John Park, Labour’s campaign manager for the Scottish elections and shadow minister for the economy and skills, writes exclusively for Left Foot Forward on Labour's vision for Scotland.
John Park, Labour’s campaign manager for the Scottish elections and shadow minister for the economy and skills, writes exclusively for Left Foot Forward on Labour’s vision for Scotland; John is standing for Labour in the regional vote for Mid Scotland and Fife
The last time that Labour fought an election for the Scottish parliament, we were in government in Westminster and at Holyrood. This time around, we are in opposition in both parliaments – a first. We have learnt the lessons of our defeat in 2007. We’ve listened to people in Scotland and we have understood the frustration that people have about politicians who seem to promise everything, then let everyone down.
That’s why a key feature of our campaign is an unrelenting focus on the things that matter to ordinary Scots. Our commitments are things that will improve people’s lives and prospects every day. Together, they add up to a vision of Scotland that is modern, ambitious and makes sure that everyone gets on.
I wanted to write here to give people an idea of what we are campaigning for. If you want the full manifesto, it’s on our web page (pdf), but I want to give you an idea of our direction of travel, of what we are really about.
Take youth unemployment as an example of what drives us on. I, like many Scots, remember when the Tories left thousands of our young people on the scrapheap with no job to turn to and no way out of a life of little opportunity. So when the Tories came into government and made scrapping the future jobs fund one of their first acts, of course people in Scotland were worried. But in truth, Scotland’s problems didn’t just begin with the election of the Tories last year.
The SNP have been distracted by independence, and on their watch youth unemployment has risen by 350 per cent over two years. People struggle to comprehend the scale of that rise, but there is a real fear that we could sleepwalk into another generation of workers with low skills while many employers struggle to fill places because of skill shortages.
We now have a Tory government at Westminster which is reverting to type and an SNP government in Scotland that is too distracted using the levers of government to promote separation rather than standing up for jobs.
In the face of this, one of our most important pledges to the people of Scotland is to completely abolish youth unemployment by 2015. We’ll bring back the future jobs fund in Scotland and guarantee an apprenticeship to every qualified school-leaver who wants one. That’s a big ask, but we are committed to only pledging what we know we can deliver.
Not only will we abolish youth unemployment, but by building Scotland’s skills base and driving investment into our industries, Labour has set out plans to create 250,000 jobs in the next ten years. We’ll need to do that because the pace of economic change will only increase
We have also pledged to keep building the talents of people through our world class universities. Now, everyone knows that we can’t build a modern and successful Scotland if we put people off from going to university. It’s no surprise that Iain Gray was the first of the main party leaders to sign up to the NUS Scotland election pledges.
We have promised to reform the broken college bursary system, but will now set in place plans to reform university support too.
I know that I have concentrated here mainly on opportunities for Scotland’s young people, but I think that’s a key difference of approach between us and the SNP. Obviously, there are others like knife crime, local taxation and other important areas in our public services.
But the differences on youth unemployment are important to understand, because it’s not that the SNP are in favour of youth unemployment, or that they have plans to tackle it with which we disagree. The fundamental difference between us and the SNP is that they don’t have a plan to create jobs for young people. They don’t have a blueprint to create a modern Scotland where our young people have the opportunity to get on.
We have put a modern and dynamic set of policies to the Scottish people, we have focussed on what really matters and we will keep standing up for Scottish jobs; the voters will decide on May 5th.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.