Iain Gray launched the Scottish Labour manifesto today with a pledge to create 250,000 new jobs.
The Scottish Labour leader unveiled a manifesto packed with spending commitments, at the heart of which was a pledge to help youth unemployment, create more training places and protect students from fees.
Mr Gray insisted that his party’s plans had all been costed and were affordable, arguing that most of the extra money needed would be found through departmental efficiency savings.
But Labour’s plans were derided as unrealistic and unaffordable by the party’s opponents.
Among the pledges made in the Labour manifesto were the following. Promises to:
* Create a Scottish Jobs Fund, creating 10,000 work placements for unemployed young people at a cost of £40 million.
* Introduce a minimum wage of £7.15 an hour, starting in the public sector, at a cost of £20 million a year.
* Give a guaranteed modern apprenticeship to everyone who wants one.
* Aim for 60,000 new green jobs in renewables by 2015.
* Double the Saltire Prize to £20 million.
* Complete the Aberdeen bypass, the M8 upgrade and the M74 interchange as well embark on continuous improvements to the A82, A1, A9, A77, A75, A95 and A96 and the M8, M73 and M74.
* Improve the Edinburgh-to-Glasgow rail service, cutting journey times to 40 minutes.
* Reinstate the halted Glasgow Airport Rail Link at a cost of £200 million.
* Create new jobs and specialised training for 1,000 teachers.
* Make sure students have to pay no tuition fees or graduate tax.
* Introduce free swimming lessons for primary school pupils.
* Restart Project Scotland.
* Widen access to music tuition.
* Protect the health budget.
* Ensure there are no compulsory redundancies in the health service.
* Halve the current cancer waiting time.
* Seek the complete abolition of hospital parking charges.
* Have no prescription charges.
* Protect frontline police jobs.
* Introduce mandatory jail sentences for knife carriers.
* Create a Victims’ Commissioner, a Victims’ Fund and a new Charter for Victims’ Rights.
* Keep short-term prison sentences.
* Start a first-foot scheme to reduce the size of deposits for first-time buyers, indemnifying mortgage payments.
* Freeze council tax for the next two years.
* Create a Housing Advisory Service.
* Create a new City Growth Fund to support cities.
* Create a Scottish Film Champion.
* Scrap the Council of Economic Advisers.
* Scrap the Scottish Futures Trust.
* Make savings in health by merging special boards and by amalgamating IT services.
* Create a single police force.
* Create a single fire service.
“The choices we make now about where we spend the money,” said Mr Gray, “and – yes – where we cut the money, will set us on our path for the next decade. The question is where we want to go together.
“By 2020 I want to create a new Scottish economy, built on high-tech engineering and modern green manufacturing. I want a flourishing private sector exporting high quality products to growing markets abroad. I want excellent public services that deal with the challenges of our aging population. I want a confident Scotland, comfortable with its place in the world, that cares for all its citizens, is proud of our past and hopeful for our future.”
And he added: “I want all of that for a reason, because there is a moral imperative to what we do. Labour believes that a more equal society is a stronger society, that one man, woman or child in poverty is an offence against us all, that our government exists not merely to govern well but to make change for the better, to progress the lot of those who have least and to make this country live up to the potential of all of its people.
“These are the principles that have guided my politics and have led me to this point, where I am asking for support for my programme to be the First Minister of a Labour Scottish Government.”
But his opponents were quick to deride the Labour manifesto.
“Iain Gray’s party threatens Scotland’s progress and Scottish jobs,” said SNP campaign director Angus Robertson. “Under an SNP Government, Scotland is the only nation in the UK with rising employment and falling unemployment. Scotland has lower youth unemployment than the rest of the UK, and Iain Gray voted AGAINST the Scottish Government’s measures to keep driving it down – such as the record 25,000 apprenticeship places this year.”
And George Lyon, for the Liberal Democrats, said: “It was the Labour party’s failure in Government that caused youth unemployment to soar. Scots will not give them a second chance to make the same mistakes again.
“Governments don’t create jobs, the private sector does. Labour’s fantasy wish-list of unbelievable jobs numbers is no substitute for a proper plan that creates the conditions for economic growth.
And he added: “Their only big idea is to lock up 4,000 more people every year in already overcrowded prisons.
“But nowhere in their manifesto does it say how they will find the money to build the four new Barlinnies needed to house them all.”
David McLetchie, for the Tories said: “One word was missing from the manifesto – sorry – for creating the financial mess and crisis facing our country.
“Labour’s wage pledge might mean a pay rise for some, but it will mean a P45 for others.
“Labour’s aspires to be the next government, but they can’t even produce a comprehensive analysis of their spending commitments for the next four years. Uncosted and incredible.”