Sturgeon is Out of Ideas and Obsessed by Independence

18 March 2017

Responding to Nicola Sturgeon’s keynote speech to the SNP spring conference, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

“This was a speech from a First Minister who is out of ideas and obsessed by independence.

“Her attempt at wooing the majority of Scots who oppose her bid to leave the UK will fool nobody.

"The SNP still stands for division and grievance.

“If Nicola Sturgeon truly wants to listen to the people of Scotland, she will take the threat of a second independence referendum off the table.

“Nicola Sturgeon began her speech by attacking Gordon Brown, who helped to lift tens of thousands of children out of poverty.

"But there was nothing from the First Minister about using Holyrood’s new powers to tackle child poverty; a stark contrast with Labour’s plan to increase Child Benefit to address the growing scandal.

"Thirteen mentions of independence or being independent, yet not one mention of poverty – the SNP’s priorities neatly summed up.”



Swinney Ducks Currency Question Six Times

17 March 2017

The SNP's economic case for separation continued to unravel today after John Swinney ducked questions on six separate occasions about what currency Scotland would use if it left the UK.

In an excruciating interview on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Swinney was asked repeatedly to detail which currency Scotland would use in the event of leaving the UK. On each occasion Mr Swinney refused to provide details.

John Swinney was the SNP's Finance Minister during the 2014 referendum, and was responsible for the discredited currency stance adopted by the Nationalists last time round.

On Question Time last night, SNP MP Joanna Cherry also failed to answer which currency Scotland would use if it left the UK.

In a separate interview on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, John Swinney also failed to rule out a third independence referendum if the people of Scotland once again reject separation.

Earlier this week it was reported that the man responsible for rebuilding the SNP's discredited economic case for leaving the UK, Andrew Wilson, told the Nationalist leadership that it could take up to ten years for Scotland's economy to recover after separation.

Scottish Labour economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said:

"This is like deja vu all over again, with the SNP's economic case for leaving the UK unravelling as soon as it comes under any scrutiny.

"The fact that John Swinney can't even answer a basic question about what currency a separate Scotland would use says it all.

"The currency we use really matters.

"It's about how much money we have to spend on schools and hospitals, what money wages and pensions will be paid in, and will determine how families pay the bills.

"The Nationalists want to drag Scotland out of the UK but haven't even worked out the basics like currency.

“We were promised that the 2014 referendum was a once-in-a-generation vote.

"The SNP needs to respect the mandate from 2 million people in Scotland who said they want to remain part of the UK – the SNP can’t just keep asking the question until it gets the answer it wants.

"Scottish Labour will vote against the SNP's plan for yet another divisive referendum. We believe that together we are stronger by remaining part of the UK"


"Distressing" Rise in Child Poverty

16 March 2017

The number of children living in poverty has risen by 40,000 since last year, according to new figures published today.

The rise means more than a quarter of children in Scotland are now growing-up in poverty.

Scottish Labour has a plan to use the new powers of the Scottish Parliament to top-up Child Benefit – a move that could lift 30,000 children out of poverty by 2020.

Scottish Labour’s shadow Social Justice minister Pauline McNeill MSP said:

“These are distressing figures.

"What makes it even more upsetting is that these figures were published on another day that was spent wrangling over constitutional issues.

“More than a quarter of children are now living in relative poverty.

“The SNP government must show it is ambitious about reducing child poverty.

"Nicola Sturgeon should drop her obsession with independence, take the threat of another referendum off the table, and focus on the real priorities facing Scotland.

“There does not appear to be a cohesive plan to tackle the scandal of children living in poverty.

“Labour has a plan to use the new powers of the Scottish Parliament to top-up child benefit, which could lift 30,000 children out of poverty by the end of the decade and boost families’ incomes by £240 a year.”


Sturgeon is leading a Campaign instead of a Government

16 March 2017

Nicola Sturgeon is leading a campaign instead of a government, Labour said today.

At First Minister’s Questions Kezia Dugdale said that “government will once again grind to a halt for years” because of the SNP’s plan for another referendum on leaving the UK.

Another referendum would mean government action to close the attainment gap in schools and fix the problems in the NHS would be put on the back burner.

It was reported this week that Andrew Wilson, who chairs the SNP’s campaign to restore its discredited economic case for leaving the UK, said it could take up to ten years for Scotland’s economy to recover from separation.

These reported comments back up the revelations contained in John Swinney’s leaked document during the last referendum campaign, which said that leaving the UK would mean cuts to public services and pensions.

Mr Wilson has previously said the SNP’s central claim that oil is a ‘bonus’ for Scotland’s economy is wrong.

According to the SNP government’s own figures, leaving the UK would mean a deficit of £15 billion for Scotland.

This would result in major cuts to pensions and public services like schools and hospitals.

Speaking after First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

“Nicola Sturgeon used to say that education was the defining priority of her government. "Now even she laughs when journalists ask if that’s still the case.

“The reality is that government will once again grind to a halt for years.

"Instead of focusing on our schools and hospitals, the Nationalists will instead obsess about dragging Scotland out of the UK.

“It’s clear that Nicola Sturgeon plans to use next few years leading a campaign instead of a government.

“We have been here before. SNP ministers assert one thing in public and admit another in private.

“We all remember John Swinney’s leaked paper, which warned of cuts to public services and pensions.

“And now it is reported that Andrew Wilson revealed in private what Nicola Sturgeon refuses to admit publicly.

"Leaving the UK would be devastating for Scotland’s economy.

“According to the SNP government’s own figures, leaving the UK would mean £15 billion worth of extra cuts. "That would devastate our schools and hospitals.

“Scottish Labour will vote against the SNP’s plan for another referendum in the Scottish Parliament next week.

"But if there is another referendum Labour will campaign with everything we have for Scotland to remain in the UK.

"We believe that together we’re stronger.”


Comment on SNP Patient Safety Programme defeat

3 March 2017

Commenting on the SNP’s defeat in the Patient Safety Programme debate, its second defeat in two days, Scottish Labour’s Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“This is yet another bruising defeat in the Scottish Parliament for the SNP.

“For a decade the Nationalists have obsessed about separation and totally mismanaged our health service.

“Hard-working NHS staff and patients deserve better than SNP ministers just sticking their heads in the sand.

“The SNP has allowed a workforce crisis to emerge in our NHS on their watch with thousands of posts lying vacant and private agency costs rocketing – something the experts at Audit Scotland say threatens patient safety. The SNP must now listen to the will of parliament.

“Labour wants to turn this around, which is why I have announced our own NHS Workforce Commission that will look at how we train more staff to deliver the kind of care patients want and deserve.

“If the Nationalist government won't come forward with plans for doing that, Labour won't sit back and let the NHS and its patients suffer.”


The SNP’S "Defining Mission"

3 March 2017

The SNP has launched over 120 reviews and consultations since May but has delayed its ‘defining mission’ to improve education, Scottish Labour can reveal.

Publishing a dossier exposing John Swinney’s record as Education Secretary, Labour highlighted how the SNP has:

- Delayed its review into how schools in Scotland are run

- Delayed its consultation on the funding formula for schools

- Delayed its Education Bill

- Delayed the introduction of national testing

At First Minister’s Questions today Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale exposed the SNP’s ‘government by review’ approach. Since the election last May, the SNP has launched more than 120 consultations and reviews – the equivalent of three a week.

Miss Dugdale highlighted the following:

- The Enterprise Review produced three more reviews.

- The Health and Social Care Delivery plan has four reviews within it.

- There is a review into the review of fracking.

Speaking after First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

“It has been ten months since the election, yet parents and teachers still remain in the dark about the SNP’s plans for our schools.

“Just this week it was confirmed that the Education Bill and the review into how Scotland’s schools are run have been kicked into the long grass.

“Education was Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘defining mission’. But the reality is that education is defining this SNP government as indecisive and distracted.

“Nobody can deny that John Swinney has been busy. He has launched an improvement framework, a governance review and an advertising campaign. The Education Secretary just hasn’t done anything in the way of improving our schools.

“Since May, the SNP government has launched more than 120 consultations and reviews. That’s three-a-week.

“The Enterprise Review alone has spawned three more reviews. The Health and Social Care Delivery plan has four reviews within it. There is even a review into the review of fracking.

“This might make sense if this was a new government, but the SNP has been in office for ten years.

“We all know the First Minister only has one thing on her mind and that’s forcing another independence referendum on the people of Scotland. But teachers and parents want her to stop talking about governing and start doing some governing.”


The SNP must respect the will of Parliament on the Scottish Funding Council

4 March 2017

Commenting after the SNP government was defeated in the Scottish Parliament on its plan to scrap the board of the Scottish Funding Council, the organisation responsible for allocating funding to universities and colleges, Scottish Labour's shadow education minister Daniel Johnson said:

"This is yet another shambles from John Swinney, coming just days after he had to delay his review into how schools are run and kick his Education Bill into the long grass.

"It's clear that there is no majority for the SNP's misguided plan to scrap the board of the Scottish Funding Council. The SNP must now accept the will of Parliament and change course.

"The SNP's plan could put the independence of our universities at risk and add unnecessary layers of bureaucracy at a time when resources are already scarce. It's time for Nationalist ministers to ditch their plan to scrap the board of the Scottish Funding Council."


Sturgeon Indyref2 Threat is “ Irresponsible Economic Vandalism”

28 February 2017

Commenting on Nicola Sturgeon's article in today's Times newspaper, in which she claims to have a 'cast iron mandate' for a divisive second independence referendum, Scottish Labour Westminster spokesperson Ian Murray said:

“This latest threat from Nicola Sturgeon is irresponsible economic vandalism.

“Our economy is already in trouble following the Tories' reckless Brexit gamble, and the very last thing we need is more uncertainty for employers, workers and markets.

“In 2014, more than two million Scots voted to reject separation and the polls are quite clear that Scots do not want another referendum. The SNP has no mandate for a divisive second independence referendum.

“And if Nicola Sturgeon tries to push one through, Scottish Labour will firmly oppose it in the Scottish Parliament.

“The SNP is obsessed with seeking to divide our country, rather than fixing the problems in our hospitals and schools.

“Labour believes that together we’re stronger, which is why we will never support Scottish independence.”


Labour announces workforce commission to tackle a decade of SNP NHS failure

25 February 2017

Scottish Labour has announced a workforce commission to tackle a decade of SNP NHS failure this weekend.

Speaking to delegates at Scottish Labour conference in Perth today Shadow Health Secretary Anas Sarwar outlined plans to have a workforce commission up and running within ten weeks.

The move follows repeated warnings from a range of bodies representing workers in the NHS about gaps in the workforce, including:

The British Medical Association

The Royal College of General Practitioners

The Royal College of Nursing

The Royal College of Midwives

The Royal College of Radiologists

When Nicola Sturgeon was Health Secretary she slashed training places for nursing and midwives in Scotland.

The SNP government also cut funding for medical students in Scotland from between 2008 and 2015.

Shadow Health Secretary Anas Sarwar said:

“We have a Scottish Government that has had no meaningful workforce plan for 10 years. I can announce today that Scottish Labour will have a workforce commission up and running in 10 weeks.

“Working with colleagues across the NHS we will bring forward solutions to the workforce crisis. In particular, the commission will look a number of key areas which I think need urgent action. First, it will consider increasing the number of training places for nurses and midwives. -reversing the cut Nicola Sturgeon made when she was Health Secretary

“Secondly, the commission will be consider ways to attract more nurses and reduce drop-out rates including how we put more money directly into student nurses’ pockets with additional financial support paid direct to them.

“Thirdly, the commission will consider the impact of seven years of pay restraint that has seen median incomes drop in real terms by 9%. So to improve staff morale and increase retention, it will consider how we can finally scrap the 1% pay cap for NHS staff.

“And the commission will also be asked to consider the best way to clamp down on private agency spend, which has sky rocketed to £175 million this year.

“It’s not just our NHS that faces this crisis. Our social care sector is also facing increased demand but with decreasing resource. That’s why the workforce commission will consider how we address the issues in the social care sector too.

“Across Scotland local authorities are again facing budget cuts. Since 2011 our councils have faced cuts of £1.5 billion. This has a direct impact on social care with devastating consequences. Shona Robison promised to eradicate delayed discharge by the start of 2016. Instead over half a million bed days were lost last year to patients who were medically cleared to leave but were still trapped in hospital.

“That’s the equivalent of every bed, every day and more for an entire year at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow being occupied by patients cleared to leave. We know that the single biggest contributing factor to this was issues with social care.

“That’s why Kez Dugdale is right to demand that we use the powers of the Scottish Parliament, reverse the cuts and instead protect our local communities. Conference, what we have proposed today is a bold start to a journey that once again places the NHS and all it does at the heart of our public services.

“Because conference, there is a difference between Nicola Sturgeon’s priorities and ours. While she obsesses about independence, we obsess about protecting our NHS While she endlessly focuses on breaking the United Kingdom, we relentlessly focus on ending inequality.”


The SNP has created a workforce crisis in our NHS

8 February 2017

Responding to a new briefing from Audit Scotland on the NHS workforce, Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar said:

“Expert after expert is speaking out and telling the SNP government about the workforce crisis that has developed on its watch.

"The blame for this NHS workforce crisis lies squarely at the door of Bute House. It was Nicola Sturgeon as Health Secretary who slashed training places for nurses and midwives and our health service is now in real trouble as a result.

“We’ve seen a decade of the SNP more focused on the short term than building a health service fit to face the challenges of our changing country.

“SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison needs to get a grip – she should start by acknowledging the workforce problems in our health force. The SNP just appears to be in complete denial about the pressure our hospitals are facing.”


Ministers must answer accusations of poverty paper ‘whitewash’
7 February 2017

Labour has called for a ministerial statement following reports that the SNP government told its independent poverty advisor to rewrite a government paper. A request for an urgent question was today rejected by the Presiding Officer.

Labour will now push for a full ministerial statement.

The row centres around reports that the SNP government’s independent poverty adviser Naomi Eisenstadt was told to remove lines from her report stating that council cuts would harm the poorest, as the SNP government prepared a budget which cuts hundreds of millions of pounds from local council services.

Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley said:

“SNP ministers must answer parliament on this. Interference in an independent report to hide the impact of their own cuts on the poorest is simply unacceptable.

“These questions must be addressed during the budget process.

“In her early drafts – before the SNP forced a change – Naomi Eisenstadt said that cuts to council services hit the poorest hardest. Given the SNP-Green budget plans to take total council cuts to £1.5 billion since 2011, SNP ministers must explain to parliament why they removed key sections from the report.”

 

 

Maths and Science Teachers Cut by 826 Under the SNP
8 February 2017

The SNP has cut 826 maths and science teachers since 2007, figures from Scottish Labour reveal.

The figures were published as a damning report from the Sutton Trust exposed the SNP's failure in education. The report showed a growing gap between the richest and poorest pupils in reading, maths and science.

The new figures published today by Labour show that in 2007 there were 6,821 teachers in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) but this dropped to 5,995 in 2016. This is a drop of 826, or 12 per cent.

Speaking after First Minister's Questions, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

"The Sutton Trust exposes the SNP’s catastrophic failure on education. In the subjects most important to growing Scotland’s economy in the future, young people are being let down.

"Despite the hard work of pupils and teachers, the SNP’s failure is there for all to see. Nicola Sturgeon said education would be her defining priority, yet her government is failing a whole generation of children.

"If we want to give all young people a chance in life then we need to invest in them. That means investing in local services like schools.

"But what we get from the SNP is £1.5billion worth of cuts since 2011.

"The Sutton Trust report proves beyond all doubt that teachers need more support to give young people the skills they need for the future. But under the Nationalists there are 4,000 fewer teachers in Scotland and we’ve lost 826 science and maths teachers since the SNP took office in 2007.

"Here's the SNP's record: teacher numbers are down and the attainment gap is widening. The only thing on the up under the SNP is cuts to schools."


Sutton Trust figures show the huge divide between the richest and the poorest pupils
8 February 2017

Commenting on Sutton Trust figures showing that the gap between the richest and the poorest pupils in maths and science is more than two and a half years, and performance by even the ablest students is declining, Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“The SNP government should be ashamed of these figures. Nicola Sturgeon said education would be the defining priority of her government; she put her top minister in charge of it and has announced a stream of schemes but the gap between the richest and the poorest most able pupils is more than two and a half years.

“In Scotland today how much money you have means that, even for the ablest pupils, they can be two and a half years behind the richest pupils in key subjects like maths and science. That is a scandal and a ticking timebomb for our economy.

“The SNP-Green budget deal freezes taxes and means more cuts to services. It’s an austerity budget that will continue to divide Scotland between the richest and the poorest. Together we're stronger - that's why Labour will continue to push to use Holyrood’s powers to stop the cuts and invest in our public services instead.”


£170 million of council cuts ‘just about good enough’ – according to the SNP and the Greens
8 February 2017

The SNP and Greens are facing ridicule today for attempting to spin £170 million of cuts to local services such as schools and care for the elderly as ‘just about good enough.’

The exchange occurred between Green co-convenor Patrick Harvie and SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay during the Stage 2 budget debate at Holyrood’s finance committee.

In an attempt to defend a Scottish budget deal which fails to increase tax on the richest few and takes cuts to local government budgets to £1.5 billion since 2011, Mr Harvie said local government funding is ’just about good enough’.

The exchange follows revelations this week that Naomi Eisenstadt, the SNP’s independent poverty adviser, was asked to change the wording of her report on poverty by the SNP government.

One such change was the removal of a reference to local council cuts hitting the poorest hardest.

Labour business manager James Kelly said:

“The SNP-Green backroom budget deal cuts £170 million from funding for schools and care for elderly. SNP ministers and their Green sidekicks trying to claim that is ‘just about good enough’ is absolutely farcical.

“The reality is that our services will have been hit by £1.5 billion of cuts since 2011 thanks to this budget.

“We need to be investing in our schools so our young people have the skills to compete for the jobs of the future. We need to invest in care for our elderly to take the pressure off our hospitals.

“Instead, the SNP-Green budget freezes taxes and cuts services. It’s an austerity budget that will continue to divide Scotland between the richest and the rest. Together we're stronger - that's why Labour will continue to push to use Holyrood’s powers to stop the cuts and invest in our public services instead.”


A&E figures expose a nationalist government with its eye off the ball
31 January 2017

- A&E Target missed

- Nearly 200 wait more than eight hours

- Almost one in five miss target at flagship Glasgow hospital

Commenting on A&E performance figures published today, Labour Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“These A&E figures expose a nationalist government with its eye off the ball and it is patients and staff who suffer as a result.

“SNP ministers need to spend more time focused on running our NHS, not rerunning arguments about independence.

“Nearly 200 patients waited more than eight hours for treatment according to these figures – that should shock this complacent nationalist government into action, but SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison has buried her head in the sand about the problems in our health service.

“Ahead of the Scottish budget this week, SNP ministers need to think about the level of pressure NHS staff are under and how patients lose out as a result.

"We know social care takes pressure off our hospitals but the SNP is set to slash £327 million from the budgets of councils which provide care for our elderly.

“Patients and staff deserve better than SNP spin on our NHS.


The Nationalists should rule out another referendum altogether - Dugdale
30 January 2017

Commenting after the Joint Ministerial Committee discussions on Brexit, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

"Once again Nicola Sturgeon has attended a meeting on Brexit and delivered nothing but threats about imposing another independence referendum on the people of Scotland.

"Nicola Sturgeon previously claimed that she would study the opinion polls to determine when she would hold another referendum, but public opinion couldn't be clearer. People in Scotland don't want another independence referendum.

"At a time when Nationalist ministers are cutting £327million from local services like schools and care of the elderly, people in Scotland just want the SNP to forget about another referendum and focus on growing our economy and fixing the mess it has made of running the country.

"It's time the Nationalists stopped playing politics with the future of our country. Nicola Sturgeon should rule out another independence referendum altogether. Scottish Labour will vote against any SNP plan to impose another independence referendum."


SNP must listen to Cosla's Budget Warning - Rowley
29 January 2017

Commenting on the briefing to MSPs from council umbrella body CoSLA, which warns that SNP budget cuts ‘of this magnitude will undoubtedly impact on local services’, Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley said:

“This is a very serious warning from CoSLA.

"Derek Mackay must listen to the people who deliver the local services that our communities depend upon.

“Labour will table amendments to the SNP's budget to stop, in full, the cuts to local services like schools and care of the elderly, and to invest in our economy.

"The Scottish Parliament has the powers to generate extra resources to make the cuts unnecessary.

“The first vote on the SNP budget is just days away and I urge Mr Mackay to think again about the damage he plans to inflict on our communities.”


The SNP should end independence games and tackle poverty – Kezia Dugdale
26 January 2017

The SNP is more interested in forcing another independence referendum than tackling poverty, Kezia Dugdale said today.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, the Scottish Labour leader called on Nicola Sturgeon to end the games on independence and scrap SNP plans to cut £327 million from local services like schools.

Two major new reports published today exposed the growing gap between the richest and the rest in Scotland under the SNP:

- The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health say that in Scotland a child from a poorer background is more likely to suffer from poor health than a child from a wealthier area;

- New figures published today by UCAS show that since the First Minister took office, of the extra students going to university there are ten times more from the richest backgrounds than from the poorest.

Yesterday (Wednesday) the Scottish Parliament refused to provide a majority for the SNP’s budget, which cuts £327million from local services like nurseries, schools and anti-poverty programmes.

Speaking after First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

“In 2016 and after a decade of SNP government, a child's path in life is largely determined before they leave the womb based on how much money their parents have.

“That should shame every single Nationalist minister. So much for stronger for Scotland.

“Labour will not stand by while Nationalist ministers who repeatedly profess their love of our country impose £327 million of cuts that will hurt the most vulnerable people in Scotland.

“The shameful gap between the richest and the rest in Scotland follows young people into adulthood. Since the First Minister took office, there are ten times more new students from the richest backgrounds than from the poorest.

“Nicola Sturgeon should stop the grandstanding on Europe and end the games on independence. It’s clear that the SNP's real priority is imposing another independence referendum on the people of Scotland rather than tackling poverty.”


Education under Nicola Sturgeon: the gap between the richest and the poorest going to university has grown
25 January 2017

The access gap between the richest and poorest students going to university has widened since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister, new figures from UCAS confirm.

Of the additional students going to university in 2016 compared to 2014, there are ten times more students from the richest background than from the poorest.

At a majority of Scotland’s universities, less than 10 per cent of Scottish first year students are from the poorest backgrounds.

Nicola Sturgeon said closing the gap between the richest and the poorest would be her driving and defining priority as First Minister.

These figures follow statistics from the Scottish Funding Council earlier this week which confirmed there are over 150,000 fewer students going to college under the SNP.

Labour Education spokesperson Daniel Johnson said:

“Nicola Sturgeon said cutting the gap between the richest and the rest would be the driving and the defining mission of her government. It is a mission she is failing at spectacularly.

“Since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister the gap between the richest and poorest going to university has widened. Of the additional students going to university since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister, there are ten times more students from the richest backgrounds than the poorest.

“These figures come a day after confirmation the number of students going to college under the Nationalists has dropped by more than 150,000.

“Opportunities for young people are being cut off even further by an SNP budget that cuts £327 million form local services like schools and social work.

“That is why Labour will bring forward amendments to the Scottish budgets to stop the cuts and invest instead.”




Labour to extend scrutiny of ‘most important budget ever’
22 January 2017

Derek Mackay’s budget will come under the microscope next week when Scottish Labour raises a debate in parliament to further scrutinise the SNP's spending plans.

Labour said proper debate on the government’s draft budget was absolutely vital as it is the first to be delivered under the significant new tax powers of the Scottish Parliament.

SNP finance minister Derek Mackay has previously been accused of showing ‘contempt for parliament’ by Holyrood’s Finance Committee, a cross party committee chaired by senior SNP MSP Bruce Crawford. The draft budget was not published until late December, and councils have been told to accept the deal before it is approved by MSPs.

The budget, as it stands, proposes £327 million of cuts to valued local services across Scotland, including education and care for the elderly.

Labour will bring forward amendments to the Scottish budget to use the new powers to stop the cuts and invest in our public services instead.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

“This is the most important budget the Scottish Parliament has ever had to scrutinise, and with £327 million of cuts to local services in the pipeline from the SNP, it needs to go under the spotlight like no budget ever before.

“The SNP government has previously been accused of showing contempt for parliament over their handling of the budget, and Labour will not let them get away without the proper scrutiny the budget deserves.

“Scotland has the powers to do things differently now. It’s not good enough for the SNP to pass on Tory cuts to our poorest communities when there are powers to do something about it.

“We have a health service struggling to cope and an education system where how much your parents earn defines your future more than your talent, ability and potential.

“The SNP’s response to that is to slash £327 million from local authority budgets for schools and care for the elderly.

“Our parliament has the powers to invest in our valued public services, so Labour will shine a light on the SNP’s austerity budget.”


Sturgeon must address NHS “System Breakdown” – Kezia Dugdale
20 January 2017

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said the SNP must address the ‘system breakdown’ facing Scotland’

The chair of the British Medical Association in Scotland, Dr Peter Bennie, warned last week that the NHS workforce is ‘stretched pretty much to breaking point’.

He said the health service faces ‘system breakdown’ without action.

Ms Dugdale today raised the case of Elaine Hanby from Nairn during First Minister’s Questions.

Mrs Hanby, 48, is the chairwoman of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Widows' Association, and was diagnosed with a cataract two years ago.

She was referred her to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness for surgery, but was told to expect a 12-month wait for a consultation.

The Scottish Government target is that patients should wait no longer than 12 weeks for their first consultation.

In a letter to Mrs Hanby, the government admitted that a 12-month wait is “totally unacceptable” and provided a guide on how to travel to Europe for treatment.

Speaking after First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

“The waiting time for Elaine Hanby’s cataract operation is shocking.

“When the government target is 12 weeks for a consultation, a wait of 12 months is completely unacceptable.

“And it is astounding that Mrs Hanby is being forced to consider going to Europe for treatment because she cannot get seen in her local hospital in Inverness.

“Labour MSPs are dealing with cases from Caithness to Paisley, from Dumbarton to Aberdeen. We shouldn’t have to bring every case to parliament for something to happen.

“The chair of the BMA in Scotland has warned that our NHS is on the verge of a ‘system breakdown’.

“Nicola Sturgeon must address this warning as a matter of urgency.”


Significant challenges facing Scotland’s economy – Baillie
18 January 2017

Commenting on labour market statistics which show rising economic inactivity, falling employment and increasing unemployment, Labour economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said:

“It is now clearer than ever that there are significant challenges facing Scotland’s economy.

“Unemployment has increased over the past quarter, with 139,000 people now out of work and seeking a job. Over the same period, unemployment in the UK fell by 52,000.

“Scotland also had the largest increase in economic inactivity over the past year of any nation or region in the UK. This is extremely concerning and it is time that serious work is undertaken to get to grips with the underlying causes.

“That is why Labour wants the SNP government to commission a study into economic inactivity in Scotland. It is the single biggest challenge facing our labour market, but Nationalist ministers would prefer to ignore it.

“Meanwhile, economic growth in Scotland continues to lag behind the UK average, an established trend which shows no sign of reversing.

“Labour will amend the SNP’s Budget to stop the cuts and invest in our public services.

“If Nationalist ministers are serious about addressing the fundamental challenges facing Scotland, they will back our amendments and ditch plans to cut £327 million from local authority budgets and slash the budget of Scottish Enterprise by a third.”


Scotland's NHS in grip of a workforce crisis
16 January 2017

The chair of the British Medical Association in Scotland has warned that our NHS workforce is ‘stretched pretty much to breaking point’.

In an interview on the BBC Sunday Politics Scotland programme, Dr Peter Bennie said doctors are ‘fed up’ with the SNP’s spin.

He warned that the health service faces ‘system breakdown’ without action.

Scottish Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: “This is an incredibly serious warning from the BMA.

“It is painfully clear that the SNP's failure to properly workforce plan has left our NHS staff over-worked, under-valued and under-resourced. This has left our NHS struggling to cope with demand, and in the grip of a workforce crisis.

“A decade of SNP mismanagement has increased pressure on staff in every part of our health service - from nurses who say their workload is getting worse, to GPs who say their surgeries are understaffed.

"SNP cuts to social care are also adding more pressure to the primary and acute sector. Labour will not support an austerity budget and will instead offer amendments to the budget to use the new tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts.”



SNP Presiding Over a Staffing Crisis in Schools
16 January 2017

A major new survey by public sector UNISON has revealed that support staff in Scotland’s schools are ‘exhausted, undervalued and under enormous pressure’.

The crisis has been exposed as the SNP plans to impose a £327million cut on valued local services this year, including education.

Scottish Labour will not support a budget that passes on Tory austerity, and has called on the SNP to invest in our schools. Scottish Labour inequalities spokesperson Monica Lennon said: “This is a damning report from UNISON.

“It exposes the crisis in our schools, with dedicated support staff under pressure like never before.

“Heavier workloads, jobs cuts, and a lack of supplies – this is the direct result of SNP cuts. It isn’t a governance review that our education system needs – it is investment.

“That’s why a £327million cut to local services in the SNP’s 2017 budget is so misguided. Labour will not support a budget that passes on further cuts to our schools and will campaign for investment in education.”



Maternity units must not be cut – Sarwar
13 January 2017

Proposed cuts to maternity units in Greater Glasgow and Clyde must be reversed, Labour said today.

Today’s papers report that pregnant women were turned away from the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow because it could not cope with demand.

Meanwhile, there are proposals to cut services at maternity units at the Vale of Leven Hospital in West Dunbartonshire and Inverclyde Royal Hospital and send patients to other hospitals in the area including the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. < br>
In September last year the Scottish Parliament voted to ‘call in’ these changes – meaning Health Secretary Shona Robison should decide their future.

Labour said, given the pressure on maternity units in Glasgow, it makes no sense to cut further services in the west of Scotland.

Labour Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“The reports we are seeing from Scotland’s £850 million flagship hospital are distressing. If pregnant women are being turned away from the biggest hospital in the country it makes no sense to reduce maternity services in the area.

“That is why today I have written to SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison calling on her to see sense on the proposal to cut maternity units at the Vale of Leven Hospital and Inverclyde Royal Hospital.

“ She should keep the promises she made to the public before the election, recognise the existing pressures on the service and stop these senseless cuts. The last thing we need is a reduction of capacity in the area. The uncertainty must stop.”



More than 300 vulnerable young people waited more than a year for mental health treatment
9 January 2017

More than 300 vulnerable young people waited more than a year for mental health treatment, new figures have revealed.

Analysis of official health statistics by Scottish Labour shows that 315 young people waited 53 weeks or more to begin treatment for child and adolescent mental health services in the past year.

Labour branded the figures disgraceful, and said that longer waiting times for mental health services could worsen the conditions of patients.

Under the SNP there has been a 10 per cent cut in the number of educational psychologists.

Labour inequalities spokeswoman Monica Lennon said:

“These are shocking figures. No young person seeking treatment should be waiting more than a year, but more than 300 is a national scandal.

“The longer a patient has to wait for treatment the more likely it is that their condition will get worse along the way.

“Labour wants to see more than just warm words from the SNP government’s mental health strategy. A good starting place would be backing Labour’s plan for guaranteed access to a qualified counsellor for every high school in Scotland.

“It would cost a fraction of what the SNP government is committed to spending and is exactly the type of early intervention that we need to see in mental health treatment.”



Nicola Sturgeon should rule out another referendum altogether - Alex Rowley
 

9 January 2017

Commenting on the news that Nicola Sturgeon has ruled out another independence referendum in 2017, Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley said:

"While it is welcome that Nicola Sturgeon has ruled out another independence referendum in 2017, this doesn't come close to ending the uncertainty.

“The First Minister should rule out forcing another independence referendum on the people of Scotland altogether, not just for the next twelve months.

"Labour will not support another independence referendum. More than two million people in Scotland voted to remain in the UK, and that result should be respected.

"People in Scotland want the SNP government to address the crisis in our NHS and close the appalling gap between the richest and the rest in our classrooms, not obsess about independence."




Over 1,000 patients failed on cancer treatment
9 January 2017
Over 1,000 Scots waited longer than they should have for cancer treatment in the last year, new figures have revealed.

Analysis from Scottish Labour shows that over 1,200 patients waited longer than the SNP target of 62 days to begin treatment following an urgent referral on suspicion of cancer.

Labour’s analysis also shows that over 1,000 patients waited longer than a separate 31-day target for a decision to treat cancer to the first treatment.

The analysis follows the publication of cancer waiting times in December which revealed declining performance. The SNP has not met the 62-day standard for three years now.

Labour Health spokesman Anas Sarwar said:

“These figures are a scandal. It is completely unacceptable that over 1,000 patients waited longer than they were promised for cancer treatment in 2016.

“Performance on the 62-day standard in particular has not been met in three years, yet there appears to be complete inertia from the SNP government.

“Waiting longer for treatment can increase anxiety for patients and their families. These figures aren’t dry statistics - they are fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, brothers and sisters across the country not getting the treatment they were promised.

“Labour has been arguing for years that if your doctor suspects you have cancer, you should expect to see a specialist and get a diagnosis in two weeks.”

 


Scottish schools cut off from outdoor sports facilities

3 January 2017

Over 1,000 Scottish schools have no outdoor facilities, Scottish Labour can reveal.

Data provided to Daniel Johnson MSP by SportScotland shows that:

1,040 Scottish schools have no outdoor facilities.

Over four in ten primary schools have no outdoor facilities.

Over three quarters of schools for those with additional support needs have no access to outdoor facilities.

Labour said the figures reflect SNP cuts to local councils that deliver investment in school estates, and cuts by the Government’s national agency, SportScotland.

SportScotland cut investment in school sport by £1.3million last year.

Labour Shadow Education Minister Daniel Johnson MSP said:

“Having access to outdoor sports facilities isn’t just about finding the next Andy Murray, it’s about cutting the attainment gap with healthier children more likely to do well in the classroom.

“We also know that Scotland has made almost no progress in tackling childhood obesity in the last ten years. Access to outdoor sports facilities should be part of the solution.

“These figures show that the SNP government hasn’t been giving our schools the investment they need to deliver investment in the estate. the SNP should reverse the ten years of cuts it has made to Scotland’s schools.”





Number of nursery inspections plummets

3 January 2017

The number of nursery inspections carried out by government agency Education Scotland has plummeted over the past five years.

In an answer to a parliamentary question, SNP Education Secretary John Swinney admitted that the number of inspections fell by a third from 201 in 2011 to 135 in the last year.

The estimate for 2016-17 also suggests that numbers will continue to fall, with future projections for the current financial year at just 99.

Labour estimates that if current inspection rates continue, it would take over 18 years for every nursery to be inspected by Education Scotland.

It follows evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s education committee which showed a similar trend for schools.

Labour Shadow Education Minister Daniel Johnson said:

"These are worrying figures. Inspections in our nurseries should be regular and thorough because so much of the work we can do to cut the attainment gap between the richest and the rest can begin there.

“Instead it looks like the SNP is happy to turn a blind eye and provide the bare minimum.

“That isn’t good enough – we have heard a lot of warm words from the SNP government about its commitment to education and cutting the attainment gap, but the actions of the government suggest otherwise.

“Education Scotland as an agency has been criticised as dysfunctional in recently months - we need clarity as to why these inspection rates are falling.”





Number of pupils without a maths qualification nearly doubles under the SNP

29 December 2016

The number of pupils leaving school without a proper maths qualification has nearly doubled in the past four years under the SNP.

Analysis from Scottish Labour has revealed that in 2014/15, 3,228 pupils left Scottish schools without a pass of SCQF (Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework) level 3 or higher - compared to 1,890 pupils in 2011/12.

It means that one in every 16 school leavers – the equivalent of more than one from every class in Scotland – has no significant maths qualification.

Previous Labour research revealed that Scotland had lost two science and maths teachers every week under the SNP.

It comes after the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results gave Scotland its worst education report since devolution, with Scotland declining in reading, maths and science.

Labour Education spokesman Iain Gray said:

“Earlier this month, a worldwide survey delivered Scotland’s worst report card on education since devolution.

“Now Labour can reveal that the number of young people leaving school with no significant maths qualification has rocketed in recent years - close to doubling.

“The SNP has slashed funding for our schools, with £500 million cut from local budgets last year alone and £327 million set to come, 4,000 fewer teachers, and an 18 per cent fall in support staff.

“Under the SNP, Scotland has lost two science or maths teachers every single week.

“You can’t keep on cutting like that and expect our children to get the skills they need to get on in life.

“Labour will bring forward amendments to the Scottish Budget to use the Parliament’s tax powers so we can stop the cuts and invest in schools.

“SNP ministers face a choice – they can work with Labour to give our schools the resources they need, or they can work with the Tories to carry on the cuts.”





Comment on EIS warning about Additional Support Needs cuts

27 December 2016

Commenting on the warning from the EIS about the impact of SNP cuts on Additional Support Needs (ASN) teaching in Scotland, Labour's Education spokesman Iain Gray said:

"This is an important intervention from the trade union representing Scotland's teachers and should act as a wake-up call for Nationalist ministers.

"Like all staff working in our schools, Additional Support Needs teachers are feeling the brunt of a decade of SNP cuts and mismanagement.

“Additional Support Needs teachers require support and extra resources so they can provide the best education for some of our most vulnerable young people, yet the SNP's budget will cut a further £327million from schools and other local services next year.

“The only way to give young people the skills they need to get on in life is to invest in education, but the SNP just keep on cutting.

"Labour will not vote for a budget that strips a further £327million from local services like schools.

“The question people need to ask themselves is why would the SNP?"





Scots missing out on £2billion worth of social security payments

27 December 2016

Scots are missing out on over £2billion of social security payments, according to new research.

The independent experts in the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) estimate that Scotland has:

- £428 million worth of unclaimed working or child tax credits

- £251 million of unclaimed housing benefit

- £210 million of unclaimed pension credit

- £190 million of unclaimed carer's allowance

- £100 million in unclaimed council tax reduction

Labour said the figures showed that hundreds of thousands of Scots are missing out on support they are entitled to, and has called for more action from the SNP government to raise awareness of entitlements.

Earlier in the year, Labour won a parliamentary vote to ensure the forthcoming Social Security Bill has a legal duty on the new Scottish Social Security Agency to maximise uptake of social security payments.

Labour’s Social Security spokesman Mark Griffin said:

“Scots are missing out on £2billion worth of social security payments. Behind every one of these figures is a missed opportunity for Scotland to be a fairer place, delivering more support to those who need it most.

“Thanks to Labour pressure, the Scottish Parliament recently voted for a legal duty to ensure that everyone gets the social security payments they are entitled to – that must form part of the forthcoming Social Security Bill.

“Making sure, in law, that cash goes to the people who are entitled to it could make a huge difference. Thousands of families across Scotland are one big unexpected bill away from really struggling.

“The Scottish Parliament has the powers to shape a fairer social security system, but it’s now time for the SNP government to move away from warm words to action that will make a real difference to the support hundreds of thousands of Scots receive.”





Comment on BMA Scotland Christmas message

27 December 2016

Responding to the BMA Scotland Christmas message, Labour Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

"This is another powerful intervention from our doctors.

“It is painfully clear that the SNP's failure to properly workforce plan has left our NHS staff over-worked, under-valued and under-resourced.

“This has left our NHS struggling to cope with demand. A decade of SNP mismanagement has increased pressure on staff in every part of our health service - from nurses who say their workload is getting worse, to GPs who say their surgeries are understaffed.

"Just before Christmas the SNP published what they said was its delivery plan and vision for the NHS. In truth it was full of warm wards, but little ideas or details on how they will address the workforce crisis in our health service. It is a failure of workforce planning that results in soaring numbers of unfilled posts, under-staffed shifts, and health boards turning to outrageously expensive private staff and procedures."

"SNP cuts to social care are also adding more pressure to the primary and acute sector. That's why Labour will also make the case in the Scottish budget to invest in social care.

“The SNP plans to cut £327 million from the budgets of councils which deliver social care across Scotland. That will simply increase the pressure on our health service even further. We will not support an austerity budget and will instead offer amendments to the budget to use the new tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts."





Private landlords rake in more than £2 billion in housing benefit

23 December 2016

Private landlords have made more than £2billion in housing benefit in the last five years, new figures from Scottish Labour have revealed.

On average, £1 in every £4 from housing benefit has gone to a private landlord since 2011/12.

Labour said the figures underline the SNP’s failure to tackle the housing crisis, and called for accelerated investment in housing.

Scottish Labour housing spokesperson Pauline McNeill said:

“The SNP turned a housing shortage into a housing crisis, and the result is that one in every four pounds of housing benefit lines the pockets of private landlords.

“Our social security spending should be supporting our most vulnerable people, not boosting the profit margins of private landlords. That is why Labour wants to see a reform of the private rented sector to ban rip-off rent rises.

“It is clear we need to build more homes. Labour wants to see 60,000 over the next five years, 45,000 for rent through a council or a housing association. With waiting lists for homes stretching into the decades we need a change of direction from the SNP Government.

“The SNP Government should accelerate investment in housebuilding. It’s the twin track route to a better nation that will cut poverty and stimulate the economy. Everyone deserves a home, not just a roof over their heads.”



 



Student debt has soared by 42 per cent under the SNP

24 December 2016

Student debt has soared by 42 per cent since the SNP came to power, new research has revealed.

Analysis from the independent experts at the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) has also found that the largest increase took place between 2014 and 2016 – when borrowing rose by 29.5 per cent.

When the SNP came to power the average student loan was around £6,000 – but that figures is now £10,500.

Labour said one of the key reasons for this is SNP cuts to student support, including bursaries and grants for students from poorer backgrounds.

In 2007 the SNP ran on a key manifesto promise to abolish student debt, which it has broken.

Labour said the government’s student support review must deliver fairer support for students, particularly those from low income backgrounds.

Labour education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“The SNP came to power promising to abolish student debt, but instead it has rocketed on its watch.

“The SNP’s decision to slash support grants, and bursaries available to students from poorer backgrounds means more and more students have to turn to loans to get through their studies.

“Labour supports free tuition – but students need the financial support to get through university when they get there.

“Today in Scotland it is the poorest students who rack up the highest debt in Scotland. Those who start with the least end up owing the most. That’s not fair and it stops far too many young people getting a degree.

“The student support review will not be able to fix the SNP’s broken promise - but it can suggest a better system for the poorest students in Scotland in the New Year.”





Gap between rich and poor university access widens

24 December 2016

The gap between the richest and the poorest applicants accessing university has widened since Nicola Sturgeon has become First Minister, new figures reveal.

UCAS figures released this week show that since 2014, the chance of a young person from the most deprived areas gaining entry to university has increased by just 0.8%, while the equivalent figure for the least deprived areas is 2.6%.

While four in ten people from the least deprived backgrounds get entry into university, just one in ten people from the most deprived backgrounds get into university.

The figures directly contradict what Nicola Sturgeon said at First Minister’s Questions earlier this month, claiming that the gap was narrowing.

This is a manifestation of the failures of the SNP to close the attainment gap in our schools.

Labour said the SNP had to back up their promises to cut the attainment gap by using the powers of the parliament to invest in education, and said that the hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts from the Scottish Budget will only make the situation worse.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“The SNP’s record on access for the poorest students to university was already shameful, but these figures have shown that the gap has widened since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister.

“Nicola Sturgeon has promised that every child, regardless of their background, would have an equal chance of going to university.

“But those chance have become less equal while she’s been First Minister.

“It goes to show that warms words from the SNP aren’t enough, closing the attainment gap will take more investment in our schools.

“The opportunities a young person has to get an education and further qualifications after schools shouldn't be dictated by how much their parents earn, but that is all too often the case.

"Labour will continue to make the case for a 50p top rate of tax on those earning more than £150,000 a year to invest in closing the attainment gap in schools across Scotland."





Scotland's Police Service is in Crisis

23 December 2016

Scotland's police bodies face a £190million funding shortfall by 2021, according to a scathing new report from Audit Scotland.

The report, which was laid before parliament just hours before the Christmas recess, warns of ‘weak financial leadership and management’ in Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority.

As a section 22 report, the SNP government is responsible for the timing of the publication.

Scottish Labour today renewed calls for the SNP to use the tax powers of the parliament to invest in public services and stop the cuts.

Speaking after First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

“This is a serious report about the state of our police.

“It will cause considerable alarm in communities across Scotland.

"Rather than having a force that is committed to keeping our communities safe, we have one that is desperately trying to balance the books.

“As the year draws to a close it’s a good time to look back at the SNP’s record in government: the NHS and the police are in crisis; schools standards are slipping; and the budget is unravelling in slow motion.

“The SNP is cutting £327million from local services. Nicola Sturgeon should use the powers of this parliament to do the right thing and stop the cuts.”






SNP budget cuts support for youth employment and training

21 December 2016

The SNP’s promise to make education its priority has been branded a ‘shameless pre-election con’ today, as the Scottish budget reveals a huge cut to spending on youth employment and training.

Figures produced by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) shows a 25 per cent cut to the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA), falling from £39 million to £29 million.

The SNP government says the cut reflects a drop in demand for EMA, but the most recent application figures only show a six per cent fall.

The budget also cuts funding for a programme which supports vulnerable young Scots, aged 14 to 19 years, who are struggling to make a successful transition from school into employment, education or training by 25 per cent.

There is also a 10 percent cut to Employment and Training Interventions.

Labour will table amendments to the Scottish budget to use the new tax powers to stop the cuts to public services and protect the education budget.

Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“These cuts reveal the SNP’s promises to make education its priority to be nothing more than a shameless pre-election con.

“This budget cuts support for the poorest students to stay on at school or college – that’s an incredible priority for a government which seemingly wants to cut the attainment gap between the richest and the rest.

“If demand for EMA is six per cent down then that does not explain a twenty five per cent budget cut. In any case any resource freed up should be invested in other support for young people, for example in further education student support which the National Union of Students describes as “not fit for purpose”.

“Young people need all the support they can get to make the most of the opportunities of school or college, it beggars belief that the SNP government plans to slash that support while claiming to care about education.

“These cuts are on top of £327 million pounds of cuts to local councils who provide the funding for our schools and social care.

“Labour will table amendments to the Scottish budget so we can use the new tax powers to stop the cuts and protect the education budget instead.”





Shona Robison Must Get a Grip of Growing NHS "Winter Crisis"

20 December 2016

Labour has called on SNP Health Secretary Shona Robison to get a grip of the growing NHS 'winter crisis' as new figures show a significant drop in A&E performance in Scotland's hospitals since the same time last year.

A series of damning official government statistics revealed:

- Just 89.9 per cent of A&E patients were seen within four hours, well below the 95 per cent interim target.

- Only 75.9 per cent of A&E patients at the £850million Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow were seen within four hours.

- The SNP has cut hospital beds by nearly 10 per cent since 2011.

The figures come after the most damning Audit Scotland report on the state of the NHS since devolution. This showed a failure to meet seven out of eight key performance targets, health board cuts, and a growing workforce crisis.

Commenting on the A&E figures, Scottish Labour's health spokesman Anas Sarwar said:

“A decade of SNP mismanagement is beginning to really hurt our health service. Shona Robison must get a grip of the growing NHS winter crisis in Scotland.

"These figures show that A&E performance across Scotland is getting worse. The fact that one quarter of A&E patients at the £850million Queen Elizabeth University Hospital aren't seen within four hours is unacceptable. These figures are yet more evidence that the SNP's decision to allow the closure of the minor injuries unit at Yorkhill Hospital is senseless, reckless and ultimately dangerous. "Our dedicated NHS staff are doing their best but they need support from government. Only a third of NHS staff think there are enough of them to do their jobs properly and nine out of ten nurses think their workload is getting worse - it is clear that our hospitals are finding it increasingly difficult to cope.

“Shona Robison needs to get her head out of the sand and sort the problems in our health service, which are getting worse on her watch."

Commenting on the near 10 per cent cut in hospital beds under the SNP, Mr Sarwar said:

"The news that there has been a 10 per cent cut in the number of hospital beds since 2011 is a symptom of a decade of SNP mismanagement of the NHS. At a time of growing demand on the NHS, cutting hospital beds means patients will wait longer for treatment. Combined with the £327million cuts to local services in last week's budget, it's clear that SNP cuts will only harm our NHS."





SNP Budget Continues to Unravel

20 December 2016

Derek Mackay’s ‘shambolic’ Budget today continues to unravel with a series of damning revelations.

In new developments:

Analysis reveals the SNP has cut enterprise budgets by more than 40 per cent since 2009/10.

Mr Mackay has admitted in a letter that councils could slash funding for integrated health and social care boards by up to £80million.

The leader of the Labour/SNP coalition in Edinburgh has branded the Budget the ‘worst revenue settlement since devolution’.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “The SNP's Budget includes a £327million cut for the valued services that our councils deliver, like schools and care for the elderly.

“Behind that figure is the devastating reality that services used by everybody will suffer as a result. These are cuts that will hit everybody, but particularly hurt the most vulnerable.

“It is a budget the Tories would be proud of. It is a shambolic mess that continues to unravel. Labour cannot and will not stand back while public services are subjected to more brutal SNP cuts.”

A new briefing prepared for the Scottish Parliament’s economy committee reveals a cut to Scottish Enterprise of more than £120 million from 2009-10 to this year’s draft budget – a reduction of 41 per cent.

The new analysis follows the publication of the draft budget for 2017-18, which will see Scottish Enterprise funding cut by 33 per cent in a single financial year.

Labour economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “These are utterly damning figures that show just how badly the SNP has failed on economic development after a decade in office.

“Slashing the enterprise budget demonstrates how narrow and short-sighted the Nationalists’ vision for Scotland is. Cutting budgets may save money year-on-year but Scotland loses out in the long term with stalled growth and lower productivity. “The SNP’s management of Scotland’s economy is under the microscope now more than ever – and we are seeing the results: a £15 billion deficit and missed targets on growth, exports and research and development. This all boils back to a failure to invest in our economy properly.”

In an extraordinary letter to the president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), David O’Neill, Mr Mackay suggests councils could cut funding to Integration Joint Boards (IJBs) by up to £80million.

The letter suggests local authorities could transfer money back to their main spending lines. The Scottish Government is handing IJBs £107million, but if councils take back £80million it would mean there is significantly less money to spend on social care.

Labour social care spokesman Colin Smyth said: “This is an extraordinary letter that confirms from Derek Mackay himself that his budget underfunds councils.

“Derek Mackay knows he hasn’t given local services the settlement they need – but his suggestion they cut funding to integration joint boards is simply staggering. Social care is already in crisis, it needs more investment, not less.

“This looks like a political manoeuvre to blame councils for cuts to social care – despite the brutal £327million cut Derek Mackay has handed out.

“The only way to ensure social care is properly funded is to stop the cuts by using the new powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest.”





SNP's School Shame Deepens

13 December 2016

The SNP's education failings were laid bare today after attainment figures revealed huge gaps between the most and least deprived pupils all the way through to third year of secondary school.

The Scottish Government's own figures come just one week after an international league table exposed a growing crisis in classrooms.

Data shows how the attainment gap grows in every area throughout primary school.

The figures also show that around one in five primary one pupils don’t achieve the expected level for reading and writing, with 16 per cent not achieving the expected level for numeracy.

On leaving primary school, more than one in four pupils are not at the expected level for reading, almost one in three are not at the expected level for numeracy, and over a third are not at the expected level for writing.

Labour said the SNP has created the problem with huge cuts to education budgets, underlined by new information released today which shows:

• Over 4,000 fewer teachers than when the SNP came to power.

• Class sizes steadily increasing.

• Primary class sizes have increased again, and are now the highest they have been under the SNP, despite a manifesto promise to cut class sizes.

• A 55 per cent increase in classes over 25 in P1 since 2014.

• A 42 per cent cut to teachers in nurseries since 2007.

With the Scottish budget due to be unveiled on Thursday, Labour said it would be completely wrong for the SNP to cut local education budgets yet again.

Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“The SNP’s school shame has deepened with these statistics. The scale of their ten years of failure becomes more apparent by the day.

“We have seen huge cuts to teacher numbers, support staff, and investment per pupil alongside increasing class sizes. As a result, the attainment gap between the richest and the rest in Scotland is simply scandalous.

“Pupils not reaching expected standards in reading, writing and numeracy is a failure in social and economic policy by the SNP government.

“Education is the single most important investment a government can make – instead the SNP has slashed local education budgets and it is pupils, teachers and families who have suffered the consequences.

“It would be shameful if the SNP government, having seen these figures, elected to cut local education budgets again on Thursday. These figures underline the damage a decade of the SNP has done to Scottish education. Ministers must now accept Labour’s amendments to the Scottish budget to stop the cuts and invest in our schools.”





Teachers slam proposed SNP school reforms

9 December 2016

Scotland’s largest teaching union has slammed the SNP’s proposed education reforms, claiming that “the greatest barrier [to achieving excellence and equity for all] has been the imposition of austerity driven budgets and the underfunding of the Scottish education system over the past period”

The EIS response to the SNP’s governance review:

- Suggests that the consultation may be rushed to meet ‘political rather than educational imperatives.’

- Raises concerns of schools being burdened with administrative functions

- Criticises the ‘increasingly politicised role of Education Scotland within Scottish education’

- Rejects the SNP’s suggestions of a restructuring of local government responsibility for schools as “not useful”

- Calls the new standardised testing regime “regressive” and “counterproductive”

- Calls for more resources for schools

This week the Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) results gave Scotland its worst education report since devolution, with Scotland declining in reading, maths and science.

Labour said the SNP could not use the report to justify forcing through reforms opposed by Scotland’s teachers.

Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“Coming after a brutal assessment of the SNP’s record on education is this damning verdict on their so-called “reforms” for the future.

“Labour will listen to the views of teachers on what is best for the future of our schools – not the views of a government which has failed our pupils in the first place.

“The EIS is clear in its opposition of the SNP’s plans to centralise education, believing them to be about politics rather than what is best for our schools.

“These rushed reforms won’t help our schools – what will is giving our schools the resources they need to deliver a world class education.

“Under the SNP we have 4,000 fewer teachers, an 18% cut in support staff and £500 million cut from local budgets in the last year alone. Rushed and wrongheaded reforms won’t make that situation better, if anything it will make it worse.

“The SNP should halt their planned reforms and work urgently with Labour in the Scottish Budget to deliver the funding our schools need.”






More Secret NHS Cuts Revealed

9 December 2016

More secret NHS cuts have been revealed in a move that could increase pressure on Scotland's largest hospital at the busiest time of the year.

The minor injuries unit at Yorkhill Hospital in Glasgow is to shut just days before Christmas, with patients and staff transferred to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital over the festive period.

Labour has called for assurances from the SNP government that the minor injuries unit will not be permanently closed, as there has been no prior public consultation.

The A&E at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital is one of the poorest performing in Scotland, and Labour health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said the "senseless, reckless and ultimately dangerous" move could increase pressure on a hospital that is already struggling.

A&E performance figures at the Queen Elizabeth University hospital released this week revealed that 82 per cent of patients were seen and subsequently admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours, compared to the SNP government interim target of 95 per cent.

Labour Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“This is a senseless, reckless and ultimately dangerous decision that will centralise services at a hospital already struggling under pressure just as we enter winter.

“This looks like an attempt to transfer resources to cover the fact that the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital is struggling, but it will mean overall poorer care for Glasgow patients.

"These are yet more secret NHS cuts – there was no consultation and no public warning this was coming.

“The SNP government in Edinburgh must guarantee that this ward will re-open in the New Year. This cannot be yet another cut that Health Secretary Shona Robison ignores.”





Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown Backs Kezia Dugdale's "Bold" Constitutional Reforms

8 December 2016

Following Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale’s keynote address to the IPPR in London, Gordon Brown said:

"The Scottish Labour conference in February 2017 can be a milestone event in the recovery of Labour.

“Kezia Dugdale’s decision to put to the Labour Party membership her new constitutional reform programme should be welcomed by all members.

“Her proposals to extend the powers of the Scottish Parliament, reaffirm Scotland’s leading role in the United Kingdom and establish a UK-wide constitutional convention deserve widespread public support.

“They offer a bold solution with the repatriation of European powers to Scotland and a more federal constitution for the UK.

"The SNP wants Scotland in Europe but not in Britain, while the Conservatives want Scotland in Britain but not in Europe.

"In place of these two extreme positions in the post-Brexit debate - all-out independence or hard Brexit - Labour’s proposal would not only give Scotland a new role in both Britain and Europe but is also the best way of meeting the challenges that really matter to the Scottish people - enabling us to tackle poverty, reduce inequality, guarantee high quality public services and secure full employment."





SNP mismanagement is hurting our health service

6 December 2016

SNP mismanagement is hurting our health service, Scottish Labour said today, as new figures show a range of problems in our NHS.

Official figures publish

ed by ISD Scotland today reveal: • Over 600 operations cancelled in a single month due to capacity reasons.

The SNP’s interim A&E target missed again, with Scotland’s £850 million flagship hospital in Glasgow recording the poorest performance in the country at 82 per cent.

An increase in the number of unfilled consultant, nursing & midwifery posts in our NHS.

Labour said the SNP need to recognise the growing workforce crisis in the NHS, which is leading to overworked, undervalued staff and patients losing out. Labour Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“A decade of SNP mismanagement is beginning to really hurt our health service. There is a growing work force crisis which is getting worse. This is increasing the pressure on staff who are already overworked and under stress and ultimately it is patients who lose out. “We are seeing more than 600 operations cancelled because hospitals cannot cope with the pressure they are under.That is a worrying sign as winter comes in.

“Only a third of NHS staff think there are enough of them to do their jobs properly and nine out of ten nurses think their workload is getting worse - it is clear that our hospitals are finding it increasingly difficult to cope.

“When she was health secretary Nicola Sturgeon cut places for nursing training, so it’s no wonder our NHS doesn’t have the posts filled. It’s that kind of mismanagement that is hurting our health service and sees an unacceptable amount of people waiting longer than they should at A&E.

“Shona Robison needs to get her head out of the sand and sort the problems in our health service, which are getting worse on her watch.”







A decade of SNP government has sent Scottish education backwards

6 December 2016

A decade of SNP government has sent Scottish education backwards

A decade of SNP government has sent Scottish education backwards, Labour said today, as a worldwide study delivered a damning assessment of education under the SNP.

The 2015 Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) results show:

- Scotland declining in reading

- Scotland declining in mathematics

- Scotland declining in science

The research also shows Scotland falling behind countries across the world.

In reading, Scotland’s OECD rank has gone from 6th in 2000 to 23rd in 2015. In mathematics Scotland has gone from 9th in 2003 to 24th in 2015 and in science Scotland is now 19th, compared to 10th in 2006.

Labour said the SNP government would be wrong to use the results as political cover to centralise education services in Scotland.

Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“SNP ministers should be ashamed of these results. For all their warm words about making education a priority we are seeing performance going backwards as Scotland drops down international league tables.

“These are terrible results after ten years of SNP government. They must wake up to the fact that their year-on-year cuts to school budgets, teachers numbers and support staff are damaging the life chances of Scotland's children.

“The SNP has also failed to address the problems with the SQA and Education Scotland, which were laid bare in parliament last week.

“Education Secretary John Swinney must not use these results as political cover to justify centralising school budgets and support. That will not fix this.

“The SNP government in Edinburgh should halt these damaging plans and instead use the parliament’s powers to invest in our schools, ensuring they have enough teachers and support staff to reverse this decline.

“Nothing else will repair the damage of a decade of SNP government to our education system.

“If the budget next week contains hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts to local education budget then it will be clear that the SNP’s promise to prioritise education was nothing more than pre-election spin.”







Unfilled nursing and midwifery posts rocket under SNP control

26 November 2016

The number of unfilled nursing and midwifery posts have rocketed under the SNP, new analysis from the Scottish Labour has revealed.

Since 2011 there has been a fourfold increase the in the number of unfilled nursing and midwifery posts in our NHS, going from 579 to 2,566.

The party released the figures ahead of a national campaign day on the NHS, with hundreds of Labour activists across the country will take to streets to campaign on the NHS.

When Nicola Sturgeon was Health Secretary she slashed training places for nurses and midwives.

In NHS Highland, where there is strong local opposition to proposals for a downgrade to a maternity unit in Caithness, vacancies have increased from 33 to 123 in five years.

In Greater Glasgow and Clyde Glasgow, where local services are threatened with the axe, vacancies have rocketed from 53 to 892.

Labour Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“The foundations of our most valued public service are our NHS staff, but in the last five years the number of unfilled nursing posts in our NHS has rocketed.

“A decade of SNP mismanagement of our NHS has created a workforce crisis with 9 out of ten nurses saying their workload has gotten worse and a third of NHS staff saying there aren’t enough of them to do their jobs properly.

“These problems did not appear overnight, they happened on Nicola Sturgeon’s watch as when she was Health Secretary. Shona Robison appears completely incapable of cleaning up her boss’s mess.

“The SNP government need to accept there is a problem if they are ever to fix this mess. If NHS staff aren’t given the support and resources they need it is patients who miss out. This impacts on patient care to with 7 out of 8 standards failed.

“That’s why Labour want to use the powers of the Scottish parliament to take the pressure off our hospitals and NHS staff, and ensure better care for patients.”





'E' grade exam a panic measure following botched SNP education reforms

24 November 2016

Plans for a new exam “E” grade have been branded a panic measure following botched SNP reforms to education.

TESS today reports that the Scottish Government’s assessment and national qualifications working group is considering lowering the mark needed for a D grade and introducing a new ‘E’ grade.

The move is understood to be considered to address ‘unintended consequences’ of the SNP government’s decision to scrap unit assessments.

Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“Pupils should get credit for their achievement, especially the so-called “cusp” candidates, but the best way to do that is to sort out the exam system properly.

“This is openly a panic measure to deal with what headteachers are calling the unintended consequences of a decision made directly by John Swinney.

“It also follows a car crash appearance by senior figures from the SQA at the Holyrood Education Committee this week. The committee’s research showed that most teachers no longer trust them to run the exam system. Every day of SNP mismanagement makes more of a dog’s breakfast of the exam system, so critical to our young peoples’ future”





Passengers Deserve A Fare Freeze

24 November 2016

Rail passengers in Scotland could save nearly £100 on key commuter routes with a fare freeze next year.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale today unveiled a new campaign leaflet as she joined commuters at Haymarket Station in Edinburgh to call for a 2017 fare freeze.

Transport spokesperson Neil Bibby was at Glasgow Central Station, and Labour MSPs will be campaigning across the country in the coming days.

Under the SNP, regulated rail fares are due to rise by up to 1.9 per cent from January.

But if ministers agree to Labour’s plan for a fare freeze, commuters purchasing a monthly season pass could save nearly £100 over the course of 12 months:

• £82.06 between Edinburgh and Glasgow

• £94.57 between Glasgow and Perth

• £89.40 between Edinburgh and Dundee

Speaking outside Haymarket Station, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

“Passengers are fed up with expensive, overcrowded and delayed trains.

“They deserve a break. That is why Scottish Labour believes passengers deserve a fare freeze in 2017.

“On some commuter routes, this could save passengers nearly £100 over the course of a year.

“Nicola Sturgeon has said she will consider our proposal.

"Rail fares are due to rise in January, so the SNP should intervene right now to give passengers the fare freeze they deserve.”







The SNP has cut nearly 1,000 nursery teachers since 2010


26 November 2016

Scotland has lost nearly a thousand nursery teachers since 2010, new analysis has revealed.

In 2010 there were 2,420 qualified teachers working in Scottish nurseries, but according to the most recent figures there are 1,519 - a fall of 901.

Save the Children has urged the Scottish Government to increase the number of teachers working in nurseries as well as staff with specialist training in speech and language development.

Scottish Labour Shadow Education Minister Daniel Johnson said:

"All the evidence makes clear that the gap between the richest and the rest exists even with children at nursery. Early intervention is absolutely key to cutting the gap between the richest and the rest.

“Save the Children is calling for more qualified teachers in nurseries. That is something the SNP pledged to do in deprived areas, but Scotland has lost over 900 nursery teachers in the last five years.

“When will the SNP start to reverse this trend? The Nationalists said that education would be their top priority. If that is still true they should back Labour’s amendments to the Scottish budget so that we can use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in education.”





Labour pressure means legal duty on social security payments


23 November 2016

Commenting on tonight’s social security vote in the Scottish Parliament, Labour Social Security spokesperson Mark Griffin said:

“Thanks to Labour pressure the Scottish Parliament has voted for a legal duty to ensure that everyone gets the social security payments they are entitled to.

“In Scotland today 100,000 people aren’t claiming the tax credits they are entitled to and 53,000 carers aren’t getting the carer's allowance they should be.

“This all adds up to hundreds of millions of pounds of support that people are not getting. That now must change.

“Making sure, in law, that cash goes to the people who are entitled to it could make a huge difference. Thousands of families across Scotland are one big unexpected bill away from really struggling.

“Parliament has voted to change that, and the SNP must now bring forward the appropriate measures in the Social Security Bill."





Response to ministerial statement on ScotRail

23 November 2016

Responding to today’s ministerial statement on ScotRail, Labour Transport Spokesperson Neil Bibby said:

“This week the Minister claimed ScotRail wasn’t a poor service – passengers standing on overcrowded platforms, waiting for late running overpriced trains would beg to differ.

“The facts are that Humza Yousaf demanded an improvement plan and then ScotRail services have become worse.

“His handling of the rail crisis has seen him fall out with Abellio, Network Rail and the transport unions.

“Humza Yousaf claimes he's not a transport expert – and he’s right.

“Humza Yousaf must ditch the spin and publish his 246 point improvement plan in full.

“He must also make a commitment to when services will get better – he said it would be March before targets are hit, that surely cannot be the case now.”





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