Kezia Dugdale: I’ll build bridges with business

LABOUR leader Kezia Dugdale will today call for a “fresh start” in the relationship between her party and Scotland’s business community.

New leader Kezia Dugdale will try to reverse the impression of Labour as an anti-business party. Picture: Getty
New leader Kezia Dugdale will try to reverse the impression of Labour as an anti-business party. Picture: Getty

The Lothians MSP will say a “dynamic economy” is central to her plans for a more equal society. It follows criticism over Labour’s seemingly anti-business approach in the recent election and hard-left candidate Jeremy Corbyn’s soaring lead in the UK leadership contest.

Ms Dugdale will meet young apprentices on a visit to Lloyds banking group in Glasgow today. The newly elected Labour leader will say that investing in education and skills and closing the attainment gap is key to Scotland’s future economic success.

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Speaking to business representatives, she will say: “I want a fresh start in the relationship between Labour and Scotland’s business community.

“We can make common cause. Together we can make the case for radically transforming the approach we take to education in Scotland.

“That’s in the best interests of Scotland’s young people and of Scotland’s businesses.

“Those of us who want a more equal society must realise that to achieve that we need a more dynamic economy.”

Ms Dugdale raised the prospect of tax rises when Holyrood gets sweeping new fiscal powers next year as part of a “radical package” to redistribute wealth in Scotland. She has pledged to make addressing the schooling gap between rich and poor areas of Scotland the priority of her leadership of the party.

And she will add today: “Nothing is more important to the future success of Scotland’s economy than closing the gap between rich and poor kids in our schools.

“The jobs of the future will come in finance, IT, science, engineering and low-carbon technologies.

“We need all of our young people to be ready to compete with workers across the world for these jobs. That means giving every school pupil - no matter their background - the skills they need to make their way in the world and compete for the jobs of the future.

“For too many kids in Scotland today how much money their parents earn determines their ability to get on in life, rather than their potential, work rate and ambition.

“That’s not just holding young people back, it’s bad for business and Scotland’s economy. Investing in education and skills today will pay dividends in the decades to come.”

The new leader appealed for fresh talent to sign up to stand for the party in the Scottish election next year.

The 33-year-old said Holyrood must be more representative of the country it serves - as she called for people such as shop workers, cleaners and nurses to consider standing for election.

Ms Dugdale has already announced a gender-balanced front bench team for Scottish Labour, mirroring First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s equal gender split in the Scottish Cabinet.

And she said that at least half of Scottish Labour’s new candidates for next year’s Holyrood election will be women.