Ahead of the SNP leader's speech later today, Scottish Labour leadership candidate Richard Leonard issued a 'charge sheet' against SNP failure and said:
"At the SNP conference later today, we will see Nicola Sturgeon up to the same old tricks that she and her Party have made careers out of. They promise the world, they sound good, plausible and even progressive. But words on a page or spoken from a conference rostrum don’t put food in the stomachs of Scotland’s hungry children stomach or make Scotland a fairer and better place.
"‘Stronger for Scotland’ or ‘Standing up for Scotland’ are just two of the recent phrases used by the SNP to mislead the Scottish people in recent years. The latest catchphrase is ‘Progress’, but despite this latest attempt at slick and polished PR and all their other spin the Scottish people are increasingly fed up by the broken promises and empty rhetoric of the SNP.
"The Scottish people are increasingly angry at the inaction and failings of the Scottish Government. Scotland’s teachers and pupils, college students, our local government and NHS staff, our social care workers our hospital patients are all fed up at the SNP failure to match their rhetoric with proper funding for our public services.
"We see the sick languishing on waiting lists, long after the timescale set by the SNP’s own targets and people unable to get an appointment at one of our increasingly crisis ridden local GP practices. These people don’t think that equates to progress.
"If you are one of the increasing number of Scots finding yourself reliant on food banks to feed your family, a worker earning less than the living wage, or the growing number of people who are homeless, stuck on a housing waiting list or are at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords, then you will see through the SNP spin machine. Likewise, you will have woken up pretty angry this morning if you are a public sector worker who was promised the SNP would scrap the public sector pay cap only for the Finance Minister Derek Mackay to break that promise yesterday.
"When I campaigned for a Scottish Parliament I did so thinking it would act as a bulwark against a Tory UK Government doing what they always do - attacking the rights and livelihoods of working people? But under the SNP the Scottish Parliament has in too many areas been used as a conveyor belt to implement Tory cuts. Whatever way you dress it up the SNP have been the Tories executioner’s assistant for public services in Scotland.
"Being too busy fighting the constitutional fight the SNP have literally forgotten to get on with doing the things that really matter to the people of Scotland. It is a tragedy that they have not fought and obsessed over tackling poverty in the same way they have fought and obsessed over constitutional change. I will never make that mistake; my overriding mission will be focused on fighting poverty and inequality and sharing the fruits of our economy much more evenly. That’s the battle that really needs to be fought that’s what will drive every Labour policy under my leadership - I will ensure that Scotland is a country that really does fight and look after the many and not just a few."
Charge Sheet against the SNP
1. Poverty is rising in Scotland. The Scottish Government’s most recent analysis states ‘Poverty rates have been relatively stable over the last decade with some fluctuations year on year. Most rates have risen in 2015/16’.
2. Nearly half a million Scots earn less than the living wage
3. Child poverty: 19 per cent of children in Scotland, approximately 190 thousand, were living in relative poverty BHC in 2015/16. This compares to 17 per cent the previous year. After housing costs, 26 per cent of children in Scotland were living in relative poverty, approximately 260 thousand children. This compares to 22 per cent the previous year.
4. 17 per cent of people in Scotland are living in relative poverty before housing costs (BHC) in 2015/16, approximately 880 thousand people. This compares to 15 per cent in 2014/15. After housing costs (AHC), 20 per cent of people in Scotland were living in relative poverty in 2015/16 representing 1.05 million people. This compares to 18 per cent in 2014/15.
5. Health inequalities stubbornly persist with shameful differentials in life expectancy
6. The Scottish Economy is flat-lining, growing 3 times slower than the rest of the UK
7. Local Government funding has been cut by £1.8 billion since 2010 with over 50 thousand local government jobs lost
8. Nearly 140,000 of households are languishing on housing waiting lists
9. 4000 teachers lost since 2011, at the same time the educational attainment gap is getting wider
10. College funding cut, with lecturer numbers down, teaching hours down, student numbers down and student financial support cut
11. The NHS, despite its brilliant staff, in breakdown, GP’s in crisis, increasingly closing lists to new patients, mental services in meltdown especially for young people, delayed discharges on the rise and treatment time guarantees constantly not being met.
12. Social care creaking at the seams with staff paid a pittance and those people in receipt of care not getting the care they need and deserve