Miliband fires starting gun on Scottish elections campaign

With just weeks to go until voters in Scotland get the chance to elect their government and parliament for the next five years, Scottish Labour held their spring conference in Glasgow at the weekend, reports Ed Jacobs.

With just weeks to go until voters in Scotland get the chance to elect their government and parliament for the next five years, Scottish Labour held their spring conference in Glasgow at the weekend, with Ed Miliband arguing victory for Labour in the Holyrood elections provides the best hope of bringing the Conservative-led government in Westminster to an early demise.

The Labour leader told delegates:

“I have never wanted this to be a five-year government because of the damage it will do. And when people ask me, what are you going to do to reverse things in 2015, I say we can’t wait until then.

“So let use these elections to give us the best chance of stopping it going to the full term.”

Meanwhile, in a sign that electioneering is well and truly underway, Scottish Labour launched their official election pledge card, with five key pledges to the Scottish people should they be successful:

• A guarantee of apprenticeships for qualified young people and the chance of a real job for those who are unemployed for six months or more;

• Criminals caught carrying a knife will be sent to jail, with the rights of victims being put first;

• Cancer waiting times will be halved with patients able to see a specialist and get results within two weeks. The postcode lottery for care for the elderly will also be ended;

• Literacy teachers will be used in classrooms to focus on the basics for every pupil and there will be no “price tag” on university education;

• Council tax will be frozen for two years to support families in tough times.

Meanwhile leader of Labour in Scotland, Iain Gray put Alex Salmond firmly in his sights; he told the conference:

“Did you see the SNP party political the other week.  It was based on Monty Python. The Life of Brian – “What have the romans ever done for us”. Good movie. Not my favourite line from it though. Alex Salmond. He’s not the messiah. He is just a very naughty boy.

“He told parents he would reduce class sizes to 18 in p1 2 and 3 but he didn’t. Naughty

“He told Scotland’s teachers he would ensure they all had jobs. But he didn’t. Naughty

“He said he would match our school building programme brick for brick. But he didn’t. Naughty.

“He told Scotland’s students he would replace student loans with grants and pay off all student debts.

“But he didn’t.  Very, very naughty.  Even naughtier than naughty Nick Clegg.

“Alex Salmond is no-one’s idea of the messiah.  Except maybe Alex Salmond’s

“Surely the greatest indictment of the SNP administration is this.  Labour left them a Scotland where unemployment was lower that the rest of Britain.  The SNP leave a Scotland where unemployment is higher than the rest of Britain.”

New polling suggests clearly the battle for Bute house – the first minister’s official residence – is a clear two-horse race between the SNP and Labour. The latest figures from ICM show:

• On the constituency vote, Labour were on 39%, the SNP on 35%, the Conservatives on 12% and the Lib Dems on 10%;

• In the regional list vote, Labour were on 37%, the SNP on 34%, the Conservatives on 13% and the Lib Dems trailed on 9%.

As to what it would mean, the Scotsman has concluded that such polling would give Labour 57 seats – 10 ahead of the SNP, while the Tories would be on 15, the Lib Dems would 10 (down six), and the Greens unchanged on two.

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