Kezia Dugdale: Why Labour is the only party focused on what Scots really want

Scotland deserve an alternative to Tory and SNP nationalism


Since the 2010 General Election, Scotland has gone to the polls eight times in seven years, whether it’s for general elections, Scottish elections, council elections or referendums. This election feels different from what we have seen before though.

It is an election that will determine how the UK leaves the EU — and if the UK can even survive as a result.

In Scotland our politics remains locked in a constitutional straitjacket, and it’s our NHS, our schools and our economy that suffer as a result. Our divided nation is being utterly failed by the two parties of government — the SNP and the Tories, who are more interested in exploiting those divisions than trying to heal them.

This means improving our schools, fixing our hospitals, and growing our economy are all on the backburner at the expense of two brands of flag waving nationalism. Those flags obscure two dismal records in office.

Not once have Scots heard Ruth Davidson explain why working people are worse off now than they were seven years ago. Why people in this country, our country, can work a full week and still not make ends meet. Why the price of the deficit has to be paid by victims of rape rather than those at the top.

Ruth Davidson will run to a camera to oppose independence, but she runs as far and as fast as  she can from her government’s own record.

Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon demands a second independence referendum because of Brexit — but cannot and will not guarantee whether that means Scotland gets to stay, has to reapply or whether she’ll settle for EFTA. Since Nicola Sturgeon has made education her supposed ‘top priority’ Scotland’s standing has tumbled. Her defence is that numeracy and literacy aren’t really that important.

And our NHS is starting to feel the pain of the short term decisions made when Nicola Sturgeon was health secretary — not enough nurses, not enough doctors and sky high bills for private companies to deliver treatment instead.

The SNP will always put campaigning for independence before governing in the interests of working people. If it’s a choice between what is good for the Scottish people and what is good for Scottish independence the SNP will always pick the latter.

We saw that during the last referendum. Our country divided on false hope. The poorest people in Scotland sold an economic lie on a wing and prayer and to hell with the consequences and what came after.

We know though the gap between what an independent Scotland spends and what it raises in tax would be around £15 billion. More than the entire operating budget for our NHS. Every hospital. Every doctor. Every nurse.

Scotland didn’t dodge a bullet when we voted No in 2014 — we stopped the most devastating round of public spending cuts our country would ever have faced.

It’s no surprise Scotland doesn’t want to do that again.

Scotland can have something better. Something beyond narrow nationalism. Something that the majority of Scots actually want — a strong Scottish Parliament focused on jobs and public services, backed up the security and opportunity that comes with being part of the UK and keeping close ties to Europe.

That’s what Labour stands for.  Something supported by the many, not just the few. There is a clear majority of people in Scotland who want to reject the Conservatives and opt for a real progressive option.

There are others who want to reject the SNP and to make absolutely clear to Nicola Sturgeon that she does not speak for them.  In vast swathes of the country, the only party that can do this is the Labour Party.

All of those people who want a change of government in the UK, and all those people who want to reject Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP, should think carefully about how they use their vote on 8 June.

Because there is a majority for change in Scotland. Our country is not being served by either the SNP or the Tories.

That change means Scottish Labour MPs fighting for a £10 living wage, fighting for local public services and fighting for jobs and investment in their area. That’s a better representative for any community than an SNP MP who will only fight for another divisive independence referendum, or a Tory backbencher who will simply cheerlead a hard Brexit.

And it’s a representative which will reflect what most Scots actually want.

Kezia Dugdale MSP is leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

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