Campaign launch speech


Good afternoon friends and comrades. Thank for you for coming along this afternoon to the launch of my campaign to become the leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

At the start I want to pay tribute to my friend Kezia Dugdale who became leader in the hardest of times and brought energy and renewed purpose to the Party.


And to those fresh new faces in Parliament like Danielle who are leading this campaign.


Can I also thank John and Jenna. What humbling contributions they were.


Today I am going to set out my vision for the future of Scotland; a Scotland based upon our timeless Labour values of solidarity, of democracy, of equality and of justice.

The Scottish Labour Party and Scotland has before it a choice.

Because make no mistake Scotland’s economic, social and environmental problems are deep-seated.

They are not the product of the last ten years or even the last twenty years. And if we understand that we know that we cannot even begin to deal with them simply by trying to manage them a bit better.

This is no time to tinker around the edges. We need wholesale, real, and radical change and we need a completely new approach. The truth is that only the Labour Party can, and will, solve these problems and transform the lives of the people of Scotland.

Only Labour, with radical leadership in Scotland and Jeremy Corbyn’s principled leadership across the UK, will deliver the real change needed to tackle Scotland’s deep rooted social and economic problems and so be the Party that once again offers hope to people 

History shows that it has always been Labour in power, backed and supported by our wider movement that has transformed Scotland before.

And that’s why the only coalition I want to see is the one between the Labour Party and the trades union movement.

For the avoidance of doubt, let me make it clear. There will be no ground ceded to nationalism at the expense of progressive socialism under my leadership. No coalition, pacts, or deals with the SNP. And no second independence referendum.

We built the housing that provided the foundation for people to lead dignified lives and enabled them to realise their potential.

It was Labour, working alongside our Trade Union brothers and Sisters, which championed equal pay, minimum pay, which outlawed discrimination, and legislated for health and safety at work.

It was Labour that provided a helping hand to our most vulnerable from the cradle to the grave, it was Labour who extended education and it was Labour who created our NHS.

My own politics have been shaped by my work and my life experiences. As many here will know I owe much of my education, and the making of who I am today to the Scottish trades union movement. Beginning with my old friend and mentor the late Alex Falconer, who although a Parliamentarian, never stopped looking at the world through the eyes of the dockyard shop steward, and never stopped pursuing democracy in the workplace and the economy. 

I worked for twenty years as a union organiser for the GMB. Negotiating pay rises, averting redundancies and saving jobs, battling grave injustices like the construction blacklisting scandal, securing equal pay for women workers. Often low paid women workers: employed as cleaners, catering workers, out-sourced and on the lowest hourly, weekly and annual rates of pay. 

The very first Employment Tribunal I took was an equal pay claim for the Head Chef at Rosyth Dockyard. We won. And that’s why I back the fight by all of those women including those in the City of Glasgow who have been robbed of their rightful earnings.

And one thing I knew, from the very outset, was that working people through their trade unions could achieve much through industrial struggle[1] , and occasionally through the legal system. But the real and decisive advances that we can make are through political action to bring about real political change. 

And that is why I stood in elected politics. Not for a career. But because of the real and lasting difference we can make to people’s lives

I believe that we make a mistake if we simply consider people as consumers to whom we make a retail-style offer. People are citizens who are not simply driven by self-interest but by the common good of the community they live in.

Today too many people know what the Scottish Labour Party is against not enough people know what we are for.

So let me explain why I’m standing to lead our great Party in Scotland. I am standing for the leadership of the Scottish Labour Party because nearly 13 million people voted for a Labour manifesto committed to extending public ownership, to ending austerity, and to redistributing power to the many from the few.

And I am standing because now more than ever this is no time for timidity. No time for superficial opportunism. This is a time to be bold and ambitious. To offer people the vision of the better Scotland we want to build, the real change we need.

We want to once again offer the people of Scotland hope. And we want once again a Scottish Labour Party, seen as the means of realising that hope.

We need to inspire by our ambition, to be consistent in our principles and when necessary dogged in our purpose, and we need to be credible with the vision of real change we put to the people of Scotland

We need to elect the leader who is best placed to win back those lost Labour votes. Who is best placed to build on the 2017 General Election and build on the support we got from young voters.

Of course we need to be a strong opposition but we need to do more. We need to build a popular movement to win power. Because make no mistake my goal is to be the next Labour First Minister of Scotland.

We need to challenge the decade of complacency which marks out the SNP’s time in office. Complacency about the crisis not just in our schools and our National Health Service but complacency about the widening gap between rich and poor.

How on earth can we expect to close the educational attainment gap when we live in a society so riddled from top to bottom with inequality: inequality in health, inequality in wealth and power, and still too much social and economic inequality based on race and disability.

How can ever hope to solve our national shame of huge health inequalities and chronic differences in life expectancy if we normalise and passively accept a Scotland where the top one per cent own more wealth than the entire bottom fifty per cent put together?

How can we expect to close the educational attainment gap when too many children are brought up in overcrowded housing and are living in poverty? 

How can it be right that nearly a quarter of children are condemned to live in poverty, their health, even their life chances cut down by the wrong political choices? And how can it be right that last winter a half of our old age pensioners lived in fuel poverty?

Twenty years since the devolution referendum we have every right to be angry. No wonder people are discontented. They are hungry for change. But the change they crave will find no answer in nationalism, and every answer in socialism and democracy.

Let me make clear from the outset I have no intention to lead the Scottish Labour Party into an election promising to be the leader of a strong opposition. I will lead us into the next election looking to win, not for the benefit of our Party but for the benefit of all of our people, who need a Labour government.

Scotland needs a radical and transformative Labour Party as much now as it ever has. And let me say - if we don’t believe in ourselves, how can we expect anyone else to believe in us and so vote for us?

I will lead the Scottish Labour Party, as a party for the whole of Scotland, as a party of positive change, as the party with the right ideas for the future. I will lead the Scottish Labour Party outside Parliament as well as inside Parliament. I want our party to win –with the ideas, the policies, the votes of the people of Scotland –pfor a purpose.

And when we win, we will not just talk, we will do what Labour has always done -

we will act and make the lives of our people better. We will rediscover our ethical socialist roots. We will reach out once more to working people through their trade unions and in their communities. And we will make sure that the Scottish Parliament does what it was established to do. The reason I, with so many others, fought for it. Our Scottish Parliament was supposed to be a beacon of social and economic progress.

Not a Parliament for its own sake but a Parliament whose purpose was to make the economy and our politics work better. A Parliament that was supposed to be a bulwark whenever the Tories found themselves in power and attacked working people.

When working people’s pensions and wages are under attack the Parliament should be defending them. When funding to our public services is cut the Scottish Parliament should be protecting them. When our economy is stagnating our Scottish Parliament should be investing in our people and our economy to boost it.

We didn’t fight all those years for a Scottish Parliament so it could simply be a conveyor belt for Tory cuts and Tory policies.

We need to use the powers of the Parliament. To tackle poverty and inequality. To develop a manufacturing strategy as part of an industrial policy that will deliver 21st century jobs with 21st century conditions. To revitalise and re-empower local government as the community change agent it always has been. To run public transport as a public good for all our citizens including putting our railways in public ownership. To generate good jobs, union jobs, permanent, properly rewarded jobs

And let me give you some firm proposals.

Scotland has a housing crisis. Waiting lists are spiralling, mortgages are difficult to obtain and people are having to rely more and more on private landlords. In little over a decade we've seen the proportion of 25-34 year-olds in private rented accomodation triple. And during that decade while we've seen work becoming more insecure and wages stagnating rents in some parts of Scotland have doubled. 

That is why I want to see tough rent controls to prevent exploitation by landlords. What I’ve called a "Mary Barbour law". This will rein in landlord powers - making sure that rents have to meet external standards and subjecting rises to an affordability index. 

Our Social Care system is not working - the staff, who I represented in this city, face low pay, insecurity and limited opportunity for professional advancement. In the meantime the people who need care are not getting the care they deserve to enable them to lead the fulfilling and dignified lives that we should help them achieve.

So, I will initiate a comprehensive and root and branch review of social care to ensure that we provide the service that people deserve and to ensure that staff are rewarded for the vital work they do looking after our elderly and most vulnerable.

And, I will create an Industrial Reform and Common Ownership Act to give workers a statutory preferential right to buy an enterprise when it is up for sale or facing closure.

Why shouldn’t those who create the wealth have a right to own the wealth they create? 

And I will commit to an urgent and comprehensive review of how we fund our public projects and infrastructure so that no longer does it provide a cash bonanza to absentee shareholders.

Our public services are there to serve the Scottish public not the balance sheets of financiers.

We need a Scottish National Investment Bank in Scotland that is democratically run and accountable to the people of Scotland and which is a catalyst for economic change and not simply an institution that responds to market failure. 

And we need to look at more innovative approaches to pension fund investment too, ways in which they can do more to invest in local economies

It is my intention to fix SNP Government failures and tackle these great challenges But we must also meet the challenges, and opportunities, of the future too. The challenge of Brexit. Of automation. The challenge of climate change and of diversifying our economy around the greatest challenge our planet faces will be a central objective of mine.

It is about an industrial strategy which considers public ownership in renewable energy, the railways and the Royal Mail, and our depleting offshore oil and gas reserves.

It is about using the powers over education but over the causes of poverty too to close the attainment gap

In the end politics is a battle of ideas. You have heard some of my ideas this afternoon, but leadership is about listening as well as talking. So I want my campaign to be brimming with your ideas too. We need to give people a sense of hope, out of despair. A real change built on substance not style. 

With democratic socialist principles and policies not managerialism. A new unity in our Party but a unity of purpose too. Winning power not for its own sake but for a purpose, that great purpose of our movement and our party –ito create that good society that better, equal and just society for our people. 

So l will stick to these our values. To these our principles. I will have conviction And I will have the courage of that conviction. And I hope that you will join me in taking Labour back into power and building a Scotland for the many ​- not the few. 






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Promoted by Danielle Rowley on behalf of Richard Leonard, both at 180 Hope Street, Glasgow, G2 2UE