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Scotland can be the fairest nation on earth

This opinion piece is over 9 years old

Poverty scars our communities, in May we can begin to build the fairest nation on earth, says Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy

The growth of food banks and the imposition of the bedroom tax on our vulnerable are two of the most potent symbols of David Cameron’s five year term as Prime Minister - a government that cut the living standards of working class families while giving tax cuts to billionaires.

The clear choice facing us on May 7th is between another five years of Tory austerity, or Labour's plan to end Tory austerity, deliver social justice and spend more by using fair taxes.

A decade of Tory austerity would be a disaster for Scotland, especially for the most vulnerable our communities. We know that the main drivers of food bank usage has been welfare reform and low incomes, despite this the Tories are planning £12 billion cuts in welfare but won’t say where the axe will fall.

A Labour Government has a plan to end the need for food banks in Scotland – and it starts by abolishing the bedroom tax.
 By abolishing the bedroom tax we will free up £35 million in the Scottish budget, adding up to £175 million over five years.

We will use that money to establish a Scottish Anti-Poverty fund for those who, through no fault of their own, fall through the cracks.

We’ll use that fund in various ways, like extending Scottish Welfare Fund crisis grants for people in emergency situations, as well as deliver support for financial and other advice services to be based at food banks so Scots know their rights and don’t end up driven back to using food handouts.

We will abolish targets on welfare sanctions and tax the profits of the legal loan sharks and put the money into credit unions and other sources of low-cost credit as a way to building a fairer economy.

The way to tackle poverty is by raising living standards – a hard day’s work should come with a fair day’s pay

The way to tackle poverty is by raising living standards – a hard day’s work should come with a fair day’s pay, and someone who works regular hours should have the right to a regular contract. That’s why we will increase the minimum wage, extend the living wage and ban exploitative zero hours contracts.

Making work pay is just the start - we also need to realise that household costs for thousands of Scots isn’t some inconvenience, it’s driving them into poverty. So we will cap energy prices and ban rip off rent rises in private sector tenancies.

Labour will tax those who can afford to pay a little more. We’ll use revenues generated from a mansion tax on properties worth over £2 million to increase investment in our NHS. We’ll tax bankers’ bonuses to guarantee more opportunities for our young people.

Labour’s mission is to battle poverty. We are the party of social justice. 
Our plan for the economy is based on a simple truth: Scotland succeeds when working people succeed.

In May we can kick the Tories out. But only a Labour Government is big enough to do it, a vote for anyone else, simply risks a decade of Tory austerity, and failure.

Jim Murphy is leader of the Scottish Labour Party