CommonSpace’s David Thomson speaks to Scottish Labour’s Richard Leonard about his bid to replace Kezia Dugdale as the next leader of the party
SCOTTISH LABOUR’S Richard Leonard has said that social care in Scotland “is not working” for both staff and patients.
In an interview with CommonSpace, the Scottish Labour leadership candidate elaborated on intentions he stated at his campaign launch last month that he will initiate a “comprehensive and root and branch review of social care”.
The Central Scotland MSP is arguing for a health and social care service that pays “people a fair wage for a fair day’s work and which ensures that people in receipt of care receive the best possible services from the best qualified and most able staff”.
Leonard added: “Currently, social care is not working. The staff face low pay, insecurity and limited opportunity for professional advancement, while in the meantime the people in receipt of care are not getting the care they need to help enable them to lead the fulfilling and dignified lives that we should help them achieve. I am determined to change that.
“As far as integration is concerned at the moment I’m afraid to say that currently far too many health boards and health and social care partnerships are reporting overspends and funding shortfalls.” Richard Leonard
“As far as integration is concerned at the moment I’m afraid to say that currently far too many health boards and health and social care partnerships are reporting overspends and funding shortfalls, which suggests there is insufficient funding being provided to these most important of services. That clearly suggests that this should be included as part of the review.”
The Scottish Government brought in legislation in 2014 to integrate health and social care across Scotland in a major shake up of service delivery and planning, with health boards and local councils deciding on whether to include children’s health and social care services.
Thirty-one of the 32 health and social care partnership joint boards were set up in April last year. There was a separate arrangement in place in the Highland Council area, where either NHS Highland or the local authority will take a lead in providing certain services.
Also this week, SNP MSP Christine Grahame expressed concern that health and social care integration was failing to help drive down hospital waits.
Meanwhile, Leonard, a former GMB representative, added concerns about recent events in Catalonia, where a referendum on independence was deemed illegal in Spain and marked by police violence against those turning up to cast votes.
Leonard said that “Theresa May’s Tories have taken a back seat on the world stage” after violence marred the referendum in Catalonia on Sunday.
“Theresa May’s Tories have taken a back seat on the world stage, it is not good enough, it puts our country in a bad light, and she must change her approach and challenge the unacceptable actions of the Spanish Government.” Richard Leonard
More than 90 per cent of Catalans who voted opted in favour of the authority to become independent in a referendum.
This is despite Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy saying that the Catalans were fooled into taking part in an illegal vote after the constitutional court banned the ballot.
Almost 900 people were injured as police tried to stop the vote going ahead.
Leonard has said that the footage and level of violence on Sunday “has been nothing short of truly shocking”.
“Poverty is a moral issue: but it also holds us back as a country, weakens Scottish society and harms our economy because we need the talents of every single person in Scotland to reach their potential.” Richard Leonard
Leonard added: “There is no excuse for state violence against citizens simply exercising their democratic right to vote.
“We’ve seen people from all walks of life and age groups subjected to the brute force of the police baton when they tried to enter the polling station and this Conservative government has yet again been silent – demonstrating woeful leadership, instead of condemning violence and encouraging all parties involved to talk. Theresa May’s Tories have taken a back seat on the world stage, it is not good enough, it puts our country in a bad light, and she must change her approach and challenge the unacceptable actions of the Spanish Government.”
Meanwhile, the Spanish Government has suspended a Catalan parliamentary session planned for Monday in which a declaration of independence from Spain was expected to be made.
This came after the country’s constitutional court said that such declaration would be “a breach of the constitution”.
With Scottish Labour currently going through a leadership contest following the resignation of Kezia Dugdale in August, both Richard Leonard and Anas Sarwar emerged as candidates to replace her.
Leonard said that his “overriding mission will be to end poverty and to grow our economy not just for a few at the top for many throughout Scottish society”.
He said: “We need to tackle the blight that is poverty. Poverty is a moral issue: but it also holds us back as a country, weakens Scottish society and harms our economy because we need the talents of every single person in Scotland to reach their potential.”
“Things must change – real change is required. This means building tens of thousands of new homes, the introduction of policies like proper rent controls, a proper living wage for Scottish workers and empowering local government to provide services that make a real difference to whole communities.
“Ending poverty means real change to deal with low pay and poverty and investment in our communities, our industries and our people.
“We need to use the powers of the Parliament to advance this agenda right now and not just wait for an election and a change of government at Westminster.
“If elected leader that is exactly what I will do.”
If elected, Leonard is committed to building a minimum of 12,000 new social homes each year, bringing in rent controls through a “Mary Barbour Law” and back Shelter Scotland’s call to deliver a new national homelessness strategy.
Picture courtesy of Richard Leonard
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