Labour leader calls on Scottish to rally behind him
by Ben Chacko and Malcolm Burns in Ayr
ED MILIBAND made a passionate plea for Scotland’s labour movement to rally behind him yesterday and “write a new chapter for Scotland and the UK.”
Speaking to delegates at the Scottish TUC in Ayr, the Labour leader contrasted “a Conservative vision based on the idea that as long as we look after the richest everything will be OK” with Labour promises to tackle poverty pay, raise taxes on high earners and abolish the House of Lords.
But his call for trade unionists to put their faith in the party they founded did not once mention the Scottish National Party (SNP) that threatens dozens of Labour seats north of the border.
As Mr Miliband addressed the STUC the SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon launched an election manifesto in Edinburgh claiming to “end austerity.” Scotland’s biggest parties were in open competition for the anti-austerity mantle, with both insisting they would raise the minimum wage, increase NHS spending and restore the 50p rate of tax on incomes above £150,000 a year.
Labour reminded listeners that it had pioneered devolution, legislated for a Scottish Parliament and now had “a new plan for home rule.”
But shadow chancellor Ed Balls’s unpopular commitment to stick to Tory spending plans was shown up by Ms Sturgeon’s promise to raise public spending by an admittedly “modest” 0.5 per cent a year.
And she said the SNP would “build an alliance in the House of Commons against renewing Trident.”
Lothian Labour MSP Neil Findlay praised Mr Miliband for his “very powerful” speech “committing to a whole raft of policies to create not just a fairer workplace but a fairer society.
“Only Labour can deliver social and economic justice.”
And Glasgow South West MP Ian Davidson saluted a “radical call for the movement” to back Labour on the minimum wage, zero-hours contracts and blacklisting — which Mr Miliband slammed as “odious” and vowed to root out and punish following “a full, transparent and public inquiry.”
Jane Carolan of Unison’s national executive said the speech had “put clear distance between the Labour Party and the Tories, between an emphasis on workers and working people and the interests of capitalism.”
But not everyone was equally convinced, with transport union RMT’s Andrew Elliott slamming an address “high on soft soap platitudes but [which] contained absolutely nothing about repealing the anti-trade union laws which would enable working people to fight back.”
The Communist Party’s Scottish secretary Tommy Morrison expressed disappointment at the absence of firm commitments on the anti-trade union laws and public ownership, but praised Mr Miliband for acknowledging the “need to change Labour” and his recognition that “movements, not leaders, create change.”