What an extraordinary week for me personally. I found out that I had passed the assessment which sealed me a place on the Scottish National Party’s approved list of Parliamentary Candidates. All the more extraordinary as the dream of being an elected representative was only just that, yet the fact that the party has recognised that I am a capable and competent politician in the making has been deeply heartening.
And now the reality is that I’ve taken a major step forward in my quest to become an elected SNP politician. It just goes to show that other people’s perceptions are worth a lot of time and consideration and keeping an open pair of listening ears matters for everything. For years, person after person has stated to me that they reckoned I’d do well in politics or make a good politician. Compliments sweeten my mood, but my success this week has vindicated their instincts and hopefully I can prove to them that I’ve got what it takes to go all the way to getting elected.
Now that I’ve made it onto that approved list as mentioned earlier, the next big question is where do I intend to seek nomination to become an SNP constituency or list candidate? I’ve given myself a few days to think about things and I must admit that I’ve explored many different possibilities. Time is finite in the current context of things as many SNP branches are in the process of considering or selecting candidates.
I leave the Isle of Bute in around three weeks from now and will be re-locating back to Kirkcaldy in the Kingdom of Fife – a part of the world I know well and feel very comfortable within. But I don’t intend to narrow my horizons – anywhere within the mainland central belt will be ideal and this is a part of the world that I have grown up and lived within for nearly all of my life. Geography is one thing (and important!), but what I have to offer to the party, relevant constituency/region and country is another.
As well as being an effective and potent communicator who is blessed with a mixture of strong public speaking and media skills, I also want to bring my unique and personable self to the Scottish Parliament. I want to bring my real life experience, insight and skills with me into Holyrood after graduating with a science degree and working as a healthcare professional to date over the last few years. I am no fan of the art of striving to be solely and exclusively a “career politican” and nothing else – whilst being an elected representative is an absolute honour, there is no possible and secure way to ensure that your career will solely be that of being a politician and nothing else. Our politics, society and country is all for the better when people of all walks of life enter the politicial arena.
I say all this, because this experience for me is like embarking on a journey. This is a first time experience and one that I relish. You could call me inexperienced, but I’d rather say that I was a political novelty. The Scottish National Party is well over seven years in office at Holyrood and in order for this party to continue to become electable for years to come, it must enable the way for new and fresh talent to break through the ranks and become prolific candidates. That is not to say of course that all those who have been elected for years should just move over without delay necessarily – a combination of experience and new talent creates the environment for positivity to flourish.
I regard myself as a convert to the cause of Scottish independence after many years of supporting Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom. But I appreciate that the independence question is off the table for the time being. And next year’s Holyrood elections will be primarily about defending our exemplary record in government and setting a vision for the years ahead. I am proud that our Scottish Government have taken a different path in comparison with the UK Government when it comes to areas such as health, education and on overall public spending.
Our NHS Scotland, whilst it faces major challenges just like many other healthcare systems across the western world, is sincerely appreciated at home and envied by many worldwide for the high quality and standards of care it provides to patients. The abolishing of prescription charges has proven to be a sensible and successful policy and it’s defence must remain as vigourous as ever so that never again we end up going back to the days of incoherent and senseless discrimination over who pays and who doesn’t simply because they happen not to have a specific medical condition that is officially exempted. If you are ill, then you are ill. There is no time to waste the time of a patient when Scottish taxpayers have already paid for access to quality healthcare.
The Scottish Government since the SNP came to office can also hold their heads up high when it comes to maintaining access to free education for our young people. In early 2008, the scrapping graduate endowment (which is effectively a back door tax on education) meant that students would not be faced with the dread of paying a major bill for completing their degree. And whilst there is a looming prospect for prospective students in England that their annual tuition fees could rise yet further from the capped maximum fee of £9,000 (link via Metro), the fact that other European countries such as Germany have axed tuition fees (link via Guardian) vindicates Scotland’s position as a nation that believes in the principle that the factor of academic talent and not how much money you have in your back pocket is what matters when it comes to taking up the path to achieving a degree. And the Scottish Government has continued to maintain this policy with success in the context of a ever dwindling amount of the overall block grant being sent up from Westminster via the Barnett Formula.
This leads me on to public spending. Our Finance Secretary, John Swinney, has proven to be one of the most competent people in such a role anywhere within Europe. It was reported recently that the overall Scottish budget was underspent by nearly £200 million (link via Common Space). But whilst the books have to be balanced legally, take nothing away from the MSP for Perthshire North. He has shattered the myth that Scotland is a country that cannot financially look after itself when the level of it’s own autonomy is increased. Dare I say this, but he could teach the Treasury in London a thing or two about financial prudence. We don’t want to live in a country where the nation’s finances are allowed to run out of control, but we don’t want to live in a country where cuts to public spending become counterproductive either. A vote for the SNP next year will ensure that an SNP run Scottish Government will continue to balance the books and successfully.
Further still, it is worth noting the importance of increasing the powers of the Scottish Parliament. Our needs and aspirations can only be fully met once we increase the autonomy of the centre of our public life. The constitutional situation remains a talking point even after last year’s independence referendum, because there is a hunger across the whole country for more powers to come to Holyrood. The SNP have done very well since winning office in 2007, but now is the time to keep making the case again and again for Scotland to become more and more autonomous and responsible for the country’s affairs. What is the point in sending 129 MSP’s to Edinburgh, when they can only do a limited amount whilst the potential is there to get so much more done?
And whilst I stick to this subject, I am totally unashamed to make the case for Scotland to have full fiscal autonomy. In my first ever column for Common Space, I stated that Scotland has a lot to gain by taking charge of it’s own financial affairs as the Scottish economy has a lot of potential that has still not been tapped into. The focus should be on economic growth in order to move away from the negativity that the recent recession caused over the last few years. Our future depends on our country taking a step forward and taking control. If I become an MSP next year, I do not want to reach the end of my term thinking, “what if?”
I could keep writing and writing, but I would much rather put my keyboard to one side and start convincing you that I am more than capable of entering the chamber at Holyrood as a prospective and successful SNP MSP in 2016. I vow to serve with pride and humility. I vow to serve for everyone that I represent, regardless of who they are, where they come from and who they politically support. And I vow never to bore either as I hope to make my mark on Scottish history and flourish as an elected parliamentarian.
My political journey has commenced.