Scotland politics

Jeremy Corbyn says 'flags don't build houses' in attack on SNP

Jeremy Corbyn Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Corbyn is due to visit Scotland next Thursday

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has accused the SNP of saying they are against austerity while pursuing policies which continue it.

Mr Corbyn also told the BBC's Andrew Marr that "flags don't build houses".

And he said he would not campaign against Scottish independence alongside David Cameron ahead of any future referendum.

The SNP said Mr Corbyn's comments were "ill-informed" and "betray how little he knows about Scotland".

'Privatising services'

And it said Mr Corbyn's party remained "firmly on the side of the Tories" when it came to issues such as devolving powers to create jobs, protect trade union rights and to "protect Scots from Tory welfare cuts".

Speaking as the annual Labour conference got under way in Brighton, Mr Corbyn told the Marr Show that the SNP had a "headline" of being opposed to austerity.

But he claimed the party was also "privatising CalMac, also were behind the privatisation of ScotRail, also cutting college places, also privatising services, also cutting local government funding" - claims which have been strongly denied by the SNP.


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Image copyright Calmac

The SNP has pointed out that the tendering processes for Scotland's rail and ferry services were in place long before it took power in the Scottish Parliament, which it says is powerless to change them.

The latest ferry contract has not yet been awarded, with the Scottish government-owned CalMac bidding against private firm Serco as part of the tendering process, which is required under EU law.

ScotRail was privatised as part of the UK government's privatisation of British Rail in the 1990s. The Scottish government awarded the latest contract to run the franchise to Abellio, which is owned by the Dutch government, last year.


Mr Corbyn added: "Yes they (the SNP) have an austerity badge, but where is the economic strategy behind it which doesn't either continue the austerity that is happening now, or if they go for fiscal devolution is going to be even worse in Scotland because of the price of oil at the present time?"

Many within Scottish Labour believe it was a mistake for the party to agree to become part of the Better Together campaign alongside the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats ahead of last year's independence referendum.

And Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale announced last week that she would not stop the party's MPs and MSPs campaigning for independence if there was another referendum.

Mr Corbyn said he "will not be standing alongside David Cameron" to oppose independence, but would instead be "standing alongside Kezia Dugdale and the Scottish Labour Party."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Many Scottish Labour activists were unhappy that the party agreed to be a part of Better Together alongside the Conservatives

He said Labour's membership numbers had "gone up incredibly" in Scotland both during and since the party's leadership contest.

He added: "If you are poor in Glasgow or you are poor in Birmingham - you are poor. If you need a house in Glasgow or you need a house in London - you need a house, and so there is the class politics issue of it.

"That is the message I am taking when I am campaigning in Scotland just as much as I am campaigning anywhere else. Flags don't build houses".

Mr Corbyn also admitted he faces a battle to persuade his shadow cabinet to back him on scrapping nuclear weapons.

A motion calling for Labour delegates to discuss whether Trident should be scrapped failed to get the support it needed at the conference, meaning the issue will not now be debated.

He is expected to visit Scotland on Thursday for what will be the first time since he became Labour leader.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Labour remains divided over the future of the UK's Trident nuclear armed submarines, which are based in Scotland

The SNP's Westminster leader Angus Robertson said the new Labour leadership had "already eagerly signed up to George Osborne's fiscal charter", which he said showed that "they are still running scared of the Tories - and that only the SNP can be trusted to stand up to Tory cuts."

Mr Robertson added: "Mr Corbyn also seems completely unaware that the tendering processes for both rail and ferry services were in place long before the SNP took power - and that the Scottish Parliament is powerless to change them.

"Mr Corbyn's comments show that Labour may have changed the messenger, but they clearly haven't changed their dismal, negative message."

The Conservative government's business secretary, Sajid Javid, said: "The Labour leader confirmed that he would weaken our defences by scrapping our independent nuclear deterrent and that he would damage our economy by putting up taxes on jobs, earnings, investment and people's homes.

"This shows the Labour Party are a serious risk to our national security, our economic security and to the security of all working people."

'Correct things'

Meanwhile, Ms Dugdale claimed that the days of her party "listening and not acting" are over when she addressed the Labour conference on Sunday afternoon.

She also pledged to fight next year's Holyrood election with a vision that sets Labour apart from the SNP.

Ms Dugdale said: "More and more people are starting to question the record of the SNP government, and are coming to the conclusion that our public services are not what they should be.

"Scotland needs a strong Labour Party and a strong opposition to the Scottish government, because for eight years the SNP government have had the chance to change our schools, change our hospitals, change our country for the better.

"But the truth is they haven't. The gap between the richest and the rest in our schools has grown, with children from the most deprived backgrounds less likely to succeed than their well off classmates.

"And if they do manage to get the grades they need to go to university, they face the lowest levels of student support anywhere in the United Kingdom."

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