When it comes to private sector involvement in public services, Labour are big on rhetoric – but their record in government, both when they governed Scotland and Westminster, tells a different story.
The fact is, Labour governments have either actively encouraged privatisation or failed to stop the waves of Tory privatisation.
Here’s how Labour matches up to the SNP on publicly-run public services.
✅ The SNP is fully committed to a publicly-run, publicly-delivered NHS – always free at the point of use. We have also introduced free prescriptions (now £9.35 south of the border), free dental care for young people, and protected free eye tests.
❌ When they were in government in Scotland, Labour outsourced an NHS hospital (since returned to the NHS by the SNP), failed to reverse Tory outsourcing of cleaners (now brought in-house in NHS hospitals by the SNP). In England, Labour opened the floodgates to health service privatisation, and the current Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said he wants to see more use of private healthcare.
Private finance initiatives (PFI)
✅ We ended the use of the Tory-and-Labour-backed Private Finance Initiative (PFI) to fund schools and hospitals in Scotland. Thanks to bringing back PFI hospital car parks into the public sector, we have also abolished NHS car parking charges.
❌ Scottish Labour’s PFI catastrophe was possibly the biggest scandal of the devolution era – costing the public purse an extra £1 million every week in just the last year alone. PFI was used to build schools and hospitals (which the public sector doesn’t even own), and while the projects had a total capital value of around £4 billion – it’s costing Scottish taxpayers around £30 billion in repayments.
✅ The SNP made full use of devolved powers to bring ScotRail into public ownership, and from June this year, we’re nationalising the Caledonian Sleeper night train service. Thanks to public ownership, we’re able to reinvest profits into infrastructure and review fares to make them work better for the people – for example, through our upcoming pilot scheme to scrap peak rail fares.
❌ Labour in Scotland, throughout their time in government, rejected the calls to devolve the powers to create a public sector bid for our railways. In the UK, Keir Starmer’s Labour initially promised public ownership of rail – but as with many other promises, they now appear to row back on it.
✅ We firmly believe that education is a fundamental right, not a commodity – which is why we’ve introduced free university tuition in Scotland, and we’re now seeing record numbers (including from the most deprived areas of Scotland) go to university.
❌ Tony Blair’s UK Labour government introduced tuition fees in the first place, and despite being in government in Wales since devolution began, the Welsh Labour government continues to impose extortionate fees of £9,000 a year on students in Wales.
✅ We have rejected Labour/Tory privatisation of Scotland’s prisons.
❌ On leaving office in Scotland in 2007, Labour had built one private prison, had put plans in place for another and had proposed a third.