Holyrood must recapture radical spirit of devolution, says Leonard

Holyrood must look to recapture the radical spirit of devolution 20 years ago, according to Richard Leonard.

Speaking two decades on from when the first elections to the Scottish Parliament took place, Mr Leonard said the parliament has too often been distracted by questions on the constitution.

The Scottish Labour leader said his party would rededicate itself to a radical social and economic agenda if elected to government in Edinburgh, having been voted out of office following the Scottish elections in May 2007.

“Labour delivered a Scottish Parliament, and the next Scottish Labour government will implement the most radical economic and social agenda in the history of devolution,” said Mr Leonard.

“We will rededicate ourselves to realising the radical vision politicians like Donald Dewar and John Smith had for our parliament.

“The early years of devolution saw real action from Labour on land reform, scrapping tuition fees, introducing the smoking ban and the free bus pass.

“Recent years have seen great strides in equalities legislation like equal marriage. But too often in recent years the parliament has been distracted by constitutional debate rather than real action on the issues people care about, like jobs, schools and hospitals.

“Meanwhile, the use of the new powers over tax and social security have been far too timid, the wealth and incomes of the richest have soared in the past decade, and one in four children are growing up in poverty.

“That makes me even more determined to win power to bring about real change. To make the richest pay their fair share to build a fairer society for all of us.”

SNP MSP Bruce Crawford accused Mr Leonard’s party and the Scottish Conservatives of “failing to stand up for devolution”.

He said: “In the 20 years since devolution, the Scottish Parliament has made great progress on a number of issues.

“The ability to take positive decisions to improve the lives of people in Scotland, in a Parliament which is accessible and ready to listen, has made our country a better place.

“While we’ve managed to take better decisions in devolved areas, the status quo of the Westminster system has failed Scotland, and led to disastrous consequences like Brexit. Any pretence Scotland will be treated as an equal partner in the UK has long gone.

“It is now clearer than ever why it is time to complete our journey towards independence. At a time when Labour and the Tories are failing to stand up for devolution, Scotland must have the right to make our own decisions.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie called for unity.

He said: “At its beginning, the Parliament was a force for unity and shared endeavour. It is such a disappointment to so many that the goodwill of 20 years has been squandered by the forces for division on extremes in the Brexit and independence debates.

“The days of unity of 1999 could teach us something in 2019.

“The public want politicians to put the constitutional divisions behind us, unite for a better country and focus on getting our public services back on track. That’s the task we face today.”

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