Johann Lamont's speech to Labour Party Annual Conference 2012

2 October 2012

Johann Lamont

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Johann Lamont MSP, Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, said today at Labour Party Annual Conference 2012:

Conference, I have the privilege of addressing you as the first ever Leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

After what happened in the Scottish parliamentary elections in May of last year we knew we, as the Scottish Labour Party, had to change.

And I want to thank Ed Miliband and everyone in the Party at Scottish and UK levels for helping turn the desire for change into reality.

We know we still have a long way to go. But the work has started. And the revival has started as we showed in this May's elections where the Scottish Labour Party made gains throughout Scotland, and none was more stunning that Gordon Matheson's victory in Glasgow where we won again, an overall majority in a proportional system and where all but one of our candidates was elected.

Conference, we need to rebuild Scotland and rebuild Britain.

And we need to rebuild a Scotland which has a Government which isn't seeking to protect us from Tory cuts, but an SNP Government which is making them worse.

When George Osborne cut the budget, Alex Salmond cut it deeper for Scotland's local authorities. Even when the Scottish budget went up, he cut funding for vital council services, while heaping more responsibility onto local authorities.

Don't be fooled by the slogans. Salmond trying to claim more things are free in Scotland as a way of building up resentment with our partners elsewhere in the UK.

The people of Scotland know that nothing is free. And every day we see more clearly that the costs of Salmond's slogans are being borne by hard working families struggling to make ends meet, borne by the elderly and vulnerable seeing their care slashed, borne by the student who can't get a place in further education.

Now last week, when I pointed out that Scotland's families are paying for Salmond's unsustainable tax break for the rich, I was accused of being a Tory.

I'm not sure if the cap fits with someone who campaigned against Thatcher's cuts to Scotland in the eighties.

Not sure the cap fits with someone who campaigned for a Scottish Parliament to protect Scotland from future Tory Governments.

And I am not sure the cap fits with someone who sees in surgeries, in meetings and in everyday life the consequences of a Tory Government cutting too far and too fast while we have an SNP Government content to amplify the cuts rather than protect people from them.

It was Alex Salmond who said that Scotland didn't mind Thatcher's economic policies. It was Alex Salmond who relied on the Tories to put through four budgets while in Government. It was Alex Salmond who cheered David Cameron into Number 10 because it suited his political argument, in full knowledge of the consequences.

This SNP Government claims to be a progressive beacon but took George Osborne's cuts, doubled them and handed them to Scottish councils, impacting on our elderly care, our schools and our chances of growing local economies.

This SNP Government is making the poor pay for the election bribes that benefit the better off, but won't tell us this side of the referendum where he will go to find another £3.3 billion of cuts.

Anyone still want to argue the SNP's left wing credentials? Let me read you this: 

“It is likely that the Barnett formula, far from starving Scotland to death as is often asserted, is actually fattening us to the point of dangerous obesity. Bizarre as the thought may be, could the UK actually be killing us with kindness?”

Not the words of Norman Tebbit. Not the words of George Osborne. But Mike Russell, the man Alex Salmond has put in charge of our schools.

Let me give you another insight into the world of Mike Russell:

“Put bluntly universality now drags down both the quality of service to those most in need, and the ability of government to provide such services. However, our political parties do not have the courage to address the issue for fear of losing votes.”

Conference, Scottish Labour is not afraid to be honest with the people of Scotland, and not afraid to expose Alex Salmond and his Tartan Tories who try to wear our clothing while punishing the people they should be protecting.

The SNP might not have the courage to be straight with the Scottish people but we do.

What Alex Salmond is doing with Scotland's finances is the equivalent of putting the gas bill in the drawer. We've all done it. Not opened the bill because we feared the consequences. So we stuff it away. And the reminder. And the final notice.

But we all know, Conference, that never ends well.

Salmond hopes we won't ask the tough questions about independence. And he is desperate we don't ask the tough questions of the here and now. He knows that every Scottish family is bearing the cost of his slogans. We all know that his budget will go bust.

But he hopes that somehow he can keep the truth from the Scottish people until after the referendum.

I won't wait until after the referendum to be honest with the people of Scotland. We need an honest debate now about how we protect the most vulnerable from the cuts.

Not everyone is going to like the solutions – that is unavoidable. But I will be straight with people now about what is to come, and I will be true to Labour values – that we will not allow those who most need our support to pay the price for populist slogans.

If we are to ensure that the elderly get the help and support it is our duty to give, then we are going to have to ensure that those who have, give to the have-nots.

If we are to make sure that the potential of not one of our children is lost, that means that those who have plenty must share for the common good.

If Scotland stands for anything it is community. And we in Scottish Labour will pull that community together, to stand as one, and reject Alex Salmond's attempts to divide our society.

Conference, the Labour Party fights for the poor and the vulnerable. The Labour Party fights for the strong. And together, the Labour Party in every part of the UK will fight to rebuild our nations and rebuild our communities.