This week commentators have been making the most of the slow progress Scottish Labour has made which could deny Miliband the chance of forming the next UK Government. Indeed, Labour still needs that big swing north of the border, but six campaigning weeks in, Labour will remain hopeful that the slow creep in the polls will quicken and the SNP will begin to look over their shoulder.
Slow, slow progress for Scottish Labour
The Survation poll this week showed a Labour increase of 1% from its previous poll, only marginally narrowing the SNP lead to a gulf of 17%. Scottish Labour has made progress and has instigated a push on a raft of policies including 1,000 additional nurses; a non-profit ScotRail; 100,000 new homes; an emphasis on city deals and devolution of powers away from Holyrood; a Glasgow crossrail – and there’s more to come. However, critics have argued that the splurge of policy has also come at the cost of a widely understood narrative.
According to psephologist John Curtice, it has taken “three months to knock five points off the SNP’s lead” but as his own graph shows, the 2010 results show the need for big swings. If Labour can close the gap to under 10%, the damage would be limited.
Murphy likes to be the underdog in a fight, but will have to do even more get on top with only three months to go.
The First Minister this week gave evidence to the Parliament’s conveners group – a group made up of Committee Conveners and chaired by the Presiding Officer.
Taking each convener in turn, the First Minister indicated that she expected the private sector housing bill to be laid before the Parliament in the autumn, stating that she was “not blind to the merits of rent controls”, but that the consultation responses were still under consideration.
In response to Murdo Fraser’s questioning, the First Minister stated work was ongoing to develop the details of the Scottish Business Pledge and was “so keen” to accelerate the uptake of the living wage and would consider any policies to do so. She reported that the Living Wage accreditation scheme had surpassed initial targets.
Unemployment Falls by 15,000
The Office of National Statistics reported this week that Scotland’s unemployment numbers fell by 15,000 in the three months to December. Welcoming the figures, Deputy First Minister John Swinney, said: “We have moved up two places in European youth unemployment rate comparisons at a time when we strive to create not just more, but better, jobs for those living in Scotland.”
No-Playtime for SNP
Labour’s, Kezia Dugdale, took the First Minister to task on one of her political cornerstones following a report by the Family and Childcare Trust which reported that fewer than one in six Scottish Local Authority areas have enough childcare capacity to meet the needs of working parents.
The figures showed that capacity had dropped 8% since 2013. The Trust highlighted that the inflexibility in public sector provision, sparsely populated areas and deprived urban areas created challenges for local authorities. In a stinging comment for the SNP, lead researcher Jill Rutter said that the problems were far more acute in Scotland than in England as more initiatives to deliver more flexibility for working parents had been introduced.
Scottish Conservative Party Conference
The Scottish Tories are gathering in Edinburgh today and tomorrow for their annual conference. Leader Ruth Davidson is expected to call for a ‘Parent Power’ law to shake up the Scottish education system, which the party believes is stagnating.