A “NATIONAL strategy” to end poverty in Scotland will be at the heart of Labour leadership contender Neil Findlay’s plans if he becomes First Minister.
The Lothians MSP will also tell supporters today he is “not a career or a machine politician” at the launch of his campaign for the top job.
Meanwhile, former Labour transport minister Sarah Boyack launched her campaign for the leadership yesterday with a pledge to tackle the growing the “crisis” in the NHS and care sector.
Both MSPs are up against the former Scottish secretary Jim Murphy in the battle to replace Johann Lamont who quit last month with a warning that Scotland was being treated like a “branch office” of the party by Ed Miliband.
Mr Findlay’s campaign is being launched in his home village of Fauldhouse, West Lothian, today.
“It is shameful that families in our country cannot afford to feed their children or heat their homes and have to rely on foodbanks,” he will say. “A national strategy to end poverty in Scotland will be at the heart of our 2016 manifesto when I am Labour leader.
“Central to that will be a pledge to put an end to youth unemployment – no young person should be left behind – training, skills and new jobs, opportunities for all must be our ambition and Labour will deliver.”
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Mr Findlay is widely seen as the left-wing candidate and already appears to have secured the union vote. Mr Murphy, a Blairite, has the backing of most Parliamentarians. It means the third element of the party’s electoral college, the membership, will be crucial. Mr Findlay revealed this week he has the backing of the major Glasgow Kelvinside constituency.
The party’s health spokesman is also pledging to end “exploitation and insecurity” in the workplace by replacing the national minimum wage with a living wage.
“It is not acceptable that in 2014 over 400,000 Scots earn under £7.85 per hour,” he will say today. “Tackling poverty pay is a political choice and it is one that I will make.”
Social care will also become a “rewarding and fairly paid career” while the NHS will meet the demands of the 21st century.
The MSP will also highlight his life experience as an apprentice bricklayer, before later returning to university and working as a housing officer and teacher.
He will add: “I never sought to have a career in politics. I am not a career politician, I am not a machine politician.
“The modern day conventional political career is school to university to working for a politician then into parliament – that’s not me.” This compares with Mr Murphy who had been a student leader, before going onto work for the Labour party, then became an MP.
Ms Boyack launched her own campaign in Edinburgh yesterday and warned of a “growing funding crisis” in the NHS, adding that a rethink of the country’s care services is needed.
She has pledged to be a “unifying leader”, and make the party “fit for purpose”.
The former minister dubbed herself the “listening leader”, outlining plans to publish 100 new ideas aimed at improving people’s lives, after meeting people and hearing their suggestions throughout her campaign.
Ms Boyack told the audience that if elected leader and then first minister, she wanted to see a properly funded health service, affordable childcare and quality schools, the mending of local government funding and “double devolution”, with new powers and resources passed from central government to councils.
The cost of living crisis facing families, fuel poverty, housing and climate change must also be addressed, she said.
On local government finance, she said: “The debate about local government funding is a debate where we must be honest. Vital services cannot possibly be adequately provided at the quality needed if cash available to councils keeps going down in real terms. But making the council tax fairer won’t be enough – we need to be more radical.”
On the NHS, she said: “We have a growing funding crisis in the health service. The SNP deny there’s a problem until it’s a crisis. And the care crisis isn’t a future problem – it’s a problem now. The SNP have known about the increasing number of older people needing support for years, but the services needed are simply not in place.”
She added: “I said last week it’s time for a proper debate – but not just within my party – we need a proper debate in our country too.
“Let’s be radical, let’s be bold, let’s think to the future, let’s take Scotland forward.”
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