Speech to Scottish Labour Conference by Johann Lamont MSP
Check against delivery
Can I thank you for your support this year. Can I thank you for the support you have given Ian Price and his fantastic team through Donside, through Dunfermline, through Cowdenbeath, and through all of our council by election success.
The hallmark of our by-election successes was our young members, proudly wearing their red jackets, eager to talk to people about Labour values.
In fact, our conference feels so young and vibrant that this year even my deputy Anas is starting to look old.
Can I thank Anas, and my dear friend Margaret for their support this year.
Margaret has said that this referendum has been going so long that she feels its like a pregnancy.
And conference, if that is true, next time I debate Nicola Sturgeon, I am taking gas and air.
There are so many reasons why I am proud to be part of this movement I have struggled to find just one to tell you why I am Labour.
Let me put it this way. I know a guy who grew up without much. A loving family yes, but poor housing and few prospects.
He had to leave school early to get a job to help put food on his family’s table – something as a loving son he was willing to do.
And there his chances to progress could have ended – but for the trade union movement and the labour movement.
It was his shop steward who identified him as bright and encouraged him to get the qualifications he couldn’t afford to get at school.
But that wasn’t enough. The trade union movement and the Labour movement encouraged him to get the degree his talents deserved, too.
He studied at night and he graduated.
And what of him now? Now he plays a leading role in his community. He provides for his wife, his daughter who is at university and his son who has the chance to stay on at school to do the qualifications his Dad couldn’t afford to do.
That guy and his family have a reason to thank the labour movement. And I have more than one reason to thank him – my husband Archie. Thank you.
After that you know I don’t think I’ll have to take the bins out for a month.
Conference – I need the support of my family to do this job. I need the support of the Scottish Labour Party.
And I am glad to be able to say that the Scottish Labour movement is my family which enables me to do this job.
Lets get our country back.
Lets reclaim social justice for Scotland. Social justice as WE know it – a politics for the many not the few.
Not social justice as the current Scottish government practices – tax breaks for the rich, cash for the privileged –and when they take a £1 billion away from the poorest in our society, they claim to be a progressive beacon.
Conference. We will not wear nationalist clothes – but we will rip from the nationalists the threadbare garments they dress in to appear to believe in equality.
We believe in social justice – but we believe in a time of scarce resources, you put the money you have where the need is – not just where you think the swing votes are.
Seven years of nationalism in Scotland – and not one policy which redistributes wealth from rich to poor. In fact the opposite. Those in the richest houses saving most. Those with the most getting more.
Those with the least getting less.
That isn’t just a betrayal of social justice – it is a betrayal of everything we believe Scotland stands for.
Look beyond the saltire. Look beyond the plaid. Look at the Scotland the nationalists are building - and what they plan to build.
While we will ask the rich to pay their fair share – the nationalists tell us that would put Scotland at a disadvantage. Social injustice is what puts Scotland at its greatest disadvantage and restoring the 50p tax rate will start to fight that.
We have a nationalist government which refuses to reverse Tory tax cuts for millionaires – and a nationalist government which votes against giving workers on government contracts the living wage.
Forget talk of Indy Lite – this nationalist government is Osborne Max.
And they want to go further.
And they are not even honest about it.
They say vote yes to get rid of the Tories. And then they say they will cut tax lower than anything the Tories set. The Tories would control our economy – there just wouldn’t be a Scot there to speak up for Scotland.
That’s the difference. We won’t enshrine the Tories’ policies in Scotland. We won’t run away from the Tories but then let them run our economy. We will face up to the Tories and we will beat them.
And conference don’t get me wrong. Fair tax does not mean we don’t want to encourage wealth creation. Wealth creation is how we raise the money to pay for world class schools and hospitals, for proper care of the weak and dignity for the elderly.
But here’s the difference between us and the nationalists. We believe that you attract investment by having the best educated work force in the world – not by cutting 140,000 places out of our college system. We believe that investing in lifelong learning will attract employers to Scotland – not by guaranteeing that you will give multinationals and millionaires a bigger cut in corporation tax than anything the Tories could contemplate.
Let me tell you what one Nobel Prize winning economist said about that policy – Joseph Stiglitz.
“Some of you have been told that lowering tax rates on corporations will lead to more investment. The fact is that’s not true. … It is just a gift to the corporations increasing inequality in our society.”
That’s the First Minister’s much vaunted adviser.
So this Nationalist government knows that its key tax policy will increase inequality not tackle it but that is still at the heart of their plans. That is all you need to know, conference, about the kind of Scotland the nationalists want to create.
Because where there is small print in this offer the people of Scotland need to read it.
The nationalists are running the most dishonest, deceptive and disgraceful political campaign this country has ever seen.
Their strategy is not to convince the people of Scotland – it is to drag them over the line to a place of no return outside the United Kingdom.
Decent nationalists throughout this country must be hanging their heads in shame at the campaign that is being run.
They cannot answer basic questions like what the currency would be after a yes vote. They cannot say how long it would take for an independent Scotland to join the European Union or on what terms. They cannot even tell us if we would have a border.
There is a new definition of the word scaremongering – asking Alex Salmond a question he cannot answer.
But there is one thing which the First Minister has discovered this year. Women give birth to children. Then they look after them.
So when his focus groups tell him women don’t like him he discovers childcare. It wasn’t exactly the same as Fleming discovering penicillin. Splitting the atom it was not but I suppose the First Minister learning anything about how real Scots live their lives is some sort of progress.
I’m not going to give any theories about why the First Minister has a problem with women.
But let me offer this thought. The huge issues which women face here and abroad are deeper than any constitutional arrangement and they must be addressed with political will regardless of what the constitutional settlement may be.
I know that not one step on the road to greater equality for women was ever delivered without a battle so whatever happens in the referendum this September it will not mean that women’s lives will be better. The argument for greater equality must always be made and won on its own terms.
We will continue to highlight inequality and demand change. But let me be clear. If there is to be any progress for women there has to be a connection between ambition and practical delivery. It is not enough just to describe the challenges which women face, there has to be a commitment to change.
This year we mourned the loss of Helen Eadie. A woman of great compassion and integrity.
A woman who didn’t simply tell us what she cared about – and she cared deeply about those she represented. But knew how to turn words into action even as a young woman.
She didn’t just know the importance of childcare to women she set up a childcare co-operative which is still going strong today.
That is why when we find out that the nationalists’ aren’t implementing their policy on childcare now that it is difficult to call it a commitment.
When civil servants tell us that in fact the policy is still in development, we realise that it is not even a promise – it is a hope to promise.
Either that or it is the most patronising and cynical con even this government has ever come up with.
Transformational? What would be really transformational would be if this government ever told the truth.
When this referendum has been run the nationalists will go down as conducting the worst campaign of mis-selling in history.
A White Paper about Scotland’s future that mentions ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ more often than it mentions the whisky industry isn’t a document to be taken seriously.
The nationalists ask for an alternative to the White Paper. We have one. Its called the truth.
Our politics is about people not flags.
Our ambition isn’t a new border but new horizons for our country.
Conference, last year I told you that the Nationalists would tell you anything to get a yes vote. I said they would tell me I would be a size ten and have George Clooney on my arm after independence.
Well conference, this year I can tell you under devolution I am a size ten – but I think George Clooney would take an hell of an amendment to the New Scotland Act.
The nationalists say they want Scotland to have the self-confidence to leave the UK – I am more ambitious than that. I want Scotland to have the self-confidence to lead the UK.
I believe in community. I believe in pooling and sharing what you have. And I believe that is at the heart of the modern UK and the UK we want to build.
I want Scotland to be a place where everyone, wherever they come from, can make the best of their lives.
Education was what made Scotland great and what can make Scotland great again. I want to create an education system open to all at any age.
Not the Scotland of no second chances this nationalist government has created, but a Scotland when we all have the opportunity to make the best of ourselves at any age.
A Scotland which looks after the poor and the vulnerable. A Scotland which guarantees our elderly, peace, dignity and serenity in their later years.
And to power this a dynamic, ambitious economy synonymous with innovation and quality.
A Scotland where we unleash the talents of all our people so that building your own business can also be a reality for the many not the few.
I put before you today my vision of a new Scotland - a nation renewed, prosperous, thriving and together.
I will tell you how this will be accomplished: by Scottish Labour, a re-energised, ambitious and confident party that will earn the support of the Scottish people, and remove the most dishonest and detached government since the creation of devolution.
I will tell you why Scottish Labour is Scotland’s party: a party committed to meeting the people’s needs and aspirations.
Why we are the crusading force in Scottish politics: the party of fairness, social justice and committed to building a better future.
A party that embraces the challenges of the modern world: dedicated to equipping Scotland with the tools to lead in its shaping.
A party committed to delivering on the next stage of our devolution journey: not one that views the world with the narrowness of inward-looking nationalism.
A party that will be honest and truthful: devoted to restoring faith in politics
I want to tell you what I believe in and why.
Politics to me has never been about abstract debates: it has always been about how to make people’s lives better.
I believe we can achieve more working together than we can ever do alone.
As people, we are not fixed in isolation.
We are part of a family, a local community, and a wider society.
Rights and responsibilities join us together in a social covenant.
Our rights are hard-won.
And, let us not forget, it was this party – in opposition to the forces of conservatism – that fought and delivered many of them: the right to join a trade union; the right to security in times of need; the right to medical treatment based on clinical need, not the ability to pay.
I have been lucky: I came from a good family, who encouraged me; I grew up in a community, which grounded me; and I had good teachers, who guided me.
Others are not so lucky – we have a collective responsibility to ensure they are not left behind.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another.
For me, and for you, politics is about building a better society – ensuring that everyone, no matter their background, can be all they can be.
This is why I became a teacher.
It is why I came into politics.
It is why I became leader of this party.
Honesty is integral to my politics and who I am.
These are my values and I believe that these are shared by the Scottish people.
To lead in the twenty-first century, to preserve our values and advance the people’s interests, Scotland needs the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom needs Scotland.
We in Scottish Labour believe in the union – we are stronger together.
The creation of the Welfare State after the Second World War bound the UK – social classes, not just nations – together.
This provides the basis of the “sharing union” that unites us.
Every individual faces risks like old age, illness, and unemployment.
Rather than carrying these risks individually, we made a collective to pool them across an entire country – the United Kingdom.
We will stand up for the Welfare State.
We will not let the SNP or Tories destroy it.
The UK is a union of belonging and sharing.
It is a union of equals and partnership: not a contractual union or marriage of convenience.
Just think about how much we have achieved together.
The great economic, social, political, scientific and cultural advances made as part of the union.
The question for us today is how we strengthen the union and lay the foundation for further achievements in the twenty-first century.
Nationalists tell us to have the confidence to leave the United Kingdom. I say to Scotland have the confidence to lead the United Kingdom.
Scottish Labour is the party of devolution.
Unlike the Tories, it is not for us a pragmatic compromise.
Unlike the Nationalists, it is not a half-way house – the start of an exit route out of the UK.
They like to say that Scotland should complete our home rule journey. They forget that for the first two stretches of that journey – the Scottish Convention and then Calman – and now with our proposals to enhance devolution – they were never on the home rule journey.
For over 100 years, Labour has made the argument for Scottish devolution.
It is a cause we have led out of deep-rooted conviction.
That is why it was a Labour government which set up the Scottish Parliament.
It is why we delivered on what John Smith called “unfinished business.”
It is why we initiated the debate which led to the Scotland Act.
In doing so, Labour has ensured greater democratic accountability for decisions affecting the Scottish people, and we are rightly proud of this.
My first act as leader was to establish a Devolution Commission to examine the existing settlement and how devolution can better serve the people.
This week we published our final report and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who contributed to it.
Our aim throughout has been powers for a purpose.
What we propose is a new power-house Scottish Parliament.
What does this mean?
Firstly, Labour will ensure that the Scottish Parliament is permanently entrenched and indissoluble.
This means that the Parliament will become a permanent feature of our constitution – it is the people’s settled will!
We will extend powers to deliver greater fairness to people at work, when they are most in need and in the marketplace.
For this reason, we will devolve the UK Work Programme to Scotland.
We believe that devolving to local authorities responsibility for supporting people back-to-work will allow a more responsive approach to local jobs markets, and we will ensure the Scottish Parliament provides real leadership.
Allied to this, we will abolish the disconnected and distant quango, Skills Development Scotland, and give its powers over skills to local government.
The right to work. The right to an education to get a job. The freedom to look after yourself and your family. That is the point of our parliament.
Conference, we will get Scotland working and meet the future skills needs of the economy – we in Scottish Labour know how better to achieve this.
That is powers for a purpose.
To ensure workers are better protected at work, we will establish a Scottish Health & Safety Executive to set enforcement priorities, goals and objectives in Scotland.
It cannot be right that Scottish workers are more likely to be killed or injured trying to provide from their families than any other part of the UK. We need to take control of that.
We will also devolve responsibility for employment tribunals.
And we will end the unjust, iniquitous practice of tribunal charging which denies so many justice.
That is powers for a purpose.
We will devolve Housing Benefit to the Scottish Parliament.
This is a major transfer of power – Housing Benefit is the largest single benefit paid in Scotland after the state pension – amounting to £1.7 billion a year.
We will work to secure funding for the provision of social housing and tackle the problem of abuse by unscrupulous private landlords.
And, conference, we will use this power to abolish the Bedroom Tax – we will never allow this disgraceful tax to be visited on Scotland ever again.
And let me be clear. When I see a victim of the bedroom tax I see injustice to be fought. A wrong to be righted. When John Swinney sees a bedroom tax victim he sees a political opportunity to be exploited. Why else did he refuse to help those suffering because – as he said – he didn’t want to let Westminster off the hook.
That is the difference between ourselves and the nationalists. We built the Scottish Parliament to get the people in need off the hook – the nationalists see it as a way to build grievance, not settle injustice.
But we will go further.
We will also devolve Attendance Allowance – support for those in old-age or ill – to make sure they are sustained in their home rather contained in their houses.
That is powers for a purpose.
We will reverse the SNP’s centralisation with a radical transfer of power to communities and people.
The intention of devolution was never to devolve power to a Scottish Parliament, only to see it accumulate powers upwards.
We will work to achieve devolution within Scotland.
We start by embracing the agenda of three islands authorities – Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles – to develop and extend the powers of islands councils and we will not stop there. We will extend it to all local communities.
For too long the Crown Estate has been a distant body that’s been unresponsive to local concerns.
Now the Crown Estates will have to work with local communities to make sure that it is local communities who get the greatest benefit from the land and the sea.
That is powers for a purpose.
Finally, there is the issue of tax – it is a subject on which I’ve received much advice – mostly in confidence.
Our examination of the potential for further tax devolution has been a dry and sober one – we have looked at the figures, weighed up the facts, and considered the pros and cons.
We are of the view that further tax devolution is essential to enhance accountability.
For this reason, Labour will give the Scottish Parliament the power to raise around £2 billion more in revenues beyond the recent Scotland Act.
And we will introduce new Scottish Progressive Rates of Income Tax, so that the Scottish Parliament can increase the rates of tax in the higher and additional bands.
This will mean that the Scottish Parliament will be able to make our tax system truly progressive.
We are therefore committed – here in Scotland – to raising the income tax paid by those earning over £150,000 from 45 per cent to 50 per cent.
We will use this revenue to reinvest in public services.
The nationalists refuse to reverse George Osborne’s tax cuts for millionaires but we will.
That is powers for a purpose.
I want a strong Scottish Parliament, at home to a Labour government. A strong Scottish Parliament enabling our councillors to deliver for our communities and working in partnership with as many Labour MPs as we can deliver at Westminster so that Ed Miliband will be leading a Labour government delivering for all.
Of course, conference, this was a week with another historic day in it. Six months to go. Six months until Scotland hosts the Ryder Cup.
You know, when we won the right to host it I thought it would boost the Scottish economy. Alex Salmond decided he’d use it to boost the leisure industry in Chicago, too.
I am told that here in Perth, I am staying in the suite the First Minister always asks for.
There is a difference, of course. I’m not spending public money and I will be able to account for every penny the moment I check out – nearly two years later we still don’t know how the First Minister spent public money in Chicago.
But, of course, the Ryder Cup isn’t the only sporting event this summer.
We also have the World Cup. We are not there – again. But there is one thing you can be certain of. Within the first five minutes of England’s opening game John Motson will have mentioned 1966.
That’s a good reason to change the channel. Its just not a good reason to change the constitution.
And, of course, there is the Commonwealth Games – delivered by a Labour council and a proud city. I look forward to cheering every athlete who competes.
We will celebrate every Scottish victory, every Scot who strives to do the best by their country – and we will celebrate all in the community Scotland shares with our Commonwealth partners.
There is a myth being peddled that the rest of the United Kingdom wants to deny us our rights and potential.
That they want to hold us back.
It goes on that Scots are more progressive, more compassionate, fairer and more generous than our neighbours, and that, if only we could rule ourselves, all the ills of society would disappear.
That myth, that smug complacency denies the need to reaffirm every day the importance of fairness, justice, equality, respect and compassion, and insults all those radical voices right across the United Kingdom who are as concerned as we are about what is happening in the country.
Only the Scottish National Party could look at the record of Labour Governments in creating the NHS, developing the welfare state, opening up educational and economic opportunity, tackling child poverty and supporting people into work, and say that there is no difference between Labour and the Tory party, and then, for good measure, they say that they would cut tax deeper than any Tory Chancellor.
The truth is that, regardless of economic circumstances, on high days and holidays, in good times and bad, the SNP has argued to leave the UK.
It is not a response to the banking crisis, foreign wars or a Tory Government; it is the politics of nationalism looking for a justification—a belief that is held when all else changes, regardless of what the evidence says – a grievance looking for a cause.
The SNP will tell you they speak for Scottish values, but the values of community, co-operation, being a good neighbour and solidarity are embodied in the United Kingdom, not repudiated by it.
The SNP often tells us to look at our history, but it is too often guilty of rewriting our history. An understanding of our past makes me a socialist, not a nationalist.
The Nationalists look at the Parliament of 1707 and say, “This Parliament is reconvened.”
The Scottish Parliament which the Labour Party delivered, with a democratic suffrage, has nothing to do with that of 1707, and anyone who does not see that does not understand.
It was not the common identity of crofter and landowner that drove land reform; it was the struggle of land leaguers such as my great uncle, who demanded that they have the right to have control over the land that they worked.
It was not the common Scottish identity of trade unionists and factory owners that challenged exploitation and danger in the workplace; it was the coming together of working people across the United Kingdom in the Labour and trade union movement to demand protection and rights in the workplace.
It is not the common identity of Scottish men and Scottish women that has seen women’s lives transformed in the past century in the home, in the workplace and in education. My daughter’s future and her opportunities were shaped by a women’s movement that demanded that the way things were should change and a Labour movement that delivered in legislation equal rights for women.
The great changes in our history - the steps and progress in the lives of women, people who have suffered discrimination, people with disabilities and on the huge issues of the environment and justice - were won despite nationalism, not because of it.
They were driven by a trade union movement determined to make the world a better place, an environmental movement determined that we would not destroy our planet, the women’s movement, the suffrage movement, and people coming together through generations with common interests to make a difference.
Change is won not by changing the country’s constitutional arrangements, but by winning the argument and proving that we can create a better society.
The constitutional debate is not about which policies we will propose in the general and Scottish elections, and it ought not to be presented in those terms.
The constitutional debate is about a once-in-a-lifetime decision to see what our relationship should be with the rest of the United Kingdom.
The Nationalists say: My country right or wrong.
We say: My country – we will right the wrongs.
It is not that Scots are instrinsically fairer or better than our neighbours.
It is because Scots fought against injustice here in our own land, throughout the UK and abroad that Scotland can be a fairer place to live.
There is now a clear choice for the Scottish people.
There is the SNP – a party that has refused to endorse our policy of a 50p tax rate for the very wealthy.
And, there is Scottish Labour – a party that believes that those with the broadest shoulders should contribute a fair share.
The SNP – committed to slashing corporation taxes for big business.
Scottish Labour – a party that believes in investing in public services for the benefit of all.
The SNP – a party committed to breaking apart our Welfare State.
Scottish Labour – a party committed to strengthening it.
The SNP – a party of centralisation.
Scottish Labour – a party of community empowerment.
I make this solemn promise to the Scottish people: I will do everything in my power to restore honesty to politics and remove this detached, dishonest SNP government.
I will not shirk from telling you the truths about our country however difficult those truths are.
Nor will I ever underestimate our potential to make Scotland a leading light in the UK, in Europe, in the world as we make our hoped for ambitions lived realities.
We in this party, this movement, will fight for our country and for our values.
We will deliver on the next phase of devolution.
We will stand-up for Scotland’s interests.
We will offer policies that meet the people’s aspirations.
We will crusade against injustice wherever it exists.
We will be the people’s party once again.
Scottish Labour: a party of ambition;
a party of honesty;
a party committed to meeting the long-term challenges.
Scottish Labour – Scotland’s party.