My plan for change

Keir Starmer speaking at a podium at the Scottish Labour conference

This election is about change.

A chance to stop the endless SNP and Conservative chaos that has damaged the finances of every family in Scotland.

A moment where we can turn the page on a set of ideas that have left us vulnerable in an increasingly volatile world.

And an opportunity to change Scotland and change Britain – to rebuild our country so it once again serves the interests of working people.

Every great nation is held together by shared beliefs. To outsiders they may not seem exceptional or distinctive, but they are essential for a sense of collective national purpose. Britain is no different but at this moment two of our most important beliefs are in grave danger.

First, the idea politics should be driven by a sense of service to the country, not considerations of party or self-interest.

Second, the idea if you work hard then – whoever you are, wherever you started in life – this is a country that will respect your contribution and give you a fair chance to get on.

When I consider these beliefs, it is hard not to think back to my childhood. Then, as now, our place in the world was uncertain. Then, as now, our economy was gripped by stuttering growth and a cost-of-living crisis that hurt working people.

Yet back then, there was at least a degree of security in being able to take those two fundamental beliefs for granted. For families like mine, this was a comfort. The knowledge that this country would offer your children a better future gave us hope. A hope that may not sound high-minded or particularly idealistic, but which families like mine could build a life around.

To restore this hope, we must first end the SNP and Conservative chaos. The visible decline in our communities – families weighed down by soaring mortgages; people waiting on trolleys in A&E; sewage in our rivers – is not an accident. Rather, it is a direct result of two governments that put their own interests and obsessions above the issues that affect families.

We must turn the page on the SNP and Conservative ideas that have caused the chaos.

We are in a volatile moment, with a major war in Europe for the first time in a generation and ever greater threats to the living standards of working people. This ‘age of insecurity’ requires governments to step up, not stand aside.

We must return to the foundations: national security, secure borders, and economic stability. But it also requires an enduring partnership with businesses across these nations to deliver the economic growth we need. It needs more focus on long-term strategy, not the short-term distractions.

Because whether it is crashing the pound to give tax cuts to the richest 1 per cent; degrading public services because of a mess made by the banks; or the failure to invest in clean energy that left us exposed when Putin invaded Ukraine – so much of what Britain has been through is explained by a failure to face the future. Only Labour can turn the page.

We must rebuild our country – Scotland and the rest of the UK. It will not be easy. Not only because there is no quick fix to the mess the SNP and Conservatives have made. But also, because their failures have sapped our collective confidence that we can still achieve great things. I reject this with every fibre of my being. Despite all the chaos they have inflicted, the country I see is one where working people never let each other down. They came together in the pandemic – missed weddings, funerals and last goodbyes – to save the lives of people they will never meet. They dug deep in the years of austerity, to keep delivering the public services people needed. And throughout the cost-of-living crisis, they found a way to support those less fortunate than themselves.

We are still a great nation. We can still achieve great things. What we lack is a UK government and a Scottish government that can match the ambition Scots have for their family and community, with a credible long-term plan.

This manifesto is that plan. Fully costed, fully funded – built on a rock of fiscal responsibility.

At its heart are five national missions – with first steps to begin the journey of rebuilding – that provide a clear destination for everyone invested in Scotland’s future. As part of a renewed country, where wealth is created in every community. Where the golden opportunity of clean power is harnessed for lower bills. Where everyone feels safe to walk the streets. Where you can go to work and know you will be treated with dignity and respect. Where our children have the skills to thrive. Where our NHS is at the cutting edge of healthcare. Where we reconnect with friends and allies on the world stage. And where we show that politics can be about serving the country.

Scotland can lead the way and lead the change.

Serving our country is the only reason I came into politics. The defining purpose of my Labour leadership has been to drag my party away from the dead end of gesture politics and return it once more to the service of working people. I have changed my party. Now I want the chance to bring that change to Scotland.

To succeed we need everyone, every community, to play their part. I know, after everything you have been through in the past 14 years, that this is a hard request to make. But I also expect, deep down, that you know this is what we need – an end to the chaos, a turning of the page, and a patient but determined effort to rebuild.

This is your chance to choose that change, to make sure we seize this chance to change our country. For your community and for Scotland.

So, I invite you to join us in this chance. To be part of this common endeavour of national renewal. To use your vote, not to send a message, but instead to send a government.

A Labour government with Scotland at its heart.

Keir Starmer

Leader of the UK Labour Party