KEZIA Dugdale yesterday said Labour would end austerity in Scotland as she attacked the SNP for lacking her socialist credentials.
Addressing the Scottish Labour Party conference, Dugdale pledged to use the Scottish Parliament’s new powers to raise taxes to prevent billions of pounds of Tory cuts and challenged Nicola Sturgeon to do the same.
Under Labour, the Scottish Labour leader said public spending would rise in real terms between May and the next UK general election. This would be done by bringing in a fiscal pledge not to cut tax if public spending is being reduced.
“So many Scots were excited to watch Nicola Sturgeon in the last TV debates position herself as the great anti-austerity alternative, only to see her come home to force through the Tories’ cuts in Scotland,” Dugdale told delegates at the Glasgow Science Centre.
“We don’t get Nicola the socialist who says let’s change things. We get Nicola the nationalist who says that she can’t.
“If the SNP don’t match our anti-austerity pledge their claims to be anti-austerity will be exposed as false.”
The SNP was attacked for its plans to cut air passenger duty, a move Labour said would benefit the most wealthy 20 per cent.
Dugdale confirmed Labour would reverse George Osborne’s tax break for higher earners and would raise more tax from those earning more than £150,000.
She also confirmed her plans to put a penny on income tax to raise more money to protect schools, colleges and universities.
Dugdale claimed Sturgeon was “utterly arrogant” for declaring victory ahead of the May Scottish election. But the challenge facing Dugdale, whose party is being comprehensively outpolled by the SNP, was indicated by Labour’s Scottish general secretary Brian Roy. He said the party would focus more on winning regional list seats at Holyrood rather than constituencies, where they are being outgunned by the nationalists.
He told activists that the election will “not be a traditional key seat campaign”.
“We have learned the mistake of the past when we did not place enough importance on the regional list votes and did not organise effectively on that basis. So we have established strong regional campaign structures to allow organising, messaging and resources to be deployed more efficiently.”
A series of health pledges were made by Dugdale, including a plan to ensure a GP appointment within 48 hours of making it and a guarantee that would see patients wait no longer than two weeks for the results of cancer tests. She also called for an end to the “scandal” of missed mental health waiting times.