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SATURDAY’S resounding victory for Richard Leonard among both the membership and the affiliated supporters secures a strong mandate for his vision for the Scottish Labour Party and Scotland.
There is no doubt that members have chosen the best person to unite and lead the party to victory in 2021.
There has been recognition for some time that Labour cannot win in Scotland without change.
It is also widely acknowledged that UK Labour is unlikely to have a path back to power if we do not win the 23 or so seats where Labour is very much back in contention.
While we regained six seats in June, with respect to votes there was only a very small increase of 1 per cent in Scotland, compared to a 38 per cent increase across the rest of the UK.
Kezia Dugdale’s resignation presented an opportunity to help secure change in Scottish Labour.
Activists have recognised this as a priority especially as Theresa May’s government is on a shoogly peg and to capitalise we need a party committed to securing real change and as such assisting Jeremy Corbyn to become prime minister.
A socialist with gravitas, Leonard, thankfully, chose to stand in the leadership election.
Like Corbyn, Leonard is authentic and has consistently stuck with his values over time.
These values were instilled in him by his textile worker parents, and were developed through his experiences working at the front line of Scotland’s labour and trade union movement.
Having trained and worked as an economist, he fully understands how the economy works.
Having three decades of experience working in the Scottish labour and trade union movement, he fully understands the importance of acting collegiately to get the best outcomes for working people.
Having served on the Scottish Labour Party’s executive committee for more than two decades, he fully understands the party.
And having represented women at equal pay claims, he fully understands the need to eradicate barriers that women and minority groups face in their everyday lives.
Then, there is his symphony of socialist policies. Leonard’s ambition for his leadership is to deliver wholesale, real and radical change to tackle Scotland’s worsening economic, social and environmental problems.
Leonard recognises that this is no time to tinker around the edges and that we need a Scottish Labour Party that can build on the general election which offered a radical vision of change, extending public ownership, ending austerity and redistributing wealth and power.
During the leadership campaign, he set out very detailed policy proposals, aimed at transforming Scotland and eliminating poverty.
Moreover, Anas Sarwar agreed with many of Leonard’s policy positions; consequently, there is now a consensus established on a radical policy agenda for the Scottish Labour Party on public ownership, on tackling inequality, on progressive taxation and a redistribution of power.
Furthermore, two transformational policies that Leonard committed to are his industrial strategy and the introduction of a wealth tax. These will recalibrate some of the unbalances within the system.
The industrial strategy for Scotland will pursue a policy of full employment, herald a renaissance in manufacturing, deploy automation to improve work, not undermine workers, as part of a planned approach to economic development, combined with a workplace charter along with a values-led public procurement strategy.
These public contracts will only be awarded to organisations that meet standards. We want no blacklisters, no zero-hours contract employers, but rather Fair Tax Mark holders and with commitments to apprenticeships, pay ratios, tackling occupational segregation, paying at least the living wage and trade union recognition.
In the UK, government revenue arising from income tax and national insurance raises three times (46 per cent) as much as the combined revenue raised from companies and wealth.
Wealth taxes only account for 4 per cent, corporation taxes are 11 per cent and indirect taxes contribute 29 per cent.
Furthermore, within the Scotland Act 2012, there is provision to introduce a new devolved tax.
Reducing inequality via taxing wealth has been recommended by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the International Monetary Fund.
Thus the time has come for a wealth tax. Based on calculations from data in a Scottish government report, a 1 per cent windfall tax on the wealthiest 10 per cent would raise £3.7 billion and put wealth back to work for the economy as a whole.
These radical policies backed up by polling by Survation last month show that many more Scottish electors would vote for Scottish Labour if we had radical policies such as those offered by Leonard, who is a credible message carrier. Voters want us to move, and we must listen. Where they want us to move is where Leonard has stood his whole life.
In his acceptance speech, he stated: “With this new movement for real change, energised with this new generation helping to lead it.
But founded on our old and enduring idealism too. That is the unity we can rally around, not simply a call for unity but around a renewed unity of purpose. And our shared purpose is clear, to build again, to win again.”
So there was much to celebrate on Saturday and as we now move on to the next step, activists are looking forward to talking about our radical plans for Scotland and the UK with voters. And with Leonard and Corbyn giving a good, straight lead until the sunshine of socialism breaks forth upon our land, this will be done with a spring in our step.
Lesley Brennan is Scottish Executive Committee CLP representative for the North East of Scotland and the Highlands and Islands and Campaign for Socialism vice-chair.
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