I'mNotAWriterBut…

I am a 51 year old working mum of five – not all at home thank goodness. Im a member of the Women for Independence National Executive. This Blog is growing and changing as my hopes and aspirations change. I actually DO expect to change the world but I accept that might not even make sense sometimes. I hope you enjoy the read.

Archive for the tag “#theSNP”

This land is ours, This language is Ours (part 2)

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The Our Land Festival is a series of events taking place over the last two weeks of August.  Lesley Riddoch, Women for Indy’s Liz Paul  and others will be speaking at Abriachan on Sunday 30th August. There are other events around the Highlands which include events at Strathpeffer and Skye.

Abriachan was chosen because it was one of the first community buyouts of a forest and because the launch of the White paper which led to the Land Reform Act 2003 (1st attempt by Scottish government re Land Reform) was held at Abriachan around 1999. It will be a fun day with a walks, a treasure hunt and other activities and I hope it, and the other events  are well attended.

Land reform is one of the issues which the candidates were asked questions about during the hustings. It’s an issue which has enthused many people and worried others and yet which many people still think is nothing to do with them. People still say to me “Why does it matter to me who owns the land – it’s never going to be me-  I can’t even afford to buy a house never mind own land” and yet it is precisely those sorts of reasons that should mean we are more interested in land reform not less and why it should be of an interest to all of us, in towns and villages, rich or poor, old or young. It is said that Robert the Bruce insisted that he was King of Scots because the land of Scotland belonged to God. That might have been a bit disingenuous as quite a lot of it belonged to him and was passed around and given away as rewards for service to the crown. However at least we knew who it belonged to – today it might be some faceless billionaire channeling it through a Cayman Islands holding company, unidentifiable, uncontactable and unaccountable.

Why does it matter though?  Why should it matter to those of us who don’t own our own homes, can’t afford a plot of land, can’t afford to go grouse shooting, for whom the 12th is only glorious if it’s payday? Why should we care?

Well we should care because how land is used depends on who owns it. There are many landowners in Scotland who are excellent stewards of the land. These are landowners – Lairds – who recognise that for their land to be profitable, sustainable, and vibrant it must support communities, businesses (not simply their own), families and both population diversity and biodiversity.

But there ARE stewards of our land that prevent growth and fight improvements, that “museumise” our land so that it almost seems as though you are looking at it through the glass pane of an exhibit in the biggest outdoors museum in the world. Where this happens communities fail, our young people leave and we abandon the land to deer. The only human feet falling on it are those of the stalkers and the wealthy, paying a phenomenal amount to play a rich mans shooting game. There is nothing wrong with the business of stalking in itself, unless that is all there is.

We need land which supports our communities to grow, enables businesses to prosper and families to stay here and live healthy lives with a healthy income. And that is why Land Reform is so important. In order to ensure that we have those things we first need to know who owns this land, who the Cayman Island investors are. We need to be able to hold those who own our land to account and make them explain what they intend to do with the land, how they intend to support our communities, our people. Where land owners fail to do that, where they refuse to do what is needed,  we must be able to demand that they take action and we should be able to take steps to improve things when they don’t.

A study by Community Land Scotland showed that land owned by the community performed better than privately owned land across a whole range of indicators. Land was worth more, there were more houses built, there were more jobs created, more local businesses were supported, more people lived there, more people used and enjoyed the land. Surely that is what we want. Land that is ours to live on, to work; land which we can make decisions about; land that we look after for our children; land that we can use to provide our communities with energy through wind or hydro; land that we can use to provide us with food, places to live and space to breathe.

And it’s not just rural land either. These goals can be achieved in urban areas, in our towns as well as in our rural areas. Who decided that all the bits of ground around car parks, outside railway stations, on verges should be planted with prickly bushes and laburnum trees and not fruit bushes and apple trees, or tatties and carrots? Why do councils leave brown field sites empty rather than offer city allotments? In places like Todmorden, near to where I grew up, they changed that, the community planted edible crops in place of prickly bushes. In Harpurhey in Manchester – an inner city  area with “Coronation Street” type terraced houses, they used the ginnel between back yards to grow vegetables and fruit. These things can be done and if they can do them in the industrial North West of England then we can surely do similar things in our area too. Things that range from community poly tunnels, an exchange of skills, teaching stewardship of the land right up to enabling young people to choose crofting as a career, building affordable homes and homes for rent which mean people are included in our communities rather than excluded.

These are some of the things that Land Reform will enable us to do. No – not enable – empower. If you have been reading this blog over the last few weeks then you will know people are at the heart of the reasons that I want to be an MSP. Land reform is about people. For us to grow the sort of society we want we need to influence the decisions made about our land for the benefit of our communities. We must know who owns our land, we need to be able to influence the management of our land, to grow and develop the land in a way which supports the people who live here. Land reform is an issue for all of us. Go along to Abriachan, Skye or Strathpeffer on the 29th or 30th and find out more about Land Reform and how we can work together to make the most of Our Land for the benefit of all of us.

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This land is ours, this language is ours – part one.

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Land and language. It always saddens me when there is the suggestion  that somehow I lack the capacity to be a powerful voice for the place I live in, for the Gaelic language because I was not born here in the Highlands. I have come across this comment this week and whilst I know that this is not a majority view and we spoke loudly against the suggestion that the Independence debate was insular and anti english in its nature – I blogged here about it – it is still disappointing  to to have my commitment questioned.

So lets get a few things straight – in the nicest possible way.  I am English, I am from Lancashire, a small town in the foothills of the Pennines called Shaw. I grew up there and when I married my first husband, I moved precisely 3 miles away to another small town called Milnrow before moving to Caithness

I like being a Lancashire Lass  – I’m not ashamed of that – I am proud of it. I believe that growing up in that place, amongst those people, made me the straight talking,  no messing lass that I still am. I have lived here for almost twenty years and I brought my children up here, my youngest two were born here.

So, if there are people wondering how a proud Lancashire lass will stand tall for the people of Skye Lochaber and Badenoch, how can she speak up for the language and the land of this place, who think that somehow the only strong voices are those that come out of the mouths of those born here – then let me put your minds at ease.

I will stand up for this constituency and for its language and its land by caring about people – the people that live here and about the things that are important to them. Those things are important to me. I can stand tall and be a loud voice for gaelic speakers even though I don’t speak gaelic because it matters to people here in our constituency. It is because I love here, because I live here, because this is my home, that what matters to you – matters to me.

I also know very well that the gift of a second language is a fabulous gift to give to our children. My sister moved to France when her children were 8 and 3, my eldest niece went straight into school – a french school of course – and they didn’t speak french at home. She was fluent in three months. What I would give for all our children to have the opportunity to have a second language. Gaelic is part of our culture, part of MY culture, my families culture and I want all our children to feel that way.

There has been some great work done on increasing the use of Gaelic and the accessibility of Gaelic medium Education and I have much to learn but I know we struggle to get teachers, struggle in a land which is so rich with Gaelic words to find enough people to do for our children what my sister did for hers – give them that gift of a second language. We need to address that gap if we are going to make Gaelic part of the everyday life of more of the people living not just here in the Highlands or in our constituency but also throughout Scotland.

Every primary school in Highland should teach Gaelic. Not in a sterile and grammar based boring manner but in an inclusive, lets all chat together sort of way so that EVERY child who moves on to secondary school has conversational Gaelic. If a child decides to study Gaelic to exam level there is plenty of time to teach grammar and to write essays and its always easier to do those things  if you speak a language first. To be honest, I’d like to see French and German taught that way too. im sure there are lots of us who having studied a language to higher or A level have a dread of getting the tense wrong or saying la when it should be le or vous when it should be tu. IT seems to  me that these hang ups about grammar prevent us jumping in and chatting.  Speaking the language is what is important, having fun with it, learning rude words, feeling the words in your mouth and realising you can have a secret conversation with your friends which your mum can’t understand. I would love for all our children to OWN Gaelic as their language, regardless of whether they speak it at home.

That would need every PGCE in Scotland to include a Gaelic bolt on for students to choose. Every single one. Teachers who have Gaelic should  be offered incentives or a higher salary to teach Gaelic. In UHI I would expect that every degree course they offer should have a Gaelic module in every year – a module which people can choose to do alongside whatever course they are doing.   We should be offering that to every student – event those studying here from overseas. We have the amazing Sabhal Mor as part of the resources within UHI and so Gaelic should be accessible to every student – not simply those who want to study to a high level but for anyone who wants to understand and speak Gaelic. Only by increasing the accessibility of Gaelic will we increase its use.

And lets not forget Scots and Doric. The Scots language is often,  wrongly I belive, said to be a “dialect” rather than a language but it has its own rules and words and needs also to be protected and supported in addition to Gaelic. We have speakers of all these languages in our constituency – it gives us a rich and distinct culture but within that there is room for those that speak other languages, are from other counties, other countries. At our Burns party – John and I have one every year – it’s a riotous celebration of Burns but also of all sorts of languages in poems and in song  – Gaelic, Doric, Polish, German, and of course I do a Lancashire Dialect Poem every year (and occassionally do a twirling rendition of “Those were the days” but maybe the least said the better)

I  will stand up for Gaelic because I understand the passion of language, understand that wonder of words and I know that the language is part of our culture and our identity here  – a place that I live in and love and am proud of. A place which is now my place, my family’s place – my culture. I’m part of the fabric of our community and because of that, I’ll be the strongest loudest voice you could have. Just try to shut me up!

Homes and Phones

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The BBC reported this week that “Homes and Phones are the most important issues which need to be addressed in the Highlands for young people wanting to stay here. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-33801732

Our young people indeed seem to want to stay here and we need to do as much as we can to enable that to happen through our infrastructure, through education and opportunities for further learning at all levels, through apprenticeships and through attracting business to our constituency and through housing.

But these issues aren’t simply issues for the young – for the under 30s. They are issues for the whole of our constituency. I have spoken to so many people over the years living here and traveling the length and breadth of the Highlands for whom housing particularly, is not simply a question to be answered on a survey but an issue which affects their lives, their business and their health, both physical and mental health. A safe, warm home where you feel secure is so important. Not having that causes a significant amount of stress. It can lead to depression and anxiety. Poor quality housing can make existing health conditions worse, damp can contribute to breathing difficulties and poor insulation can contribute to the fuel poverty many people in our constituency experience. The cost of fuel and energy can be higher here than in many other places, many people rely on solid fuel for their heating and this can makes it difficult to keep your home warm if you are existing on a pension or on benefits or even working and on a low income.

Housing is one of my biggest concerns. How do we make sure that we have enough affordable housing in an area where there are so many holiday lets and second homes? Where prices are so high that it’s impossible for people on ordinary wages to buy a home of their own. But it’s not simply one and two bedroomed houses for young families. I spoke to an elderly couple recently who would love to downsize but in their community there are few suitable houses for them to live in. When you look around the constituency for houses to rent, they are few and far between and quite pricey too. If you check out the Facebook page Skye/Lochalsh properties to Rent there are posts and posts of people looking for a home before you find a property advertised. Some of these posts seem quite desperate and it’s heartbreaking.

I want to make sure that we work within our communities to meet housing need. That we understand it and that we are innovative in using the legislation to make sure that we meet the needs of young and older people  and make good quality housing available whether that is affordable houses to buy, social housing to rent or private rentals.

Shelter Scotland have a private tenant forum that so far they have limited to the central belt but they have plans to take it to rural areas.  I am keen to make sure that they come to our constituency. My family lives in a privately rented house which I was really lucky to get and to be able to afford but there are so many issues around private rents. Lack of a secure tenancy is one. It’s the most terrifying thing to find that the place you call home is going to be sold. I was living in Wick when that happened to me. My marriage had ended and the flat I had escaped to with just my clothes and the  boys had been put up for sale.  I was on the waiting list for the council and on the homeless list but nothing was happening and even though I was working full-time, buying was not an option. I was tipped off by a friend that a house in the village where my children were at school was being handed back so I phoned the council and was told that it would take two weeks to make a decision about the house. I crossed the days off and then phoned them. I can still remember the poor man on the end of the phone saying to me ” I’m sorry Susan – we had to give it to someone else”. I was utterly devastated and felt completely powerless and I never want anyone else to feel like that.

So housing will be a priority for me. I want to see no empty homes in our communities. I want families to be housed and to be able to stay in their communities and keep their children in our local schools. We work now with organisations like the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust which does a fantastic job in supporting the provision of housing to meet an assortment of needs but we need to do more. We need to use the powers in the Community Empowerment Bill and other legislation to make sure that empty properties are upgraded and let or sold at affordable prices, and we need to build on community involvement in deciding what sort of housing our community needs in advance of planning so that objections are overcome before a lengthy planning battle. You will never please all the people all the time but I often  think that housing development is sometimes decided for a community rather than with it.

I would also like to see a bigger charge on second homes in places that have acute housing shortages, when those homes sometimes remain empty for months on end. One house I knew was owned by a Canadian family who came for a month every two years. That does nothing for our villages and communities. Holiday lets are at least bringing people to stay, to eat at local cafes, shop for local produce but second homes – empty for so long contribute little to our economies. I know people love them and often they gave been “grannie’s house” but we have to put our communities and its needs first. Money raised through an extra charge could be used to benefit the local economy and ensure that the place that people love so much remains viable. More charges may not be popular with everyone but we can’t grow vibrant, healthy, economically sound communities when people only visit once a year or less.

My story didn’t end with my going into bed and breakfast with my  boys, having to give up my job and having to leave the area to find somewhere to rent. I was lucky but many people aren’t so lucky. “Working tirelessly” is a phrase you have perhaps read many times this last week or so but I hope you forgive me for using it again. I will work tirelessly to ensure that people never have to feel the way I felt or face the fears that I had to face.  You, your families and your lives will be the focus of the work that I do and being a strong voice for our constituency is the way to do that – I will be that strong voice.

Social Care and Scotland’s Future

National Conversation

National Conversation

I talk a lot about people having the opportunity to achieve their potential. Achieving our potential is not simply about youngsters getting the chance for work or for college – it’s about everyone living the life they choose and getting the best support there is to do that – whether they are 9 or 99

The Scottish Government yesterday launched a National Conversation on the future of Health and Social Care in Scotland. You can see Shona Robison talking about it here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFRnrH2CnQs&noredirect=1

Social Care is one of the biggest issues facing our constituency over the course of the next parliament. There are around 657,300 unpaid carers in Scotland and they save our government around £10 billion a year. During this parliament we have seen key pieces of legislation and some changes which lay the foundations of better care; the Self Directed Support (Scotland) Act, the Carers Bill and the Integration of health and Social care.

Whilst these are to be welcomed, they are only a foundation and still need considerable work done, building on the legislation to ensure that what is delivered on the ground – particularly in rural areas – lives up to the spirit of this legislation and actually delivers good quality care across both well and sparsely populated areas.

When I started working with unpaid carers I very quickly learned that carers and the people they care for have to fight for every single thing they get. Whether caring for a child, a parent, a spouse, a family member or a friend, people are having to fight from the minute they realise they need support, and then keep on fighting no matter how hard, how exhausting, how worried, how ill they are. I have met carers caring for now grown up children who are seeing the parents of young children fighting the same battles they thought they had won years ago. That can’t be right.

We have seen support reduce in rural areas and we still have people who are told that they must have a certain type of support at a time to suit the care provider not the person requiring care or the unpaid carer. This is completely against the whole ethos of person centred support where the need and opinions of those requiring care and giving unpaid care should be at the heart of what is delivered. We have seen respite reduced, cancelled and almost unavailable in several areas and we have seen the demand for unpaid carers to use a day of their respite to travel often many miles to deliver their loved one to their respite and then another day required to collect the person and bring them home. That turns a week of desperately needed break into five days and makes it difficult to go away or relax.

In Highland we need innovation in care, we need to look at ways to provide care for people in rural areas in a cost effective and compassionate way. We need to stop people feeling like they have to fight and we need better and more flexible care and respite. We can do that by looking at how we work together to use personal budgets to provide care in a remote location, by offering better support to those people wanting to employ their own personal assistants and by protecting the traditional services so that people who don’t want to manage their own budget also get the care they need tailored to their circumstances. Some of this happens in our areas just now and we need to build on that. We also need to improve the status of care work so that more people are attracted to it as a profession rather than as a stop gap job, leaving as soon as something better comes along. This means improving pay and conditions, offering a career path, qualifications and status. We did it with child care and the Scottish Government can do it with home care and residential care too using tools like the living wage and business support, offering training and qualifications to staff. Society needs to value the care people give and we need to invest in it – many of us are likely to have a caring role in our lives at some point.

As your candidate I will be getting involved with these conversations and I will work hard to improve the lives of carers and make sure that the support for those needing social care is better and more robust, that people involved in the assessing and delivery of care are supported to do a good job and that we explore community and innovative ways of delivering care in our rural areas. I will hold services that fail to deliver to account and support our vital Third Sector in delivering support to the most vulnerable in society. I said that people are having to fight – I do some fighting with them now – as your candidate I will continue with that – supporting people, supporting our communities and standing up for the best services we can get. That’s what I mean about making sure people have the opportunity for better lives.

Tomorrow.

I’m exhausted and I haven’t done half as much as I wanted to do to support the SNP, to canvass, to change people’s minds, but I’m still exhausted. I can’t imagine how candidates like our own Drew Hendry feel, or the army of canvassers, or the Election Agents like Jill McAlpine – Still emailing at 1am and again at 8am. They must be utterly, utterly shattered even though the results are looking fairly good. Not that I am suggesting that they relax at all but if it’s this exhausting when the outlook is positive then what must it be like for those poor souls where the outlook is bleak. It must be gut wrenching.

I feel like I keep holding my breath. It feels like the whole of the country is waiting to see what happens next. Lots of people seem to be on short fuses and to be frank if one more person calls me a nazi or a fascist this week, they will find out how short my fuse really is. It feels a bit like a football match. It can be agony until the game is over. Watching the Old Firm match or a Manchester Derby is no pleasure for those who are passionate, even if your team is one up at half time. It feels a bit like that now. All to play for but much to lose.

So what’s going to happen tomorrow – well, why would I have a clue? After the referendum I have no faith in my ability to make a judgement. I thought YES were going to win! At least it’s not all or nothing this time. More than 12 seats for the SNP would be fantastic – the most they have ever had was 11. After the referendum we would have been delighted to think we could double our presence in Westminster and I am going to hold onto that thought but, in truth, anything less than 30 and I will be disappointed because whilst I don’t know what WILL happen I know what I want to happen and any less than 30 will make that more difficult.

I want Scotland to have a loud independent voice in Parliament. And that’s independence with a small “I”. It means a voice outwith the strictures imposed by being part of a UK wide party. A voice which shouts for progressive policies and MAKES people listen, a voice which challenges others and argues and fights for the people that it represents. Where commitment to people is reflected within the policies it promotes and where Scotland’s left of centre voice is shouted loudly and strongly. I want my party represented in Westminster by real people as MPs – people who are not coddled by being a parliamentary adviser and then a shoe in for a safe seat. I want our voices to be heard saying something different, I want their loyalty to be to the people they represent and the policies that best serve them. I want our MPs to be people who have never been complicit in the cosy libdem/labour/tory dominated corridors of power with their leather seats and subsidised champagne and who don’t have an eye on a seat in the House of Lords.

I often hear people saying that the SNP don’t have a monopoly on “Standing up for Scotland” and I am sure every single MP elected from whichever parties would say they would do just that – Stand up for Scotland and yet, let’s look at things like the Bedroom Tax. A policy that Scotland did not want  and wasn’t  necessary and yet – despite that – we got it anyway. Scottish Labour MPs abstained in their own debate some even not turning up at all. Surely if it was not good for Scotland, at the very least Scottish MPs should have turned up and voted against it and yet they didn’t. I saw something on Twitter recently which said if all MPs in Scotland stand up for Scotland then how come we got the poll tax and lost Ravenscraig? Old news I know but these things still hurt.

So as a newish SNP member I want to hear the SNP MPs stick up loudly, strongly and often for what is right for Scotland. I believe that what is right for Scotland is in most cases, going to be right for people in the rest of the UK. I will not tolerate my new party being complicit in delivering austerity for anywhere or anyone in the UK. I accept that even with 59 MPs they will not be “in charge” in the way the papers would like to suggest they will be, but I want to see them try. I want to see them be a thorn in the side of the main parties. To argue and debate forcefully and to ask questions that make the other parties squirm.

I want them to behave themselves, no lobbying scandals, no expenses scandals, no calling each other names and no fist fights in the bar. They are in Westminster representing the many in their party and in Scotland, not the few idiots that we have seen jumped on and paraded as the face of the SNP by the vile press in the last few days.

The candidates, the SNP members, the people that I have met over the last couple of years have given me confidence that that this is how it will be and I am excited by this prospect. I believe that these new Scottish MPS can be trusted to do their very best to be the very best they can. I want the SNP to win over the rest of the UK like they won over me and like they appear to have won over Scotland. By doing that the rest of the UK can see that a different sort of politics is possible and, in five years the prospect of the next General Election will be as exciting for the rest of the UK as it is for many of us here in Scotland right now.

So good luck to them all – to Natalie McGarry as she squares up to Margaret Curran and her unpleasant tactics even with her sore foot; to Mhairi Black who has faced the most awful attacks during her campaign to replace Douglas Alexander; to our own candidate Drew Hendry as he prepares to go to the polls to unseat Danny Alexander and to Paul Monaghan, Danus Skene and Ian Blackford as they hope to break the Libdem hold in the far north of Scotland; to Tommy Sheppard who I cheered at conference; to the smiling Anne McLoughlin and the talented and committed Philippa Whitford. To you guys and to everyone else – hold your nerve and remember to breath. Good luck.

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to know?

I don’t even know where to start! I have watched the news and the papers over the last couple of weeks as they go completely crazy over the role that the SNP may or may not play in the UK after the election. I am utterly astounded. I thought that the referendum campaign had educated me in the ways of politics and I often think I am quite a worldly woman. Years working on the front line in Unemployment Benefit Offices, Job Centres, volunteering, being a single mum and lately a gobby English woman campaigning for independence had, I thought, made me unshockable but I find myself gaping open mouthed at the antics of supposedly intelligent public servants and their hangers on, the supposedly world class broadcasters, the mainstream media both tabloid and the broadsheets.

Today’s Mail on Sunday has headlines which report that the idea that Scotland might send a majority of SNP MPs to Westminster is “the worst crisis since the abdication”. This means that WW2 was less of a crisis than people exercising their democratic right to vote. It is of course, being parodied on Twitter in a highly amusing way with #worstcrisissincetheabdication turning up little gems just like #dollgate did the day before and #tinhat did a few weeks ago. . Whilst this is an effective way of dealing with all this nonsense it doesn’t remove the headlines screaming across the UK using words like “coup”, “dangerous” “threat” and working to undermine the democratic right of voters in Scotland and therefore, anywhere in the UK because this isn’t about Scotland alone, it is about democracy in a wider sense.

So for the benefit of my friends South of the border particularly and wider readers generally, here are a few points about the SNP, about the Scottish electorate and about what is happening in Scotland that I hope will be a bit of a balance to the tantrums we are seeing played out in the full view of everybody and help my friends in England and elsewhere to understand what is happening here.

We are told over and over again that the SNP is dangerous because they want to destroy or break up Britain and therefore EVERYTHING they do and say must be seen in the context of their pathological desire to smash all that we hold dear. In fact I have been asked about this many, many times both on Facebook and in person. This usually goes along with the complaint that the SNP – the yes voters – haven’t “moved on” from the referendum of last year. That we had our arses kicked on 18th September and that we should just get over it.

Let me reassure you – we have indeed moved on. Many of us did that very quickly after the referendum, some of us took a bit longer and a few may never get over it. Me? Well, this year, on 18th September, the referendum will be a distant memory, not even given a passing thought as we celebrate my eldest son’s wedding and you know, that’s what happens in life. You get over things, you move on.

The massive surge in membership of the SNP is actually a huge demonstration of how much we are moving on. The commentators seem baffled this, they seem to think that there is some sort of mind altering substance in our Irn Bru which is turning us all into rabid nationalists. The truth is that many of us have joined political parties as part of the moving on we are doing. For its not just the SNP, its all the independence supporting parties. The SNP is the most visible but the Scottish Socialist Party, the Scottish Green Party and one or two others are all seeing a significant increase in membership. Organisations like Women for Independence and the Common Weal have also seen growth in numbers of members and participants. Political rallies on anything from TTiP, Fracking, Anti nuclear, anti austerity, are well attended in numbers that they wouldn’t have even dreamed of at the time of the last general election. Local hustings lead to packed halls, even workshops on Economics or land reform and local book groups focusing on political books are getting plenty of support and interest.

All this activity is Scotland “moving on”. We lost the referendum, we got over it. Independence does however, remain the key policy of the SNP and there is no reason to apologise or shy away from that. Despite this we recognise that we will remain part of this United Kingdom, of Great Britain and that, in order to try to change things, to work for a better fairer society, we have to be an active part of the Westminster Political process. And that is not by staging a coup, or holding governments to ransom, but by the democratic process. This election is not about sneaking in through the back door to plant some gunpowder and blow up Britain, severing the landmass at Hadrian’s wall, it’s about working within our political system to get the best we can for Scotland and the rest of the UK.

The SNP will always do what is best for Scotland because all of the MPs we send will represent Scottish Constituencies. Just like any constituency MP their first concern must be about the needs of the people in their constituencies and about delivering for them. If …. when they win their seats they have made promises to do the best they can for their constituents, first and foremost. So every single one of them knows we have to grow the economy in Scotland AND the UK. Every single one of them wants an end to austerity in Scotland AND the UK. Because we, those of us who joined the SNP, those of us who will vote for the SNP know fine well that now independence is not happening, what we do needs to work within the wider context of Scotland as part of the UK.  Indeed for many of us YES voters part of what we wanted for an independent Scotland was to be a sort of leading light, to have the sort of success that would show our neighbours, our families and friends in the rest of the UK that you can have a different sort of politics. We hoped to give voters elsewhere the confidence that there is a alternative way to achieve fairer better society, encouraging political change elsewhere in the UK. Idealistic? Of course. But a far cry from the separatist, fascist, selfish personality of the rabid cybernat that the mainstream media would have you believe makes up the majority of SNP Members and activists.

Various commentators suggest that the SNP will pull Labour to the Left…the “hard left” in fact, said with the sort of sneer that used to be reserved for Labour’s militant tendency back in the 1980s. Is that because keeping the NHS in public ownership is “hard left”? Or does believing that we should pay carers who spend at least 35 hours a week caring the same level of benefits that people looking for work get make us “hard left”? When did it become “hard left” to think that education should be free and that all our children should have the same opportunity to get a degree whatever their parents earn? Surely it’s not “hard left” to think that society is important and looking after the poor and vulnerable is the right thing to do? These policies are not policies of revolution, of a party hurtling towards communism or North Korea. In fact, for many, they are not socialist enough. These are actually policies of decency, and policies which we need as a society to enable us to start to move towards being fairer better place to belong to.

The SNP have economic plans to reduce the deficit and to grow the economy through targeted spending and a measured amount of borrowing. No one is suggesting we forget about the dreaded deficit. It’s a bit like the decision you might make to do repairs or update your house and to therefore, increase your mortgage. If your roof is failing and some of your family are getting wet when it rains, even though you are snug, you wouldn’t just leave them, you would need to get it fixed. You might not want to but you may take a loan or extend your mortgage to pay for the work. It might take you longer to pay it off but your house will be better in the long term and everyone was dry. That’s where we are now. The Society we have now is not working for us. It’s failing many of us and we need to invest a bit more to enable us to grow the economy, we need to cut a bit less and we need to take a bit longer to pay back the deficit in order to have a fairer better place for us all to live.

So is Nicola Sturgeon the most dangerous woman in politics? Not for you and me she isn’t. Not for the ordinary working person or for the person on benefits or someone having to rely on foodbanks. She isn’t dangerous to the self employed, the disabled or pensioners. She isn’t dangerous for those of us struggling to work in our NHS or struggling to afford childcare, nor for those of us scared of nuclear weapons and what they could do to our world; or those of us on waiting lists for social housing who nearly cried when they heard that David Cameron plans to sell off properties that we were hoping we would get the chance to rent one day. Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP are not dangerous for any of us.

She is, however,  dangerous for David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband. There are Labour MPs in Scotland who felt they were entitled to expect the support of the people in their constituencies for as long as they wanted it and Nicola Sturgeon with her high approval ratings is a danger to them. The SNP is  dangerous to those politicians who have forgotten that they are the voice of the people they represent and therefore think it’s ok to suggest that Scotland’s voters should just shut up and have no say in the politics of the UK.

A significant number of SNP MPs alone, or supported by Plaid Cymru and the Green Party will be able to form an effective opposition to any government, whether it is a Labour Government or Tory propped up by UKIP, or even the Libdems. We desperately  need an effective opposition to hold the government to account, to challenge decisions, to make sure that policies are properly scrutinised. With a large group of MPs in parliament the SNP will be able to be that effective opposition. They will be able to ask questions challenge policies and demand to be heard in a way that they have been unable to do so with only six MPs.  They will bring an alternative view to those of us watching on tv, reading about politics in social media. They are unencumbered by second jobs, a sense of entitlement, an “old boys network” – many of them have never been politicians before. Whether you agree with the policies of the SNP or not,  it will be good to see these things challenged and properly argued. Of course the main parties feel alarmed at that possibility, they will have to show they are worth our votes in a way that they haven’t had to do for ages. The two party system is being shaken up and they know that they will ALL need to up their game. The Libdems particularly are in danger of disappearing into insignificance and that’s why Nick Clegg has been so strident in his views on the SNP when actually Nick Clegg and the Libdems have struggled to be strident about anything in the last five years. Remarkable how the chance of losing your job concentrates the mind.

This growth of a significant alternative political voice in Scotland, the galvanising of the voters into a politically educated and crucially, politically active population has the potential to be copied in England, in fact that is already starting to happen. Increases in Green Party membership, in UKIP, and the emergence of new smaller parties suggest that the potential is there for more political engagement from ordinary voters, and THAT is what they are scared of. Scared that you guys, my friends, my family in the rest of the UK will see what has happened in Scotland and think that political activism, political intelligence, economic understanding and actually engaging with politics is a good thing and take it for yourselves.  Then what will they do?

The batshit crazy papers, the pasty faced, exhausted politicians, the titled privileged elite are not really scared for the future of the UK, they aren’t scared of the “hard left” SNP that doesn’t actually exist, they aren’t scared of 105 000 rabid, foaming at the mouth bravehearts because they don’t exist either, they aren’t scared of the SNP’s policies on the economy; or Nicola Sturgeon, they are my friends, scared of you, of us. They are scared of a politically aware and engaged electorate. And you know what? That’s a good thing.

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