Dundee West Labour
15 April 2019
A Scottish Labour government would replace the council tax and set new standards on workers’ rights, Richard Leonard has told the STUC congress.
The Scottish Labour leader highlighted a new report from the Jimmy Reid Foundation, and backed calls for the council tax to be replaced in its current form.
On council tax Richard Leonard said:
“As the new Unison Jimmy Reid Foundation report published just today points out: approaching half of all Council Tax revenues are devoted to servicing the interest on borrowing and PFI/PPP loans.
“It is time that this came to an end. I agree with the report that it is time to shift the burden of taxation onto property and land.
“The council tax in its current form has to go. It is not fair and it is not fit for purpose.”
Mr Leonard also backed calls to commit to a Cabinet Secretary for Labour in the next Scottish Labour government, as well as seeking the devolution of employment law with a ‘pre-Brexit floor’ to ensure workers’ rights can only be built on, not rolled back, saying:
“We should be establishing new sectoral bargaining arrangements. But we want to go further: a future Scottish Labour Government under my leadership will not only establish sectoral collective bargaining we will establish sectoral industrial and economic planning as well as part of a long overdue industrial strategy for Scotland: bringing together trade unions, employers and government.
“So that instead of time and time again demanding last ditch defensive rescues in the event of market failure you, the Scottish trade union movement is at the very heart of pro-actively planning for economic success.
“Because we need trade union voices. And we need industrial democracy. Not just when things go wrong, but to help make sure things go right in the first place.
“And if we have not learned that, we have learned nothing. Go and ask the workers at BiFab, go and ask the workers at the Caley rail works in Springburn, go and ask the workers at Michelin here in Dundee.
“When I met Marc Jackson and the Michelin shop stewards a few weeks ago, he told me that Michelin did not close the factory, the market closed the factory.
“This is a city where decent industrious working people have been badly let down by neo-liberal economics, failed by an economic system with too much market and not enough planning.
“Where too much power rests in too few hands, and all too often in faraway board rooms.
“So for the avoidance of doubt. My aim as the Leader of the Scottish Labour Party is not to simply lead a better management team than the SNP.
“It is to lead a Scottish Labour Government worthy of the name. Committed to bringing about a real shift in power and wealth including an extension of industrial and economic democracy.
“Not least so that the voices of women are heard for the first time in the corridors of economic power This is not incidental to the change we need to make. It is its very essence.
“So I will appoint a Cabinet Secretary for Labour in a Scottish Labour Government . And I can also confirm today that we will protect and strengthen workers’ rights by seeking the devolution of employment law in which we will set a pre-Brexit floor to ensure that workers in Scotland are not caught up in a race to the bottom.”
Richard Leonard also called for the European elections to be a call to action against the populist politics of right wing nationalism, and to send a message to Nigel Farage that the politics of hate has no place in the UK, saying:
“In the coming weeks we will be fighting elections to the European Parliament. So my appeal to you is this; do not allow this election to become a false choice between competing nationalisms: British and Scottish.
“Do not simply be a voter. Be an activist.
“Join the campaign to defeat the right wing populism of Farage and UKIP, and help build a movement for radical reform and real change in the European Union as part of the Party of European Socialists alliance.”
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