Sturgeon throws down gauntlet to Glasgow Labour as local elections loom

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By a Newsnet reporter
 
The SNP’s Depute leader Nicola Sturgeon has identified Glasgow as the epicentre of the battle for control of Scotland’s local authorities.
 
Speaking at the end of the SNP’s conference held in the city’s SECC, she claimed that Labour cared more about its own survival than it does about the interests of Glasgow.

Ms Sturgeon told delegates that the SNP were “working to remove the dead hand of Labour control from this great city”

The Deputy First Minister described her party as “Scotland’s party” and revealed that the SNP were fielding a record number of candidates “from Stranraer to Shetland and all points in between.”

The comments followed the pledge from First Minister Alex Salmond yesterday who said that any council’s controlled by the SNP after May 3rd would implement a ‘living wage’.

Ms Sturgeon then pledged to invest £3 billion in the city:

“I can tell you today that, in this and the next three years, we will invest more than three thousand million pounds on infrastructure in Glasgow.

“Three thousand million pounds – delegates, that’s commitment”

In her speech Ms Sturgeon, referring to her own portfolio as the Scottish Health Minister, also insisted that the health of the Scottish people was a “driving force” for the SNP Government.

In another announcement the Deputy First Minister revealed Scottish Government plans aimed at the early detection of lung cancer.

“Early detection is paramount and that is why I am delighted to announce today that the Scottish government is backing a groundbreaking new diagnostic test to detect lung cancer earlier.

“The test detects what are called autoantibodies in the blood.  If the trial of this test works, it could lead to lung cancer being diagnosed, not just months, but years earlier than it is just now.”

There was an acknowledgement of the role played by Scotland’s unpaid carers and a pledge to give the voluntary sector £9 million to help provide short breaks for those carers.

Ms Sturgeon attacked the Westminster Government welfare reforms and its spending on Trident and claimed that successive London Governments were continuing to squander Scotland’s energy wealth.

The Deputy First Minister argued that independence would allow Scotland to prioritise other areas saying: “independence will give us the tools we need to rid Scotland of the poverty and deprivation that still scars our nation and create the jobs and opportunities that will get people off benefits”.

Giving credit to the Lib Dems and Tories for their reversal on minimum pricing for alcohol Ms Sturgeon was scathing of Labour’s continual refusal to back the policy.

“Deaf to the arguments of health professionals, blind to the damage that cheap alcohol is doing to our communities, Labour is still putting petty political posturing ahead of protecting public health.

“They should be completely and utterly ashamed of themselves.” said Ms Sturgeon who added:

“Labour is a lost cause on this issue, so I don’t intend to waste any more breath on them.”

Ms Sturgeon urged those in the alcohol industry not to try to delay the new legislation by “tying it up in the courts”.

“So my message today is this: let us all respect the will of parliament, let us turn this policy into practice and let us get on with the job of sorting out this nation’s relationship with alcohol.”

There was a special mention for NHS workers, who, said Ms Sturgeon could never be praised enough and a description of the NHS in Scotland as the best in the world.  There was also a recognition of Scotland’s role in setting up the UK NHS.

“By the time the NHS was set up in 1948, half of Scotland was already covered by the first comprehensive, state funded health system in the UK. The Highlands and Islands Medical Service, as it was called, was set up 35 years before the NHS. This year – 2012 – marks the centenary of the report that led to its establishment.

“So what is, in many ways, a very British institution is actually very Scottish in its roots.” she said.

“As long as we are in charge, there will be no privatisation of the NHS in Scotland.”

However there was a warning that English NHS reforms could impact indirectly on Scotland.

“As hospitals in England get more of their money from private patients, I believe that we will see future UK governments freeze or reduce public funding for the NHS.  They will still claim that NHS funding is protected, but the reality will be that less of it will come from the public purse.

“Delegates, As things stand, that would have a direct effect on Scotland’s budget.

“So my message to you is this. Devolution allows us to protect the principles of our NHS.

“But if we want to make sure that Tory health policies can’t damage our health service in any way, we need independence.” the audience were told.

Ms Sturgeon ended her speech with a rallying cry to independence supporters and a warning to Westminster not to interfere with the independence referendum:

“We are looking forward to the campaign of our lives.  The autumn of 2014 is this nation’s date with destiny.”

“… But remember this – the days of Westminster politicians laying down the law to Scotland are in the past.  And in the past they will remain.

“Scotland’s referendum will be made and decided here in Scotland.”

Insisting that independence would enable the Scottish people to use all of its vast resources to make Scotland a better country, she ended:

“And that is why I believe that, in 2014, the Scottish people will say yes.  There’s not a single day that passes just now that I don’t reflect on how lucky we are.

“Lucky to be playing a part at this great moment in our nation’s history.

“I often wonder what those colleagues who have gone before us would have given to live through what we are experiencing now.

“We owe it to them and we owe it to Scotland to make and to win our case.  Win our case and win our independence.

“Fellow nationalists, that is exactly what we are going to do.”