Jim Murphy: Nothing will hold back our ambition for Scotland

Below is the text of Jim Murphy's speech delivered in Glasgow on the 15th December 2014

We have a long journey ahead of us as a party and as a nation, but listening to Kezia just now and talking to members over the last couple of days, you can feel that Scottish Labour is beginning to get our pride and our sense of purpose back.

There’s the beginnings of an excitement and a new energy in our party that shows we are up for the challenge before us.

Both Kezia and I stood on a platform of change. I said on Saturday that our election was the first of many changes.

The strong endorsement we received across our movement gives us a mandate to make the changes we need.

And the next stage in that journey of change starts today.

Scottish Labour, at our best, has been the party that reflects both the aspirations and the anger of the Scottish people.

Scotland needs us to be that party again.

I want us to be as ambitious about our country as our fellow Scots are.

To have as high hopes for the next generation as parents do for their own children.

And I want us to be just as angry as they are when those ambitions are blocked by injustice or indifference.

I want Scotland to be the fairest, most dynamic country not just in the UK but in the world.

• I want Scotland’s schools to open up a world of limitless possibility for our children.
• I want the only barrier to achievement in Scotland to be the limits of our young people’s imagination.
• I want Scotland to have the highest skills, to be creating new industries, to have the best universities leading the world in invention and innovation.
• I want the names of Scottish businesses to be stamped on products found in every household around the world.
• I want Scotland’s NHS to offer our people the best care in the world, and to offer the world new treatments and cures.
• I want Scottish culture to flourish. I want our young people to walk in our mountains and visit our islands. I want them to know they joy of creativity and culture.

To realise these aspirations, though, ambition must be matched by restless anger:

• Anger that there are schools in Scotland where if a child dreams of becoming a doctor they simply can’t take the subjects they would later need to study medicine.

• Anger that in a half-hour walk from this hall you would pass through disparity in life expectancy which would be shameful between different countries let alone within one country.

• Anger that so many of our fellow citizens are hungry and anxious, lonely, and unfulfilled.

But I also want to put an end to the idea that talking about what is wrong in Scotland is talking Scotland down when, in truth, it is the first step to raising Scotland up.

Scotland needs a strong Scottish Labour party.

In our last long period of opposition in the 1980s the Labour Party fell into a trap created by our opponents.

We allowed Mrs Thatcher to use the success of the institutions we had created - comprehensive education, the wider welfare state, the expansion of universities – and harness that success against our politics.

The sense was created that people who wanted to get on would have to leave the Labour Party behind.

Labour had to fight hard, under Neil Kinnock, John Smith and then Tony Blair alongside Gordon Brown, to rebuild the argument that fighting poverty and injustice amongst the working class went hand in hand with creating prosperity and a successful economy.

We had to remind ourselves, and the supporters we had lost, that aspiration, opportunity, achievement and ambition were terms that the left was comfortable with.

Many of those arguments are in the past and the challenges we face today are very different.

Many people who want their kids to have the opportunities they themselves didn’t have are losing hope in the belief that their children will do better than them.

And in a world of powerful global forces, today our task is as much about convincing people we can deliver a more equal society as it is to convince them we can create a more prosperous economy.

In Scotland, I am determined that Labour, years into opposition, doesn't become caught in a trap set by our opponents.

It was Labour’s vision of a modern democratic Scotland that was Donald Dewar's passion.

Scotland is a confident nation with a fierce pride and a remarkable history. But our history, our culture, our flag, our pride, patriotism, ambition and aspiration belong to no one political party.

I stand before you here today to say those ideals are our ideals too, they are Scottish Labour’s values, and we won't allow nationalism to monopolise a pride in our nation or to be the only bearers of our flag.

Two decades ago Labour’s challenge was that too many people felt they could not be Labour and make an aspirational choice.

Today Scottish Labour’s challenge is to make sure that people know that supporting Labour is a patriotic choice.

Never again should anyone feel that Scottish Labour are the representatives of UK Labour in Scotland.

I want my leadership to leave people in no doubt that we stand and speak up for the Scottish people, within the UK party, in our parliaments and across Scotland.

In the past we have sometimes allowed the nationalists to claim that Scotland’s national interest is somehow at odds with the Scottish instinct to stand alongside our neighbours and friends.

It is unarguable that our national interest is served by working with others.

When making this argument, though, I know that some have felt that we have, at times, sounded like we were arguing for the UK rather than Scottish interests.

Part of our truth is that Scottish Labour will always be able to deliver radical change that the SNP cannot because we are an internationalist rather than nationalist party.

Pooling and sharing of resources across the UK delivers better outcomes for Scotland.

As the falling world oil price is approaching half of what the SNP said an independent Scotland needed to pay the bills, the gap created in funding for schools and hospitals is filled by the UK’s bigger tax base.

The same principle of sharing resources for the good of Scotland will run throughout Scottish Labour’s platform for 2015:

• A tax on the bonuses of the bankers in the City of London, guaranteeing a job or training for every young person in the cities of Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen, Inverness, Perth, Stirling and Edinburgh.
• A mansion tax on homes worth over £2million across the UK, providing £250 million more for the NHS in Scotland.

Redistributing from the more prosperous parts of the UK to the poorest, from our wealthiest citizens to those who most need support.

That is the Scottish national interest.

Standing against that represents neither socialism nor patriotism.

With Alex Salmond saying nationalist MPs sent to the UK Parliament won’t take part in any government the question many Scots will ask is why send someone to the House of Commons to fight with a Tory Government when you can send someone who will replace the Tory Government?

I think it’s important to say that putting Scotland first means defeating a Prime Minister with a Scottish sounding surname but who is out of touch with the nation of his ancestors.

I am determined that Scottish Labour will win all of the seats we currently hold.

But I'm also clear that any seat the SNP take off of the Labour Party makes it more likely that David Cameron can hold on in power.

Scotland's voters want to know that Scotland's Labour Party is strong enough to stand up for Scotland and for fairness.

On Saturday when I was elected I said that the Scottish Labour Party would put Scotland first.

I have made it clear that, under my leadership, it will be Kezia and I that will make the decisions. We will set the political agenda and strategy for Scottish Labour, in Scotland, for Scotland.

No-one will ever stop me speaking out or speaking up for Scotland and for what I feel and know to be right.

Decisions on staffing will be made here and the people of Scotland won’t tolerate the old factions and infighting. 

But the change we need goes deeper than the leadership style of a new team.

If this is to be a genuinely fresh start for our party we need to make more fundamental change.

That is why I can announce that I will ask Scottish Labour’s Conference in March to agree a new ‘Clause Four’ for our Scottish constitution.

A new statement of purpose for a new generation in the Scottish Labour Party.

This is a ‘Clause Four’ moment for a different time and a different purpose from the reforms of the 1990s.

Tony Blair rewrote Clause Four of UK Labour to bring us closer to the centre ground of politics.

I want to rewrite ‘Clause Four’ of Scottish Labour to bring us closer to the centre of Scottish life.

We will draft this together over the coming weeks, but I am clear what we must say about our party and our country.

Today I want to set out five principles for the refounding of Scottish Labour.

One: we will make it clear that we are both a democratic socialist party and a patriotic party.

We are a socialist party yes, but we recognise that our political faith grew out of something deeper which is ingrained in our Scottish character.

It was there before our party in the beauty of Burns’ poetry, the economic vision of New Lanark, the actions of the highlanders who stood against brutal landlords.

A belief that we stand together, look after those who need our help, and make sure that everyone gets a fair shout.

Two: while maintaining our belief in active solidarity with people across the United Kingdom and around the world, we will make it clear that this is complementary to, and not in conflict with, the national interest of Scotland.

We will declare ourselves a party that represents Scotland first, in the community of the UK and the world, and where, as Scots, we work with others to achieve the potential of all.

Three: we will set in stone the total devolution of policy making in devolved areas.

Policy will be made in Scotland, for Scotland, by our Scottish Party, putting the needs of Scotland first.

Four: we will make the same commitment in our own party constitution, as the Smith Agreement did in the UK Constitution, to a permanent and powerful Scottish Parliament.

And Fifth: we will renew our historic mission for a more equal and fairer society where power, wealth and opportunity are more fairly shared amongst our fellow Scots and our fellow human beings around the world.

What I am announcing today will represent the refounding and rebirth of our Scottish Labour Party. 

A clear statement of our party’s beliefs.

A changing Scottish Labour Party for a changing Scotland.

I will work with members across our movement to set out our new sense of purpose and we will publish a draft for discussion in the New Year.

It was in 1888 - a year when another institution close to my heart had its first outing - a few streets away from here the Scottish Labour Party was founded, in a conference chaired by Keir Hardie, a full five years before he would go on to chair the Bradford conference that founded the Independent Labour Party.

The object of the original Scottish Labour Party agreed by that conference was:

“to educate the people politically and to secure the return to Parliament and all local bodies of members pledged to its programme.”

I hope our new statement of purpose will be less prosaic and more poetic than that drafted by our forbearers, but we can still look to them for inspiration.

The Scottish Labour Party of the 19th Century led the way, calling for:
•full adult suffrage,
•campaigning to make sure that working people could become elected in politics,
•for free school meals for the poorest,
•old age pensions
• and a progressive income tax.

Labour in Scotland led these calls before they became part of party platforms elsewhere in the UK. 

Just as then the Scottish Party was ahead of the wider Labour Party, I want this new generation’s Scottish Labour Party to at least match if not exceed UK Labour in vision, in radicalism, and in action.

A refounded Scottish Labour Party that unites our great country but also brings together our self-confidence with our impatience for change.

I'm proud of our links with the wider UK Labour movement. But in recent weeks I have said that the Scottish Labour Party had to change and that we will be a more confident party clearly committed to our country.

But I accept that for some that simply seemed like my view and the wishful thinking of the Scottish Labour Party and trade union movement.

I know that Scotland shouldn't be expected to rely upon assertion.

After today it will no longer be a matter of opinion but a statement of an unbreakable fact, reflected in the constitution and DNA of our party, that decisions about Scotland will be made here in Scotland.

I am also clear that because of these changes we do not need, nor will we seek, permission from anyone or from anywhere in the UK Labour Party about our Scottish decisions.

Those days are gone and are gone for good.

So let's together refound our party that allows nothing and no one to hold back our ambition for Scotland.

Confident in our connections with the rest of the UK.

Committed to putting Scotland first.

And certain about making Scotland the fairest nation on earth.

Thank you.