James Kelly MSP, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance – Speech to conference
8th March 2019
James Kelly MSP
Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance
Speech to Conference
Conference we meet today in Dundee almost 20 years since the first Scottish Parliament elections in 1999.
Those elections and the beginning of devolution fostered a hope that the Parliament would be a driving force for social justice and tackling the scourge of inequality.
When I look at the recent SNP/Green budget – there has been a complete dereliction of duty to those fine ideals of devolution.
Conference, nowhere is this more stark than in the area of taxation.
Who would have believed that in the 20th year of devolution we would have been giving tax cuts to lawyers and P45s to librarians? This is the untold scandal of the Scottish budget.
Everyone earning up to £124,375 will receive a tax cut – in all 99% of tax payers.
So, if you are a lawyer on £90,000. A chartered accountant on £100,000 or a chief executive on £120,000 you will receive a tax cut.
When SNP MSPs and ministers voted the budget through – they voted themselves a tax cut.
What an outrage – conference!
If you were to say to Scots on the day of the opening of the Scottish Parliament some 20 years ago that in two decades’ time the devolved government would be handing out tax cuts to some people on six-figure salaries they would think it was the Tories who were in power.
But that is only one side of the scandal!
The SNP and their partners the Greens have become Cheer Leaders for council cuts.
Look at what is happening in this very city of Dundee; Trade unionists have taken to the streets to demonstrate against swinging cuts being imposed by the SNP council. Local people here in Dundee are anxious because their jobs are under threat.
Part of that cuts package is a 3% cut in Education, which will mean 26 less teaching posts. Yet Nicola Sturgeon told us that Education is the number one priority.
How can we give kids the best start in life with less teachers in our schools?
How can we nurture the engineers, the scientists and information technology experts if we are draining money and resources from our schools?
It is not just jobs – it is support for vulnerable people that is under threat.
In an SNP Scotland, we have tax cuts for the well off, job cuts for council workers and attacks on the vulnerable.
In Clackmannanshire they have proposed ending all support for Citizens Advice Bureaus and Food Banks.
How can the SNP advocate fairness and justice when vulnerable people are undermined in such a blatant manner?
In SNP Moray services are under attack.
The council have cancelled free school buses.
They have ended the Sports Development Programme
And Libraries are set for closure.
This is the reality of SNP Scotland – cuts, cuts cuts.
And the hard facts are that these cuts will do nothing to tackle the rising tide of poverty and inequality.
Over 200,000 children are living in poverty – that is a scandal in a modern country.
Children are leaving for school in the morning without a breakfast and leaving the house on cold days without a warm coat.
And that is why the onus is on Scottish Labour to make the positive case for progressive taxation.
We would levy a 50p rate on top rate earners and raise more from the higher band. That would raise significant amounts of money for our proposals.
We want to stop the cuts and produce investment in public services.
We want to tackle child poverty by raising child benefit by £5 per week.
We would end the horrendous two-child cap.
And Conference we would put rail passengers out of their misery by taking the Scotrail contract into public hands – it’s time for a railway service that puts passengers first and ends the practice of stuffing profits into shareholders pockets.
That is the sort of programme the forefathers of devolution like Donald Dewar envisaged.
A programme that takes the powers of the Scottish Parliament and raises the necessary taxation to deliver properly funded public services.
One which supports the most vulnerable in our society, tackles poverty and also builds a platform for strong economic growth.
These values are consistent with our traditions.
20 years into devolution conference, we will continue to make that case and not let the architects of devolution down.