Labour believes in devolving power to local communities, but that requires that the necessary funding follows. You cannot empower local government if you impoverish it.
Councils deliver vital local services to our communities, but their budgets have been slashed by SNP cuts. Between 2010 and 2015 the Tories cut Scotland’s block grant by almost five per cent, but the SNP government has gone further. Since 2011 it has cut £1.5 billion from local services.
This has led to a deterioration of local services, from bin collections to road repairs, to fewer classroom assistants in our schools, headteachers asking parents to pay for books, and the loss of important community assets. It has also led to the loss of at least 30,000 council jobs since 2009.
A Labour government will give councils in England extra funding next year – and Scotland will benefit financially. Scottish Labour would look at providing councils with other ways to raise money. We would scrap the council tax, and allow local authorities to use new options, such as a tourist tax and land value tax, to ensure local government has sustainable funding for the long term.
Funding for vital local services cannot come too soon as experts predict that, under current spending plans, another £1 billion could be cut from council budgets by the end of the decade.
Labour’s fairer tax plans are the only thing that can stop the cuts and ensure the survival of good quality public services.
Labour will also end the closure of Crown Post Office branches, which play a major role in serving their communities. We will set up a commission to establish a Post Bank, owned by the Post Office and providing a full range of banking services in every community.
We will reduce the maximum stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals from £100 to £2. Labour will also legislate to increase the delay between spins on these games in order to reduce their addictive nature.
Labour would support Scottish local government to secure a debt amnesty on historic public debt to the Public Works Loan Board, which is often at fixed rates well above current market rate.
We would also review all public-private finance projects used by all Scottish governments past and present to ensure that the public is getting the best deal. Labour will ensure our public services have the resources they need.
We would give members of the Scottish Local Government Pension Scheme full trustee status to help control investments, and reduce fees and charges.
Tory and SNP governments have taken rural communities for granted with chronic underinvestment in transport, broadband and public services.
Rural infrastructure and industry has been neglected – particularly in Scotland. Labour will invest in broadband, housing and transport to create jobs and ensure that the nation’s prosperity is felt beyond our large towns and cities.
Labour’s national investment plans include coastal protections, better flood management and the broadband and 4G extensions that will underpin the future success of rural small businesses.
Rural councils deliver public services differently, and Labour MPs will ensure that this is reflected in funding allocation mechanisms. We will introduce a ‘rural-proofing’ process so that all our laws, policies and programmes consider their impact on rural communities.
Labour will support tourism. The tourism industry represents 9.6 per cent of UK employment, 4.9 per cent of exports, and 9 per cent of GDP, but its importance is too often forgotten. In Scotland, 217,000 people, or 8.5 per cent of workers, are employed in the tourism sector, and it represents 4.5 per cent of Scottish GDP.
Labour will ensure that tourism becomes a national priority again. We will reinstate the cross-Whitehall ministerial group on tourism, and ensure that government ministers across departments understand how their roles fit into the national tourism agenda. UK ministers will work on prioritising tourism with the devolved administrations.
The Tories and SNP have failed to provide a clear, ambitious or sustainable vision for the future of the farming, food and fishing industries.
We will expand the role of the Groceries Code Adjudicator to ensure suppliers and consumers get a fair deal.
We will reconfigure funds for farming and fishing to support smaller traders, local economies, community benefits and sustainable practices.
We will allow EU workers employed across farming, fishing and food manufacturing to remain in the UK and reinstate the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme.
We would introduce a Health Food and Farming Bill which would retain the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board, which is vitally important for setting minimum wage levels, conditions, and maintaining strong health and safety practices across farming and horticultural sectors.
Our transport systems illustrate the abject failure of Tory policies; relentless deregulation, privatisation and fragmentation. In Scotland, ten years of the SNP has also left people desperate for transformative change.
The Scottish public transport system is a patchwork of services, with many areas left behind with no decent provision. Bus services are grinding to a halt, bus passenger numbers have declined by 78 million since 2007, and satisfaction with ScotRail is at a 14-year low.
Public money has been siphoned off through privatisation and used to fund the rocketing earnings of directors, dividends for shareholders, and the coffers of overseas governments.
A different system is possible. A Labour government will prioritise public service over private profit. As Scottish Labour has demanded with ScotRail, we will start by bringing our railways back into public ownership, as franchises expire or at franchise review break clauses.
We will introduce a Public Ownership of the Railways Bill to repeal the Railways Act 1993 under which the Tories privatised our railways. This will not only right a historic wrong but end the wasteful and unnecessary process of tendering.
When East Coast Rail was in public hands, it was less dependent on public subsidy than any of the 15 privately-run franchises. Between 2009 and 2013 it returned over £1 billion to the taxpayer to be reinvested in the service instead of going into the pockets of shareholders.
Under Labour’s plans that can happen again.
In public ownership, we will deliver real improvements for passengers by capping fares, introducing free WiFi across the network, ensuring safe staffing levels, ending the expansion of driver only operations, and introducing legal duties to improve accessibility for people with disabilities. This will benefit cross-border rail services and Labour would also extend this policy to Scotland.
A publicly-owned railway system can be the backbone of our plans for integrated transport. It will be built on the platform of Network Rail, which we will retain whole, working with the Scottish Parliament and other devolved administrations.
Labour will enable councils to provide first-rate bus services by extending the powers to re-regulate local bus services to all areas that want them. We would support the creation of municipal bus companies that are publicly run for passengers not for profit. Lothian Buses in Edinburgh is an example of what can be achieved. We would protect concessionary travel for the over-60s, introduced by Labour in 2006.
We would also introduce regulations to designate and protect routes of critical community value.
A Labour government will invest to regenerate the local, regional and national economies across the whole country, so that every area gets its fair share of transport investment.
A Labour government will complete the HS2 high speed rail line from London through Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester, and then onto Glasgow and Edinburgh, consulting with communities affected about the optimal route.
We will invest in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, working with devolved administrations through the National Infrastructure Commission and its devolved counterparts.
Labour supports Scotland’s lifeline ferries, such as CalMac, and wants them to remain in public hands. These services are too important to privatise and we would not subject them to tender in the future.
Our plans for active travel will encourage and enable people to get out of their cars, onto bikes and public transport, for better health and a cleaner environment.
Labour will position the UK at the forefront of the development, manufacture and use of ultra-low emission and no-emission vehicles, supporting the creation of clean modes of transport. We will retrofit thousands of diesel buses in areas with the most severe air quality problems to Euro 6 standards.
We would reform the legislation governing taxi and private hire services, introducing national standards to guarantee safety and accessibility, updating regulations to keep pace with technological change and ensuring a level playing field between operators.
Labour will continue to upgrade our highways and improve road works at known bottlenecks. This investment would be felt across Scotland through the extra resource coming to the Scottish government. We would make utility companies return roads to a condition no worse than when they started digging.
Labour recognises the need for additional airport capacity in the South East of England. We welcome the work done by the Airports Commission, and we will guarantee that any airport expansion adheres to our tests that require noise issues to be addressed, air quality to be protected, the UK’s climate change obligations met, and growth across the country supported.
We will continue working with our neighbours through the European Union’s Highways of the Sea programme and by negotiating to retain membership of the Common Aviation Area and Open Skies arrangements.
Investing in our environment is investing in our future. We will defend and extend existing environmental protections. We will champion sustainable farming, food and fishing by investing in and promoting skills, technology, market access and innovation.
The Tories broke their promise to be the ‘greenest government ever’. They have allowed fracking in national parks, evaded their responsibilities on air quality, and cut the funding for flood defences. And in Scotland, the SNP government never tires of repeating that Scotland leads Britain in cutting CO2 emissions, yet its actions in refusing to ban fracking and planning to cut Air Passenger Duty (APD) tell a different story.
Labour will not use the future of Scotland’s farming, food and fishing industries as leverage in Brexit negotiations.
Only a Labour government will prioritise a sustainable, long-term future for our farming, fishing and food industries, invest in rural and coastal communities, and guarantee the protection and advancement of environmental standards.
The Tories’ Brexit plans are a threat to our environmental protections and to the quality of our lives. Their record on combating climate change and environmental damage has been one of inaction and broken promises.
The balance needs resetting: our air is polluted, our farms face an uncertain future, our fish stocks are collapsing, our oceans are used as dumping grounds, our forests, green belt, National Parks, and Sites of Special Scientific Interest are all under threat.
Labour will introduce a new Clean Air Act to deal with the Tory legacy of illegal air quality. We will strive for continued implementation and monitoring of marine conservation zones for the UK “blue belt” of the seas and oceans surrounding our island, and give support to Scotland’s equivalent marine protected areas.
Scottish Labour supports the introduction of plastic bottle deposit schemes, and we would work with food manufacturers and retailers to reduce waste.
We will protect our bees by prohibiting neonicotinoids as soon as our EU relationship allows us to do so. We will work with farmers and foresters to plant a million trees of native species to promote biodiversity and better flood management.
Our stewardship of the environment needs to be founded on sound principles and based on scientific assessments. We will establish a science innovation fund, working with farmers and fisheries, that will include support for our fishing fleet.
Animals in our food chain need protection. Domestic animals require stronger protection from cruelty. Wild animals need a sustainable ecosystem.
We would promote cruelty free animal husbandry and consult on ways to ensure better enforcement of agreed standards. We would prohibit the third-party sale of puppies, introduce a total ban on ivory trading, and support the ban on wild animals in circuses.
We will cease the badger cull, which spreads Bovine TB, and we would end snaring.
Labour ended fox hunting, deer hunting and hare coursing. Only a Labour government will ensure the bans remain across the UK, and only Labour would enhance the law and guarantee enforcement in Scotland.
Culture for all
As Britain leaves the EU we will put our world-class creative sector at the heart of our negotiations and future industrial strategy. We need to do more to open the arts and creative industries to everyone.
Labour will introduce a £1 billion Cultural Capital Fund to upgrade our existing cultural and creative infrastructure to be ready for the digital age and invest in creative clusters across the country, based on a similar model to enterprise zones.
The fund will be available over a five-year period, administered by the Arts Council in England. It will be among the biggest arts infrastructure funds ever, transforming the country’s cultural landscape.
And as with all our public funding investment, Scotland will also benefit from increased spending. The Scottish government will be able to choose to follow Labour’s lead and invest this money in the creative industries to support Scotland’s vibrant cultural sector, from the games industry to fashion, to museums and galleries, and the world renowned Edinburgh International Festival, created by a Labour government 70 years ago to help restore unity in post-war Europe.
Similarly, the arts pupil premium we will introduce for every primary school in England – a £160 million a year boost for schools – will mean more money for the Scottish government to invest in arts education.
We will continue to mark the ongoing centenary of the First World War, and the sacrifice of all those who died. Labour remains committed to honouring the role of all who have served our country.
Being a performer is a great career, but too often the culture of low or no pay means it is hard for those without well-off families to support them to break into this industry. We will work with trade unions and employers to agree sector specific advice and guidelines on pay and employment standards that will make the sector more accessible to all.
Scottish Labour would create a First Minister’s Committee on the Arts, Culture and Creative Industries, with membership from all sectors and regions.
We will improve diversity on and off screen, working with the film industry and public service and commercial broadcasters to find rapid solutions to improve diversity.
We recognise the serious concern about the “value gap” between producers of creative content and the digital services that profit from its use, and will work with all sides to review the way creators and artists are rewarded for their work in the digital age.
We all need to work harder to keep children safe online. Labour will ensure that technology companies are obliged to take measures that further protect children and tackle online abuse. We will ensure that young people understand and are able to easily remove content they shared on the internet before they turned 18.
The BBC is a national asset of which we should all be proud. Labour will always support it and uphold its independence. We will ensure the BBC and public service broadcasting has a healthy future. Labour is committed to keeping Channel 4 in public ownership.
The BBC is also a significant provider of jobs and opportunities for the creative industries in Scotland. That is why Scottish Labour wants more investment in BBC Scotland from within the licence fee settlement and greater commissioning responsibility for the nations and regions.
Local newspapers and broadcasting in Britain are an important part of our democracy and our culture. We are concerned about closures of local media outlets and a reduction in the number of local journalists. Labour will hold a national review into the ownership of local and national media to ensure plurality.
To protect democracy and media freedom, we will take steps to ensure that Ofcom is better able to safeguard a healthy plurality of media ownership, and to put in place clearer rules of who is fit and proper to own or run TV and radio stations.
In Scotland, the “sugar tax” would fund a revolution in school sports, allowing teachers to offer new and engaging activities, giving more people the opportunity to get involved.
We would continue to support fan ownership of football clubs in Scotland, recognising that clubs are more than just businesses. They hold a special place in the heart of so many communities.
Sporting events must be open and accessible to all. We will push sports authorities to make rapid improvements on access provision for fans with disabilities.
We would work to bring together organisations such as sportscotland, the Scottish Sports Association and the Scottish Sports Volunteer Forum to create a Sports Volunteer Fund aimed at supporting people to go on coaching courses, child protection courses and mentoring schemes.
In schools we have seen the success of the “Daily Mile”, as started at St Ninian’s Primary School, Stirling, in improving health and educational outcomes, and we will support its introduction across Scotland as a normal part of the school day.
Scottish Labour would support our schools to offer a dynamic new approach to getting young people involved in sports.