Richard Leonard vows to put Dundee at heart of Scottish Labour resurgence

Jeremy Corbyn (left) and Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has vowed to put cities like Dundee at the heart of plans for a party resurgence.

Speaking in the city earlier today in his first major speech as leader, Mr Leonard said the history of Dundee was “intertwined” with the Labour movement and it was a fitting place to consider how the party should move forward.

He acknowledged he had a fight on his hands to win over voters in the City of Discovery but said the party had become a “vehicle for hope” under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

“For too long, I suspect the people of Dundee could tell you what the Scottish Labour party was against but not many people could tell you what we were for – and we’re about changing that,” he said.

“I want people to understand the Labour party is back to being what is has always been at its best; a positive party offering people real and material change.”

Mr Leonard used his speech to promise a rollback on the privatisation of public services in an effort to curb the “cash bonanza to absentee shareholders” highlighted in the wake of the collapse of Carillion – one of the UK’s largest construction firms.

The Scottish Labour leader insisted private finance should also be booted out of the NHS “as a priority”, arguing a health service run for profit is an “anathema”.

“We should be moving towards providing direct employment for people and the removal of the profit motive from those contracts right across the whole of the estate of the National Health Service,” he said.

The party is to carry out a full review of private firms involved in the public sector, with Mr Leonard claiming the Carillion scandal “highlights the failure of our creeping reliance on private contractors”.

He also reaffirmed the party’s commitment to creating a national energy company and said he would nationalise Scotland’s train services “at the earliest opportunity”, while legislating against the privatisation of Scottish Water.

Mr Leonard said his ambition was for Scotland to become the “green enterprise centre” of Europe, including the development of oil and gas decommissioning technology and production.

Local SNP MP Chris Law rejected Mr Leonard’s comments and pointed to last year’s local government election, where Labour polled with fewer than half the votes of the SNP in Dundee.

He added: “They would be better employed explaining why they voted in Scotland’s parliament along with the Tories against the SNP’s most progressive budget, which invests an additional £400 Million into Scotland’s NHS and includes an end to the pay cap for public sector workers.

“The SNP will continue to deliver for the people of Dundee and Scotland at all levels.”