By Anas Sarwar, leader of Scottish Labour
Scottish Labour is once again the party that speaks for the hopes and aspirations of the people of Scotland.
When I spoke to conference last year, I said that the route to Downing Street and to a UK Labour government that this country so badly needs ran through Scotland.
And that I believed Labour MPs in Scotland would be the ones to put us there.
Some of our opponents laughed. But I’ll tell you something – they aren’t laughing anymore.
I am so immensely proud of the campaign we ran in Rutherglen and Hamilton West AND OF THE SEISMIC RESULT WE ACHIEVED THERE.
So, to all the staff, activists and volunteers who made our seismic win possible, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
But this is just the start – the best is yet to come!
And we know that this wasn’t a result that was weeks or months in the making. It was years in the making.
I reflect back to when I became leader two years ago – Scottish Labour was 32 points behind the SNP in the polls. People were talking about Scottish Labour’s survival, not its revival.
But two years on we have gone from 32 points behind the SNP to winning our first parliamentary by-election for over 12 years. From a 32% deficit to an over 20% swing to Labour. Proof that Scotland will lead the way in delivering a UK Labour government.
But, the change we’ve seen in Scotland would not have been possible if over the last three years Keir Starmer hadn’t worked to change our Labour Party.
In that time, we’ve gone from our worst result since the 1930s
To now being seen as a force that will finally rid our whole country of this rotten, lying, out of touch, corrupt, far-right crankfest, conspiracy theorist ridden Tory government.
You know, there was a time when Labour feared elections in Scotland and the SNP relished them. No more. Scottish Labour – now the party focussed on Scotland’s future. The SNP is focussed on the past. Scottish Labour – the party that believes that Scotland’s best days lie ahead of it.
The SNP talking down our country – with no hope for the future.
So today it is the SNP and the Tories that fears elections.
Meanwhile, Keir and I have just one message on behalf of our whole party. Bring it on.
You see that result showed something I’ve long suspected, and that I imagine the SNP have long feared.
The cracks in their foundations are deeper and wider than they’ve ever recognised.
And while senior nationalists have lined up in TV studios to blame the voters – they have missed the point.
Just like the Tories before them, they’ve made the mistake of thinking politics is a game.
But I’ve got a message for them. Politics isn’t a game. Politics is about service – it’s about working for and delivering for communities.
It isn’t about the same old constitutional fights and asking people to pay more for less.
It isn’t about failing to support our public services and trying to blame somebody else.
Politics – Labour politics – is about changing lives.
It is about delivering a future where everyone can live up to their potential.
Fundamentally, it is about serving the people of Scotland.
That is what the SNP and Tories have forgotten.
And it’s that failure to stand up for Scotland, that failure to put country before party, that has seen people turn their backs on them.
Now no SNP MP can sit safely, taking their communities for granted as so many have.
So, I say to Humza Yousaf: This isn’t about swings or the polls – this is about putting the people of Scotland first.
And because you won’t do that – Labour can now beat the SNP across Scotland.
Because every community can now choose change. Change with Scottish Labour.
Conference, we’ve had a lost decade under the SNP and the Tories, which has held Scotland back.
We face a cost-of-living crisis created by the Conservatives’ economic incompetence.
A mortgage bombshell from the Tories costing families over £2000 a year.
Made worse by the SNP’s obsession with raising taxes on working people.
And an NHS emergency with record A&E and cancer waiting times – lives literally put on the line because of the SNP’s incompetence.
And the people of our country shouldn’t have to pay the price for Tory and SNP failure.
Across Scotland people are demanding more.
Conference, there is a tide coming and it will sweep away politicians who are out of touch and out of ideas.
So, I say to these parties of the status quo, to the parties of chaos and division: Don’t be surprised when the tide of change comes, and it sweeps you away.
Conference, I want to speak directly to people outside of this hall. To people who voted for other parties or who even voted Yes in the past but who are now looking at Labour. I understand your frustration. I understand why you are desperate for change.
I understand why you have wanted to run a million miles away from this morally bankrupt Tory government.
But I believe that we can work together to boot them out of Downing Street. Because the next General Election is an opportunity for change. The hard work we have shown doesn’t end with a by-election win. If anything, it ramps up.
Because I promise to show the same energy, hard work and humility so that we can earn your trust, earn your support and change our country in the process. And that change will be transformational.
A Labour government will deliver a new deal for working people across Scotland and the whole UK.
One that will raise the minimum wage to make work pay and end the scourge of in-work poverty.
That will end the scandal of fire and rehire. And while the SNP use zero hours contracts to deliver their election leaflets – our new deal will ban exploitative zero hour contracts and deliver the biggest expansion of workers’ rights in a generation.
We’ll build a country where economic dignity can’t be taken away with the stroke of a Tory minister’s pen because we all have a share in it. And while the Tories are in climate denial, we will jumpstart the energy revolution.
Delivering lower bills. More jobs. Climate leadership. And energy security. That will deliver clean energy by 2030, supporting 50,000 high-skilled, clean energy jobs.
Powered by GB Energy, a public owned energy generation company, headquartered in Scotland.
We’ll reform our public services, ending the non-dom tax status to invest in the NHS so it is fit for the future.
And we will bring honesty and integrity back into government. That is the change Scotland needs, and Labour will deliver it.
The last year has seen Scottish politics and our party transformed. But our work is not done yet. Nowhere near done. In fact, this is just the start.
So, let’s take our positive message of how we will deliver for working people to communities across the country. There is now only one party of change. Only one party that can transform lives. Only one party that will make every corner of our country flourish. Only one party that will stand up for working people. Only one party that will deliver the brighter future we need. That party is Labour.
Summary from Labour Conference
- Labour’s shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband outlines the party’s plans for green energy, in a speech to the party’s conference in Liverpool
- He says Labour will double onshore wind, treble solar power and quadruple offshore wind if it wins power in elections expected next year
- Earlier, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said the party was “ready to serve” and a Labour government would stick to “iron-clad fiscal rules” and “rebuild Britain”
- An overhaul of planning rules would speed up green energy and 5G projects, she said, and would provide thousands of new jobs
- She also promised to introduce a “genuine living wage”, an inquiry into the aborted HS2 project, and to make private schools pay VAT
- But the grassroots left-wing group Momentum called the speech “disappointing”, while Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said Labour’s plans would fuel inflation
- Reeves’s plans were endorsed by the former Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, who said it was time to put her ideas into action.
Top: Anas Sarwar on the campaign trail with local Labour councillors John Miller and Michelle McGinty.