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Scottish politics Leonard pledges radical change to get Labour on top

Scottish Labour leadership hopefuls Anas Sarwar and Richard Leonard made their pitches to party conference delegates in Brighton yesterday.

Mr Leonard said Scotland needed “radical and fundamental change.”

He argued: “Labour is in third position in Scotland and that’s why we have to be audacious,” adding: “The economy and industry frankly need less market and a bit more planning.

“Renewable energy was supposed to bring a Saudi Arabia-style jobs bonanza, but it just isn’t there.

“We need to plan, invest, get the skills in place for the next generation.”

Mr Leonard, a veteran socialist, has won the backing of every trade union to have declared for a candidate in the contest so far, including TSSA, Aslef, Unite and Usdaw.

He is also a supporter of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, while Mr Sarwar last year signed an open letter from MSPs demanding that the Labour leader resign.

However, Mr Leonard dismissed a suggestion by hustings chair Torcuil Crichton — the Westminster correspondent of  the Daily Record —  that he was a “Corbynista” and catspaw of London-based Labour.

“We need credibility and consistency,” he said, pointing to his decades of work in the Scottish movement.

Mr Sarwar was forced on the defensive over his 2014 decision to send his children to a private school and the refusal of the Sarwar family firm, in which he had a multimillion-pound stake, to recognise any trade union.

He responded that his decision to become a dentist rather than take a job in the company showed his commitment to public service and he had given up his shareholding in the family business.

Both candidates distanced themselves from former leader Kezia Dugdale’s call for a second EU referendum, though Mr Leonard disputed an audience comment on public ownership being impossible within the single market, arguing that a socialist programme could be advanced if the Scottish government had the courage to do so.

The candidates agreed on redistributing wealth and nationalising the railways, but not on Britain’s £100 billion Trident nuclear weapons renewal programme.

Mr Leonard said he was firmly opposed to Trident, while Mr Sarwar said he would enact the policy of the UK-wide party by going ahead with the renewal.


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