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25 October 2016

Champion of Change

Change is the only certainty in life. Change we seek-Change we avoid. Change that is happy and change that is tragic.

The loss of SNP Councillor Ian Gray was a tragic change, tragic for his loved ones, friends, and our community as a whole. His passing leaves a vast space to be filled.

The victor in our upcoming by-election will have to undertake that task. Someone I hope with commitment, experience and positivity. On November 3, I’ll be backing Dr Glen Reynolds. A man who has experience of working with Aberdeenshire Council, a man who has time and again demonstrated his commitment to positive change in Banffshire.

Glen has worked in the Housing and Community Safety Office locally for the past ten years. He’s raised his family locally and his wife is a teacher in the community. These connections are essential. As constituency MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, I know how important it is to have that connection to the place you represent. You have to listen and understand local challenges. Among my colleagues, that is a belief we share.

Over the last few weeks I’ve joined my fellow North-east MSP Gillian Martin to meet with the Scottish Government over GP recruitment. They’ve reaffirmed their commitment to improving recruitment to rural areas- and rural health boards are working together to share successful recruitment strategies. Challenges remain, but we must speak with a single voice.

We have an opportunity now to add another note to that unified voice. We can add another voice to represent and pursue the concerns of the people here. As an elected member I believe positive, capable local councillors play the most important role in making sure all levels of government respond to the needs of local people.

I’m also a firm believer in consistency, the need for continual action toward a goal. The greatest social change can only come with time and effort – simple solutions are simply false. Positive change requires sustained effort, investment and planning.

The SNP realise this – this is how we function. We realise the importance of quality, effort and a goal. When oil and gas workers began facing redundancies we created a programme for them to retrain as teachers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. All subjects where we most need teachers. These problems aren’t solved yet – but this is the kind of innovative action the SNP delivers. We take problems and turn them into solutions.

In recent weeks, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Constitution, Derek Mackay, has suggested there may be discussions of giving a share of the national element of income tax to local government through a formula. He has said that he wishes to engage with local government on this. At a time of Westminster austerity – we need representatives to work with the Scottish Government, that will champion the views of those living in the North-east. This may represent an opportunity to increase our council funding while reinvigorating rural communities like ours – it’s vital we put our best foot forward.

11 October 2016

Pizza or Politics?

These days most things are convenient. When you want a pizza– all you need to do is pick up a phone. You want coffee? Push a button – coffee. Instant, convenient, effortless. Today, technology makes so many things easy. Politics, however, doesn’t work in quite the same way.

Democracy, voting, equality, representation – these have all taken centuries to evolve. In ancient Athens, only adult male landowners, who had qualified as citizens could vote. Very few had a direct say in the future of the state and society.

Yet here we are, over two thousand years later with universal suffrage. Everyone gets a vote. Everyone has that essential tool to shape their community. Voting is one of the few measures that can equalise the disparities of wealth and education. It may also be the most direct route for people to steer their society. Indeed, it allows us to affirm our commitment to and a role in creating a better society. Those rights took centuries to secure.

History rarely bends to the will of one person. If it does bend, it is often a question of timing – for the rest of us we have to be persistent. Politics as a shaping force is no different. You can’t just press a button to fix everything. Change and improvement require time, effort and vision. Anyone who says otherwise is probably selling snake oil.

On the other hand, destruction can be initiated in an instant. Destruction need not be precise. If you want to hammer something to pieces, you just need to hit hard enough. No measurement, no timing, just smack ­– bang! Broken.

We just need to look around to see this philosophy in action. People like Donald Trump and Nigel Farage pretend that a single vote can fix everything. An instant fix. It’s the pizza delivery of politics. They offer the hammer – break it and everything will be fine. No vision, nothing.

Not only do they fail to offer any real solution, they jeopardize everything we’ve accomplished for at least the last five decades. These people will leave us picking up the pieces and they won’t bat an eyelid.

This pizza delivery of political philosophy seems to be gaining popularity and many on the right particularly champion it. Next time you hear someone rattling off how simple something is; consider whether they’re a pizza delivery political philosopher. Are they promising an instant fix or over simplifying? This is salesmanship and the salesman has little regard for the quality of their product.

Not only does this behaviour hinder positive social change but it threatens what is already accomplished. This is a world where the ignorance of Trump and Farage dominates. We do not have to let that dominate us. I hope those of us here in Scotland can remember that we reap what we sow. Voting works but social progress doesn’t come instantly – and certainly not without vision and persistence.

Stewart Stevenson
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