Scottish Labour unveils plan to ‘transform’ Scottish economy

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Mr Leonard said the pandemic should be a “turning point” for the country’s economy and environment

About 130,000 jobs could be created by transforming Scotland’s economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Scottish Labour’s leader.

Richard Leonard said a “Green new deal” was needed to tackle both the economic crisis and climate crisis.

His proposals include building 12,000 council homes each year and investing £100m in new electric buses.

He also wants to employ and train a new workforce to restore the natural environment and tackle climate change.

In a speech broadcast online, Mr Leonard said the pandemic should mark a “turning point in the direction of Scotland’s economy and its environmental impact”.

He added: “We cannot afford to return to business as usual – instead a green and just recovery must focus on tackling the economic crisis and the climate crisis at the same time.

“In Scotland we are blessed with an abundance of natural resources. We also have the will to change and to make things better.

“So we must bring together all sectors and sections of our society, harnessing all our natural resources, all our workforce skills, and all our ambition to create a greener better future for us all.”

Mr Leonard’s other proposals include:

  • Improving all homes to at least Energy Performance Certificate C energy efficiency standard by 2030, and to be zero-carbon by 2045
  • A new Land and Communities Development Agency to employ and train thousands of workers to carry out the work
  • Expanding domestic renewable energy production to meet 200% of the county’s electricity needs by 2030
  • A major reforestation plan and a plan to restore degraded peatland
  • A £500m Just Transition Fund to “assist workers and businesses with the realities of transition”
  • Investing £200m in rolling out electric vehicle charging points
  • Expanding free bus passes to the under-25s as well as the over-60s

Mr Leonard said that “bold” proposals for housing, energy, infrastructure, environmental restoration and transport would create “up to 131,000 new jobs” in total.

He added: “Scotland faces a major economic and unemployment crisis.

“Creating quality, well-paid jobs for good will be crucial not just to our recovery but to equipping our workforce – especially young workers – with the skills and opportunities they will need throughout their working lives.”

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Labour’s proposals include restoring Scotland’s peatlands

The proposals for the party’s Green New Deal were drawn up by economist Laurie Macfarlane, and will form a key part of Scottish Labour’s manifesto ahead of the Scottish Parliament election in May.

Mr Leonard said he the election would be a chance for his party to “win the fight for a fairer Scotland, a greener Scotland, a better Scotland”.

And he accused the Scottish government of failing vulnerable older people in care homes during the pandemic, saying: “Only 0.7% of the population live in our care homes, but almost 50% of all Covid-19 deaths have been in care homes”.

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Almost half of Scotland’s coronavirus deaths have happened in care homes

Mr Leonard said those responsible for moving some patients from hospitals to care homes after they had tested positive for the virus “must face justice if necessary in a court of law”.

He said it was time to accept once and for all that the country’s “fragmented” care system was broken, and that a National Care Service should be created.

  • What went wrong in Scotland’s care homes?

Mr Leonard said this could create 25,000 quality jobs, and ensure that the care service was no longer treated by the Scottish government as a “poor relation of the NHS”.

He added: “The way we value our older citizens says a lot about the kind of society that we are. It is time to care about care and restore dignity to our care system.”

The Scottish Greens claimed that Mr Leonard had copied its policies in his speech and attempted to pass them off as his own idea.

The party’s co-leader, Lorna Slater, said: “The truth is Scottish Labour have no new ideas. Recycling Scottish Green ideas and trying to pass them off as their own won’t impress the public.”

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