A Labour government in Scotland would ring-fence hundreds of millions of pounds of state aid funding for foreign-owned businesses and redirect it towards Scottish companies to re-train staff and save manufacturing jobs, Richard Leonard has said.
In a speech to the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, the party’s Scottish leader also committed to land reform agenda, saying Labour would explore new rules to tax foreign and absentee landlords.
And he said a Labour government would raise £3.7bn for public services through a ‘windfall’ tax on the richest individuals in Scotland.
Mr Leonard, who has recommitted Labour to opposing a second Scottish independence referendum, used his first UK conference speech since becoming leader to accuse nationalists of distracting from the fight for economic equality.
“We know that the forces that threaten the life chances of children growing up by the Mersey, are the same ones that threaten the life chances of children growing up by the Clyde,” Mr Leonard said.
“So we should stop dividing people on the basis of nationality and start uniting them on the basis of class.”
Adding that he “fully intends” to become the next First Minister of Scotland despite questions about his Yorkshire background, Mr Leonard added: “The real division in our society is not between Scotland and England, it is between those people who own the wealth and those people who through their hard work and endeavour create the wealth.”
He confirmed plans to impose a windfall tax on the richest 10 per cent of Scots, as well as redirecting state aid money to firms like recently-defunct Burntisland Fabrications, in order to retrain workforces and retool industrial sites.
Labour pointed to figures from Scottish Enterprise showing that since coming to power, the SNP have handed out £222.6m in Regional Selective Assistance (RAS) to foreign-owned companies, compared to £140.7m that has gone to Scottish-owned firms.
The total amount of RAS has also fallen by 80 per cent since 2007.
On land reform, Mr Leonard said Labour had “unfinished business”, and said he would consider plans for a land value tax, a cap on beneficial interest, and a residency requirement for absentee landlords as part of a “radical” Land Reform Act.
“Labour abolished feudalism in the first term of the Scottish Parliament, but twenty years later we are still living with feudal ownership, with four hundred and thirty-two private landowners still owning a half of all privately owned land in Scotland,” the Scottish Labour leader said.
“With ownership comes power. We need land justice because our earth is a common treasury. We need land ownership in Scotland, for the many not the few.”
The SNP claimed Labour’s proposed windfall tax would hit pensioners hardest.