland."

 

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‘The case for rent reform cannot be ignored any longer’- McMahon

22 July 2015

The case for reform of the private rented sector cannot be ignored any longer, Scottish Labour said today.

New information released by lettings agency Your Move has shown that rents in Scotland are now 3% higher than last year, with landlord returns increasing by over 4% and the average Scottish rent now at a new high of £549.

The index also reveals that many tenants in Scotland are struggling to keep up with rent rises, with 9% of all rent paid late, up from previous figures.

Over 100,000 tenants in the private rented sector live in poverty, according the the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Scottish Labour has called for the SNP Government in Edinburgh to wake up to the reality of the private rented sector, and back their plans to reform the rental market.

Last year the SNP voted against Labour’s plans to ban rip off rent rises in the private rental sector in the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014.

Scottish Labour Housing spokesperson Michael McMahon said:

“Landlords are making more whilst more tenants struggle. The SNP Government in Edinburgh cannot continue to turn a blind eye to rent reform.

“We need to reform the private rental sector to make it work for everyone, rather than simply act as a cash cow for landlords. It needs to serve the families unable to get a foot on the property ladder or access to social housing.



“An unfair rent hike from a bad landlord is the last thing anybody needs, especially the over 100,000 households in Scotland who live in poverty and rent privately.




“Scottish Labour would ban rip off rent rises. This is about making the system fit for purpose. When the SNP opposed our plans last year they sided with Tories and bad landlords, rather than with tenants across Scotland.”

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"Failings highlighted by the Royal Colleges have to be addressed" - Marra

10 July 2015

Commenting on the recommendations published today by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges in Scotland, Jenny Marra, Scottish Labour's health spokesperson, said:

"We welcome this significant intervention by health experts and staff who are becoming increasingly concerned by the challenges our NHS face.

"The people working in our hospitals do a wonderful job but they need to be supported and resourced properly if they are to provide the care we expect.

"The Scottish Government in Edinburgh need to listen and act on the concerns and recommendations.

"For too long, Nicola Sturgeon and Shona Robison have been in denial about the scale of the problem and complacent in their
response.

"If we are going to deliver our ambitions for a healthier Scotland, then the failings highlighted by the Royal Colleges have to be heard at the highest level and addressed."

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The Budget : Scottish Labour Reaction

8 July 2015


Commenting on the summer budget, Shadow Secretary for State for Scotland Ian Murray said:

“This is not a budget for the working poor, the young or the sick.

“No amount of Tory spin can hide the fact that this is a bad budget for working families, our most vulnerable and our young people.

“The Chancellor has decided to cut vital support for working families, whilst slashing reducing inheritance tax for the most well off.

“Labour fought for and introduced the minimum wage, and we welcome any increase, but in today’s budget the Chancellor is giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

“Cuts to tax credits will mean many working people will be worse off, and with under-25s not benefiting from the increase in the minimum wage, this will have a disproportionate impact on employees in low paid sectors.

“This political budget is George Osborne’s CV for getting into number ten.

“It’s not the budget of a Chancellor in number eleven.

“From next year, Scotland has the opportunity to do things differently.

“With the new powers coming to the Scottish Parliament over tax and welfare, we can deliver a fairer budget for young people, working families and our vulnerable.

“Today’s budget makes it more important that we get on with it.

“The challenge for the SNP Government in Edinburgh is to make clear how they will use these significant new powers to make a real difference to working families in Scotland.”

 

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A&E performance has gone backwards in the last year

7 July 2015

A&E performance has gone backwards in the last year under the SNP Government in Edinburgh, new figures released today reveal.

The SNP Government in Edinburgh has a target of 98% of A&E patents being seen within four hours, with an “interim” target of 95%.

Data from the ISD Scotland website today shows that A&E performance from 1 June 2014 to 31st May 2015 sits at 92% - a decrease of the 93.8% from the same period during 2013/14.

Other information released today shows the flagship South Glasgow University Hospital hitting 88.6% - falling back from the 89.6% reported last week.

Scottish Labour Health Spokesperson Jenny Marra said :

“The figures released today show that A&E performance under the SNP Government in Edinburgh has gone backwards in the last year despite the heroic efforts of our hardworking NHS staff.

“The flagship Glasgow Hospital is still not close to hitting performance targets, despite expert support teams being sent into the hospital weeks ago.

“The truth about our NHS in Scotland is that it has been underfunded by an SNP Government that has squeezed spending on our NHS in Scotland harder than the Tories. That decision has let down patients and staff across Scotland.”

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Oil and Gas Bulletin blows full fiscal autonomy out of the water

25 June 2015


The SNP Government has finally published an updated Oil and Gas Bulletin, over a year since the last update and on the last day of the parliamentary term.

Scottish Labour has been calling for an updated Oil and Gas Bulletin for months, as revenue forecasts declined and the oil price plunged, threatening thousands of jobs across Scotland.

The Oil and Gas bulletin acknowledges what impartial experts have been saying for some time – the revenue Scotland will get from oil and gas in the coming years is set to plummet.

Today’s bulletin predicts an 85% drop in revenue for the next two years compared to the SNP's preferred projections in the independence White Paper.

Revenues are predicted to be below £2 billion in every year forecast from 2016/17 to 2019/20 in the SNP Government's preferred scenario 4.

This confirms IFS research which shows that cutting Scotland off from UK-wide taxes would mean an additional £7.6 billion deficit.

Scottish Labour has slammed the SNP for attempting to sneak out the Bulletin without any scrutiny, and said that the SNP’s policy of full fiscal autonomy has now been blown out of the water by their own figures.

Scottish Labour Finance spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:

“These projections are bad news for the oil industry, and both the SNP Government and the UK Government should explore all options to protect jobs that are directly affected and further down the supply chain.
 
“It is ridiculous that the SNP tried to sneak this report out on the last day of Parliament.

“It's clear that they have put their own political interests ahead of industry concerns.

“These new figures blow the SNP’s policy of full fiscal autonomy out of the water.

“We know cutting ourselves off from UK wide taxes would blow a £7.6 billion hole in Scotland’s finances.

“Last week the SNP trooped through the lobbies with the extreme right wing of the Tory party to vote for full fiscal autonomy.

“It is as clear as day now that they knew the policy would be a disaster for Scotland – the SNP Government’s own figures prove it.”
 

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‘Time for a major review of mental health services which puts rights first’ – Richard Simpson MSP

24 June 2015

Scottish Labour will today (Wednesday) use the Stage 3 reading of the Mental Health (Scotland) Bill to call for a major review of mental health services in Scotland which will put the rights of patients first.
Key issues that Scottish Labour say a review should encompass include:

· An evaluation as to whether learning disability and autism should be considered a mental disorder.

· Human rights implications of a patient’s right to refuse treatment.

· Proper scrutiny of advocacy services.

· Transparent investigations into deaths in mental health units or under community treatment orders.

Scottish Labour has called upon the other parties in the Scottish Parliament to support their plans, and put the rights of vulnerable Scots first.

Scottish Labour Public and Mental Health Spokesperson Dr Richard Simpson, a psychiatrist with 23-years’ experience, said:

“Mental Health is one of the great public health challenges of our time; this bill should be an opportunity to put rights first.

“Scottish Labour supports the recommendations made by the Millan Commission and McManus Report that a much wider review is needed to the various connected legislation.

 “We must also have the discussion as to whether it is time to remove those with a learning disability and autism spectrum disorder from the definition of living with a mental disorder.

“We have made significant strides in the last decade to remove much of the stigma of mental illness, but it still remains a taboo subject for many.

“In Scotland today a quarter of people will experience a diagnosable mental health problem at some point in our lives.

"It is time for a major review which will put the rights of patients first and improve mental health services in Scotland.”


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Labour welcomes votes for 16 and 17 year olds

18 June 2015

Commenting on the passage of the Scottish Elections (Reductions of Voting Age) Bill, Scottish Labour Constitution Spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:

“Scottish Labour welcomes and was proud to support the passage of this Bill.

"The greatest legacy of the referendum last year is the level of political engagement we saw, and continue to see, in Scotland’s young people.

“It is hugely disappointing that on the same day young people in Scotland have been afforded a say in future elections that the Tories have voted to block the same rights in the forthcoming EU referendum in Westminster.

“Scotland’s young people will now have the say they deserve in the future of our schools, hospitals, public services and economy. It is bitterly disappointing that they will not have voice in the European referendum.”

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Help Us Transform Scotland - Gray

15 June 2015

Scottish Labour has called on those who share the Party’s values to “help us transform Scotland”.

As the nominations for Scottish Labour Leader and Deputy Leader open today (Monday), Acting Leader Iain Gray encouraged those who share Labour’s vision of making Scotland the fairest nation on earth to get involved in the
leadership contest.

Under radical reforms passed by the Scottish Executive Committee (SEC) on Saturday, the contests will operate under a one person, one vote system.

This means that people who register as Party supporters for just £3 will be able to vote in the leadership ballot.

Under the one person, one vote system every vote is equal.

The SEC also introduced a major new change to the selection of Regional List candidates for the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. Under the new system there will be no protected places for existing MSPs.

Acting Scottish Labour Leader Iain Gray said:

“These radical new reforms will set Labour back on the road to regaining the trust of the Scottish people.

“I want as many people as possible to join us on that journey, which is why these new reforms will make it easier for supporters to get involved.

“We need to attract the brightest and best people in Scotland who share our values.

“This is not the time to narrow the pool of talent representing the Scottish Labour Party.

“Our message to those who want a fairer nation and the chance to get on in life is very simple – help us transform Scotland.

“Whether you’ve been a supporter for years or voted Labour for the first time at the General Election, you can find a home in our Party.”
 
 
 

Kezia Dugdale  : The SNP Should Abandon Their Disastrous Plan for Full Fiscal Autonomy

11th. June 2015

The SNP should abandon their disastrous plan for full fiscal autonomy, Scottish Labour said today.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament, Deputy Leader Kezia Dugdale said the SNP’s plan to scrap the Barnett formula and cut Scotland off from UK-wide taxes would mean immediate spending cuts of £7.6
billion over and above what the Tories are planning.

Ms Dugdale challenged the SNP Government to publish an updated Oil and Gas Bulletin to take account of the collapse in the oil price.

During the referendum campaign the SNP Government published three separate assessments of the future of the North Sea oil and gas industry, but since the collapse in the oil price they have delayed updating this.

Scottish Labour today published a bulletin of its own, which showed that there would need to be an oil price of over $200 to make the SNP’s sums on full fiscal autonomy add up.

Ms Dugdale also challenged the SNP to back Labour’s amendment to the Scotland Bill, which would establish an expert commission to assess the impact of full fiscal autonomy on Scotland’s public finances.

This comes on a day when a report by the Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce confirmed that two thirds of operators in the North Sea have cancelled projects because of the collapse in the oil price.

Scottish Labour’s Deputy Leader Kezia Dugdale said:

“Thousands of oil workers and their families deserve to know what assessment their government has made of the long-term future of the North Sea industry.

"The SNP should immediately publish an updated oil and gas bulletin that reflects the collapse in oil price.

“The fact that there would need to be an oil price of over $200 to balance the books under full fiscal autonomy shows what a farce the SNP’s policy is.

“We know from the experts at the Institute for Fiscal Studies that scrapping the extra spending we get from Barnett and cutting Scotland off from UK-wide taxation would mean immediate cuts of £7.6 billion.

"That’s over and above what the Tories are planning.

“This is less about North Sea oil and more about the SNP’s snake oil. For the sake of Scotland’s schools and hospitals the SNP should abandon their disastrous plan for full fiscal autonomy.”
 



 
Three key questions the SNP must answer about their plan for full fiscal autonomy

12th. June 2015

The SNP tabled an amendment to the Scotland Bill yesterday that would devolve control over everything apart from defence, foreign affairs and the responsibilities of the Bank of England.

This would cut Scotland off from UK-wide tax and spending, and mean an end to the Barnett formula which results in higher public spending here than the UK average.

However, the SNP’s fudged amendment failed to set out any timetable for this.

During the referendum the SNP said independence could be delivered in just 18 months, but now claim fiscal independence would take much more time.

The SNP will have an opportunity to deliver full fiscal autonomy immediately through an amendment tabled by the backbench Tory MP Edward Leigh.

Labour’s three questions for the SNP are:

1)     What would the timetable be for introducing full fiscal autonomy under the SNP’s plan?

2)     What assessment have they carried out of the impact of full fiscal autonomy on Scotland’s finances?

3)     What spending cuts or tax rises would the SNP Government introduce to make up the independently assessed extra £7.6 billion deficit that would arise from full fiscal autonomy?

The independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) yesterday blew a further hole in the SNP’s plans when it cut its forecast for oil revenues in the next 20 years by £35 billion to just £2 billion in total.

In the absence of an updated Oil and Gas Bulletin from the SNP Government, Labour yesterday published its own analysis which confirmed the oil price would need to hit $200 per barrel to balance the books under full fiscal autonomy.

The impartial Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) also slapped down the SNP’s leader in the House of Commons yesterday after he claimed Scotland’s fiscal deficit is half of what it is. Labour called on Angus Robertson to apologise and
correct the record.

 Labour’s Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray said:

“The SNP’s plan to cut Scotland off from UK-wide taxation and spending would be a disaster for our schools and hospitals.

"Full fiscal autonomy would mean an extra £7.6 billion of spending cuts and tax rises, over and above what the Tories are already planning. It would be full fiscal folly from the SNP.

“The SNP need to be honest with the people of Scotland about their plan for full fiscal autonomy.

"We need to know what timescale they want for it, how much they know it would cost Scotland and what spending cuts or tax rises they would make to close the extra £7.6 billion gap.   

“If the SNP really want full fiscal autonomy they could deliver it by 10pm on Monday, by voting for the Tory amendment in the Scotland Bill that actually proposes it in full rather than the SNP fudge.

"We will find out then if they have the courage of their convictions.

"Labour will oppose full fiscal autonomy because it would be bad for Scotland. We will never sell our public services down the river.
 
“The SNP want Scotland to take full responsibility for the deficit when they don’t even know what the deficit is.

“Angus Robertson is either ignorant of the facts or dishonest about the reality.

“Either way he must apologise and correct the record immediately, otherwise Scots will draw the conclusion that the SNP have absolutely no economic credibility.”





Tory Welfare plans could lead to a Child Poverty Crisis  - Ian Murray MP

10th. June 2015

The Tory Government’s welfare plans could lead to a child poverty crisis, Labour said today.

Speaking at his first Scottish Questions as Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Ian Murray highlighted research by the impartial and independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) which said that low-income working families are
likely to lose out most.
 
The Tories have set out plans to cut £12 billion from the welfare bill, but haven’t published details of where the axe would fall or who would lose out as a result.

Prior to the election the Child Poverty Action Group estimated that almost 60% of children in poverty in Scotland come from working families.

 Labour’s Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray said:

 “The Tory Government’s cruel plans would hit low-income families going out to work and doing their best.

"That’s just not fair.

"It will mean a child poverty crisis in Scotland.

 “It’s time for the Tories to come clean about the devastating impact their welfare plans will have on families across Scotland.

 “Labour has set out proposals to devolve more powers to Scotland so that we can protect families from the worst of the Tories.

“Under Labour's plan the final decision on benefits in Scotland will be made in Scotland.”



 
The SNP Should Have The Courage of Their Convictions on Full Fiscal Autonomy  - Ian Murray MP

9th. June 2015

The SNP should have the courage of their convictions on full fiscal autonomy, Labour said today.

Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray made the call after tabling an amendment to the Scotland Bill that would see the creation of an impartial and independent expert commission to assess the impact of full fiscal autonomy on
Scotland’s public finances.

This was submitted by Mr Murray alongside a raft of other amendments designed to improve the Scotland Bill, including the devolution of more welfare powers and the establishment of a UK-wide Constitutional Convention.  

A recent analysis by the impartial Institute for Fiscal Studies confirmed the SNP's plan to cut Scotland off from UK-wide taxes would mean spending cuts and tax rises worth £7.6 billion in the first year - rising to £10 billion a year by
the end of this decade.

This would be on top of the austerity measures already planned by the Tories.

On Sunday, the SNP's constitutional spokesperson Tommy Sheppard said introducing full fiscal autonomy, the SNP’s key General Election pledge, would be a “disaster” for Scotland. In the House of Commons yesterday senior Tory
backbenchers suggested they would back full fiscal autonomy.

Labour's Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray said:

"The reason the SNP have been so reluctant to talk about full fiscal autonomy is because they know it would be a disaster for Scotland.

“Only the SNP's Constitution Spokesperson Tommy Sheppard was honest enough to admit this.

“The IFS say cutting Scotland off from UK-wide tax and spending would mean extra cuts and tax rises worth £7.6 billion a year over and above what the Tories are doing, rising to £10 billion a year by the end of this decade.

“Scotland’s schools and hospitals are already under huge strain – imposing even more cuts to their budgets would be the ultimate nightmare.

"If the SNP have confidence in their policy they should have no problem backing an assessment of the impact of full fiscal autonomy on Scotland's finances by an independent expert commission.

“It's time for the SNP to have the courage of their convictions on full fiscal autonomy."


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The SNP Should Have The Courage of Their Convictions on Full Fiscal Autonomy  - Ian Murray MP

9th. June 2015

The SNP should have the courage of their convictions on full fiscal autonomy, Labour said today.

Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray made the call after tabling an amendment to the Scotland Bill that would see the creation of an impartial and independent expert commission to assess the impact of full fiscal autonomy on
Scotland’s public finances.

This was submitted by Mr Murray alongside a raft of other amendments designed to improve the Scotland Bill, including the devolution of more welfare powers and the establishment of a UK-wide Constitutional Convention.  

A recent analysis by the impartial Institute for Fiscal Studies confirmed the SNP's plan to cut Scotland off from UK-wide taxes would mean spending cuts and tax rises worth £7.6 billion in the first year - rising to £10 billion a year by
the end of this decade.

This would be on top of the austerity measures already planned by the Tories.

On Sunday, the SNP's constitutional spokesperson Tommy Sheppard said introducing full fiscal autonomy, the SNP’s key General Election pledge, would be a “disaster” for Scotland. In the House of Commons yesterday senior Tory
backbenchers suggested they would back full fiscal autonomy.

Labour's Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray said:

"The reason the SNP have been so reluctant to talk about full fiscal autonomy is because they know it would be a disaster for Scotland.

“Only the SNP's Constitution Spokesperson Tommy Sheppard was honest enough to admit this.

“The IFS say cutting Scotland off from UK-wide tax and spending would mean extra cuts and tax rises worth £7.6 billion a year over and above what the Tories are doing, rising to £10 billion a year by the end of this decade.

“Scotland’s schools and hospitals are already under huge strain – imposing even more cuts to their budgets would be the ultimate nightmare.

"If the SNP have confidence in their policy they should have no problem backing an assessment of the impact of full fiscal autonomy on Scotland's finances by an independent expert commission.

“It's time for the SNP to have the courage of their convictions on full fiscal autonomy."


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