Thank you. Conference, it’s great to be here in Liverpool.

In a city with Labour MPs, a Labour Council and a Labour Mayor. I’m hoping next year we can celebrate when this city elects Steve Rotheram as Labour’s first metro mayor for Liverpool.

Conference, we meet here in Liverpool united in our determination to make Labour a party of Government once again.

I congratulate Jeremy Corbyn on his victory in the leadership election.

And I’m looking forward to continuing our work together, and uniting our party in Scotland and across the UK to deliver the change we all want to see.


Next year we face elections across the United Kingdom, where Labour candidates in Scotland, England and Wales will be standing to protect our local services.

The elections in England also mark a new stage in devolution for the United Kingdom.

It’s long overdue and shouldn’t just be the start of a new chapter for the UK, but for our Labour Party.

For too long, our politics and our party has been dominated by what happens in one corner of the City of Westminster.

But politics happens everywhere.

Not just on the green benches of the House of Commons.

It happens in town halls, on street corners, on doorsteps and online.

We saw that in the energy unleashed - on both sides - in the Scottish independence referendum.

And again during the EU referendum.

Conference, the founders of the Labour Party created a party for working people in Parliament and in the country.

For this new age of devolution, our mission should be to build our party in every Parliament, national assembly and town hall in every area of Britain.

The route to victory for the next Labour Government will not just run through Westminster. It will start with success in Edinburgh, Cardiff, and great English cities such as Liverpool and Manchester.

And we will only succeed when we connect to every community in our country and by never forgetting that we should be guided by the views and voices of the people we seek to represent.


Conference, in just two and a half short years, politics in Scotland has been turbo charged.

The European Election

The Scottish Referendum

The UK General Election

The Scottish Parliament Elections

And the EU referendum.

Our members have been asked to campaign harder and to make the argument for our politics repeatedly.

They have gone out into their communities to make the case for Labour.

And in recent weeks they have won.

Just last week, I campaigned with our activists in Coatbridge who went on to elect Scottish Labour’s newest councillor - Alex McVey - in a Labour gain from the SNP.

So when people say that the Scottish Labour Party can’t win elections, I say look to our victories in Coatbridge, in Fife and in Ayrshire this summer.

Together, let us all show our gratitude to the Scottish Labour activists who have put in a shift over the last two and a half years, made the case for our politics and kept alive the vision of a fairer Labour Scotland.


Conference, in May, we put a bold and radical plan for Government to people across Scotland.

I was criticised for even suggesting that Scottish Labour may have a chance at power.

The Tories gave up at the first hurdle, and chose to run a campaign for opposition instead.

And what a campaign it was.

They promised to stand up for the union, just months after pushing through English Votes for English Laws.

They created two classes of MPs for the first time.

And all this, all this conference, just one year after running a General Election campaign that sought to divide the Scots and the English.

The worst type of constitutional vandalism.

And then Ruth Davidson promised a strong economy with a Tory Government at Westminster, but then her party put it all at risk with the EU referendum.

Now she expects us to look on the bright side, telling us that there may be benefits to Brexit.

And she did what Scotland could scarcely afford - she used the same divide and rule politics of David Cameron to reopen the divisions between Yes and No.

Don’t let Ruth Davidson ever tell you again that the Union is safe in Tory hands.

We didn’t want to rerun the arguments of the past.

We wanted to put Scotland’s future first. And our belief at this election was clear. That to meet the challenges we face, and to fund our public services people need to pay their fair share.

It’s an idea rooted in that simple socialist principle: “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

We put forward a case for progressive taxation.

A penny on income tax, and a 50p tax rate for the most well off.

It’s still our policy.

Because with the cuts coming down the track from Holyrood, Local Government in Scotland is set to lose £1 billion over the course of this Parliament.

Our health service is already beginning to show signs of strain as hospitals across the country face cuts or closure.

In hospitals in Glasgow, Paisley and Greenock services for children, pregnant women and the elderly are being cut back.

When it comes to our schools, the SNP Government continue to refuse to protect the education budget.

Conference, I accept what Nicola Sturgeon says about these cuts coming from Westminster. I don’t question that.

What I do question is her refusal to do anything about it - to meekly pass on those cuts or even double down on them.

Leadership does not mean marching to London to make your point, but refusing to take the tough decisions when you are at home.

It doesn’t mean blaming someone else for your problems.

And it certainly doesn’t mean demanding power and then refusing to act.

Nicola Sturgeon is the most powerful First Minister that Scotland has ever had.

In her hands, she has more power than any of her predecessors to change our nation.

But for a woman who is famous for saying yes, her answer when you ask her to use the powers she has is always no.

Conference, I’m only asking Nicola Sturgeon to do what she’s said she wanted to do her entire political life: to make different choices to the Tories.

Labour will not sit back and do nothing.

That is why today I can announce that when the Scottish Government presents the budget to Parliament in the coming months, we will place amendments to introduce a 50p tax on those earning over £150,000 and to add a penny to income tax to pay for public services.

Making decisions for Scotland that the Tories would never make, and using the powers which we have argued for.

This, together with our other tax proposals, will enable us to stop further cuts to the public services we all rely on.

With the full range of powers the Scottish Parliament now has, the SNP Government faces a clear choice.

Accept a Tory Budget from Westminster, or go our own way with proposals to grow the Scottish economy and protect our schools and hospitals.

More and more cuts to Scotland’s budget harms our country’s growth, risks jobs and the prospects for our young people.

We need to invest to provide the next generation of Scots with the chances they need to succeed.

If the SNP minority Government does not accept these proposals, and forces another austerity budget on Holyrood, we will vote against it.

If they want support, they’ll need to look to the Tories for that. Labour will not help the SNP pass an austerity budget on our watch.


Conference, Labour fought for devolution in the first place so that Scotland could set its own direction inside the United Kingdom.

And, with Labour, we want the Scottish Government to be a force for change in our land.

That is what Labour Governments do when they are at their boldest best.

We keep our eyes fixed on the future, we embrace modern ideas that will lead to new jobs and we invest in new technology and keep our country at the leading edge.

In 1945, Attlee’s Government said to the country “let us face the future”.

And Donald Dewar, on the day he opened the Scottish Parliament, said that place was “a voice to shape Scotland, a voice for the future”.

He was right.

So many of our country’s greatest achievements have been because of Labour Governments.

And we should be proud of them.

They need to inspire us and drive us forward.

That means having answers to the challenges of the future and responding to changes in our economy.

But today, the Scottish Parliament debating chamber is more likely to be alive with debates about the constitution than it is with ideas that will shape the 21st century.

It frustrates and angers me that the SNP Government clothes itself in progressive language, but doesn’t match that with action.

They said they would abolish the council tax and replace it with a fairer system.

Then they got cold feet.

In 2015, Nicola Sturgeon told us she supported a 50p tax.

A year later, when she had the chance to do it in Scotland, she did a u-turn.

All of this time, passing on Tory budgets and then doubling the cuts when they’re passed on to our communities.

Conference, don’t be fooled.

Do not allow the wool to be pulled over your eyes.

A party of the left doesn’t choose to do nothing in the face of rising inequality.

It doesn’t make decisions that deny college places and opportunities to working class young people.

It doesn’t say it will protect services before the election and then stand back when they are threatened with closure soon after.

Conference, here’s what a progressive government does, it asks the richest to pay their fair share, so we can protect public services and invest in our children’s future


Conference, I do not doubt Nicola Sturgeon’s passion for our country.

But when the choice is presented between independence or progress, she will always choose independence.

Here’s what she said a week ago.

Independence “transcends the issues of Brexit, of oil, of national wealth and balance sheets”.

Can you believe it, conference?

As socialists, we know that you need to have an economic strategy to match your politics.

But in the face of a £15 billion hole in our public accounts, a gap that would mean savage cuts to our public services, Nicola Sturgeon only has one answer: nationalism.

Conference, that’s not progressive, that’s blind faith.

In the course of the last two years, independence has gone from being the remedy to all of Scotland’s problems, to simply being a less risky option.

Their Leader at Westminster now says that the downsides of independence have to be acknowledged.

And their only member of the Commons Treasury Committee said that independence would mean five years of cuts, to get the Scottish budget into line.

In the rush to find a way through Brexit, Nicola Sturgeon is being forced to face both ways - to please her supporters and try to steer the country through a tough time.

But she needs to get back to the bread and butter issues.

Scotland faces enough risk and uncertainty with the Tory’s reckless Brexit gamble.

We do not need the risk and uncertainty of another independence referendum.

Conference that is why we will vote against any proposal for a second independence referendum in this Parliament.

As we face negotiations on our membership of the EU and real threats to the future of our public services, we cannot afford our government to take their eye off the ball.

With so many challenges facing Scotland in the future, we should not return to the divisions of the past.

My message to Nicola Sturgeon is this.

First Minister, our country is already divided enough.

Do not divide us again.


Conference, I’m an optimist.

The past few years may have tested my optimism, but I believe in our people and our Labour politics.

We have weathered testing times before, both as a country and as a party.

It’s because I am an optimist that I believe we can be better.

Politics in Scotland is full of life - but it is also polarised.

Our country is divided in a way we can scarcely afford.

The challenge to us is to show that our optimistic politics can again change the lives of working people across our country.

That we can face the future with hope and spell out the real change we want to see in people’s lives.

And that we can be a movement, a party and a government again that puts our values into practice.

“By the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone.”

It’s not an empty promise, it’s a guide for building a better nation.

Conference, here in Liverpool let us resolve to unite around our values.

To rediscover our radical roots.

And be again what so many people in Scotland, and across Britain, want us to be:

The greatest fighting force for progress that this country has ever known.

Thank you.

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