Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

A strong first outing

The Scottish Labour party was clear in its decision that Kezia Dugdale is exactly who we need as our new deputy leader. Today we saw why.

In her first outing against Nicola Sturgeon at first minister’s questions, Kezia chose to lead on the highly topical issue of falling oil prices and the serious threat this poses to Scottish businesses and the workers they employ.

Kezia knows this issue is one of both economic and political significance. Thousands of jobs and a large chunk of the Scottish economy rely on this strategic industry, but the Scottish National party chose to base its independence campaign and its economic credibility on oil prices being almost double what they are now.

In striking the perfect balance between standing up for jobs and exposing the SNP’s failure, Kezia appeared relaxed and comfortable with her brief, which contrasted with the first minister turning to her deputy for answers.

On an issue of such importance and on Kezia’s first outing, Sturgeon knew she could not immediately resort to attacking Kezia, so instead the she fell into the usual nationalist trap: blame it on Westminster. Kezia’s response was stateswoman-like, rightly suggesting that at some point the Scottish government would have to take responsibility for its actions.

When Kezia called for an inquiry into how the SNP could have got their predictions on oil so wrong, Sturgeon was clearly agitated. The first minister’s tone changed as she could feel the issue slipping away. Her inability to give a firm commitment to defend Scottish jobs was clearly as frustrating for her as it will be disappointing for the workers affected and those in other industries strategically important to Scotland. In a rambling response, Sturgeon took the bizarre approach to personally attack Kezia’s ‘parliamentary tone’ – a jibe that even the SNP must have recognised was somewhat hypocritical.

Kezia’s performance today will have pleased trade unions, businesses and economists – no easy task. No one can doubt the scale of the challenge facing Scottish Labour and, despite her poor performance today, Sturgeon should not be underestimated. There is an enormous amount of work to do and very little time to do it. However, this afternoon the Scottish Labour party can be permitted a moment of satisfaction as we had a first glimpse of the energy Kezia will bring to her role – we clearly made the right choice in the leadership election and should feel a new sense of confidence. Kezia will do a fantastic job of holding the first minister to account and under the leadership of her and Jim Murphy we have indeed begun the difficult task of turning our party around and regaining the trust of the Scottish people.


Callum Munro is communications and policy officer at Community the union. He tweets @Callum_Munro



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Callum Munro

is communications and policy officer at Community the union


  • The current difficulty with oil prices is related to fracking and energy self-sufficiency (ie United States) which no longer needs to rely on importing oil into the country, plus the higher costs of extracting oil from the North Sea. I don’t believe that is something that can be blamed entirely on the Scottish Government, as to a large extent this price drop could be down to factors outside of their control. That said, I completely agree that Kezia Dugdale should challenge the SNP on their overenthusiastic figures tabled in the independence referendum campaign which the First Minister attempted to divert from in claiming that they are OPEC figures.

    As is the case with many economic problems that are faced in Scotland, they are international in scope. If current trends continue the oil industry may continue to decline and that’s going to be fairly difficult to stall in the short term.

  • Interesting that you think Jola mk11 is the answer to your prayers. the point remains that macroeconomic control still lies with Whitehall. Even under independence it would continue to do so until 2016 at the earliest. That’s where Dugdale’s questions should be directed. As your previous respondent hints, these current problems have their roots in the geopolitics surrounding O.P.E.C and its relations with Russia, the U.S. and Iran. Had Scotland (or indeed the U.K) built up a sovereign wealth fund like other countries, e.g Norway, these blips could be accommodated pretty easily.
    In the campaign for self determination, oil was regarded as a bonus to be reinvested in things like renewables, not as a basis for a diverse economy. It should certainly not be used in support of an austerity programme which is in fact designed to destroy years of carefully built up social protection and introduce some kind of night watchman state. Are you confident in Labour’s ability to turn this round? As a former member, I’m not.

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