Scotland politics

Scottish Labour conference 2015: Jeremy Corbyn urges Scots to vote for change

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Media captionJeremy Corbyn says the proposed changes to give the Scottish Labour Party greater autonomy is a response to the Scotland Bill

Labour's UK leader Jeremy Corbyn has urged voters in Scotland to back a "left wing alternative" at next May's Holyrood election.

He made the plea during a speech to the Scottish Labour conference in Perth.

Mr Corbyn also said it was right that decisions about the party north of the border should be taken by members and activists in Scotland.

He has signed an agreement with Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale pledging a more autonomous structure.

In a direct message to voters in Scotland, Mr Corbyn said that those who were not happy with rising inequality, rising child poverty and widening health inequalities should vote Labour.


by Brian Taylor, BBC Scotland political editor

The audience seemed unconcerned at the economic dog that declined to bark in Mr Corbyn's speech.

They loved his insistence that the Scottish party will have relative autonomy over their own affairs, while remaining in the wider Labour family. To be clear, his speech went down very well in the hall.

In which respect, there was another interesting development today. Members were asked to select topics to debate on Sunday. They voted to give top billing to the issue of Trident.

It is plainly the expectation that the conference will vote to oppose Trident's renewal. Both Kezia Dugdale and Jeremy Corbyn emphasised that any money saved from scrapping Trident would be used to help redeploy workers on the Clyde.

Read more from Brian

The electorate in Scotland goes to the polls on 5 May next year to choose their MSPs. Labour currently has 38 of the 129 elected representatives at Holyrood.

Mr Corbyn said: "Friends, if you want socialist change, if you want a left wing alternative, you have to vote for it.

"If you're satisfied that nearly a million people in Scotland are in fuel poverty or that half of all housing in Scotland falls short of official quality standards, then Labour isn't for you.

"But if you're not content, if you won't walk by on the other side, then vote for a party next May that is a democratic socialist party in both our words and our deeds. Vote Labour."

The MP admitted that his party had not always kept up with the changing politics of the UK.

Mr Corbyn said: "When the Scotland Bill goes through the House of Commons, the UK will become one of the most devolved nations in the world.

"The Labour Party needs to change to respond to that, and respond to the way we now do politics.

"That is why it is right that decisions about Scottish Labour will be taken by the members and activists of the Scottish Labour Party."

'Radical tradition'

Mr Corbyn set out his vision for Scotland and the UK as he called for the "sunshine of socialism" to break through against the "narrow, nasty" politics of David Cameron's Conservatives.

And he said the "radical tradition that has always been alive in Scotland" had inspired him throughout his political career.

Mr Corbyn also criticised the record of the SNP government in Edinburgh on education and the NHS - both areas which are devolved to Scotland.

He condemned an "education system where 6,000 children a year leave primary school unable to read properly and there are 4,000 fewer teachers in Scotland's classrooms".

And he said public spending watchdogs at Audit Scotland had "warned only last week of the pressure there is on our cherished NHS", with "seven out of nine targets missed and a real-terms budget cut" in Scotland.

Mr Corbyn added: "(Keir) Hardie's 'sunshine of socialism' was about allowing human freedom to break forth. But under this Scottish government it is breaking down."

The Jez and Kez show

Image copyright Reuters

By Philip Sim, BBC Scotland political reporter

He arrived in the rain, but preached the "sunshine of socialism".

There was an air of curiosity as much as excitement as Jeremy Corbyn arrived at Perth Concert Hall for the Scottish Labour conference.

In keeping with the spirit of cooperation and unity which dominated his speech, he held an umbrella for Kezia Dugdale and paused to buy a Big Issue from a man outside.

And there was a sense of Scottish Labour welcoming Mr Corbyn with open arms when members voted overwhelmingly to put Trident on the conference agenda - an issue over which he has run into more trouble with the UK-wide party.

He was given a standing ovation as he took to the stage, and the "Jez and Kez" badges being dished out to delegates were much in evidence.

The biggest cheers were for shots at the Conservative government at Westminster - over the Trade Union bill and the Convention on Human Rights, in particular - but Mr Corbyn also took aim at the SNP, attacking the Scottish government's record on education, health and employment.

Mr Corbyn made a pitch to people "alienated" from politics, and much of Labour's message at the conference so far has been directed at former supporters, urging voters to "take a fresh look" at the party.

The delegates assembled in Perth seem enthused - but in truth the real importance for Scottish Labour is how their message is going down with those who are not present.

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