Scotland politics

Ed Miliband says Labour's fightback starts in Scotland

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Media captionEd Miliband: "Labour's fightback has begun"

Labour leader Ed Miliband has rallied supporters ahead of next May's Scottish Parliament elections, declaring "the fightback has begun".

He told his party's Scottish conference the Holyrood poll was a "vital moment" in the rebuilding of Labour's fortunes following its UK election defeat.

Mr Miliband attacked Tory "Big Society" ideas and said the SNP had let down Scotland with "broken promises".

He said the Lib Dems had become "cheerleaders" for Tory cuts.

Labour is hoping to win back power at the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections, following the SNP's victory by one seat in 2007.

Mr Miliband told delegates at the conference in Oban the economic crisis had taught the country it was "stronger together and weaker apart".

He said the debate had changed since the financial crisis, adding: "Narrow Nationalism has nothing to offer the challenges of the 21st Century."

The SNP, Mr Miliband said, had broken promises on tackling class sizes, student debt and giving help to first-time buyers.

"They claim an independence referendum is a referendum on jobs," he said.

"Let's make next May's election a referendum on the job they have done for the people of Scotland."

Voluntary sector

Painting Labour as the party of "optimism" and his opponents as "pessimists", Mr Miliband launched a strong attack on Prime Minister David Cameron's Big Society project, which seeks to empower communities and encouraging volunteerism.

Mr Miliband asked: "What does it really amount to?"

"They think if government gets out of the way, the big society will miraculously spring up in its place."

The Labour leader said the voluntary sector had increased because government had supported it, while accusing the Tories of coming into politics to make cuts.

"The Big Society is one big fig leaf for an old pessimistic idea - that people do better on their own," he said.

He added: "We know, and this is a hard lesson, that government can be overbearing.

"We also know that the right and best kind of government can support people to take control of their own lives."

Turning to the Conservatives' coalition partners, Mr Miliband said Lib Dems Nick Clegg and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander had taken "just five short months to undermine 150 years of Liberal tradition".

"Have they no shame?" he asked.

"They have become the cheerleaders for the worst things the Tory government does.

"The VAT rise? Send out a Lib Dem. Child benefit cut? Put up a Lib Dem. Housing benefit slashed? Get me a Lib Dem.

"No wonder Nick Clegg is choosing his desert island discs."

Turning to the Scottish Parliament election, Mr Miliband said the poll was "critical".

"Four more years of broken SNP promises, or a new start under (Scottish Labour leader) Iain Gray," he said.

"And it is a vital moment in Labour's rebuilding across the United Kingdom."

He went on: "We are ready to take our case to the people of Scotland. We are ready to take on the pessimists.

"There is an alternative.

"Based on our values - an optimistic future for Scotland."

Mr Miliband told the conference: "Labour's fightback has begun. We are ready for the fight.

"Let's fight for the people we came into politics to serve. Let's stand up for Scotland. Let's fight to win."

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