Together we can

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This year we face an important choice.

‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’

There is no way to avoid the politicians – myself included! – debating, cross-examining and yes even arguing over the future of the nation.

I believe that Scots should vote no in September. Many will disagree with me, but I want to tell you why my ambition for Scotland goes much further than the constitution or independence, but is a real ambition for what we can do together as a nation. These are my principles looking forward, and also Labour’s values for Scotland. Our ambition must be to have a strong Scottish parliament within a UK that pools and shares resources for the common good.

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Together we can:

  • Pool and share resources across the UK for the benefit of everyone in the UK;
  • Reassert our commitment to devolution – getting the best of both worlds with a strong Scottish Parliament, secure within the United Kingdom;
  • Build a new moral economy, where the national wealth is used for the benefit of all;
  • Bring about the bold, 21st century, revolution in social policy that Scotland needs.

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These are foundations, not structured policy ideas. I know that people will want more detail on what a Labour government in Westminster and a Scottish Labour government in Holyrood would look like, what they would say, and most importantly what they would do. I’m the first to say we haven’t spelled out every detail in every policy area, but I hope that what we have committed to gives you a sense of our direction:

  • More powers, and importantly, more responsibility for the Scottish Parliament;
  • Cracking down on pay day loan companies;
  • Strengthening the National Minimum Wage and advancing the Living Wage;
  • Getting our economy back on track, and rebalancing our economy – with a bankers’ bonus tax, a jobs guarantee for our young people, and cutting business rates for small businesses;
  • Binning the hated bedroom tax and having the most ambitious plan for social housing in decades;
  • Freezing energy prices until 2017 and reforming the energy market.

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I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on our plans. You can read the whole paper presented at Scottish Labour Conference in March here.

IAN MURRAY MP BACKS CANCER RESEARCH UK CAMPAIGN TO MAKE EVERY MOMENT COUNT

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Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray attended Cancer Research UK’s parliamentary event to discover more about the power of research which, every week, saves more than five times as many lives as there are seats in the chamber of the House of Commons.

This astonishing fact means over 2,800 people will survive cancer every week thanks to research.

Ian Murray MP said: “ It is truly inspiring to see what research can achieve and it’s a real eye-opener to visualise the number of lives saved in terms of seats in the House of Commons. That’s why I’m backing Cancer Research UK’s campaign to make every moment count in the fight against cancer and I’m encouraging everyone to join me.

Every day 81 people in Scotland and more than 330,000 people a year in the UK are diagnosed with cancer. Thanks to research, survival rates have doubled in the last 40 years. This means that 45 per cent of those people will survive the disease for more than 10 years.*

Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress. The charity’s researchers have played a key role in the research leading to some of the landmark advances in treatment including tamoxifen for breast cancer and cisplatin for testicular cancer.

However, despite the successes, Cancer Research UK believes much more can be done to help more people in Scotland and across the UK beat cancer sooner.

The focus of the reception was on the importance of early diagnosis, radiotherapy and surgery in helping to save more lives.

Cancer Research UK’s Head of Policy, Sara Osborne, said: “It’s great to have Ian Murray MP’s support to highlight the power of research in saving lives and to raise awareness of how much more we need to do to ensure no-one’s life is cut short by cancer.

“Although more people are beating the disease than ever before, survival rates in the UK still lag behind the best in Europe for nearly all common cancers. This must change and that’s why we need everyone to back our campaign for improvements in all areas of the patient’s journey, from earlier diagnosis to access to the best treatments.”

She continued: “The number of people being diagnosed with cancer is set to rise steeply by 2030 so we need everyone to make every moment count.

“Evidence shows that early diagnosis helps save lives. That’s why we believe it’s imperative for funding to continue for public awareness programmes which boost knowledge of the signs and symptoms of cancer as well as removing the barriers to accessing breast, bowel and cervical screening.

“We know how effective radiotherapy is in treating cancer. Radiotherapy and surgery are responsible for around 90 per cent of cases where cancer is cured. That’s why Cancer Research UK wants to ensure all patients across the UK can access vital, innovative radiotherapy and surgery treatment as soon as possible.”

For more information on how to get involved, visit cruk.org

Traffic improvements for Howdenhall

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Good news for residents in Howdenhall and Alnwickhill as the Council have confirmed that a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) to extend the double yellow lines at the junction of Howdenhall Drive and Alnwickhill Road has been secured.

Double-yellow-lines-on-a-road-and-pavement-curb-2101582This extension will be important given the proposals for the Alnwickhill Treatment works site, which are still being considered, as they are likely to have an impact on traffic in the area.

Many residents have been frustrated at the lack of progress that the Council have made with this so I’m pleased that there is now finally some movement.

I have pressed time and time again to have the yellow lines extended at the end of the estate as I’m well aware of the hazards of the junction. Indeed, I had a close shave myself when I was leaving the estate, after a door knocking surgery, as I couldn’t see around the corner when exiting.

Thanks to all those on the Alnwickhill Proprietors Association who were instrumental in securing this improvement.

Scottish Questions on financial services

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Before PMQs, there was the monthly session to the Secretary of State for Scotland. Click here to watch my question and answer.

I asked him what steps the UK Government are taking to ensure that jobs in the financial sector – an industry which employs a large number of people in South Edinburgh – remain in Edinburgh and indeed continue to grow.

This is important given the uncertainty of the vague proposals put forward by those who want to separate Scotland from the rest of the UK.

PMQs – Just like buses…

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You wait for ages and then, like buses, two come along in quick succession. On Wednesday 19th March, I was again drawn in the ballot for Prime Minister’s Questions.

Following the announcement at the start of the week that a pay increase for public sector workers would be frozen at 1%, I asked David Cameron how he could justify salary increases of over 40% for his own advisers.

You can watch his response by clicking here.

Let’s get young people back into work.

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This week’s Budget did nothing to help hard working families deal with the cost of living crisis, and in particular offered little to our young people.

IMG_0843Indeed, too many young people in the Lothians are struggling to find work and not seeing any economic recovery at all.  Across the UK, the number of young people aged 18-24 claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for over a year has doubled from 28,300 in May 2010 to 56,100 this month and here in Edinburgh South, there has been a 50% increase also.

We cannot afford to waste the talents of thousands of young people and leave them stuck on the dole for years on end.  It will add millions to the social security bill and you can’t bring down the deficit from the dole queue.  More importantly, it scars their lives and weakens our economy.  I saw it for myself in the 1980s and early 90s, when friend, family and neighbours were dumped on the scrapheap in their teens and twenties.

Over recent months, there have been reports that bank bonuses are on the rise, despite financial institutions reporting significant annual losses.  That is why I support Labour’s tax on bank bonuses which would fund a Job Guarantee programme that would get our young people back into work.

The Jobs Guarantee will give every young person out of work in South Edinburgh for more than 12 months a paid starter job which they will have to take up or lose their benefits.

Unfortunately, in Parliament the Tories and their Lib Dem allies voted down Labour’s proposal to introduce the Jobs Guarantee when we brought it to the House of Commons in November last year.  I voted for it because I know it would have a real impact on the lives of local young people.

The government has failed to get a grip on the problem of long-term youth unemployment. Their much-trumpeted Work Programme was supposed to be the answer yet fewer than one in five young people referred to it have found a job.  That’s not good enough.

The Compulsory Jobs Guarantee shows the difference a Labour government would make to the lives of tens of thousands of young people across the country.