Monday 24 September 2018 / 5:10 PM Press Releases

Richard Leonard Speech to Conference

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Comrades and friends.

It is a real honour to stand before you today as the leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

 

When I stood for the leadership of our Scottish Party last year journalists kept asking me two questions

 

The first was, can somebody born in England, be the next First Minister of Scotland?

 

Well, for the sake of all of those people, in all of those communities who need Labour Governments, I fully intend to be the next First Minister of Scotland.

 

The second question I kept being asked, was, are you a Corbynista?

 

So I confessed that I voted for Jeremy – both times!

 

Because the people of Scotland need a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour Government to tackle poverty, inequality and a failing economy, just as much as the people from every other community represented at this conference.

 

We know that the forces that threaten the life chances of children growing up by the Mersey

Are the same ones that threaten the life chances of children growing up by the Clyde.

 

So we should stop dividing people on the basis of nationality and start uniting them on the basis of class.

 

The real division in our society is not between Scotland and England, it is between those people who own the wealth and those people who through their hard work and endeavour create the wealth.  That is the real division.

 

And let me say as well, that I firmly believe, That we will get Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street – and I hope it is sooner not late, not despite the fact that he’s got principles and integrity,

but precisely because of the fact that he’s got principles and integrity

 

I was elected on a platform, of public ownership, of anti-austerity, and of a redistribution of not just wealth but power.

 

On a conviction that the days are long gone when we could tinker around the edges or manage our way back to power, that the time has come for real change.

 

I’m even more convinced now than ever after a summer spent travelling the length  and breadth of Scotland, from Stranraer to Shetland, from Aberdeenshire to Ayrshire, holding public meetings , visiting and meeting with workers, with trade unions, community groups and businesses, that real change is needed

 

And let me say at the very outset, we don’t need another Independence referendum to change Scotland, as far as I am concerned– we’ve just had one.

 

The majority of people do not want one, and as we meet here this week with the prospect of a general election,  I can make clear today that the next Labour Manifesto will oppose another independence referendum.

 

We don’t need a referendum to change Scotland. We need the election of a Scottish Labour government.

 

And we need a confident Labour Party reawakening hope out of despair across these shared islands.

 

Because too much inequality is unrecognised, unacknowledged, but worse it is unchallenged.

 

In Scotland today the richest one per cent own more personal wealth than the whole of the poorest 50 per cent put together

 

So instead of a fervent devotion to the religion of inequality from the Tories, and timidity and mediocrity from the nationalists, it is time for moral courage and audacity from Labour.

 

Which is why I have said that the time has come to consider a wealth tax.

 

A one per cent windfall tax on Scotland’s wealthiest 10 per cent would raise £3.7billion to invest in public services.

 

And it is why I am saying today that Labour has unfinished business on land reform. Labour abolished feudalism in the first term of the Scottish Parliament, but twenty years later we are still living with feudal ownership, with four hundred and thirty-two private landowners still owning a half of all privately owned land in Scotland.

 

And with ownership comes power. We need land justice because our earth is a common treasury.

We need land ownership in Scotland, for the many not the few.

 

And we need this in the economy too, which is why we want workers to have the statutory right to buy the enterprise they work in when it is put up for sale or facing closure.

 

Because why on earth shouldn’t the people who create the wealth own the wealth that they create?

 

We need more planning and less market. The people need a government prepared to act not simply react.

 

We are the Labour Party, so once again we will be, what we always should have been

the party of organised labour.

 

So trade unions will have a central role to play, not only in defending their members’ interests in the present but in planning the new economy for the future.

 

We will overhaul Regional Selective Assistance and reform public procurement,  to support local industries and home-grown businesses.

 

So that never again do we see factories and fabrication yards standing idle, whilst offshore wind farms in UK inshore waters paid for by public money and energy user levies are built in factories and yards overseas

 

And the redistribution of power means something else. Constitutional reform.  Of course, this is not a demand limited to Scotland there is a restlessness in England for more powers at a local and regional level.

 

So let me make it clear from this conference today that a federal Britain, with greater powers for the Scottish Parliament, is the radical solution that I want to see.

 

We need new powers to reflect the new realities of Brexit, which is why there is a Labour guarantee that devolved powers returning from the European Union will be transferred to the devolved governments and that we will enter a new era of co-determination in a new era of democratic politics.

 

So our task is to reinvigorate politics. It is to build up our movement for democracy and socialism.

It is to lead a manufacturing strategy, as part of a plan for jobs and industry which goes beyond the market which has a regional dimension.

 

Building a full employment economy.  Tackling climate change. Providing decent homes

Bringing an end to PFI and a renaissance in public ownership.

 

And our mission to end once and for all child poverty. To eradicate health inequalities. To bring dignity in retirement to our pensioners and all based on a socialism which is both visionary but practical and rooted in the daily experiences of working people.

 

So we are a radical party of change once more. We are getting back to these our traditions

We are proud of our history. We are proud of our socialism which goes back to Keir Hardie and the pioneers.

 

And my final appeal today, to anyone watching this, listening to this is: if you share in our vision of change for Scotland, come and join us. Be part of this movement for real change.

 

Because in the end, we write our own history. If we stick to our convictions, and have the courage of our convictions, with new energy but rediscovering our old idealism, we will not only win again, we will deserve to win again.

Thank you