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I was the Head of Policy and Public Affairs at UNISON Scotland until my retirement in September 2018. I now work on several policy development projects, so all views are very definitely my own. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Monday, 18 April 2016

The positive case for Scottish Labour

Well that was different! Kez Dugdale's speech to STUC Congress today broke the mould. Past Scottish Labour leaders have come to Congress and launched into a lengthy attach on their political opponents - sounding like a tribal rant. 

What most delegates to Congress want to hear from politicians is what are they going to do for working people - not what their opponents haven't. 

Kez's speech did just that. The focus of her speech, unsurprisingly, talked about what Labour will do the new powers that are now on the statue books. She asked, "Will we use the new powers of the Scottish Parliament or will we continue with Tory cuts?"

Labour's main promise in this election is that any Labour Scottish Government will increase spending on public services in Scotland. That came with a good line, "We know that austerity is not an act of God, it is a political choice."

She went on to explain how Scottish Labour will fund public services; by not raising the threshold for the higher rate and that includes inflation; a top rate of 50% for those earning £150k; and 1p on the basic rate.

A particularly well received commitment was to take a tougher line with those who avoid tax. She said, "We will make sure that those who do not pay their taxes do not get taxpayers’ money.  There should be no public contracts for those who avoid tax."

She then highlighted the true cost of cuts - thousands upon thousands of jobs being lost and the rest of us losing local services.

Moving on from austerity she set out a new approach to working with trade unions. Starting with a repeat of her commitment not to comply with the Trade Union Bill and then setting out a new positive approach through a Work and Trade Union Bill. This Bill will recognise the positive role of trade unions in the economy, in creating better workplaces, increasing productivity and building a fair economy. A new agency, Skills Scotland, will be established in partnership with unions and employers and co-chaired by a nominee of the STUC. It will bring together employment services and skills services, including the new powers over the Work Programme.

Finally, she made other promises that went down well in the hall:

- Keeping CalMac in public hands and immediately halting the tendering process.

- Regulate bus services & bring Scotrail under public ownership.

- Ban exploitative zero hours contracts with a focus on care workers.

- Abolish for good the bedroom tax and create a new approach to social security in Scotland that offers dignity and tackles poverty.

- A full inquiry into the practice of blacklisting of trade unionists in Scotland.

- Dropping the extortionate pre-devolution interest that hangs around the necks of councils across Scotland.

She ended with an appreciation of how hard Scottish Labour has to work to convince people of Labour's case: "Will we use the new powers or will we make more cuts?" - seems a good place to start.

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