Labour has 'real' commitment in austerity fight, Jeremy Corbyn says


New Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said his party, unlike the SNP, has a "real" commitment to fighting austerity.

The veteran left-winger made his first visit to Scotland since being elected to the job and said it was his party that would "protect the poorest and most vulnerable people in Scotland".

Labour was virtually wiped out in Scotland in May's general election, with just one MP elected north of the border compared to 41 in 2010.

With opinion polls showing Nicola Sturgeon's SNP well ahead in the run-up to next year's Holyrood elections, he said the party was focusing on that vote as it attempts to rebuild.

Mr Corbyn would not say how well Labour could do in that vote - but he said his anti-austerity stance should appeal to voters.

He told Press Association Scotland that things are "very promising", adding: "The Labour Party membership in Scotland is the biggest it has been for many, many, many years. Members are joining all the time and every day.

"UK-wide, the party has recruited 60,000 members in the 16 days since I was elected leader of the party, we're a growing, active, very energetic organisation, and I believe we're going to grow and continue to gain that support, and we will do as well as we possibly can in the elections.

"I'm not going to make any wild predictions, but we're going to do lot of campaigning and point out what really matters to people is housing, is education, jobs, opportunities, and opposing what the Tories are doing in the Welfare Reform Bill, and doing our best to get sufficient powers to the Scottish Parliament to try to reduce the impact of the disastrous welfare reform bill on the people of Scotland, that's our function, that's our purpose."

While the SNP won an unprecedented 56 of the 59 Scottish seats in the recent Westminster election after campaigning on an anti-austerity ticket, Mr Corbyn insisted: "We mean it, we're doing it because we mean it.

"We've learned the lessons of the economic strategies of the past and the way they haven't worked, it does mean rebalancing our economy, it does mean maintaining the 50p top rate of tax, it does mean not cutting the tax credits for the poorest people in our society.

"We want to invest in a growing, expanding economy across the UK and we fully support the powers in the Scotland Bill, and we are going to be working very closely with the Labour Party in Scotland to try and defend the people of Scotland from the worst effects of the Trade Union Bill and, of course, the Welfare Reform Bill."

He stated: "Our party has a great past and a great tradition and great values. None of that tradition, none of those values have gone away, the demands of the current century are about protecting people who are in insecure work, often self-employed, often working for small businesses. All of them deserve equal protection.

"The Tories are not offering any of that , no Tory government is offering that. We are offering that, we are a party that wants to support people in those situations."

Mr Corbyn spoke out after having talks at Holyrood with new Scottish Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale and party MSPs.

He told journalists outside the Scottish Parliament: "We're doing great, party membership is going up after my first conference as leader and things are going really well."

He has already insisted there is "no question" of him treating Scottish Labour as a "branch office"  - an accusation levelled by former leader Johann Lamont against party bosses in London.

Prior to his arrival in Edinburgh, he stated: "Kezia Dugdale is leader of our party in Scotland and I will be working alongside her to win back support for Labour."