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Labour Party 'a changed place', Jeremy Corbyn tells Unite Scotland conference

Published 16/01/2016

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is among four key speakers at the Unite Scotland conference over the weekend
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is among four key speakers at the Unite Scotland conference over the weekend

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has told Scottish voters he leads a changed party after his chief union paymaster urged the party leadership to apologise for "betraying" Scotland.

Mr Corbyn said Labour has got things wrong on many issues in the past but insisted he now leads a different party, in a speech to the first Unite Scottish policy conference.

Unite boss Len McCluskey earlier urged Labour to apologise for "betraying" Scotland to stem the drift towards the SNP which already claims two thirds of Unite's Scottish membership.

Mr Corbyn described Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale as "a fantastic leader who is rebuilding our party", in his speech to conference in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire.

In response to Mr McCluskey, Scottish Labour also stressed that "there is a new generation in charge".

Mr Corbyn attacked the SNP's "college funding cuts" and "cuts to Scottish council budgets" and urged the SNP to work with Labour to derail the Trade Union Bill designed to curtail the activities of unions.

He said: "I'm not saying that the Labour Party has never got things wrong in the past.

"It certainly has and I have been in parliament long enough to be very proud of many things that have been achieved, but also felt that we let people down in private finance initiatives and many, many other issues like that.

"But I have to say also that the Labour Party is a changed place at the present time.

"The Labour Party standing in the May elections is a different party with a renewed sense of social justice at the heart of our party."

He added: "The (Clement) Attlee government inherited a national debt four times the size of the one that George Osborne inherited in 2010.

"That government created the national health service, built hundreds of thousands of council homes and introduced a social security system.

"Today, all those institutions of fairness and opportunity built by our movement are being systematically dismantled.

"In Scotland and in England college funding is being cut (and) adult education budgets are being slashed."

He continued: "Kezia Dugdale is a fantastic leader who is rebuilding our party.

"We are fighting the Tories on tax and social security. We stopped their cuts to tax credits, we are resisting cuts to Scottish council budgets that pay for schools and social care.

"Labour councils across Scotland have pledged that they will refuse to implement the Tories' Trade Union Bill.

"We appeal to the SNP: work with us to derail this Bill."

He went on: "When the Scottish Parliament receive more powers over tax and welfare it should harness those powers to try and do its best to end austerity in Scotland and prevent people suffering the ravages of the so-called Welfare Reform Bill that is going through parliament."

Earlier, Mr McCluskey said: "The ideology of New Labour effectively alienated large swathes of the Scottish working class, which manifested itself quite dramatically last May.

"Kezia (Dugdale) has to effectively say: 'Labour is under new management, we apologise for betraying you, and we will start from scratch to try and build that trust up."

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: "Under Kezia Dugdale's leadership there is a new generation in charge of Scottish Labour.

"We go into May's election as the only party offering a break from Tory austerity. The SNP's cuts to local school budgets show they can't be trusted with securing the best future for our children."

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