Questions of Leadership PDF Print E-mail
The Scottish Left Review wrote to the two candidates to be First Minister after the Scottish Election. We put six questions to them and asked them either to answer each individually or give us a statement. This is what we received.

SNP leader Alex Salmond

1. What is your vision for Scottish society now that neoliberal economic policies have failed?

It is a vision of a fair, independent Scotland, free to use its own vast natural resources to benefit all of its people, and of a Scotland playing its full part on the international stage as a force for good in the wider world, adaptable to the currents of globalisation, while remaining true to our core values.

2. Will you continue to block the transfer of functions from the NHS to private commercial organisations and will you apply the same principle to local government and other areas of public service?

We believe in a publicly-owned Scottish health service, and public services run for the public good. We have absolutely no plans to copy the NHS privatisation as pursued by the previous Labour administration in Westminster and the current Tory-led coalition.

3. Will you keep Scottish Water in public ownership as at present?

Yes, and more – we plan to evolve our water resources into a major plank of our environmental, economic and humanitarian policies. The question is not how our water utility can benefit shareholders, but how can our water benefit the people.

4. Will you keep open the option of using the tax-raising powers of the Scottish Parliament (including reform of local taxes) to protect jobs and services in Scotland?

We want the Scottish Parliament to be responsible for all taxes raised in Scotland, which would allow us to ensure taxation is fair and progressive. It was deeply regrettable that the Unionist parties stood in the way of our proposed large retail levy, which would have been paid by only the very largest business rate premises – some two per cent of the total – and would have raised £30m to help public services.

5. Will you ask university students or graduates to pay directly for their education?

No, we believe in the right to free education, and restored that touchstone principle abolishing the Graduate Endowment.

6. Will you support a programme to reduce the pay inequality in the public sector and where possible bring pressure on the private sector to do the same?

Yes, and we are already acting on this by, for example, implementing a £7.15 an hour Living Wage in the public sector where we have responsibility. Since the Equal Pay Act of 1970, gender differences in pay levels have been illegal, yet a huge amount of work is still required to ensure that the same wage is paid for the same job.


 Labour Leader Iain Gray

When I was a teacher in the early 80s I went to work in Mozambique and returned two years later to find the young people from my school in Gracemount had turned into the Lost Generation of the Thatcher era.

Few had hope for the future and many were condemned to long term unemployment.

We cannot let that happen again under this Tory led government.

That’s why jobs and apprenticeships are the focus of Labour’s campaign for the elections in May.

As part of it we will reinstate the Future Jobs Fund that was scrapped by the Tory-led government and create 10,000 places for unemployed youngsters along with an apprenticeship guarantee for all those who qualify.

Shortly after I became leader of Labour in Scottish parliament in autumn 2008 the financial crash turned upside down the neoliberal consensus of the last 30 years and it was clearer than ever that government had to play an active role in determining the purpose of our economy.

We have the levers in the Scottish parliament to take a more active role and one of my criticisms of the SNP has been their failure to use them.

When the credit crunch occurred Scottish Labour came up with a 15 point plan for government action while the SNP froze.

It should be noted that Alex Salmond was leading proponent of light touch regulation and criticised the UK Labour government for being too heavy handed and interfering.

We all know there should have been tighter regulation.

We all know that government has the lead role in protecting and providing frontline services.

But the Tory led government does not think times have changed and their attitude to the banking sector is the traditional one you’d expect from a cabinet of millionaires.

At the same time the nationalists have tried to depoliticise politics in Scotland, believing a series of populist gimmicks and manoeuvres was enough as they indulged in their constitutional obsession.

When Labour left office in 2007 Scotland’s unemployment rate was the lowest in the UK. Now after four years under the nationalist it is the highest. This is a dreadful legacy.

Meanwhile the scale of the cuts we face are too fast and too deep. This presents significant challenges for the next Scottish government and the test for whoever it is will be how to maintain values of fairness, equality and social justice.

However Labour will stay true to our values and protect the NHS and the transfer of functions to commercial organisations and will keep Scottish Water in public ownership. I have made clear there
will be no price tag on education for students, either up front or back ended.

Labour is also committed to a Living wage right across all of the public sector and will campaign to roll it out across the private sector, unlike the SNP’s limp efforts to follow suit.

I have also committed myself and ministers in a Labour government to taking a five per cent pay cut.

As for tax raising powers, it was grossly irresponsible of the SNP to relinquish the SVR against the will of the Scottish people. We would bring these powers back and they would be available if a Scottish government wished to use them.

If elected a Labour government at Holyrood will focus on what really matters to ordinary working people and not be distracted by separation from the rest of the UK.


The Keir Hardie Society

Lanarkshire-born Keir Hardie is best remembered as the founder of the Labour Party, its first leader and the Party’s first Member of Parliament.

Self educated and his politics forged by the injustice that beset him and those around him from an early age James Keir Hardie dedicated his whole life to the cause of Labour.

A trade union agitator and organiser in Lanarkshire then Ayrshire, he became a political figure of national then international prominence. A great supporter of women’s rights especially the right to vote, of peace not war and internationalism not nationalism; he toured the world preaching his gospel of socialism.

Keir Hardie was an ethical socialist who argued not just for "bread for the hungry" but for "rest for the weary" and "hope for the oppressed" too. He understood the importance of vision in politics so he set out the kind of socialist society he wanted to build: even though he knew that he was unlikely to see it realised in his lifetime. And he established Labour as an independent working class party based on the trade unions as the vehicle for achieving it. He remains for the most part uncelebrated and his work largely undiscovered that’s why we have launched a Society to "keep alive the ideas and promote the life and work of Keir Hardie": the Keir Hardie Society.

To commemorate him is not to look wistfully backwards but to remind ourselves of the necessity of unflinching principles, vision and determination in looking forward.

Membership is £10 (£4 unwaged) payable to the "Keir Hardie Society" c/o Richard Leonard, GMB Scotland, 1/3 Woodside Crescent, Glasgow G3 7UJ

For further details about the Society contact This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Or Hugh Gaffney on hugh.gaffney@

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