On Monday morning (12.20 hrs 18 April), STUC General Secretary Grahame Smith will call on political leaders to raise their game and to offer the people of Scotland bold, ambitious polices to address some of the hitherto intractable challenges facing the Scottish economy and society.
He will present to the STUC Annual Congress a statement on the Scottish Elections, warning that the much lauded increase in political engagement in Scotland masks a continuing cynicism about the power and will of political parties to effect meaningful change in people’s lives.
Grahame Smith will say:
“This is the most important election to take place since the Scottish Parliament was re-established in 1999. The next Scottish Government will wield new powers on tax, welfare, and employment programmes, powers with the potential to make a substantial, positive difference to the lives of working people in Scotland. The next Scottish Government really has to aspire to more than just managerial competence.
“Unfortunately, the campaign going on around us doesn’t yet reflect the possibilities provided by new powers. Indeed, the nature and quality of debate suggests that it could take some time for our political parties to recognise that new opportunities exist, let alone grasp them.
“We need bold, ambitious policies that address some of hitherto intractable problems in the Scottish economy and society, policies that will have a real impact on reducing poverty and inequality, that are based on the evidence of what works rather than their populist appeal or soundbite suitability.
“In health, the real challenge is not the time it takes to get a patient from A&E to a bed in a ward. It is that if you live in Drumchapel or Lochee that you’re likely to die 10 years earlier than if you live up the road in Bearsden or Broughty Ferry.
“In education, the political obsession with testing won’t make it any easier for young people from poor households to get to university or when they graduate to earn as much their richer peers on the same course. There is a premium for being rich, and poorer students - no matter how hard they work, or how talented they are- cannot catch up.
“High quality, sustainable employment opportunities remain absent in some areas of the country decades after the demise of traditional industries such as coal, steel and engineering.
“Health inequality, access to education, and support for high quality jobs in our most deprived communities should be key policy priorities for our politicians. We should expect nothing less of our political leaders all of whom need to raise their game.
“During Congress we will hear from the leaders of our two main parties. We expect to hear that they understand the real issues currently facing workers and their communities, that they are willing to use the knowledge and experience of unions and their members to shape policy, and that they have a vision for Scotland that matches the ambition of its citizens for sustainable economic and social progress.
“We need a new approach to industrial policy, a step-change in support for child care and for a Trade Union Bill in Scotland designed to embed Scotland’s alternative approach to industrial relations throughout the public sector and the wider economy.
“There is a real danger that a relatively low turnout in the elections followed by an uninspiring programme for Government could lead to a downward spiral in political engagement and growing cynicism and division. The public interest in politics has been much lauded since the referendum but the next period will determine whether momentum can be sustained.”
Contact Dave Moxham 0141 337 8100