James Kelly - Conference 18
James Kelly - Conference 18
Speech from Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Constitution

James Kelly MSP to Scottish Labour Conference

Dundee, Saturday 10 March 2018

Conference, comrades and Friends.

We are enjoying a great conference with exciting speeches from Lesley, Richard and Jeremy.

I want to thank Claudia Beamish for her motivating speech and pay tribute to Claudia for her outstanding work as Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Environment Climate Change and Land Reform.

Stewart Lansley, our opening speaker gave a very interesting insight into the challenges we face in the Scottish Economy.

There can be no doubt that delegates have been fired up by Labour’s bold and radical agenda and the case for change has never been stronger.


As brought out by the excellent speeches in the debate, Scotland faces some big challenges.

We want a strong economy rooted in fairness which supports jobs and fair wages.

Allied to that we need investment in public services to produce the skills we need for the 21st century.

That will bolster the manufacturing base highlighted by Gary Smith of the GMB.

We also need a strong and robust energy policy as highlighted by my colleague Claudia Beamish.

That is why at this conference Scottish Labour has spelled out a bold plan because positive action is required if we are going to turn this country around.

This is needed more than ever when we look at the disastrous record of the parties of government – the Tories and the SNP.


Under the SNP, after 10 years in power the economy has begun to slide.

The thing about the SNP is they like to talk about the issues but you when you point out difficult facts like more homeless, people on the streets and more kids living in poverty, they shrug their
shoulders and say – ‘what do you expect us to do about it?’.

They have become mangers of the economy bogged down in their spreadsheets losing all sight of people’s problems.


The Tories tells us they are all for economic growth.

But their political ideas for Scotland are modelled on Donald Trump.

Low taxes and drained public services and if you are left on the streets homeless, the Tories don’t even care.

They seem to forget that if we want engineers that will be the James Watts of the 21st century, if we want IT to experts to flourish in cities like Dundee,

We need to make that investment in Education now.

You don’t create a 21st century economy by taking classroom assistants out of the classroom – you don’t build a hi-tech economy by cutting the number of teachers.


That is why at the recent Scottish budget round Scottish Labour put forward an alternative budget.

A budget is not just about adding up the money and balancing the books – it is about values and how you use that budget to make political change.

At the heart of out proposals is a £960m investment plan.

If we are going to turn round the problems in the country

We need:
• Investment in public services to stop the £386m black hole in council funding.
• Support for the NHS to stop the scandal of cancelled operations and non-available GP appointments
• Properly fund pay rises. We won’t do a Derek Mackay and announce a pay policy, close our eyes and hope that it will happen.
• We will stop the scandal of child benefit. A modern country should not have 260,000 children living in poverty.

To do this, we will ask people in better off jobs to pay more tax.

We think it is right that MSPs should see their tax bill increase. That CEOs should help pay for more classroom assistants.

The SNP are great about telling us how progressive they are but look at their attitude on the 50p rate. They are all talk – but when it comes to the crunch, when they have put their money where their mouth is, the platitude melt away and the bottle factor kicks in.

The reality is that when it comes to putting your money where your mouth is 9 times in row the SNP have voted against a 50p top rate of tax.

Our tax policy will be set to benefit care workers in Cambuslang rather than bankers in Bearsden.


To support that investment we need an economy with the right priorities rooted in fairness.

We need to fight to retain the jobs at BiFab.

Local communities cannot afford to be devastated by job losses. The potential loss of 450 jobs at the 2 Sisters plant in Cambuslang would be a hammer blow to the local community. We must
support the local campaign keep the jobs in the local area.

A proper industrial strategy can also be engine that fuels the economy.

We also need an economy rooted in fairness.
Trade union right and fair pay should be at the heart of that programme
How we treat people says a lot about the type of country we are. It is a scandal that 342,000 people in Scotland are still not being paid the real living wage, 270,000 of who are woman.

Conference, this weekend Labour is setting a bold alternative that will take the country forward.

We go forward from this conference with an agenda that will support public services, give our young kids in education proper opportunities and build a growing economy rooted in fairness.

Conference let’s make that difference, let’s support that radical change.
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