I was pleased to be asked to write a column for the Edinburgh Evening News this week. I have copied the text below, or you can read the article online here, or in today’s paper.
The best of both worlds
Rightly, there is a demand for a more thoughtful and positive discussion. I will be voting No on September 18 to nationalism. The pooling and sharing of resources across the UK is for the common good, on the basis of need.
Politics, for me, must be about social justice.
History tells us that the demand for social justice saw the abolition of the Scottish Poor Law. The same demand led us to create a universal right to free education and health care across the UK in the 1940s, and the strive for equality more recently led us to establish a UK-wide minimum wage and tax credits that guaranteed a minimum income for families and pensioners – taking millions out of poverty.
These show that a drive for politics to deal with social problems can create results by pooling and sharing resources to ensure common welfare and decent standards of living for all, regardless of where we live. Social injustice does not respect borders so these problems cannot be resolved by creating borders. Scotland has always been a nation that looks outwards and we should care as much about resolving issues across the UK, and the world, as we do in Scotland.
Our starting point must be to set out the modern purpose of the partnership between Scotland and the rest of the UK. The Scottish Parliament is the settled will of the people and this will be further strengthened with more powers as it has been since its creation – giving us flexibility to take a different path. Enhanced devolution to create a stronger Scottish Parliament is a much better way forward within the UK – Scotland benefiting from the best of both worlds.
A fairer society can be achieved from the foundations of a strong economy. Edinburgh is a city that emphasises this. The economy benefits from the larger UK, supporting thousands of jobs in the financial sector, as well as its world-leading universities – innovating through greater UK research and development funding. The city also has a vibrant tourist industry with world-renowned festivals and events, and a strong public service ethos supported by a Scottish Parliament able to respond to Scotland’s needs. Let’s grab the best of both worlds and ensure, once again, that Scotland leads the rest of the UK rather than leaves it.
Loss puts focus on education
No child should go to school never to return home.
The tragedy at Liberton High School in my constituency has stunned the entire community. MPs, MSPs and councillors must rise above politics and work with local communities, teachers, parents and pupils to make education the top priority.
We owe future generations nothing less than to leave no stone unturned in trying to ensure that the most powerful tool to change lives – education – flourishes with the investment it requires.
Hearts are sure to bounce back
Sport has always been about bringing people together. Over 8000 people coming together for any cause is a considerable achievement but to rescue a football club is altogether more impressive.
Ann Budge and the Foundation of Hearts are on the verge of getting Hearts out of administration and back where it belongs as a proud part of our Capital. The entirety of my all-too-limited spare time has been taken up with the foundation but it is worth it as it means so much to so many.
Communities reap rewards
Successes for two local groups show how, by communities coming together, change can happen.
With the help of Lottery funding, Bridgend Inspiring Growth has been working hard with local people to transform the old council-owned farmhouse at Bridgend for community and educational use.
Likewise, the voluntary Dig-In group in Bruntsfield has raised £30,000 from a community share issue to open a fruit and veg co-op. They are innovators and leaders in community ownership for community benefit and deserve our support.
Fair way to go in changing male-dominated culture
I was delighted to see that Margaret Curran MP, Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary, has announced a five-point plan specifically targeted at the concerns of women.
As well as important pledges on childcare, discrimination, pay gaps and the living wage there is a bold promise to introduce a 50 per cent quota for women on public boards in Scotland. I often find it difficult to understand why, in 2014, this kind of initiative is required but sadly it is. The evidence speaks for itself. You only need to look at where women have taken the reigns and led transformational change of organisations like Frances O’Grady at the Trade Union Congress, Moya Greene at the Royal Mail and Sue Bruce at the Edinburgh City Council.
Too many of our public bodies are male-dominated and I don’t think this is good for those organisations or for business. I wonder what the world would look like today had there been many more women on the boards of our financial institutions before the global financial collapse?
However, it can’t just be about the same women on more boards; it must be about more women on more boards, and government must set the example. The picture a few months ago of the Coalition Government frontbench without a single woman is a sad indictment of their abject failure to properly represent the country. This issue has to be resolved and I back Margaret all the way in ensuring it is successful. A 50 per cent quota in public bodies sends out the right example that the culture must change.