Miliband to ‘attack’ Alex Salmond as Labour struggle to regain initiative


By a Newsnet reporter

Speaking at the Labour party’s Scottish conference in Dundee’s Caird Hall today, Labour leader Ed Miliband is expected to launch an attack on First Minister Alex Salmond, claiming that the policies of the SNP government in Scotland are leading to more Scots losing their jobs. 

With Labour trailing the SNP in the polls, and the local elections looming, Mr Miliband’s speech will argue that at a time when the economy is “not working for the working people of our country”, Alex Salmond’s administration at Holyrood is “leaving more Scots out of work”.

In his address to the Dundee conference he will say: “Alex Salmond came to England to brag about how he would turn Scotland into a progressive beacon.

“There’s just one problem.  He forgot about what he had done in Scotland.  When George Osborne handed him the plans to make cuts to capital spending of 11%, he didn’t just make those cuts.  He almost doubled them.  Thousands of jobs building roads, bridges, and infrastructure ripped out of the economy, not just by the Tories, but by the SNP.”

Mr Miliband will lash out at Mr Salmond’s “SNP Government which blames everyone else while leaving even more Scots out of work”.

He is also expected to make a plea to Scottish voters to reject independence, saying that people across the UK “owe obligations to each other”, and adding:  “Right now, every nation of the UK needs not isolation but solidarity … Throwing up new borders won’t make Scotland fairer.  If we are going to build an economy that works for working people, we have to do it together.”

However Mr Miliband will struggle to win Scottish hearts and minds.  According to the latest polling figures the Labour leader scores a dismal -63 per cent in Scotland, a figure ranking him behind his rating even in the Conservative heartlands in the South of England.  A breakdown of the Sunday Times You Gov polling figures reveals that Ed Miliband’s approval rating is worse in Scotland than for the whole of Britain, where it is -42%.
Adding to Mr Miliband’s woes, the party in Scotland is in turmoil, having recently experienced mass resignations amongst its Glasgow councillors in the aftermath of a bitter reselection process which has led to allegations of a bullying culture.  A group of the deselected councillors have announced their intention to set up a rival party to contest Labour in the city during May’s local elections.  

The party is also reeling from the Eric Joyce affair, after the MP for Falkirk allegedly assaulted a Conservative MP and a Labour whip.  The incident was followed by a further allegation that Mr Joyce had a sexual relationship with a teenage supporter.  Mr Joyce denies this allegation and is reportedly considering legal action against the party.  Mr Joyce had been suspended from Labour after his arrest last week.

Meanwhile Scottish leader Johann Lamont is coming under increasing criticism for her failure to come to grip with the party’s problems, and her inability to reverse its slide in the polls.  The SNP has criticised her for her lack of clarity on key issues, such as the council tax. 

Ms Lamont has said nothing about the decision of Labour councillors in Stirling to ally themselves with the Conservatives to introduce a cut in the tax, a policy the party apparently opposes.

The Scottish Labour leader has also opposed ‘devo plus’ or ‘devo max’, yet at the party conference today, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander is expected to make an appeal to the party to embrace further devolution, leaving Labour without any coherent policy on the important issue of the constitution.

Commenting on Mr Miliband’s prospects, SNP MSP for Cunninghame North Kenneth Gibson said:

“These appalling polling figures are an unmitigated disaster for Labour and a total embarrassment for Ed Miliband on the day he speaks to a nation which once – but no longer – leaned towards his party.  For a Labour leader’s approval rating among Scots to be far, far below an unpopular Tory Prime Minister reveals just how unpopular London-led Labour are in Scotland.

“It is clear that the people of Scotland are rightly appalled by Labour agreeing ‘100 per cent’ with the Tories on Scotland’s future.  Ed Miliband’s decision to join in a toxic pact with the Tories to stand in the way of job-creating powers and more responsibilities for the Scottish Parliament must be a key factor in this overwhelming negative verdict against him from Scots voters, who now know that a Yes vote to independence is the only sure way to secure these job-creating powers.

“Meanwhile, in the Scottish Parliament Labour are ganging up with the Tories again to vote against a Scottish Budget which delivered another year of frozen council tax, 25,000 apprenticeships for young people, and funding to build 5,000 new council houses.

“Their Scottish leader Johann Lamont has remained utterly silent on a series of scandals, from bullying in Glasgow City Council to criminal charges being filed against a Scottish Labour MP.

“Labour can’t even make up their minds where they stand on an important issue like the council tax.  One minute they are calling for the popular council tax freeze to be scrapped, the next their councillors are cutting the council tax – and yet again Johann Lamont refuses to say where she stands.

“It’s no wonder that Scottish voters are deserting Labour in droves, and no wonder that Ed Miliband’s ratings are plumbing previously unimaginable depths for a Labour leader in Scotland.  Labour has no credibility and nothing useful to say on the constitution, on the economy, or on any of the issues that matter to ordinary households in Scotland.”