Page last updated at 16:12 GMT, Saturday, 7 March 2009

Scottish Labour is back says Gray

Iain Gray
Iain Gray delivered his first speech as leader to the conference

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray has declared his party "is back", as he urged members to start preparing for the 2011 Holyrood election battle.

He told the Scottish Labour conference it was time to regroup and recover, in the wake of its defeat in the last parliament election.

Mr Gray also launched a strong attack on First Minister Alex Salmond, branding him "impossibly smug".

And he said a list of well known figures would help shape party policy.

Mr Gray told delegates in Dundee that the party, in opposition, had helped deliver 8,000 new apprenticeships and had won the Glenrothes by-election.

"Glenrothes showed that Scottish Labour is back," he said.

But Mr Gray added: "We have to look beyond tomorrow.

Every country faces the economic slowdown, but only Scotland does so on top of the Salmond slump
Iain Gray
Scottish Labour leader

"This conference is a milestone in the preparation of our manifesto for the 2011 Scottish election."

And he also urged the party faithful in Scotland to play its part in achieving success at the forthcoming European elections and winning the next UK election.

Swivelling his sights to the Holyrood administration, Mr Gray said the SNP, in power, were letting Scotland down and failing to live up to manifesto promises, including scrapping student debt, cutting class sizes and recruiting a 1,000 extra police officers.

"The damage done is real and lasting," he said.

"Before the credit crunch ever hit Scotland, we had already lost a 1bn worth of construction, costing 20,000 jobs and local authority cuts had cost another 5,000 jobs.

"Every country faces the economic slowdown, but only Scotland does so on top of the Salmond slump."

Mr Gray went on: "The scale and the speed of the global crisis has been breathtaking - but just as breathtaking has been the indolence of the SNP response.

"While Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling moved decisively to save the banking sector, the SNP were paralyzed."

And launching a personal attack on Mr Salmond, the Scottish Labour leader branded him: "Impossibly smug. Impossibly naff. Just frankly impossible."

Brandon's death

Mr Gray announced that Prof Pennington would advise on health matters as party of a new party policy commission, which would also include input from STUC assistant secretary Stephen Boyd and Kelley Bayes, who previously worked with the Aberlour childcare trust.

And Graeme Pearson, the former head of elite crime-fighting body, the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, will put forward ideas on justice reforms.

It was also vital, Mr Gray said, to invest in young people, by driving up education standards and giving them the right to apprenticeship, college, or university places.

The former teacher also said everyone should take responsibility for the death of 23-month-old Brandon Muir, killed by his mother's boyfriend in Dundee.

In the wake of the case, Mr Gray said it was time to look again at the procedures for removing endangered children from their own homes.

Iain Gray
Mr Gray said the SNP was failing to live up to manifesto promises

He pledged to press the Scottish Government to bring in new laws on information sharing between agencies and demanded action to identify the "40,000 to 60,000 children living with drug-addicted parents and the 80-000 to 100,000 children who live with alcohol dependent parents".

At the same time, Mr Gray announced the appointment of his party's deputy leader, Johann Lamont, as an "older persons champion", to ensure pensioners' interests were included in all policies.

Recalling a visit to a land mine project in Cambodia during his time working with charity Oxfam, Mr Gray told of the painstaking and dangerous job done being carried out by workers to clear land mines.

He told delegates: "They were taking their country back and their future back with their own hands. And they were doing it inch by inch.

"If we can work together with that kind of trust in each other, that kind of patience, that determination, then we will have the Scotland we want.

"We will have the future Scotland needs. A better Scotland. A Labour Scotland."

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