New Labour leader is king of the jungle

Managing Director, @Alex_M_Orr

Well the votes are in and the winner announced…no, it’s not the final result of ITV’s ‘I’m a Celebrity…Get Me out of Here!’, of which more later, but the result of the Scottish Labour leadership contest.

After one of the most bitter leadership elections seen in Scotland, left-winger Richard Leonard comfortably defeated the moderate candidate, Anas Sarwar. It is a win that is seen as extending Jeremy Corbyn’s influence on the party north of the border.

As expected, Leonard won the vast majority of trade union votes, while he won by a far narrower margin when it came to Labour members. When all votes were tallied up, Leonard was out in front by a clear margin, polling 12,469 (57.6 per cent) compared with Sarwar’s 9,516.

The heralding of Leonard’s win was more than a little overshadowed however by the announcement from former Scottish Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale, that she will temporarily leave Holyrood and join Ant and Dec in the ‘celebrity’ jungle. One of the first acts of Mr Leonard’s leadership will be to decide whether she should be suspended from the party or not.

As for Anas Sarwar, he handled defeat with exceptional dignity, pledging to work with and for Richard Leonard without caveat.  His campaign was however wounded right at the start by a controversy over his family’s wealth and choice of private education for his offspring.

In his victory speech, Leonard said he would lead Scottish Labour as a movement for real change, a movement for democracy and, yes, a movement for socialism. He has promised to win back lost voters with his radical policy agenda.

Leonard becomes leader at a particularly difficult time for the party. The former trade union organiser has become the ninth Scottish Labour leader since devolution and has major challenges ahead if he is to lead his party on the long road to victory, also noting that he only secured the support of a handful of his fellow MSPs.

Divisions between the left and moderate wings of the party have been cruelly exposed during a nine week campaign and the party has been beset by a variety of allegations of sexual harassment. To address this Leonard has promised a zero tolerance approach to “sexism, misogyny and sexual harassment”.

He has also pledged to follow an avowedly left wing agenda. This includes wanting to extend public ownership, to increase workers’ control, to increase public spending, to raise taxes on the rich, including via a wealth tax, to pursue a Socialist industrial policy with a focus on manufacturing and to end inequality.

The Labour victor now faces the twin challenges of supplying detail – for example, on tax – to accompany his rhetoric; and then promoting said policies to a sceptical electorate, weary of political promises.

If he is to win Leonard needs to set out a bold and radical agenda, delivering a strong and wide appeal to voters. Time will tell whether this newly crowned king of the jungle will continue to roar, or the roar will simply end up as a whimper.

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Fleet Managers and Scotland’s Low Carbon Future

Stephen-Herriot-Head-of-Operations-PfH-Scotland-211x300
Stephen Herriot, Head of Operations, @PfHScotland

With the recent commitment by the Scottish Government to phase out the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2032, fleet managers across Scotland, not least in the social housing sector, are being challenged to plan ahead so they can play their role in supporting the transition to a low carbon future.

The ambitious announcement would see the Scottish Government achieve the target eight years ahead of its UK counterpart. But critics have been quick to raise concerns that it won’t be possible to put in place the necessary charging infrastructure in such a short space of time.

Nicola Sturgeon and her Government remain confident they can meet the 2032 deadline and expand the country’s charging networks by creating “electric highways”. The first real test of this will be plans to make the A9, the country’s longest road, the first fully electric-enabled transport route in Scotland.

Over the last few years, government has been pushing various incentives, such as the Low Carbon Transport Loan, to encourage individuals and businesses to switch to Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV), with varying degrees of success. In this context, the real issue facing Scotland is less about infrastructure and more about whether we can accomplish a mass switchover of around 3 million vehicles currently on Scottish roads in just 18 years.

If there is any hope of reaching this goal, the Scottish Government will be looking to those responsible for managing larger vehicle fleets to take the lead as a means of making quick and easy wins. Given the specific environmental responsibilities they face, public sector organisations in areas such as housing are likely to be high on the Government’s list of early adopters when it comes to modernising their fleets.

Alongside action to tackle climate change, plans are also in place to implement Low Emission Zones across Scotland’s four largest cities. This will empower local authorities in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee to set environmental limits on key transport routes in order to improve air quality. At this stage, it is unclear exactly what shape these changes will take or how quickly they may come into effect. However, given the negative impact of poor air quality on public health, there is widespread speculation that the plans look set to be “fast tracked”. This creates a further impetus for fleet managers to grasp the nettle sooner rather than later and to switch to ultra low emission vehicles to prevent  future fleet management costs from spiralling out of control.

At the same time, the cost of electric vehicles continues to come down as manufacturers gear up for mass production. Industry analysis suggests that the point where the overall costs of running an electric vehicle dip below those of running a conventional petrol or diesel car is fast approaching – and likely to arrive well before the Scottish Government’s 2032 timetable for going electric.

Given policy moves now underway at a local and national level, planning ahead has never been more important for fleet managers in the Scottish social housing sector. Acting now to modernise vehicle fleets will enable the housing sector to demonstrate its green credentials. But investing now to modernise vehicle fleets should also reduce the long term cost of running those fleets – and avoid a last minute rush to switch to electric vehicles that could end up costing the sector a lot more.

Stephen Herriot is Head of Operations at PfH Scotland, who have just launched a dedicated vehicle leasing and fleet management procurement framework for the social housing sector. More information about PfH Scotland and the new framework is available at http://www.pfhscotland.co.uk.  

Let’s talk about love in the care system, at the moment there isn’t any

Duncan Dunlop
Duncan Dunlop, CEO, Who Cares? Scotland

It has been a year since we called on the First Minister to consider what was going wrong with the care system in Scotland. A year after she sat down with young people from Who Cares? Scotland. A year since she decided to call for a Root and Branch Review of the Care System (now known as the Independent Care Review).

One year on, the First Minister has shown she will not wait for the review to conclude but will look to make improvements throughout its journey. Following moves from North Ayrshire Council, who had been calling for an exemption to Council Tax for Care Experienced Young People, the First Minister announced this as a Scotland wide policy.  It’s an excellent sign that we are not waiting until the end of the Independent Care Review to take action. Immediate action to fix current inequalities is a great leap forward. However, we hope that at the conclusion of the care review this inequality won’t exist.

Make no mistake, this was an immeasurably powerful commitment from the First Minister. The care system has been in existence for 150 years and there has been change. However, it has always been change within the current construct. We still haven’t solved how to care for young people in Scotland whose own parents aren’t able to.

The current Review of Care in Scotland has the capacity to make a radical change however. A radical change to how people are cared for in Scotland.

Outcomes, at present, for Care Experienced people are shockingly poor. The statistics show that 45% of children in care are diagnosed as having a mental health disorder. In residential units, research shows that 39% of children units have self-harmed. Part of the problem is in how we deliver care and in the language around care. Homes are referred to as units or placements. Those who are meant to love and support you are called staff. Language matters and it’s never neutral.

It’s not just mental health that suffers. Care Experienced people are less likely to achieve high school qualifications, less likely to go to university and more likely to end up in prison. With many children experiencing as many as ten placement moves in their care journey, it’s easy to see why they may struggle at school. Why they struggle then at home and in the communities they find their selves being moved into.

Our members tell us that they feel like they live in a system that takes care of everything for them as a means of managing risk. A system which doesn’t reflect the process of growing up in a traditional family home.  A system without love. This can leave them exposed in a world where, when they turn 21, they find their selves having to deal with the harsh realities of life. In many cases, they leave a system which in seeking to stop things happening to them, hasn’t been able to make enough things happen for them.

It is important that we deliver radical change. We need to act now. The average age of leaving care is 16-18 according to the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland but the law says young people have the right to remain in care until they are 21.

Every single month this year, one of our young members has died.

Why, if young people have the right to stay in what they feel is a secure and stable environment, are they leaving five years before they have to? They are swapping five years of safety and stability for uncertainty. So, we hope that the review examines what has made this happen.

It comes back to love and how we care for our young people.  They are brought up in a world of risk assessments, of logs that record their every move and behaviour. An environment that is alien to what a family home should feel like.

Young people want to be loved. They want the freedom to love people back. The status quo is presented as though the system is neutral towards the idea of love. It isn’t. It doesn’t talk about it at all, that’s not neutral.

Let’s talk about how we bring young people up in an environment that is stable and secure but also, shows them that we love them. Let’s talk about love.