Speech by Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard at a European Parliament election campaign rally in Glasgow alongside former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

20 May 2019

Gordon and I have stood together many times.

But the call we make today is one of the most important we have ever made together.

Because over the coming days we are engaged in a battle not just for votes, but for what kind of country we are

At a challenging time in our political history

Let us remind ourselves and let us remind the people of Scotland that this party represents, as at our best we have always represented the powerful forces of social and economic change.

And that we represent, as at our best we have always represented the powerful forces of collective resistance as well resistance to those old ideas of division and of nationalism.

Resistance to a chauvinistic nationalism whether it be Scottish or British.

So in this election in three days' time there is a chance to bring our country back together again.

It is a chance for us to make clear that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

That we do not look to borders and boundaries being put up , but to borders and boundaries being brought down.

That the far right and their poisonous ideology can be overcome: here and across Europe.

That equality and workers rights can be won: here and across Europe.

And that democracy can be deepened so that people have a voice as well as a vote : here and across Europe.

Make no mistake - the stakes are high in these elections.

Three years on from the referendum , we have witnessed two years of failed negotiations and one bad deal.

There is little wonder that trust in politics is eroding.

There are too many people who believe that their voices are not being heard.

Too many people who believe that election results are being wilfully ignored.

And whether they voted yes or no in 2014, leave or remain in 2016, this discontent is causing societal sores.

As a result people are driven to political parties that deepen division.

So at this critical point political leaders must do more than just talk about healing division.

There needs to be action to demonstrate the healing of division.

So as a starting point Scottish Labour will engage in good faith and we will accept the First Minister's invitation to work together on how to respond to the challenges of Brexit.

At the same time we will not be distracted from the real and serious problems that beset Scotland: a low pay economy, facing an investment squeeze , exhausted and underfunded public services, a housing emergency, a climate emergency, rising health inequalities, and one in four children living in poverty.

It is an SNP Scotland and Tory Britain in which there is austerity for the many and tax relief for the few.

And however much they try to disguise it this is the political choice made by the SNP Government as well as by the Tory Government

Just last Friday I listened to the frustrations of parents who can’t get the educational support they need for their children with PDA – a Pathological Demand Avoidance profile.

I listened to the Youth Project worker in Viewpark facing a 22 per cent cut in funding, to the CAB advice workers dealing with the devastating impact of Universal credit across Lanarkshire, all of them looking for real change and for new hope.

So Thursday’s election is a chance to send a message to both the SNP and to the Tories that enough is enough.

Only a Labour vote will send the message that it is time to abandon austerity.

That it is time for renewal and for investment in our people, our communities, and in our public services.

We are clear that the real division in society is not between leavers and remainers or between the people of Scotland and the people of England.

It is between those who own the wealth and those who through their hard work and endeavour create the wealth: that’s the real division in society.

And so for us our over-riding aim as a movement the real shift in power we want to see is not from one Parliament or one set of politicians to another - from Strasbourg to Westminster or from Westminster to Holyrood.

It is a shift in power from the few to the many.

This not merely incidental to the change that we want to see, it is the very essence of the change that we want to see.

We are clear as well that the answer to the challenges of the UK leaving the EU is not and never will be found in Scotland leaving the UK.

Yes, there is a breakdown of trust between the UK Tory government and the devolved administrations.

And the responsibility for that breakdown of trust lies first and foremost with the way the Tory government has approached Brexit.

But it is also evident that the SNP government has sought to exploit Brexit, as an opportunity to advance the cause of independence and the break-up of the UK.

Even though in my experience most people in Scotland believe that there are already too many national boundaries not too few.

The stakes are high in these elections because every vote for Farage will bring a No Deal Brexit closer.

The price of a No Deal Brexit would be:

An end to the freedom of movement of people: a return to a world in which your passport and the place that you were born become important again.

A hard border in Northern Ireland which will set back the peace process so much advanced by the Government that Gordon Brown helped to lead.

A No Deal Brexit means tariff barriers with no right of access to the Single European Market for goods and services so that the CBI are driven to warn us that “those who claim crashing out of the EU On World Trade Organisation rules is acceptable live in a world of fantasy, where the facts are not allowed to challenge ideology.”

And I warn you that if Farage succeeds on Thursday, No Deal Brexit will become the official policy of the Tory party and every Tory leadership contender by this time next week.

And the truth is that the Liberal Democrats with only one MEP across the whole of the UK cannot defeat Farage.

The SNP with just two MEPs cannot defeat him.

The Scottish Green Party which has never had an MEP cannot defeat him.

Only Labour, standing candidates right across the country can defeat him.

Only Labour can see off Farage and the far right.

Only Labour can stop a No Deal Brexit.

The Labour Party is proud to be part of a worldwide movement.

Proud to be part of the Party of European Socialists alliance.

We are not defined by geography but by values and by principles and by those enduring ideals of co-operation, equality and internationalism.

And we are driven by a vision of social justice, of common humanity, and basic human rights the world over.

Now more than ever we need greater unity, not greater division .

We need the triumph of hope over fear

I firmly believe that our own pessimism is the greatest weapon against us.

The despairing politics of the SNP that Britain cannot be changed - I reject.

Democracy is precious.

Politics can be an instrument of change.

It is the most powerful and peaceful route to the resolution of injustices, and to the attainment of equality.

We are the political party that was founded to take on class privilege, to challenge monopoly economic power and to stand up to political oppression.

These causes are as great today as they ever were.

Another world is possible , and it will be up to us, as democratic socialists, to work with the people to build it.

And it is with that message of hope , built on our radical traditions that I call on the people of Scotland to vote Scottish Labour in this week’s European election.

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