ED Miliband said Labour was on course to win next month’s General Election and promised that his party would fight for the “working people” of Scotland in a speech to the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) yesterday.
Mr Miliband said a Labour victory in the General Election was “within grasp” as he issued a rallying call to the annual congress of the STUC in Ayr, where he failed to mention the SNP by name.
Let’s make it happen, let’s change our countryEd Miliband
The STUC, the umbrella organisation of the trade union movement, is not directly affiliated to Labour, although some of the largest unions such as Unite, Unison and the GMB are in the party.
However, Mr Miliband’s speech will be widely seen as a pitch to union members tempted to vote for the Nationalists, with the SNP trade union group now growing in influence.
Mr Miliband instead chose to focus on his party’s message to “working people” and accused David Cameron of “double deceit” on the NHS, in his address to delegates yesterday.
He said: “Change hasn’t happened because leaders made it happen – it’s because you in this room and the people who went before you made it happen.
“So, today, I call on you, I call on you to put an end to this government; I call on you, on the people of Scotland and, yes, on behalf of the people of Wales and England and the whole of the United Kingdom, to fight as you have always done for working people.
“I call on you to work with me to end the old ways of running the country because it is within our grasp.
“Together we can write a new chapter, for Scotland and the United Kingdom. This is the chance we have in just 17 days. Today, I call on you and then in 17 days, for five years, you can call on me to fight for the working people of this country.
“Let’s make it happen, let’s change our country to work for working people of Scotland and the whole of the United Kingdom.”
With opinion polls showing the SNP poised to make sweeping gains, Mr Miliband said he would take inspiration from the trade union movement over the last days of the campaign, as he appealed to Scottish voters to help his party defeat the Conservatives.
He said: “The battle to build a country that works for working people is the story of our movement.
“And here in Scotland you have always answered the call.
“When people asked a hundred years ago who would fight for workers’ rights, it was Scottish trade unionists who said, call on me.
“What the history of our movement teaches us is that it is leaders who can be the catalyst for change, but it is only with movements that change can happen.”
Mr Milband highlighted Labour policies to raise the minimum wage to more than £8 and abolish zero-hours contracts, as he sought to appeal to STUC members to support his party.
He said: “There is still poverty pay despite the minimum wage. I will not tolerate that in the country I lead. We will write the next chapter in the fight against poverty pay in our country.
“Still today we have a country with Victorian working conditions in the 21st century.
“A text message at 6am to tell people on a zero-hours contract whether they have work. I will not tolerate that in the country I lead.”
He described the blacklisting of employees who engage in trade union activity by contractors and companies as “odious” and said a Labour government would launch a full inquiry into the practice.
Angus Robertson, the SNP’s election campaign director, hit back, saying: “Ed Miliband knows that Labour are not strong enough to win a majority at the General Election – the question is whether he is prepared to work with the SNP to lock David Cameron out of Downing Street, or if he would prefer to let the Tories back in.
“The only way to stop austerity and halt the waste of £100 billion being spent on Trident nuclear weapons – and instead invest in jobs, the NHS, a stronger Scotland and progressive change across the UK – is by voting SNP on 7 May.”
Mr Miliband’s address to the STUC came ahead of a speech by Scottish labour leader Jim Murphy at a Labour street rally in Glasgow today.
Mr Murphy will claim that Scotland has to “rebuild our NHS, not rerun the referendum”, as he will accuse the SNP of promoting independence at the expense of the National Health Service, which he says has been starved of cash during the Nationalists’ eight years in power.
Mr Murphy is expected to warn that “Scotland is facing a GP ticking timebomb”, with major shortages in the number of surgeries and medical centres.