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Kezia Dugdale determined to make Scottish Labour 'fit for the future'

Published 30/10/2015

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said 'a new generation of leadership has taken up the challenge of renewing our party'
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said 'a new generation of leadership has taken up the challenge of renewing our party'

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale is set to insist she can make the party "fit for the future" and one that voters can "put their trust in once again".

Labour members are gathering in Perth for their first conference since the party suffered a devastating defeat in the general election.

In Scotland they lost all but one of the 41 seats they had held previously to the SNP, with sole surviving Scottish MP Ian Murray due to address the conference on Friday.

New UK leader Jeremy Corbyn will also make a key speech to the party, which has just over six months to turn things around before next May's Holyrood election.

Ms Dugdale, who will also use the conference to announce new plans to help more youngsters leaving care to go on to university, will say that Labour as a party is " well aware of the challenges we face" after receiving a " resounding message from the voters in May".

She will add that while that message was "painful", there is "n ow a new generation of leadership has taken up the challenge of renewing our party".

Labour is changing, she will insist, saying the party is " confident about the future" and " upbeat about the opportunities that come in a changing world".

Ms Dugdale will say: " I'm of a generation that has grown up with the Scottish Parliament as the centre of Scottish politics.

"We start this conference more ambitious for our Parliament, more upbeat about the future, more determined than ever to stand up to the Scottish establishment.

"We can be the party that people put their trust in once again.

"It won't happen overnight. But the changes we are making under my leadership will make us fit for the future."

Plans for young people leaving care to receive full grant support, worth £6,000 a year, if they make it to university will also be unveiled.

Ms Dugdale will tell a fringe event at the conference that youngsters who are in care " are some of the most vulnerable in our communities", adding that the " reality is that they are more likely to go to jail than university".

But she will say: " As children looked after by the state, we all have a responsibility to give them a better chance in life.

"They don't have parents of their own to support them, so society must step in. These are our children, we are responsible.

"When I talk about closing the gap between the richest and the rest, I am also talking about children in care.

"I want them to do anything and be anything they want to be.

"I want them to have access to the same opportunities as any other young person in Scotland.

"I want them to live in a country where their ability to get on in life is determined by their potential, work ethic and ambition - not by the hand they were dealt at an early age."

Ms Dugdale will pledge: " We will introduce full grant support, worth £6,000 a year, for looked-after young people who have the talent to go on to higher education.

"Politics is all about making choices. When we decide how to spend public money we are making clear our priorities. Giving young people the best start in life is my priority."

Speaking ahead of Mr Corbyn's speech, SNP business convener Derek Mackay MSP said: "If Mr Corbyn is serious about winning back the trust of the people of Scotland, he should join with the SNP in advancing the progressive politics he espoused during his leadership campaign - and stop allowing himself to be bullied out of his principles by the Tories and the pro-austerity voices within his own party.

"Labour in Scotland are very quickly entering the last chance saloon. Warm words from Jeremy Corbyn simply aren't enough - people in Scotland expect and deserve action.

"In his speech today, Mr Corbyn needs to give a cast-iron commitment that his entire party will join with the SNP in opposing austerity and Trident renewal and in delivering extensive new powers to the Scottish Parliament - or people in Scotland will see once and for all that Labour is simply incapable of change."

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