Eve of poll reflections

Tomorrow is polling day in the closest and most unpredictable election in my lifetime. I haven’t always been active in politics and this is the first general election I have taken part in as a Scottish Labour party member and activist.

In previous elections, I did what more people do: zone out the noise of the campaign as much as possible, vote on the day without thinking much about it and wake up to the result the next day. I’m very conscious that this is the election experience for most people when I now knock on their door and ask them what they think about it. Some people I speak to are puzzled that door knocking actually happens; some people are completely uninterested. A minority is abusive; the majority is polite. Every now and then you have a long discussion about the issues that are important to the person you are speaking to, who wants to know how your party can make a difference.

I am genuinely proud of the plan for Government that the Labour Party has on offer in this election. It is radical but achievable and it will benefit the many, not the few.

A ban on exploitative zero hour contracts; increase in the minimum wage; incentives for the living wage; tackle tax avoidance and evasion while abolishing non-dom status; abolish the bedroom tax; reintroduce the 10p tax rate for low earners and 50p rate for those earning over £150,000; a mansion tax to increase funding for the NHS; Scottish Jobs Guarantee for unemployed young Scots; a future fund for young people in Scotland who don’t go into higher education.

These are just a few of the policies in a manifesto that is fully funded and committed to addressing the deficit.

These policies would have a genuine impact on the lives of tens of millions of people living in the UK. It is a completely different road than the one which the Conservative and Liberal Democrats have led us on since the last election, a road which they would continue on if they remain in power.

And despite my hope that Labour emerges with a majority or as the biggest party on Friday morning, the reality is we may not. The polls have Labour and the Conservatives at neck and neck. As a result of the predicted gains of the SNP in Scotland, the Conservatives will remain the largest party and will, likely, remain the leading party of a new government.

If this happens, the chance to change our country and implement Labour’s plan for a better Britain will vanish. It will be another five years before we get the opportunity again.

The fact is that if the SNP were not predicted to take the vast majority of Scottish seats in this election, David Cameron would already have his bags packed. But he hasn’t. He’s getting set to stay in Number 10.

A lot has been said about the how even if the Conservatives remain the largest party they could be blocked from forming a Government. Maybe that is possible, but why take the chance? Why gamble on back room deals, body language and personality clicks or clashes to achieve the result you want?

If you want if you want to see progressive change that benefits the many and not few, if you want to see the back of David Cameron and this Conservative led coalition and if you want to see a Labour Government, then you have to vote for it and you have to vote Labour.

There are many things that separate Labour and SNP supporters but I am yet to speak to an SNP supporter on the doors that says they want to see another Conservative Government. Let’s not wake up on Friday and regret the missed opportunity to prevent one.


Another part of being relatively new to the world of election campaigns is realising how much they rely on committed volunteers.  Most people probably don’t realise how much political parties and the democratic process rely on people who fold letters, stuff envelopes, deliver leaflets, man street stalls, canvass voters, drive people to polls, drop of snacks for hungry activists.  It is a truly remarkable which often goes unremarked upon.  To everyone who got involved in this process, no matter the party, I salute you and your effort. 


Healing wounds and moving on

This is a modified version of a speech I gave at the Law Society of Scotland’s post-referendum conference during a session titled ‘Healing the Wounds’.  I felt it was a fitting piece to publish here to round up the series of posts on the issue of Scottish independence.  Future posts will mostly focus on local issues from my campaign in Edinburgh Western. 

The referendum was an exhilarating, challenging and life changing experience for me. I am one of the thousands of people in this country who became politically active for the first time because of it. The last week, in particular, was intense, exciting and emotional.

Throughout the campaign, I was confident of the result. Bar a couple of dark moments, I expected a win for Better Together. And when it was confirmed after 6am on 19th September, I was proud of what so many had achieved, I was happy and I was relieved. But there was no sense victory over the other side. I took no joy in the faces of the Yes campaigners who remained at Ingilston until the final result; I took no satisfaction from the pictures of broken hearted fellow Scots in the newspapers over the following days.

There was a sensitive, compassionate and insightful feature in the Scotland on Sunday by Peter Ross about the aftermath of the result for Yes campaigners.

He related the feelings of those he had spoken to: anger, heart-break and bitter disappointment. He said that while it might look melodramatic in print, the impact of the campaign on these activists should not be underestimated. “Although the political transformation they sought had not come about, many feel huge personal change. They are engaged with society in ways they were not before. They feel, finally, that they have managed to get some purchase on life.”

I was moved by this and recommended that all No supporters read it because we all need understanding, compassion and insight to heal our nation’s wounds and move forward.

To me, the campaign came down to one issue: how to forge a better, more prosperous, more socially just Scotland. Yes or No, our aims were the same even if our solutions were different. We now have the answer of the Scottish electorate and we must all move forward together, united in that one aim.

Political engagement has never been higher in Scotland. Scotland expects and our political leaders must deliver. Creating further division now can not be helpful. Acceptance of the result and working constructively with the Smith Commission is essential for all sides of the debate, but particularly the SNP. As the party of Government, they have a duty to act in the interests of all of Scotland, not just the so-called “45%”.

It is a huge privilege and challenge to be standing as a Holyrood candidate at this period of our history. I could not describe the honour it would be to be elected as a member of the Scottish Parliament in this new era of devolution.

It is an exciting and demanding time for us all in this small, proud country. I am confident that by coming together, we will be equal to the task ahead. That is how we not only heal the wounds, but draw new strength from the referendum.

Welcome to my campaign site!

Welcome to my campaign page! Here I will post regular blogs and published articles as well as speeches from my campaign. 

To me, a politician is someone who finds solutions to problems; who delivers results through dedication and hard work. That is exactly what I have done in my job as a solicitor and in the many voluntary organisations I have been involved with over the years.

While always interested in politics, it was not until the independence referendum that I became actively involved. It made me aware of the importance of personal participation and I have been a constituency leader for Better Together in Edinburgh since the start of 2014.

I think that for the majority of people the independence debate is about social justice and how we can make their lives, and our country, fairer and better. I don’t believe we need independence to make the change that people want. We need people with passion and policies with a purpose to make this change. And I believe only Labour can deliver this. Only Labour reaches across social and economic groups and says, “We can make this better for everyone, for the benefit of everyone.”

From now until the Holyrood elections in 2016, Scottish politics is going to be exciting, challenging and, hopefully, engaging. I am confident of a No vote in September but the work of bringing the country together must start immediately. We cannot let those who say “No, thanks” to independence regret their choice and the faith they placed in the Union as the better choice. We need people to believe in Scotland in the Union again and this task falls on the Labour Party. This is a huge responsibility but it is one I believe the party is equal to.

We can make this a better country for all. Scottish Labour can be a party of a Government for all again. We cannot and must not go back to business as usual. If successful in the referendum, the Scottish people will have given us a chance, we must not squander it.

I am looking forward to meeting people and organisations in Edinburgh Western and listening to what they think the constituency needs to move forward. I am looking forward to working with my fellow Labour prospective candidates across Edinburgh to present the best offer to the electorate in 2016. I am looking forward to an invigorating and challenging campaign. I am looking forward to success at the ballot box for Scottish Labour in Edinburgh Western on election day!

Many thanks for your interest!