Scottish election 2021: Paul Sweeney says SNP succeed by offering ‘unattainable vision’ of independent Scotland

Paul Sweeney has claimed the SNP are succeeding through offering an “unattainable vision” of an independent Scotland.

Speaking to The Scotsman in the fifth part of our exclusive election video series, On The HolyRoad, the former Glasgow North East MP explained Scotland’s governing party offered a clear purpose despite suggesting it was not possible.

Mr Sweeney is now a Labour candidate for the Glasgow regional list at next month’s Scottish Parliament election.

He explained: “They’ve got a sense of purpose behind them that is unattainable at the moment.

Former Labour MP Paul Sweeney was speaking with The Scotsman in Springburn Winter Gardens. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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“Whatever model of an independent Scotland you want, you can have it, however contradictory these objectives are, so it kind of pulls these nefarious bands of people together, whether they're kind of Tories or socialists.

“They’re all unified by a clear purpose.

“That’s not something Labour has got.”

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Westminster Correspondant Alexander Brown chats with former Labour MP Paul Sweeney. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Mr Sweeny was speaking at the historic Springburn Winter Gardens, which have lain derelict since 1983.

Now trying to restore the location, he is a founding member of the Springburn Winter Gardens Trust and hopes to see it stage events in future.

The former MP also had harsh words for the SNP over drug deaths, with Scotland having the highest drug-related death rate in Europe.

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He said: “The war on drugs as it has been called has failed, and it’s instead a war on the people who use them rather than the criminal elements.

The greenhouse being renovated by former Labour MP Paul Sweeney. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

“What we’ve seen in Scotland is a really complex picture of people who use injecting heroin and cocaine, but they're also on methadone and they're also taking alcohol, so it's a combination of different drugs, legal and illegal, that's killing people.

“What we've seen most recently is a spike of deaths in the last four years that has been caused by a change to the NHS prescribing policy on antidepressants.

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“We're not really recognising the reality of that, that in order to solve this problem we need to understand where people are actually at and what the problems are.

"It's not about saying necessarily rehab is going to be a silver bullet or even the safe consumption spaces are going to be a silver bullet. It has got to be everything at once everywhere.

former Labour MP Paul Sweeney. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

“It includes the reality of accepting that prohibition has never worked wherever it's happened and we have to move towards a public health model which totally removes the criminal element to drug consumption and recognise that it's an addiction problem, the same as alcoholism or gambling, because ultimately the root cause of a lot of problems is exploitation.”

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Since losing his seat, Mr Sweeney has been on Universal Credit – an experience he says has informed his approach to politics.

He explained: “I've been working since I was a teenager, I had a job all through university and then went onto a grad scheme in the shipyards and then worked for Scottish Enterprise and became an MP, so I've always had a fairly stable working career.

“I experienced unemployment through my dad when he was made unemployed from the shipyards in the ‘90s, so I have experienced that and it’s not getting a decent Christmas because your parents are skint.

“If it can happen to an MP, it can happen to anyone, so maybe we should have a less punitive welfare system.”

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