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Richard Leonard wants to ‘roll back’ privatisation (photo by Terry Murden)
Richard Leonard used his first major speech as Scottish Labour leader to outline a vision of extended public ownership for Scotland.
Following on from the Carillion scandal, Mr Leonard outlined plans to roll back the privatisation of public services.
He declared that “public services are there to serve the Scottish public not the balance sheets of financiers.”
The call to extend public ownership in Scotland was part of a wide ranging speech outlining key challenges facing Scotland in 2018.
Mr Leonard also used his speech to address wealth inequalities in Scotland, as well as the challenges of the Brexit process.
Addressing a gathering in Dundee on Friday, he said: “The Carillion scandal highlights the failure of our creeping reliance on private contractors to deliver public services.
“For the Tories PFI was the next stage of their privatisation journey. For Labour it became a means to build up our public realm after years of neglect – off balance sheet and with speed.
“For the SNP the Non-Profit Distributing model created the illusion of an alternative but has simply led to the same old corporations and the same old profit distribution to absentee shareholders but just through a different route.
“It is time to draw a line under this, and look at common sense ways of bringing these into public ownership.”
He said Scotland “needs to be bold” on extending public ownership.
“Carillion and Bield are two names that are perhaps not well known among the Scottish public.
“Bield is a social care provider that plans to close up to 12 care homes. Threatening more than 200 jobs while 167 residents face a cloud of uncertainty and a stress and trauma that they should not have to suffer.
“Once again the Bield example, just like Southern Cross a few years ago, underlines the need for public provision of social care and the need to invest in this most fundamental of services, which guarantees good terms and conditions and sufficient pay for the workforce and the type of high level and secure services that provides dignity in retirement for our older people.
“This is another reason why Labour will initiate a review into health and social care integration.
“The lesson of the collapse of Carillion is that the model of the private provision of public services is no longer, in so much as it ever was, delivering for the people.
“That is why I intend to initiate an urgent and comprehensive review of who runs our public services and how we fund our public projects and infrastructure so that it does not provide a cash bonanza to absentee shareholders.
“Let me be clear that our public services are there to serve the Scottish public not the balance sheets of financiers.”
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