It was once famously commented that politics is about “events;” and for those looking at the daily news that will always be the case.
For those of us who are trying to take a longer term view then what matters is surely priorities, for we all know you cannot do everything at once. And it’s no longer easy to see where political priorities are set, with elections more or less yearly to one forum or another.
This year’s general election to the Westminster Parliament is as important as any election has ever been. The make-up of the next UK government will have profound implications for all of us because it will directly affect the economic policy and the balance of powers between parliaments for the foreseeable future. And this is not a re-run of the independence referendum as some of the unionist party candidates would have us believe.
The UK government is solely responsible for taxation of the oil and gas industry. Despite its rhetoric to the contrary it is the Conservative/Lib Dem Government policies that are having a significant effect on the ability of the oil industry to manage the global effects of the temporary fall in the price of oil. Professor Alex Russell commented on Westminster’s action “that they are trying to time it just prior to the General Election. They are playing politics with the future of the North Sea oil industry.”
Digital exclusion is another issue that we have to turn to the Westminster government to address. I made the point just last week speaking in the Scottish Parliament that many of my rural constituents, probably about one in four, are at risk of disenfranchisement if equality of broadband service is not addressed. I think this will be particularly important in the context of health services; some long term conditions can be monitored and managed at a distance given good internet data transfer. Equally it will become normal for a face to face consultation to be done by Skype or the equivalent when the patient is at a substantial distance, or travel is disrupted etc. While the Scottish Government has put some money towards the extension of digital infrastructure it is in principle reserved to Westminster, and the amount of progress we make as a nation will depend on the priorities of the new UK Government.
The presence of food banks in my constituency reminds me of the importance of a sensible welfare payments system – and the fact that we do not now have one. If we get another Tory led Westminster administration then we expect nothing to improve soon as they have no other agenda than to visit public sector cuts on the poor. The richest 1% of the population have seen their share of national income steadily increase in recent years and the losers have been women, children, the disabled and the poor.
It’s no surprise to me that some of the political parties are talking about devolved issues like transport rather than the issues the UK government are responsible for. With the record of the past five years they have little positive to discuss, and no vision for the future. And with such a paucity of leadership there is of course the prospect of a hung parliament with no party having anything like a majority. That’s why the MPs we send from Scotland will be so important.
Ask yourself where you will find evidence of good government, a practical concern to reduce inequalities, a recognition of the monstrous waste of expenditure on nuclear weapons, and a willingness to engage with the public in the formulation of policy, and you will find a party whose MPs will do all they can to put Scotland first. I’m proud to represent you in the Scottish Parliament; please ensure for all our sakes that we have as many SNP MPs as possible.