Gordon Brown focused his attention on Labour's fight against poverty as pressure about the 10p income tax rate abolition continues.
The prime minister used his speech to the Scottish Trades Union Congress in Inverness to point out the government's commitment to helping low-income families out of poverty.
Speaking without a podium or notes, Mr Brown talked of a "partnership" between Labour and the unions on workers' rights.
He acknowledged the 10p income tax band, which ceased to exist last week, was causing headlines but claimed the government had done more "in the last 50 years for poverty than any other government".
Three million families with children are £18 a week better off since 1997, he said, adding that two million pensioners are £14 better off over the same period of time.
"This is a partnership for social justice and it is a partnership that will continue," he said.
Talking of his roots in Scottish politics, he discussed how "the fight for jobs" had dominated his political career.
And with 2.5 million more jobs created in the last ten years under Labour in Scotland and 270,000 across the UK as a whole, Mr Brown said that fight was continuing.
On women's rights he pledged a determination to "move further and faster" towards extending equality in the workplace and in terms of political representation.
And he won applause on temporary workers' rights, stating "I want an agreement for agency workers" as a private members' bill on the issue moves through parliament.