Iain Gray: Scotland has just experienced “the best of times”

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Labour’s Holyrood leader Iain Gray has claimed that the last three and a half years under Labour have been good for Scotland.

Speaking at the Labour party conference today Mr Gray described the period as “the good years” and  “the best of times” and claimed that the SNP were to blame for the economic situation in Scotland.


Labour’s Holyrood leader Iain Gray has claimed that the last three and a half years under Labour have been good for Scotland.

Speaking at the Labour party conference today Mr Gray described the period as “the good years” and  “the best of times” and claimed that the SNP were to blame for the economic situation in Scotland.

In a policy-lite speech dominated by attacks on the SNP Mr Gray accused the Scottish government of making public service cuts despite having more money than before and criticised them for ending the Glasgow Airport Rail Link.

Mr Gray said:
“Unbelievably they did all of this in the good years, the best of times, when they had more money than any Scottish government has ever had.”

Labour’s Holyrood group leader also predicted that Labour would benefit from the increase in Scottish poverty levels and unemployment and said that he was ready to make Labour the biggest party in the Scottish parliament adding: “Because when unemployment rises and poverty flourishes and opportunity disappears, people will look to Labour. They will look to us. And we must not let them down…

“We are ready now to make Labour once again the biggest party in the Scottish Parliament.”

Towards the end of a short speech Mr Gray made one pledge; to increase the minimum wage in Scotland’s public sector to just over £7.  Mr Gray described £7 an hour as a “fair days work for a fair days pay” and argued that to pay someone less is unfair.

Describing his vision for Scotland as a ‘Labour Scotland’ Mr Gray said:
“That is why if I am elected First Minister in May I will introduce a Scottish Living Wage, of over £7 per hour.

“In a 21st Century Scotland no one who does a fair days work should receive less than a fair days pay. In a Labour Scotland we will make sure that no one does.”

However it has emerged that the wage promise does not apply to the private sector.  Mr Gray also claimed that the cost of the £7 wage promise, around £20 million, could be financed by targeting absenteeism.

Commenting on the speech SNP Minister Alex Neil said it failed to offer any new policies whilst rehashing old ones.  Mr Neil also said it displayed a return to the arrogant assumption that Labour controlled Scotland, and the short length of the speech served to demonstrate how the UK Labour party takes Scotland for granted.

Mr Neil said:

“This speech was so short you could be forgiven for missing the soundbites. Did he have to ditch large chunks because he assumed David Miliband would be leader?

“The time given over to this speech only shows how little the UK Labour party really care about Scotland. Ian Gray’s call for a ‘Labour Scotland’ only reveals how the party wants to control and own Scotland.

Mr Neil also described the £7 wage pledge as a rehashed announcement and pointed out that the Scottish government had already implemented it for all government employees.

Mr Neil added:

“As for his policy announcement this was the same policy Labour announced last year and one which the SNP in Government is already putting into practice. The SNP has led the way by freezing ministerial pay for two years and restraining pay at the top of the public sector.

“The SNP agreed in 2008 that all Scottish Government employees would earn a living wage of over £7 from August this year and we have seen low pay improve across the public sector with Agenda for Change improving pay rates in the NHS.

“It was also ironic that he was sandwiched in between Jim Murphy warning that UK government cuts would go where “even Thatcher feared to tread”, only to be followed by Alistair Darling who established that Labour would cut “deeper and tougher” than Thatcher. It exemplifies why no one can trust a word Labour says on cuts.

“At the next election voters will face a clear choice between an experienced SNP Government, working with those across the public sector to deliver our commitments to help the low paid at a time when Labour’s cuts begin to bite and a Labour party that is stuck rehashing old announcements and making empty promises.”

Currently the UK minimum wage sits at:

  • •£5.80 to £5.93 an hour for workers aged 21 and over
  • •£4.83 to £4.92 an hour for workers aged 18 to 20
  • •£3.57 to £3.64 an hour for workers aged 16 to 17

Read Iain Gray’s full speech here:
http://www2.labour.org.uk/iain-grays-speech-to-labour-party-conference,2010-09-27