The lates, brilliant instalment in this series of guest posts is from Kirsty Connell. Kirsty worked in the Scottish Parliament during and after the last Scottish elections, before standing as a Labour Party candidate in the 2009 European Election. She now work in the arts sector, is a Tech and Culture contributor to www.wowdewow.com and has a personal blog at Bread and Roses . You can follow Kirsty on Twitter at @kirsty_c.
Politics works in threes.
Three main parties. Three primary colours to distinguish them (for which, to fit this into Scottish politics, I assign the Liberal Democrats to blue). Three stages for a bill to pass through in the Scottish Parliament. Three soundbites in a speech.
And while the What Women Want series asks us to think big, and to think better, about what we want from politics, I’m going to stick to the concept of three. It brings me a sort of comfort, as I emerge myself from an immersion in politics, to start to cast a critical eye on today’s Scottish political scene.
So my three points are this. People. Policy. Priority.
I want better people to represent me and to represent women across Scotland, from all the parties. Weber Shandwick’s ScotlandVotes published a run-down of likely new MSPs to be elected next week. With the exception of Gillian Dykes, the Conservative candidate for Dumfriesshire, every likely new MSP in a constituency seat is a white middle-aged male. Everywhere in Scotland, from my local boozer to the terraces of Hampden, will have a greater diversity of inhabitants than the next Parliament will.
I want all parties to stop treating the list system as a top-up for equality, where women and BME candidates can have their place, and to start using positive action to select more diverse candidates for constituency seats, to bring real equality in political representation to the Scottish Parliament.
To complement the better range of candidates and hence calibre of MSP, I want to see the Parliament start to enact real policy, and forget the politicking.
I don’t care who wins First Minister’s Questions from this week to the next, who delivers the best line, who lands the knock-out punch. Instead, I want policies and parliamentary Acts that don’t just think about the next three weeks of headlines, or the coming three years to the next Scottish election. I want legislation that starts to think about what Scotland should be like in three parliamentary terms’ time.
I want to know how my healthcare and my workplace will make it easy for me to have children in a few years time. I want to know what our state education system is going to look like when my children start to access it, and I want to know how the Scottish Parliament is going to make it easier for me to not only juggle work and childcare, but to be able to afford to be in a position to juggle both.
I want to know if I should start saving now so my child can benefit from a university education in two decades time, or whether the Scottish state will continue to ensure higher and further education is free at the point of access for all who want it. And if my child wants to enter a trade, I want to know that if I have a daughter, it’ll be as easy for her to take an apprenticeship in construction and engineering as it should be for my son to access apprenticeships in care or administration.
I want the same commitment that I’ll give to my family and their life chances from the people who seek to represent me.
In fact, I want more.
I don’t want to waste the next few years I can spend freely sipping mojitos in trendy bars in Edinburgh worrying about whether I can even afford to have a baby and to raise a child. I want those elected to the Scottish Parliament to be worrying about it for me, to be drafting legislation and planning outcomes, thinking ahead to what Scotland and her people need, now just in the here and now, but in the years and decades ahead.
Better people as parliamentarians, creating better policies for the long term. But in the short term, there can only be one priority. And that has to be finding a Scottish alternative to the Tory-led coalition’s cuts agenda.
There is a better way to get out of the recession, rather than slashing public spending and cutting public services. It needs real investment in our people and our economy, to grow our way out of the economic crisis, to create jobs and to boost trade. The SNP and the Labour Party have edged, in their announcements and manifestos throughout the election campaign, towards this alternative, but neither has grasped it.
Both parties are held back from truly opposing the coalition’s shameful cuts by faults within themselves.
I want the SNP to stop just blaming ‘That London’ as the default position, and to take the next step from that starting point towards finding better, imaginative, alternative ways to help Scotland escape the brunt of the Tories’ slash and burn policies.
I want the Labour Party to cease its relentless opposition of the SNP and all their ideas as their default position, and to start to find ways to work within the Scottish Parliament to build and to strengthen the nascent social democratic spirit that resides within most Scottish parties and which will be the bulwark against the destruction the Westminster government is unleashing on Scottish public life.
Whether it’s Salmond or Gray occupying Bute House next week, I want both men to start to really think about how Scotland can be better.
Better throughout the Coalition’s rule in Westminster. Better not just for the next term, but for the next decade and beyond. Better in how the Scottish Parliament works, how it acts, how it legislates, how it debates. Better in who it is that fills those 129 seats.
Better, because there’s a lot of people out here, now, and in the future, who deserve it to be so.