In a few hours time, we will vote on the SNP budget. The outcome is still unclear, but I want to share Labour’s approach with you.
In the interests of Scotland and the economy, we have been constructive at every stage. We have repeatedly proposed measures which any fair-minded observer would think crucial at times like this.
Unfortunately Alex Salmond has stuck his head in the sand. The SNP prefers to block Labour’s plan than put the country first.
I fear Scotland will get left behind in the recession, and our solemn obligation is to do all we can to prevent that.
The debate around the budget has never been about the price of our votes. It is about speaking up for all of Scotland’s people.
Young people are looking for opportunities in the face of job losses. South of the border, Labour is delivering 250,000 new-start apprenticeships every year. In Scotland, the same figure should be nearly 25,000 – but the SNP will provide just 10,000.
We must never return to the youth unemployment of the eighties, so we will not stand by and watch young Scots have just a third the chance of getting a better future – and a better life.
We urge the SNP to invest new funding to retrain and help people made redundant. We want them to help rebuild our town centres and rejuvenate our high streets. We ask them to fund local hospitals and health services properly – instead they are holding back millions to find ministerial announcements.
Every measure we proposed is achievable. But the political will is simply not there. Our door remains open in the sincere hope that the SNP will today act in the interests of the Scottish people and the economy.
They have failed at every turn to do their bit and match Labour’s lead at Westminster. The only real efforts to stimulate the Scottish economy have come from the Labour government. The SNP have missed another opportunity.
What happens next?
If the budget falls today, the SNP will be forced to come back quickly to the Scottish Parliament with a budget designed in the national interest.
As usual, the SNP are scaremongering. If anyone has been guilty of irresponsible brinksmanship, it is them. For weeks they have known they need to change their budget, and for weeks done nothing.
There is an urgent and pressing requirement for the SNP to act in the national interest, and help people who are going to lose their jobs.
If they fail that test, they fail our country.
Iain Gray, Leader of the Opposition