Kezia Dugdale underlined her firm opposition to a second independence referendum and a hard Brexit today as she sought to position Labour as the alternative to the “divisive politics” of the SNP and Conservatives.
Launching the party’s Scottish manifesto in Edinburgh, Ms Dugdale claimed only Labour could oust the Tories from power on June 8 and that in Scotland only her party was strong enough to defeat Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP.
“In the pages of this manifesto, you will find our plan for a Britain where we make fairer and better choices,” she said.
“A Britain where everyone can lead fulfilling and dignified lives – from childhood right through to their later years.
“It’s only by electing a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn that this transformation of our country as a whole can begin.
“Only by electing a Labour government can Scotland benefit from the massive investment in public services and infrastructure that we need to repair the damage wrought by the twin evils of SNP and Tory cuts.”
A party briefing claimed a Labour government at Westminster would deliver a £3.016 billion budget boost to Scotland through Barnett consequentials by 2021.
The increased cash to the devolved administrations, including the Scottish Parliament would be the result from Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to make top earners across the UK pay more tax if he is returned as prime minister at the general election.
But the SNP warned Labour was delivering a “tax bombshell” to ordinary voters and claimed only the Nationalists could beat the Tories north of the border.
On the economy, Dugdale said “the whole country needs to be firing on all cylinders” but added that Scotland was being left behind.
She hit out at the SNP at Holyrood and Tories at Westminster for focusing on “divisive politics” that risked pushing Scotland into recession and affect working people across the country.
Ms Dugdale hailed the manifesto as a “bold agenda for change” while addressing activists in the Grassmarket.
She singled out Labour’s commitment to introduce a £10 per hour living wage by 2020 as the policy with the most potential to transform the country.
There were some surprises in the document. Although Scottish Labour is opposed to Trident, the Scottish manifesto included a commitment to support the renewal of the UK’s nuclear deterrent - the party leader putting the difference down to defence being “a reserved issue”.
The SNP leader at Westminister, Angus Robertson, said the manifesto proved Scottish Labour was “at sixes and sevens” after the party confirmed it was still committed to its 2016 tax pledges, which includes a penny on the basic rate of income tax in Scotland.
“This manifesto launch shows once more Kezia Dugdale’s desire to hit the poorest in our society with a bumper tax bill - seeking to raise the tax burden of those on the lowest incomes,” he said.
“Labour cannot pretend to support ordinary workers when at the same time they want to hit them with a fresh tax bombshell - something even the UK Labour party have avoided.
“Polling over the weekend has shown that Labour can’t win the election in Scotland - and if Labour voters want to keep the Tories out of Scotland, only a vote for the SNP can achieve this.”
Scottish Conservative candidate for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, John Lamont, said: “Kezia Dugdale and Jeremy Corbyn cannot be trusted on the union – the record speaks for itself.
“Labour may pretend that it opposes a second referendum on independence.
“But not only do a series of candidates for next month say the complete opposite, Corbyn himself has said he’s ‘absolutely fine’ with it.
“We know exactly where Labour’s constitutional priorities lie – they want to prop up the SNP in councils across the country, and suspend any councillors who choose instead to work with the Scottish Conservatives.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “The big problem for Labour is that they voted with the Conservatives for an extreme hard Brexit.
“They have joined Ukip in giving up on the single market. They would be devastating for Scottish jobs.
“The SNP risks leaving Scotland outside the UK as well as outside the EU.”