VOTERS north of the border can either “unlock change” for the country with the election of a Labour government or “block change” by returning the Conservatives to Westminster, Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy will say.
Mr Murphy is to outline his plans to help “working class Scots succeed” as he launches Scottish Labour’s manifesto - which will include new policies to help the NHS.
The big idea running through our plan is that Scotland succeeds when working class Scots succeedJim Murphy
Scottish Labour will pledge to establish a £200 million cancer fund and a £200 million mental health fund as part of the £1 billion additional funding promised for the health service north of the border.
With Labour and the Tories neck and neck in the race for Number 10, the outcome of the election in Scotland will be crucial in determining whether Ed Miliband will become prime minister or if David Cameron will secure a second term in the job.
But support for Labour trails well behind that for Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP in the polls, and the nationalists look posed to make big gains on May 7.
Launching the manifesto in Glasgow today, Mr Murphy will say: “How Scotland votes in the election will decide whether we unlock change or block change for millions of Scots.”
Labour will guarantee a job and training for Scots who are long-term unemployed, regardless of their age, and say they will boost the minimum wage to £8 an hour.
The party has also committed itself to abolishing zero-hours contracts and to working towards everyone being paid the Living Wage.
“The big idea running through our plan is that Scotland succeeds when working class Scots succeed,” Mr Murphy will say.
“So the plan we present today offers not just a change to how our countries are governed. It offers a change to how our economy works and rewards our people.”
He will insist: “We cannot go on with rewards for the few and insecurity for the many. We want working class Scots to earn more per hour and to have regular hours. So we will raise the minimum wage to more than £8 an hour.
“And we will, despite the opposition of the Tories and nationalists, use the full power of government to promote a Living Wage for more workers.
“We will ban the exploitative zero-hours contracts that leave workers hanging on the telephone, unable to plan their lives and support their families.”
Labour will also give working and middle class families “a break after years of pain” under the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition, by protecting tax credits and by promising not to raise VAT and national insurance contributions.”
Speaking about the NHS, Mr Murphy will say: “Labour will invest an extra £1 billion in Scotland’s NHS by asking the wealthiest home owners to pay a bit more through a mansion tax on properties worth over £2 million, by taking money from the tobacco companies and making sure the hedge funds pay their fair share. Because we can’t get a world-class NHS on the cheap.”
Mr Murphy has already said this would provide funding for 1,000 extra nurses, but he added it would also allow special funds to be set up to help cancer patients and those with mental health problems.
The Scottish Labour leader will say: “In many ways Scotland leads the world in pioneering cancer treatment, but with 30,000 people in our country being diagnosed with cancer each year we cannot rest.
“All of us have a loved one who has suffered from cancer. Too many of us loved someone and watched cancer slowly take them away from us.
“Our £200 million cancer fund will make sure cancer patients in Scotland get the treatment they need and deserve.”
He will add that as the “NHS needs to take an injured spirit as seriously as an injured body”, his party will establish a £200 million mental health fund to “give support to those who need it”.
But Scottish Deputy First Minister John Swinney called on Mr Murphy to spell out where Labour would make cuts.
“We’re still no closer to knowing exactly what Labour plan to cut in Scotland as Mr Murphy continues to do his best to dodge the issue,” Mr Swinney said.
“Without an admission of exactly how much Labour would cut from Scotland’s budget and an indication of exactly where the axe would fall, any other pledges in their manifesto won’t be worth the paper they are written on.”
He added: “Austerity cuts are already putting real pressure on public services and hurting people in communities across Scotland - so it’s no wonder that Labour are shying away from owning up to their own austerity plans.
“But with Ed Miliband and Ed Balls very publicly putting Jim Murphy in his place earlier this week, there is simply no hiding place for Labour in Scotland any more - his anti-cuts pretence has been destroyed once and for all.
“There are now less than three weeks to go until polling day and Jim Murphy can’t keep ducking and diving and avoiding the question. He needs to spell out exactly how many billions of pounds Labour intend to cut from Scotland’s budget and where the axe would fall - failure to do so today would be nothing less than an attempt to mislead people in Scotland before they go the polls.”
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