Election campaigns are big on commitments, on vision and on rhetoric. The Scottish Parliament election campaign just passed was no different, with promises of recovery and renewal. But too often after elections the rhetoric is not matched by the reality, and the bold change promised morphs into business-as-usual once election fever subsides.
This time must be different. We all know that the pandemic has tightened the grip of poverty on the lives of people across Scotland, while deepening the many intersecting inequalities that mark our economy and society. Yet the truth is that even before Covid-19, we were failing to live up to the values of compassion and justice we all profess to share.
Before Covid-19, over one million people in Scotland – including almost one in four children – were living in poverty. Before Covid-19, our labour market was locking people – particularly women, young people, disabled people, and Black and minority ethnic people – into low-paid and insecure work. And before Covid-19 our public services, such as our transport system, housing and childcare, simply weren’t working for many people living on low incomes.
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So the challenges facing the new Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament are significant. But so too are the possibilities. The election campaign showed that there is cross-party agreement on several of the actions we need to create the more just Scotland we all want to see. All of Scotland’s political parties committed to doubling the Scottish child payment. This was a welcome show of unanimity.
We now need to get on and do it. That means doubling it this year, not over the course of the next few years.