Richard Leonard sets out ‘vision of hope’ to be First Minister

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Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has set the ambitious goal of becoming First Minister in three years by winning the Holyrood election – and winning back the votes of working class Scots.

He warned that the SNP’s Growth Commission’s plans effectively hands away “sovereignty” to Westminster by giving up key fiscal and monetary controls.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard with new deputy Lesley Laird. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard with new deputy Lesley Laird. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Mr Leonard was making a keynote speech in Glasgow’s City Halls yesterday as Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP Lesley Laird was confirmed as his new deputy north of the border. Mr Leonard described her election as a “statement of intent” for the party in Scotland.

“Our goal is not only to win Scotland back to Labour in 2021, it is to win Scotland back to Labour at the next general election too, and so return Jeremy Corbyn to Downing Street,” he said.

“The Scottish Labour party under our leadership will never forget those working class trade union roots.

“Because the scale of our challenge, the challenge for all of us in this room is to rebuild a Scottish Labour party which appeals to working people and trade unionists once again.”

He added: “From its very beginning the labour movement was not a nationalist movement but part of a worldwide movement with a cause which is global.”

He once again attacked the recent SNP Growth Commission which has sparked a backlash among left-wingers in the nationalist movement over its plans for public spending curbs in the first decade of independence.

“In reality is a cuts commission – it contains a vision of Scotland that the people of Scotland do not want. A vision of another wasted decade, with people living, surviving, many struggling under the dogma of a deficit reduction plan.”

Only Labour offers a “vision of hope” for Scotland.

He added: “We need to stop dividing people on the basis of nationality and start uniting people on the basis of class.”

A snap UK election was also predicted when the final deal on Brexit is “almost certainly be voted down in parliament”.

The Labour leader added: “At which point I think there will be a constitutional crisis which will, in turn, pave the way for a UK general election. That general election, I will be confident I would want to see Jeremy Corbyn returned as prime minister and Lesley Laird returned as secretary of state for Scotland.”

An SNP spokesman said Scottish Labour is “hopelessly consumed by chaos and conflicting positions on Brexit”.

He said: “It is the SNP government in Scotland, and in opposition in Westminster, that is stepping up to the mark and working to protect the 
economy, jobs and the livelihoods of families across the country.”