Happy New Year?

01 Jan 2015

At this time of the year, I find it useful to look back at the year just past and also forward to the one about to come.

Clearly 2014 has been remarkable for the Commonwealth Games focussed here in the East End of Glasgow, the Referendum in which Glasgow voted Yes for independence, and the change of SNP leadership and First Minister from Alex Salmond to Nicola Sturgeon.

I got pretty involved in the first two of these although not so much in the third! Being a Clydesider (volunteer at the Games) was a great experience and really made me feel part of it all, even if it meant not seeing very much of the competitive action. And the weather at the start was remarkable and something to be really grateful for.

Politically of course the referendum was the big thing. At most elections I am working solely within my own constituency and take part in one or two debates. However, by contrast this campaign meant debates all over the country as well as a huge amount of door knocking locally. Again I am grateful. People got so engaged and wanted to talk about the issues. Clearly the result was disappointing for me and the Yes campaign but it was our first referendum on independence. Robert Bruce (and the spider) took seven attempts before winning so we must keep pressing on. So many folk told me they wanted independence but were voting No. So our task in the coming years is to persuade and encourage our fellow citizens that they need not fear the freedom that so many other nations enjoy.

Did Alex Salmond have to resign? No, I do not think so. But I reckon he was probably wise to do so. Ten years is a good length of time to hold a role and it is better to move on when you are doing well, as he has undoubtedly done, than when you are past your peak (as Margaret Thatcher did).

Some folk have asked me if I was expecting to be invited into Nicola Sturgeon’s government. No, I did not really expect that! I think I am probably more suited to being a back-bencher and having the greater freedom which that role allows.

Looking forward to 2015, what can we expect? Well none of us knows the future! So there will be surprises in the coming year – both good and bad. There will be the routine Parliamentary work like the budget, committee meetings, and debates. And we know there will be some potentially controversial topics coming around like Assisted Suicide (which I almost certainly will oppose) and Soft Opt Out for Organ Donations (which I lean towards but am open to hearing constituents’ views).

But politically the 2015 Westminster Election is likely to be the big news in the coming months. The London orientated BBC is likely to focus on the big London parties and they will tend to mock or ignore the SNP, Plaid Cymru, and the Greens.

On local issues we have seen threatened redundancies at McVitie’s and now at City Link, both in this constituency. It was particularly disappointing that City Link chose this time of year to make the announcement. At the very least they could have made it earlier or later. But again it underlines the unacceptable gap in our society between the richer and the poorer. How can we address this? Part of the answer is to increase the statutory minimum wage and thus help those working on low wages earn what they both need and deserve. But that in itself will not restrict the wealth of the very rich. I am clear that we are failing to properly share out the income and wealth that we currently do have. It is a red herring to say that we need to grow the economy in order for everyone to be better off. The two are not connected. Somehow the incomes and wealth of the richest people need to be restricted or their wealth and income need to be more heavily taxed. Politicians are reluctant to talk about this but I struggle to see how we can get a fairer society if this does not happen.

Anyway I remain committed to trying to have a fairer society as we move into 2015. There is always hope! So whatever your situation, and whatever challenges you face going forward, may I wish you a very fruitful and satisfying New Year.