Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party, speech to Scottish Labour Party Conference 2012

2 March 2012

ed milibandEd Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party, speech to Scottish Labour Party Conference 2012

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Friends,

It’s good to be back in Scotland.

And let me pay tribute to our new leader.

Someone who has dedicated their whole adult life to working for Scotland’s people.
Johann Lamont.

Johann – I am proud to call you a colleague. Thank you for your leadership in these important days for Scotland.

Let me also pay tribute to our Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland.
She is tough, determined, and steadfast in her values:

Margaret Curran.

I also want to praise someone who is a rising star in our party.
Our Deputy Leader: Anas Sarwar.

And let me also thank someone else for his service, Iain Gray. Your steady hand on the tiller during the Leadership contest has allowed us to move forward together.

Let us also thank the excellent Scottish Labour staff we have at John Smith House and across Scotland.

Thank you.

But let’s face facts: we lost very badly in the Scottish 2011, and the General Election in 2010. Why did we lose? Too many people thought:

We were a party for somebody else.

We wouldn’t stand up for them.

Above all, we didn’t have a sufficient vision for the future which answered the challenges they faced in their lives.

And so our challenge is to renew ourselves here in Scotland as we have been doing in the UK since the 2010 General Election.

But we don’t have the luxury of simply looking inwards. People need our voice, including in the May elections.

And today I want to show how we can beat a Tory-led government across the UK and the SNP government here in Scotland.

And to do that, we must start by answering one call above all. Building an economy which works for the working people of our country.

Wages not rising for the many, runaway rewards at the top, household bills causing monthly heartache. And a younger generation asking why its prospects are worse than their parents’.

My case to the people of the United Kingdom is that old-fashioned Tory politics cannot answer this call. And my case to the people of Scotland is that the SNP cannot either. The Tories because they are wedded to the old ways that got us into the banking crisis.

The SNP, because while they award themselves the title of progressive beacon, it is neither what they are doing in practice in government nor what separatism would bring.

In the end, only a renewed Labour Party can do it.

A renewed Labour party that understands that we must deliver fairness in tough times.
That we must make different choices. We must have different priorities in a fiscally responsible way.

And the most urgent task is employment.

Conference, we know:

Nothing strains a family like a mother or father out of work. Nothing scars a community like a generation of young people with no hope, nothing holds back a country like the wasted talent of hundreds of thousands of Scots who don’t lack the ability to work, but just the chance.

Unemployment rose faster in Scotland than in England over the last year.

On the most recent figures, 1 out of every 3 jobs lost across the whole of the UK was in Scotland.

1 in 5 young people are out of work in Scotland. Last time I was in Scotland, a few weeks ago, I went to the Co-op distribution plant in Newhouse.

One of the people who works there there told me that he had always told his children that if they worked hard in school they would get a good job.

But now that they’re out of school and there are so few jobs, he honestly doesn’t know what to tell them.

And with 13,000 young people out of work for more than six months, how many parents around this country must feel the same way.

It is the price of Tory economic failure.

It is the price of an approach to the deficit that goes too far and too fast.

But it is also the failure of an SNP government too.

Alex Salmond came to England to brag about how he would turn Scotland into a progressive beacon.

There’s just one problem.

He forgot about what he is doing in Scotland.

When George Osborne handed him the plans to make cuts to job-creating public investment of 11%, he didn’t just make those cuts.

He almost doubled them.

Thousands of jobs building roads, bridges, and infrastructure ripped out of the economy, not just by the Tories in Westminster, but by the SNP in Holyrood.

He forgot about the people of Scotland when he cut the budget of colleges by a fifth, harming the training chances for young people.

Whatever the failings of the Tory government, he should be using the powers he does have to make a difference to young people, like the Labour government in Wales.

You cant be a progressive beacon if you stand by as youth unemployment rises.

Scotland needs a Labour government that would stand up for jobs in this country.

We would tax the bankers’ bonuses.
We would spend the money on 100,000 jobs for young people.

That’s the difference with Labour:

Unlike the SNP:

We would never stand by, and leave young people out of work.

We would get Scotland working again.

Conference,

It’s true on youth unemployment

And it’s true on every part of building an economy that works for working people.

The challenge is so fundamental.

You can only do it with an overriding, single-minded determination to make it happen.

That’s the difference between us and the SNP.

Johann and I came into politics to make Britain fairer.

Alex Salmond came into politics to change Britain’s borders.

It’s not by chance that that the SNP have failed the young people of Scotland it’s their choice to make separatism the priority.

But to create an economy that works for working people, it’s not just about jobs, it’s about creating good jobs.

Let’s face it: we know too many of the jobs in our country are low wage and low skill.

You know a year or so ago, I was at the Govan shipyard, I met some apprentices doing four year apprenticeships.

What sticks in my mind is the enthusiasm they expressed for the opportunity they had been given.

And their sense that they were lucky ones—most of their mates were out of work or doing low wage jobs.

We must celebrate, nurture, and support successful companies that train their workforce.

That’s why I say that one of the first acts of the next Labour government will be to say that if companies want major government contracts they must offer apprenticeships for the next generation.

And we have to reform the way our banks work as well.

When I was in Glasgow last month, I spoke to a man who ran a small wind turbine company.

He said he wanted to expand, take on more employees and create more jobs, but his bank had turned him down for a loan.

You know the Tories said it was anti-business when I spoke out about massive bonuses.

But one of the reasons I did is that they’re not meeting their targets on small business lending.

That’s not anti-business, it’s pro-business.

I want banks which help to create more successful entrepreneurs, more profit making businesses, and more good jobs.

I want to reform the way our banks work so that instead of industry serving finance, finance serves industry.

That’s why we must plan for a British Investment Bank to properly serve small business in this country.

That’s not anti-business, it’s pro-business.

And we are determined to encourage long-term investment.

That’s why we are looking at the rules on takeovers so that people invest in a firm to build it up not to strip its assets.

That’s not anti-business, it’s pro-business.

What does the SNP offer?

Ask the employees of the Dalzell steelworks.

Who should be hard at work right now on the steel for the New Forth Road Bridge, only 38 miles down the road from where it’s being built.

A contract from the Scottish Government which went instead to China.

At a time when we need to do everything we can to encourage businesses to grow,

Alex Salmond’s government doesn’t have an industrial policy to speak of.

That’s because they don’t have a singleminded focus on how to create an economy that works for working people; they’re too busy trying to change our borders.

Vested Interests

So an economy that works for working people must see fair rewards, and not just for the few.

Even before the crisis, growth was not translating into higher wages for the squeezed middle.

On current forecasts, the average worker will be earning the same in three years’ time as they were ten years ago.

That in itself should shock us: no change in wages for more than a decade.

And this Tory-led government is making it worse.

Higher VAT

Cuts to tax credits

The freezing of child benefit

From this April, a family with children will lose £580 a year.

What’s my priority? To relieve that burden on middle and low-income families.

What’s the SNP’s priority?

What is the tax cut they want to make?

Not lower VAT to help put money in the pockets of families

Not higher tax credits to help those at work.

Not higher child benefit to help families with children.

Nothing to relieve that burden.

What do they propose?

A 12 percent corporation tax.

Not a targeted tax cut for small businesses as we are recommending as part of our five point plan.

But a tax cut whose most significant benefit will go to the banking industry.

And with separatism, that would lead to a race to the bottom between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

At the same time the SNP are saying Scotland can be a progressive beacon offering Scandinavian levels of investment.

But you can’t have Scandinavian public services on Irish rates of corporation tax.

It’s not progressive and it’s not credible.

And we know costs are rising.

The weekly shop costs more.

It costs a lot more to keep the house warm.

It costs more to take the train.

And we have a Conservative-led government standing by, not standing up to those vested interests.

They promised that rail fares would only go up by 1% above inflation.
But they allowed a loophole in the law.

A Cross Country ticket from Birmingham to Edinburgh has gone up more than 8% this year alone.

On train fares - it’s not good enough just to let prices go up and up.

I say the next Labour government would close that loophole and provide a proper cap on rail fares.

That’s what I mean by an economy that works for working people.

Energy prices will rise over time as we tackle climate change.

And we do need more private investment in energy.

But that makes it all the more important that the most vulnerable get the best deal.

It’s not good enough to say to the most vulnerable shop around, go online.

The 350,000 over 75s in Scotland should all get the cheapest tariff.

We would make sure the energy companies gave them the cheapest tariff - by law.

Just as in the first half of the twentieth century, government used its power on behalf of working people for basic rights to conditions, hours and safety.

So in the twenty-first century, government must use its power on behalf of citizens to protect their basic rights too.

And is that what the SNP offers?

Not a bit of it.

On the vested interests at the top of our economy, the SNP say business as usual.

Even as the company put up fares, the

SNP government waved through an extension of their franchise for ScotRail.

That’s not being a progressive beacon, that’s letting down the working people of Scotland.

They oppose bus regulation which would make them work for working people.

And who else does? Brian Souter and the Tories.

That’s not being a progressive beacon, that’s letting down the working people of Scotland.

And the biggest vested interest of all?

Rupert Murdoch.

This week’s revelations represent a new low—corporate corruption on an unprecedented scale.

For all those, like me, who believe in a free press, the revelations have done profound damage to the reputation of British journalism.

And what was Alex Salmond doing?

Was he making a speech calling for change?

Was he saying that News International needed to clean up its act?

Was he supporting the Leveson inquiry?

No.

He said nothing about these issues.

He was too busy cultivating his relationship with Rupert Murdoch.

His Twitter friend,

his follow Friday,

his Sun on Sunday:

Rupert Murdoch.

If you want to make Scotland a progressive beacon,

If you want to be a progressive beacon you have to speak truth to power.

And Alex Salmond:

You have comprehensively failed that test.

So on jobs, on creating a new economy, on living standards, on tax, on vested interests, the SNP are not the progressive voice.

And their commitment to separatism means they cannot be a progressive force.

What can they offer the man worried about his kids finding a job?

What can they offer the man who wanted a loan for his wind turbine company?

What can they offer the millions more around the country worried about how much it costs to keep warm in winter or take the train?

To every problem, the Nationalists’ answer is the same.

Separation

Division

Isolation

Throwing up a new border across the A1 and the M74 isn’t going to help them.

New passports to travel from Scotland to the rest of the United Kingdom aren’t going to help them.

New taxes to fund new embassies aren’t going to help them.

But throwing up new borders won’t build an economy that works for working people, we have to do it together.

The banks on your high street are the same as the banks on my high street.

If we are going to reform them, we can only do it with stronger rules together, not weaker rules apart.

If we are going to create a fairer tax system, we must avoid the race to the bottom on tax rates that separation would import.

And if we believe in the idea of Scotland as a progressive beacon, why would we turn our back on the redistributive union - the United Kingdom?

I believe, and I believe that people across the United Kingdom believe,

That we owe obligations to each other.

That the successful Scottish entrepreneur owes obligations to the child born into poverty in London, and the pensioner in Wales.

Right now, every nation of the UK,

every child in poverty,

every young person out of work,

every small business struggling,

needs solidarity not isolation.

And the only argument Alex Salmond has left is to tell you that Scotland is left-wing and England is right-wing.

That Scotland is the land of Keir Hardie, and England is the land of Margaret Thatcher. I believe that the concern to build an economy that works not just for the few at the top but for working people is shared all across the United Kingdom.

The parent in Nottingham is as worried about their kids getting a job just as the worried parent I met in Newhouse.

The small business in Southampton is as worried about getting a loan as those in Stirling.

There are pensioners in Dudley who want the government to stand up to the energy companies just as much as pensioners here in Dundee.

The way to beat the Tory-led government and the SNP government is not different, it’s the same: to show how our values can make our country work for the working people of Britain.

Friends, let me tell you something:

I was brought up by parents who came to this country and saw a new world built after 1945. Parents who saw the power of politics to build houses for everyone, a health service which served everyone equally, to maintain full employment. Politics ran through their lives. And they taught me never just to be angry about injustice, but to do something about it.

Sometimes you have to dream bold dreams to change the way our country works. Alex Salmond’s version of boldness is to split up the United Kingdom. We must respond with a different type of boldness:

To reform an economy which works for the few into an economy which works for all the working people.

To transform our country so we don’t betray the promise of Britain but fulfil it.
And to change people’s lives so that the next generation feels they have hope for a better future.

A society which fulfils the promise of Britain.

Built on my values

Your values

Labour’s values

Scotland’s values

Equality

Justice

Responsibility

and Community.

Those are the values which brought me into politics

Those are the values which bought us here today.

Those are the values which will rebuild Scottish Labour.

Those are the values which will win back trust across the United Kingdom, across Scotland and will win the next general election.

Those are the values which will transform this country.