‘Labour will take on SNP over health and education’

Murphy: two big SNP weaknesses. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Murphy: two big SNP weaknesses. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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JIM Murphy has said he will challenge the SNP on its health and education records as he attempts to hold the Scottish Government to account on its stewardship of public services.

Marking the 50th day since he became Scottish Labour leader, Murphy said the NHS and education were two of the SNP’s “big weaknesses”.

Outlining its strategy ahead of the general election, Murphy said winning back voters would be done in three stages: getting them to listen to the party, consider supporting it and actually vote for it in May.

Publishing a list of 50 achievements since he became leader, Murphy said the SNP government had been able to present itself as both an “incumbent” and “insurgent” by being a government in Edinburgh and behaving as an opposition party to Westminster.

Outlining his plans to tackle the Scottish Government on health and education, Murphy said: “They have been in power for nearly eight years but the fact is the rate and growth of spending in the NHS is less than David Cameron’s.

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“I think when you share that fact with people in the focus groups, first of all there is a scratching of the head in bewilderment, and at the end of the conversation there is a genuine sense of how can that be right that it is happening in Scotland.”

The other big issue, according to Murphy, was education.

“Nicola Sturgeon gives the impression as someone who is not up on the detail and has no compelling vision for primary or secondary education. We are going to keep identifying policies that can bridge the educational attainment gap.

“We will retain free tuition fees for Scotland’s universities, but the inequality is building up – a decade before some of these students are getting to university – in particular the period between primary and secondary education where so much of the inequality is being entrenched. When only 220 kids from the poorest working class families do well enough at school to get to the best universities, it is immoral and indefensible.”

With Labour trailing the SNP in the polls, Murphy claimed Scottish voters would “switch late and switch big” to Labour in the general election.

He claimed Labour could hold on to the 41 seats it won in 2010, with the party also targeting the East Dunbartonshire seat currently held by Lib Dem minister Jo Swinson.

A recent Ipsos Mori poll showed that twice as many Scots are to vote for the SNP as will back Labour, with some commentators suggesting the latter could return just four MPs to Westminster.

The SNP said Murphy’s claims were “arrogant” and that Labour have not given any reason as to why voters will back them.

The SNP’s election director Angus Robertson said: “Mr Murphy arrogantly insists that voters will just go back to his party without giving any reason why, as if Labour had a divine right to rule Scotland – thus demonstrating that he is part of Labour’s problem in Scotland, not the solution.”