Scotland politics

Kezia Dugdale calls for public services focus

Kezia Dugdale Image copyright PA
Image caption Kezia Dugdale launched her "alternative programme for government" at an event in Edinburgh

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has called for Scotland to focus on improving its public services rather than the constitutional debate.

She was speaking as she launched her party's "alternative programme for government".

It sets out proposals for a series of bills which Ms Dugdale wants the Scottish government to introduce over the next five years.

The SNP said Labour's proposals had already been rejected by voters in May.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is due to reveal her legislative plans for the coming year when MSPs return on Holyrood next week.

Scottish Labour is currently the third largest party at Holyrood behind the SNP and Conservatives.

Launching her alternative programme - much of which was also included in her party's manifesto for the Scottish Parliament election in May - Ms Dugdale said the Scottish government should focus on reforming public services rather that the constitution.

Second referendum

Ms Dugdale also said the results of the independence referendum in 2014 and June's Brexit vote had both been "definitive" and there was no need for a referendum in either case.

It follows Owen Smith, who Ms Dugdale is backing to replace Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, saying on Wednesday that "of course" he would not oppose a second referendum on independence if the SNP attempted to hold one.

But Mr Smith - who has called for a second referendum on the UK's EU membership - also said it would be down to Scottish Labour to decide the party's position on another independence referendum.

Ms Dugdale's alternative programme includes an Education Bill aimed at closing the attainment gap between Scotland's wealthiest and most deprived pupils by establishing a Fair Start Fund to help youngsters in deprived areas, paid for by increasing income tax on the highest earners.

It would also establish a breakfast club for youngsters in every primary school, and abolish charges for exam appeals.

Scottish Labour's other proposals include:

  • A bill to completely ban fracking in Scotland
  • A Work and Trade Unions Bill to recognise the "positive contribution of trade unions in the economy"
  • A Health and Social Care Bill to ensure every care worker is paid the Living Wage and that zero-hours contracts in the sector are abolished
  • The scrapping of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act

Ms Dugdale said Labour would offer "strong progressive opposition" over the next five years, adding: "We are the only party that wants what the Scottish people want - a strong Scotland inside the UK and maintaining our relationship with Europe."

She also branded the Conservatives as "Scotland's Brexit party" as she launched an attack on leader Ruth Davidson.

'Roundly rejected'

She said: "After years of constitutional debate, it is time for the first minister and all Scottish government ministers to focus on the job of reforming and investing in our public services and getting people back to work.

"As I said repeatedly during the election campaign, education is Labour's priority. Investing in the next generation so that they are prepared for the jobs that will drive the Scottish economy in the future."

Responding to her speech, an SNP spokesman said: "Labour have already presented their alternative programme for government in May's Holyrood election - where it was roundly rejected by voters and they slumped to a humiliating third place in Scottish politics.

"Meanwhile the SNP is getting on with governing for a historic third term, prioritising investment in education, record funding for our NHS, £100m in additional capital spending to grow our economy and a determination to protect Scotland's place in the EU."

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