Scotland politics

Scottish Labour conference: Johann Lamont pledges to work with SNP

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Media captionJohann Lamont: "I grew up in Anderson in Glasgow, but my heart was in Tiree."

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has pledged to work with the SNP government to protect the poor and vulnerable.

In an emotional address to her party's spring conference, she spoke about her family and the Scotland she grew up in.

The MSP explained that she wanted to expand childcare and boost education as "an economic imperative".

Ms Lamont admitted that the party had been wounded at the polls, but new life had now been breathed into it.

She said: "Our party is changing, changing how we do policy, changing how we communicate, changing how we select our candidates."

Ms Lamont criticised the Scottish government for putting the country "on hold" until after the independence referendum on 18 September 2014.

But then she made an offer to work with ministers on social justice issues.

The politician told the conference: "On the bedroom tax - they [Scottish government] don't see it as an opportunity to show devolution can protect Scots from Tory government, not a chance to help people, instead they see it as an opportunity to be aggrieved.

"I ask them to abandon that now. I pledge to work with the SNP to protect the poor and vulnerable from the injustice of the bedroom tax - we can protect them and we must.

"Scotland can stand united against the Tory cuts and I call upon the SNP to work with us.

"If they truly believe in social justice, we can work together."

Turning to the issue of education, Ms Lamont told the gathering: "When we go into the next Scottish election we will have plans not just to change education over one term but a vision which will look forward 20 years.

"Because if our schools, colleges and universities are to be the best in the world, we need that length of time. And we will not pay for opportunity for some while denying opportunity for others.

"The savaging of the college system to fund universities has been a disgrace.

"I want and we need a Scotland which does education for all.

"This is not just a matter of social justice, it is also an economic imperative in a fast-changing world.

Image caption Johann Lamont delivered her emotional speech to party activists in Inverness

"Let others talk of an oil boom. Our greatest resource will always be our people and if we are to give people the chance to fulfil their potential, it is a second education boom we need in Scotland."

Labour wants to extend provision for all two-year-olds, rather than just those who are in care.

Ms Lamont said that if Mr Salmond was serious about supporting "the families who are struggling with childcare costs" then he should make it "happen now".

She added: "I challenge Alex Salmond to meet me next week and to bring his budget - And I will work with him to ensure we can deliver the childcare that a modern family needs.

"We have worked up proposals. I am sure he has too."

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