Scotland politics

Scottish Labour conference: Party to target list seats at Holyrood

Labour conference
Image caption Brian Roy told delegates the party had not placed enough emphasis on list seats in the past

Scottish Labour has said it will focus on winning regional list seats at Holyrood as it fights to remain the official opposition to the SNP.

Opinion polls have suggested the party faces a strong challenge for second place from the Conservatives in May's election.

The party's general secretary, Brian Roy, said the election would "not be a traditional key seat campaign".

He was speaking at Scottish Labour's conference in Glasgow.

Of the 129 MSPs who will be elected on 5 May, 73 will represent constituencies across Scotland, with the remaining 56 selected from party regional lists.

Mr Roy told the conference that the party's "limited resources" meant it had to be "smarter about how we campaign and who we target".

He added: "We have learned the mistake of the past when we did not place enough importance on the regional list votes and did not organise effectively on that basis.

"So we have established strong regional campaign structures to allow organising, messaging and resources to be deployed more efficiently and more effectively.

"We have appointed eight regional campaign chairs to oversee the campaign in their areas. If we are to maximise our number of MSPs we need to redress the gradual decline in our regional vote share compared to that of our constituency."

'Same mistakes'

Despite Labour's fall in support in recent years, Mr Roy insisted it was the only party that could "stop the SNP having it all their own way", with the nationalists seemingly on course to win another majority in the Scottish Parliament.

He hit out at the SNP, who have been in power at Holyrood since 2007, saying that after "nearly a decade in power, they haven't delivered the kind of change that Scotland needs".

Mr Roy claimed: "They are, frankly, making the same kind of mistakes Labour used to make, taking voters for Scotland in granted."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Iain Duncan Smith quit the UK government cabinet on Friday night

Later, the party's deputy leader used his speech to the conference to say the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith must lead to the ending of "attacks" on disabled people.

Alex Rowley referred to the resignation of the work and pensions secretary as he criticised Conservative economic policies.

Mr Duncan Smith resigned on Friday night after saying the latest planned cuts to disability benefits were "not defensible" in a budget that benefited higher-earning taxpayers.

'More unfairness'

He has been replaced by Stephen Crabb, who had been the secretary of state for Wales.

Mr Rowley told delegates that the chancellor had not only done nothing to address inequality in his budget, but had "created even more unfairness by delivering tax cuts for the better off and spending cuts for everyone else".

The Cowdenbeath MSP added: "If you don't believe me, then ask Iain Duncan Smith. Duncan Smith has gone, but the attacks on the disabled must go - and indeed the Tories themselves must go. That must be our message."

Mr Rowley admitted that Labour had "a great deal of work to do" in order to persuade people to vote for the party.

Image caption Mr Rowley urged delegates at the Scottish Conference to "hold your heads up high"

But he said the divide between the political parties in Scotland had "never been clearer", with the SNP "doing nothing for the poor, while the Conservatives make the position of the poor worse".

He insisted it was Labour that was looking to fulfil its "historic mission" to eradicate poverty and unemployment, with the party spelling out how it would use the new taxation powers being devolved to Holyrood to achieve a "better, more fairer Scotland".

And he urged delegates to "hold your heads high", adding: "The Tories will fight against the poor - we will fight against poverty. The SNP will do nothing for the unemployed - we will fight unemployment."

Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary also told delegates that he was not buying the notion that Mr Duncan Smith had "discovered a conscience" and questioned whether Mr Crabb would deliver for disabled people.

They were speaking ahead of a keynote address by Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, who was due to unveil proposals to boost funding for primary health care.

She will also pledge that everyone in Scotland would be entitled to a GP appointment within 48 hours if her party forms the next Scottish government.