Column: A New First Minister for Scotland


Categories: News

Column from Alyn Smith MP, for local newspaper the Stirling Observer

Scotland made history recently, as our Scottish Parliament elected a First Minister from a minority-ethnic background. After an exciting SNP leadership contest, Humza Yousaf has been elected by the SNP membership as party leader – and by our Parliament as Scotland’s First Minister respectively. I’m excited to see his Government tackle the big issues of the day, facing the people of Stirling and Scotland.

I take great comfort from the fact that any debate about an independent Scotland’s journey back to the EU is now settled. There was a time when a significant element of the SNP was not pro-EU. Thankfully that’s diminished over time but is now clearly over.  The SNP is a pro independence and pro EU party, we want to be independent in order to join organisations, not be separate or apart in some sort of fantasy halfway house. This chimes with the overwhelming aspiration of the people of Scotland, and indeed Stirling – and will be crucial in winning former No voters to Yes.

With a refreshed Scottish Government and a new First Minister in Humza Yousaf, it is our duty in the SNP to focus laserlike on the priorities of the people we represent. I know first-hand from speaking with local Stirling households and businesses – the cost of living crisis is far from over. Far from lofty rhetoric, people want answers and solutions to the immediate crises facing them as the days and weeks tick by.

I’m very proud to have backed calls for the UK Government to delay their bonkers idea to raise the retirement age. Figures from Age UK suggest 150,000 pensioners are living in relative poverty – whilst 1 in 5 people aged 55-64 are also struggling to make ends meet. Thankfully UK ministers have seen sense, and scrapped plans to bring the increase in state pension age from 66 to 68 forward to between 2037 and 2039. It is, however, still due to rise after 2044.

The recently passed UK Budget had little to celebrate – businesses and households are still not receiving anywhere near the support they need to weather the twin storm of high energy prices, and the knock-on effects this has had to food prices and inflation in general.

On the big questions which affect the everyday lives of the people of Stirling – growing the economy to tackle poverty, warm homes, affordable, healthy food, meaningful work, security in sickness and old age, flexible childcare – the Conservative UK Government has delivered nothing but misery for us. And as for the Labour party, the only possible replacement under this tired and failing Westminster model – they’ve been posted missing through these years of political crisis. They have nothing of substance to offer the challenges facing Scotland, far too comfortable in propping up the UK’s failing economic and social model, as well as denying Scotland’s right to choose – and trying to make Brexit work to boot.

The incoming Scottish Government has a huge opportunity to re-energise the debate on the issues fundamental for our communities to lead healthy, fulfilling lives. I look forward to the debates in the months ahead, as we collectively build the better Stirling and Scotland we know we can be.