Scottish Elections 2021: Why Scotland faces five more years of squabbling unless it votes for politicians with practical solutions – Anas Sarwar

Trust and faith in parliament and our politics has been lost in recent years.

We need to rebuild that, because only when people believe that Holyrood works for them will we be able to unite Scotland

This week, postal votes start arriving on doormats as the democratic process of shaping our nation’s parliament for the next five years gets underway.

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Based on the polls, I am under no illusion about the challenge facing the party I was elected to lead just six weeks ago. But this election is not only about who is the government. The nature of the Scottish Parliament means that it’s about who is in opposition too.

I have been clear that Scotland deserves a better government and a better opposition. We can’t have too much power in the hands of one party, meaning little accountability or humility. That’s why it’s important to stop a majority government.

But it’s also only through a better opposition that we get a better government. Because let’s not pretend the SNP has a strong track record in office.

From the shocking attainment gap in our schools to the pressure on our NHS, vital public services were struggling before Covid changed our country. Now the health emergency we are coming through is set to become a jobs crisis – with thousands of livelihoods on the line.

Children, out of school for many months, are returning to classrooms without the support they need to catch up for lost time.

The Conservative opposition in Holyrood has not been up to the task, says Anas Sarwar (Picture: PA)
The Conservative opposition in Holyrood has not been up to the task, says Anas Sarwar (Picture: PA)

And perhaps most pressing of all – the eyes of the world will be on Scotland as we confront the global challenge of climate change when action has stalled at home.

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National recovery

I am determined that Scottish Labour is a positive force for change. The election result may seem weeks away, but up to a million votes could be cast in the next week – and so I’m taking this opportunity to be clear about my offer – and what is at stake.

And I’m asking you this question: who do you trust most to ensure parliament focuses on what matters to you? Scottish Labour or a Scottish Conservative party which has run out of ideas and has lost its way?

While I hope you’ll consider Labour is worthy of both your votes on May 6, I want you to really think about how you will use your second party-list vote.

Because it will make the difference between an opposition focused on ideas for an ambitious recovery – or five more years of squabbling.

At times like this, Scotland needs a parliament focused on our national recovery – not on the old arguments or settling scores.

Both the SNP and the Tories want to tell you that this election is a simple choice; a repeat of our journey to the polls in 2014. But the pandemic has changed Scotland.

What we need is a parliament focused on a stronger recovery for every community and every family, and an opposition dedicated to making sure the SNP puts people’s needs – not political games – first.

You have a chance to make sure that the next five years aren't simply a repeat of the last five.

Ambitious action

The Tory opposition in Holyrood hasn't been up to the task – more obsessed with scoring points than making sure the Scottish government works in the interests of your family.

I don’t support independence or a referendum. But, just being against independence isn't enough to make you a real party of opposition.

To ensure the SNP focuses on what matters, you need ideas, a vision, and a commitment to work first and foremost to bring our country together.

That is why you'll have seen me championing my national recovery plans – actions to save jobs, our high streets, the NHS, education, and the climate.

For me, it’s what this election and the next five years must be about.

Devolution was designed to deliver Scottish solutions to Scottish problems, with parties coming together to reach solutions for people.

We need ambitious action to make sure our parliament lives up to the promise of making lives in Scotland better. That starts by making sure more Scots are in meaningful and sustainable work.

I've unveiled a guarantee for every young person or unemployed person to have a job and for everyone who needs it to get access to paid training.

We’ve shared a plan targeted at saving Scotland’s high streets and tourism industry with a £75 prepaid card for every adult, and a Great Scottish Staycation offering a third-night free accommodation to support our tourism industry.

Together they are the biggest job creation and economic stimulus schemes in the history of devolution.

My simple promise

A generation of young people who have had their learning disrupted by Covid need personal education comeback plans. We have a moral imperative to ensure that our next generation does not carry the weight of the pandemic.

In the NHS, we need to get services back on track and prioritise cancer treatment and care.

But it can’t just be about fixing the immediate problems; we need to invest in mental health services too, create the national care service Labour has demanded for over a decade, and provide a real pay rise for NHS and social care staff.

These are ambitious schemes – but that is because Scotland deserves a parliament pushing for the best solutions.

When you go to the polls on May 6 – or fill out your ballot paper this week with a cup of coffee at your kitchen table – the choice you make is about the kind of country you want to live in.

My promise to you is simple. The Scottish Labour Party I lead will always be on your side.

Scotland deserves a better government and a better opposition, and I’m determined to help reshape the Scotland we all love.

Anas Sarwar is leader of the Scottish Labour Party

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