March 8, 2019 Blog, Conference 2019

Rhoda Grant MSP, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural and Economy – Speech to Conference 2019

08 March 2019

Rhoda Grant MSP

Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural and Economy

Speech to Conference

Feasgar math Co-labhairt, agus fàilte gu Dùn Dèagh.  Is mise Rhoda Grant BPA, A ‘Ghàidhealtachd agus na h-Eileanan.

Good afternoon, Conference and welcome to Dundee.  I am Rhoda Grant, MSP for Highlands and Islands and Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural and Economy.

We are told by the Tories and SNP that we have historically low unemployment, yet our economy is flat lining with growth predicted at around 1% for the next few years.  We have high rates of “inactivity”, at 21.9%.

It does not take Einstein to figure out that people are dropping of the unemployment figures, because it is almost impossible to meet the bar to be able to qualify for unemployment benefit.

When we recently advertised a post in our constituency office, the same person applied every week up to the closing date.  I realised he was proving he spent 35 hours a week searching for a job to fulfil the criteria of his claim.

The job was not a good fit; he didn’t meet the specification.  How disheartening for him, there was no chance of an interview, far less of a job.

This is simply wrong.

It comes as no surprise, on International Women’s Day, that inactivity disproportionately affects women and forces people into the gig economy, an economy that preys on the poor.

Labour has a 5-point plan to tackle poverty pay and poor employment conditions:

  1. A £10 per hour real living wage
  2. A ban on zero hour contracts
  3. An Industrial strategy to deliver high wage, high skill jobs
  4. Equalising employment rights for workers in the gig economy
  5. Trade Union and collective bargaining at the heart of economic growth

We have to build our economy.

This country produces some of the best food and drink in the world.  An industry that employs many thousands of people, from frontline producers to those in the retail and service industries.

Despite this, the sad truth is that it is 2019 and we have inexcusably high levels of hunger in this country.  Not only is it too often a choice between heating and eating for those who are not currently in work, but also all too often it is a choice being made by people in work as well.

The next Scottish Labour Government will commit to legislate on a Right to Food – meaning that everyone in Scotland has access to healthy, affordable, sustainable food.

To do this we must also support producers.

Brexit means that the support they currently have is under threat.

We would ensure that our producers are supported to provide food and protect the environment – public money for public goods.

Conference, we must allow each part of Scotland to play to its strengths and build a bottom-up economy.

From the Northern Isles to the Borders we must recognise what works in these areas and to allow our economic policy to be local.  Local enough to support fishing in the north to dairy farming in the south.  However, it must be led and planned centrally to ensure we work together to build our economy.

Our culture and heritage also plays its part.

It was not simply a nicety that I opened this debate in Gaelic.

Gaelic is not only the language that provides the people’s history; it is also an economic driver.

The Sleate peninsula in Skye was a community under threat, it faced economic decline and depopulation.  Sabhal Mhor Ostaig, the Gaelic college, was built there and the area has not looked back.

Gaelic Media and arts are an economic drivers in the Western and Argyll islands too.

Conference, to succeed we need to play to all our strengths and value our people.  We need to provide them with the opportunities and they will build the wealth.

Wealth, not for its own sake but, to provide the services and security our people need.

We all want to live in a country that we can be proud of.

You do not need to be a nationalist to have pride in your country and people, and what they do.

Unlike Nationalists, we do not stop at the Border, we want to opportunity spread throughout the UK and beyond.

How can you enjoy security if others have none?

This is why Socialism is international rather than national.

And that is why the Scottish Labour Party will rebuild the Scottish economy.