Full webchat transcript: Iain Gray, leader of the Scottish Labour party
Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray today held a live webchat on scotsman.com ahead of the upcoming Scottish Parliament elections. Below is a transcript of the event in full. The next webchat will feature leader of the Scottish Conservatives Annabel Goldie and will take place on Wednesday, April 27 at 12:30pm.
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Comment From Ally Renwick
What's your view on the latest opinion poll that put your party behind the SNP?
Answer: Opinion polls come and go but what they tell me is that the election is close and we are in a real fight. Across Scotland we have 1000s of Labour activists taking our message directly to the voters and the response they are getting is a very good one. We will be doing that right up to the poll that matters on the 5th of May.
Comment From James
Who would you form a coalition government with if your party isn't the largest in Holyrood?
Answer: The lesson of PR elections in Scotland and even the close UK general election last year is that the voters decide the result. Labour will fight to win as many MSPs as possible. After the election the biggest party that is the party with most MSPs will have the chance to try and form an administration. How they do that will depend entirely on party numbers. However I do think that in 2011 as leader of the largest party I would have a wider choice of how to take Scotland forward: coalition; minority government; or even confidence and supply arrangement that was considered practical in the past. But obviously I'd like to win an outright majority.
Comment From Claire Lyon
What seats are your party targeting outwith the Labour heartlands?
Answer: When I became Labour leader I made clear that Labour is a party for all of Scotland. So we have key target seats from the south of Scotland to the north. Because of the PR electoral system the battleground is bigger in Scottish elections and I have personally campaigned in over 50 seats in recent weeks. Many of them more than once.
Comment From Allan Robertson
You've made a lot of promises on spending but we're in the middle of the recession. How would your government accomodate the impending cuts?
Answer: When we published Labour's manifesto it did include a significant programme of action on the things that really matter to working people in Scotland, including an ambitious plan to eradicate youth unemployment in the next parliament and create 250,000 jobs by the end of the decade. But we also published a financial memorandum to the manifesto costing our commitments and demonstrating how we would release resources to pay for them. This was subjected to rigorous analysis this week by the Centre for Public Policy in the Regions and our manifesto was found to be the one which did not depend on specified 'efficiency' savings to pay for commitments. In contrast the SNP manifesto was found to have a 1bn black hole at its heart.
Comment From John Graham
The Scottish Police Federation voted against your plan for mandatory prision sentences for knife carriers. Will you know listen to the experts and drop this plan?
Answer: The knife crime policy is based on the experience of knife crime victims like John Muir and Kelly McGhee who lost loved ones. It is supported by tens of thousands of Scots who have signed the Labour party's Carry a Knife Go to Jail petition and many other similar petitions around Scotland. Almost half of Scotland's murders are committed with a knife and 70 per cent of those convicted of carrying a knife do not go to jail. The SNP passed legislation which will release even more knife criminals from jail. The Scottish people do not think that is right and nor do I.
Comment From R Watson
Which aspects of your manifesto would you be willing to give up if you have to go into power brokering with another party?
Answer: It's a mistake for any party to start negotiating coalitions on the outcome of an election which hasn't happened yet.
Comment From Brian Hill
Isn't it time the Barnet Formula was abandoned in favour of Scotland keeping ALL of its money and 'paying in' to the UK as the UK does with Europe?
Answer: The Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government should have more responsibility for raising some of the money we spend. The way to do that is to implement the recommendations of the Calman commission unanimously supported by that broad-based commission and three of the four main parties.
Comment From Grahamski, Falkirk
What are your top three priorities for a Labour administration and how do these differ from your opponents.
Answer: Eradicating youth unemployment and creating jobs, tough action on knife crime, improving care of our elderly through a locally delivered national care service and cutting cancer waiting times. None of the other parties have a plan to do these things in particular Labour is the only party in this election offering a plan to create 250,000 jobs. We are also the only party willing to stand up for knife crime victims and take tough action on knife crime. We would focus every day on these things which really matter and would not be distracted by independence.
Comment From JK
Will you allow the UK Government to plan nuclear waste sites in Scotland?
Answer: No. The environmental legislation relevant to this is devolved. Only the SNP are planning nuclear waste dumps in Scotland because of their 'It's Scotland's Waste' policy.
Comment From Brond
Labour seem to have got trapped by appealing to their core vote in Glasgow, portraying themselves as the Glasgow party, what relevance has Labour to rural areas?
Answer: It is true we have spoken up for Glasgow as the SNP have dealt it blow after blow not least by cancelling the Glasgow Airport rail link. But Labour is a party for all of Scotland as we published a separate manifesto for the south of Scotland and for the Highlands and Islands. We are the only party who have pledged to make the RET subsidy for ferries permanent and to extend it to the Argyll and Clyde islands.
Comment From Dave Edwards
You talk about "eradicating" youth unemployment by 2016. Does this mean if one young person is unemployed by the 2016 that you will have broken your promise on this?
Answer: Youth unemployment had effectively been abolished by Labour. It has reappeared on the SNP's watch and soared by over 200 per cent. Labour has abolished youth unemployment before and we will do it again.
Comment From S. Way
In what way - in concrete and practical terms - would a Labour executive stand up to Conservative cuts ? By picking fights with Westminster ?
Answer: We would stand up for working people in Scotland by doing everything possible to create jobs and to protect front line services. We would show that even in difficult financial times there is a better way than the Tory way. For example we would seek pay restraint in the public sector but we would introduce a living wage to protect those at the bottom of pay scales so that they do not pay the highest price. We would not be distracted from standing up to the Tories by independence.
Comment From George
What do you make of the current sectarian problems facing the West of Scotland?
Answer: There is no place in modern Scotland for sectarianism. It is important that Scotland is united across all communities and makes that very clear.
Comment From Daniel Juett
While generic statements such as eradicating youth employment are well and good how do you think you can implement them when you are planning to pass on the Tory cuts?
Answer: Our manifesto contains the plan to eradicate youth unemployment. An apprenticeship guarantee for every qualified school leaver. 10,000 work placements for unemployed young people based on the hugely successful future job fund (abolished by the Tories). Restarting Project Scotland to provide high quality volunteering opportunities (abolished by the SNP). The Plus One scheme to create jobs in small businesses, as proposed by the Federation of Small Business. Indeed our manifesto for growth contains over 80 proposals and programmes to get our economy growing again.
Comment From John MacDonald
After the 2010 election it was reported that you "would accept the right of the Conservatives to govern if they can form a government." Why should people vote for you if you will accept their mandate to govern?
Answer: There was a general election. The Tories and the Liberal Democrats in coalition have a majority in the UK parliament that is democracy. But they are quite wrong in the decisions they have taken to cut too fast and too deep and to make ordinary families pay the price.
Comment From Steven, Blairgowrie
You were campaigning with Gordon Brown yesterday. Despite the global economic downturn, do you now accept that it was Labour who got us to the point where we spend 120million every day on debt interest?
Answer: No. The credit crunch, banking crisis and recession were global and driven by global forces and unacceptably risky banking practices across the developed world. It was Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling who took the tough decisions to save our banking system especially Scotland's two largest banks. If they had not taken those decisions and those banks had failed, the Scottish economy would have been ruined. If Scotland had been independent the bank bail out would not have been possible. Gordon has said that governments got it wrong on banking regulation, but lets not forget that Alex Salmond criticised Gordon for the heavy handedness of his bank regulation regime and claimed that in an independent Scotland banking regulation would be more 'light touch'!
Comment From Daniel Juett
You talk of standing up to the cuts, it looks like little more than talk, how can you stand up to the cuts if you don't want to raise extra money?!
Answer: Any Scottish Government will have to deal with reductions in their budget for some years ahead but by concentrating on the things that really matter rather than referendums on independence which Scotland does not want. We can find ways to protect front line services and create jobs. In our manifesto we make clear this will require a radical programme of public sector reform: a single police force, a single fire service, fewer NHS boards and the integration of social care. But with the determination to do so we can make Scotland better even with the Tories back.
Comment From Alison
Do you believe, at some point in the future, there should be a referendum on Scottish independence?
Answer: If the people of Scotland wanted one, but right now they don't. They want a government who will focus on the things that really matter like jobs, services and safer streets and will not be distracted by independence.
Comment From Mths
Would you ever consider a pact with the SNP?
Answer: It is hard to imagine such a pact while their fundamental purpose remains independence.
Comment From Mark
What would you do to sort our our Trams fiasco?
Answer: the trams project has always been an Edinburgh City Council project. In 2007 the auditor general gave the project a clean bill of health. Since then the SNP/ Liberal Council has managed to reduce it to the current shambles. It is embarrassing that Scotland's capital cannot deliver a tram system the likes of which can be seen in many cities throughout England and Europe. The city council should sort this out.
Are you personally worried about losing your constituency seat?
Answer: No. I believe I have worked hard over four years to represent my constituents and their concerns. It is a great privilege to represent what you will forgive me for thinking is the best part of Scotland and I do not take that honour for granted.
Comment From Ross McCafferty
Do you think Scotland is a fundamentally worse place to live now than in 2007? A yes or no will suffice!
Answer: Yes, because in 2007 Scotland had the lowest unemployment anywhere in Britain but now it has some of the highest so it is a worse place for the 10,000 who joined the dole queue last year.
Comment From Niall
If you lose the election will you do the honourable thing and stand down?
Answer: I'm the Scottish Labour leader elected by all the Labour party members in Scotland and it is a privilege to do that job in opposition and government but I do not expect to lose.
Comment From Guest
Does Labour have anything to offer small businesses in Scotland within an age of austerity?
Answer: Our manifesto for growth included over 80 proposals to get Scotland's economy growing again. Many of those are designed to support small businesses and were developed in discussion with the sector. Many of them appear in the Federation of Small Business own manifesto as well as Labour's. They include proposals to help small businesses take on staff, host apprentices and access export markets.
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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