Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Take my advice

So, today the special advisers to the SNP administration were announced. Now all the chat about the behind-the-scenes stuff may float the boat of political geeks like me - but it's hardly news in the real world.

I'm sure the newspapers will devote column inches to this tomorrow - but not too much I hope. I am a little concerned that the media may now become too focused on the processes of the Scottish Parliament, rather than the outcomes. The fact we now have a minority government in Scotland, with all the implications for the operation of the Scottish Parliament that flow from this, may actually detract from the real issues this government is trying to tackle - if the media allow it to.

Personally, for example, I am interested in how the role of the Scottish Parliament committees will change as a result of minority government, and of course, scrutiny of our democratic institutions is vital - but we must not be too inward-looking. Our Parliament is only a means to an end - to run the country for the benefit of all our citizens.

Friday, 25 May 2007

Nobody's Talking About A Revolution

So, Alex Salmond met the Queen yesterday. What's all the fuss about? 'He's a nationalist', they say. 'So what?', I say!

SNP policy is to retain the monarch as the Head of State, and give the people of an independent Scotland a say over this state of affairs in a democratic referendum. If they decide that they want the Queen and her successors to remain as Head of State in an independent Scotland, then that is the democratic will of the people. If they don't, then Scotland will have to decide on an alternative.

As a democrat, I believe that is the only fair way to decide this issue.

Personally, however, I hope that the people of Scotland reject this particular status quo. As a democrat, I do not believe that some one should inherit the right to a position of authority - this is something that should be earned. Power should be a privilege and not a right arbitrarily conferred on those with a certain gene pool.

We all know that the Queen's role is now largely symbolic, but that again is a bone of contention. What exactly does her role in the political structure symbolise? Well, it certainly symbolises the inequalities that permeate our society. The idea that somehow some people are better than others and that's the natural state of affairs, is the kind of thinking that leads to the acceptance of poverty and the growing gap between rich and poor.

The SNP approach to the monarchy, which distinguishes between the SNP's quest for political independence for Scotland, and other historic, cultural and societal links between Scotland and England, is the right one. Just because we seek political independence for Scotland does not mean we want to sever other links with our larger neighbour.

In a future referendum on the monarchy, I will campaign to remove the monarchy from any constitutional and political role in Scotland. The SNP will give me that opportunity - the choice.

I was pleased that Alex Salmond confirmed at the 'Swearing In' of the new MSPs that the SNP's loyalty is to the Scottish people. Frankly, after campaigning in the recent elections to serve their constituents in the Scottish Parliament, it seemed absurd to see the elected representatives of Scotland swearing allegiance to the Queen! Their loyalty is to the citizens of Scotland who elected them and to the institution in which they now serve on behalf of those citizens, the Scottish Parliament.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Powers Committee

I like Alex Neil's idea of establishing a constitutional affairs committee in the Scottish Parliament, which would examine what powers should be transferred from Westminster to Holyrood.

All the parties (regardless of their rhetoric and/or protestations on this matter) understand that devolution is a process that has been set in motion, and that the current powers of the Scottish Parliament are not set in stone.

A constitutional affairs committee, like that suggested by the SNP MSP, would therefore allow the parties to build a consensus on the transfer of powers - based on sound public policy, and not just political, grounds.

But, and it's a big but, it is not an alternative to a democratic referendum on independence. It is only one avenue through which we can build the case for independence, and a limited one. Due to the inevitable composition of the membership of this committee, there will be a self-imposed ceiling on what it can achieve for Scotland. At best, it will deliver more powers for the Scottish Parliament. That's welcome of course, but we need them all!

And the most important arena of all, for building consensus on Scotland's future, is the living rooms of Scotland - not the committee rooms of the Scottish Parliament. When Alex Salmond talks about an SNP government having a 'conversation' about independence, this is what he means. We must use every opportunity - within and outwith our Parliament - to advance the case for Scottish independence.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth


News that a tycoon is to share a £26m bonus, of his own money, among staff of the company he has just sold has hit the headlines.

He should get credit for his actions, of course, but lets keep this 'generosity' in perspective. This man has just made a whopping £595m from selling this company. £26m is a huge amount of money, but it's only just over 4% of the profit made by this business tycoon.

It's like me winning £595 in an SNP raffle, and 'generously' giving my friends £26 between them. ;o) I can see the headlines in the branch newsletters the length and breadth of Scotland now - 'Generous SNP activist Shares her Success', 'My Begging Letter Hell', 'Raffle Re-draw Demanded after Spoils are Squandered on Shoes'...

Oh, it's been a long week :o)

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Priorities - war, nuclear weapons or people?

A report published today by a House of Commons committee shows that between £1.5bn and £2.1bn of Pension Credit is not being claimed by those who are entitled to it, across the UK.

So, the Treasury has it's mitts on money that should be in the hands of the poorest pensioners.

And who is the architect of this pension scheme?

A scheme that leaves 1 in 5 pensioners living in poverty...

A scheme that subjects pensioners to the indignity of means-testing...

A scheme that leaves pensioners in need without the money they are entitled to...

Why, it's Gordon Brown of course!

One of the many reasons I support independence is that it would enable Scotland to ensure all of our pensioners have the security of a decent minimum in retirement, as of right. With independence we would have the powers to introduce a Citizen's Pension that would be payable to all pensioners, based on simple residency requirements (like the New Zealand pension).

A Citizen's Pension would tackle pensioner poverty, eliminate the means-test for a decent pension, end discrimination against women in the state pensions system and provide a solid foundation on which to save for retirement. Sounds great, doesn't it? But it also sounds expensive - could we really afford it?

Well, Gordon Brown doesn't think so. He says it would be unaffordable... But hang on a minute, he could 'afford' to spend billions on an illegal war in Iraq and he must think he can afford to spend billions on the new nuclear weapons and useless ID cards he has promised.

The 'affordability' of most things depends on your priorities. I think it's clear what Gordon's are.

Ensuring our pensioners do not have to live in poverty is certainly a priority for me, and for the SNP. The SNP's plans for a Citizen's Pension are not only affordable (even within existing spending on pensions), they are also essential if we, as a society, are to treat our older citizens with the dignity and respect they deserve.

It's time for Scotland to gain its independence, so that we can give pensioners theirs.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Day of Destiny

Having just watched the proceedings in the Scottish Parliament to elect Scotland's First Minister, I am overwhelmed by the sense of occasion. 2007 marks the 300th anniversary of the Act of Union, but it also now marks a new dawn in Scotland's history.

Scotland has an SNP First Minister. (Stating the obvious, I know, but I wanted to write it down to help it to sink in!)

I have been a member of the SNP for years, but given my young years (yes, I am claiming to be young) my service to the SNP and to Scotland has been but a mere penny in an ocean of dedication from SNP activists across the country. I know many activists in their seventies and eighties (although you wouldn't know it to look at them) who have campaigned their whole lives for independence, who have waited decades to see this kind of progress. I am privileged to be part of the SNP at this time, a time when Scotland is listening to our party and our ideas and embracing us.

Leading the Scottish Parliament is only a step in our campaign to deliver independence for Scotland and the benefits that will bring, but it is a momentous step and a day I will always remember.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Poised to govern

As part of my job I have to meet civil servants to discuss Scottish Executive policy. For me, over the last 8 years, the term 'Scottish Executive' has become synonymous with the Labour-Liberal coalition.

It's quite surreal therefore to now be sat in meetings discussing the likely actions of an SNP Scottish Executive, with civil servants referring to the SNP manifesto. Surreal, but very exciting!

The general impression I have from speaking to a number of civil servants is that they are also excited at the prospect of both the SNP breathing fresh life into the governance of Scotland and the challenge of a minority administration.

Like most people I have spoken to since the election, they have a real sense of anticipation about the future and also great expectations of the SNP. Every taxi driver I've spoken to over the last week has asked me what I think about Alex Salmond! After declaring my party affiliations, of course, I explain why I believe Alex Salmond as First Minister and an SNP Scottish Executive will deliver real change for our country - but caution against placing too great expectations on their shoulders. After all, there is only so much we can do within the constraints of devolution, which is why we will continue to strive to persuade people in Scotland of the need for independence. As a first step, we will demonstrate our commitment to Scotland by using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to make our country a better place to live.

If, as expected, Alex Salmond is elected as First Minister of Scotland tomorrow we will have taken a gigantic step forward in delivering a positive future for our nation.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Spot the Difference?

So, it's finally farewell to Number 10 Downing Street for Tony Blair.

Good riddance.

However, although the man himself may be leaving, his legacy will unfortunately live on - both in the repercussions of his many mistakes in government and in his successor.

No one should be fooled that Gordon Brown will be any better than Tony Blair.

Blair may have made the mistakes, but Brown wrote the cheques.


The election is over and I'm back at work, with a real sense of limbo - reflecting the mood of Scottish politics at the moment I suppose.

As a member of a political party work is always ongoing, but we have all been in a mode of ever-intensifying overdrive over the last year. And it's hard to let go!

I'm still in campaign mode, and Jamie is totally bemused by the fact that I can't just relax, rather than literally burst with ideas for the next election every five minutes! After all, he's the one that now has to knuckle down and work harder than ever in his new role. I should be getting back to some kind of normality now that the election is over.

As Jamie has now been elected as an MSP, he has a very exciting and challenging time ahead of him over the next few years. I'm looking forward to supporting him in his new role, and exploring even more ways that I can help to campaign for independence.

I've shadowed Jamie throughout the election campaign, and I'm very proud of him. He will make an excellent MSP. And I can't wait to see what he is able to achieve over the next few years for the people he now represents - I'm sure he will make them every bit as proud as I am. :o)

Friday, 4 May 2007

An historic first step

Well, after an amazing election campaign all of the votes have been counted (well, those votes that made it through the disastrous electronic counting system) and we have an SNP victory! Yes, the SNP has won the Scottish Parliament election!

It has been a roller coaster couple of days. I was very disappointed that Cumbernauld and Kilsyth was not among the first past the post victories this time round. We fought a great campaign, and the reception on the doorsteps and the streets of this constituency was overwhelmingly positive towards the SNP. We had people stopping us in the street to wish us well and a real sense of warmth towards us. The result certainly did not reflect our experience on the ground.

We'll get it next time!!!

The most encouraging part of the campaign, for me, was the response of traditional Labour voters. I spoke to countless lifelong Labour voters who were voting SNP for the first time at this election. The misplaced loyalty that so many people have placed in Labour for so long is finally ebbing away, and I am confident that it will erode further in the coming years - as citizens across Scotland benefit from SNP representation in the Scottish Parliament and our local authorities.

This election result is not just a victory for the SNP, but - more importantly - an historic first step in building a more successful Scotland.