24 December 2019

‘Peace on earth and goodwill to all’

I have always been a bit of a Christmas sceptic if truth be told.

I’ve not quite bought into the consumerism, the Santa hats and controversial it may be I don’t even rate a turkey Christmas dinner…

However, if I was in the habit of writing my letter to Santa it would go something like the following: This year I would like an NHS Protection Bill because our health service is the backbone of our society and I want to stop the threat of a Tory-Trump trade deal.

I’d like a Parental Leave Expansion Bill because I believe an additional 12 weeks should be ring-fenced for the father in order to encourage take-up as well as increases in statutory maternity and paternity pay.

I’d also want to see the introduction of an equal living wage to increase the national minimum wage to at least the level of the real Living wage, and to end age discrimination in the legal minimum wage.

I wouldn’t just be asking for new things though, I’d like to see reform with the two-child cap on tax credits and rape clause scrapped from our culture. I’d like to see an end to the benefits freeze and halt the flawed rollout of Universal Credit.

While I jest about Santa, there is a very serious point that I am trying to make about the country we will have next Christmas and for Christmases to come.

As I reflect on the past year I look forward to 2020 encouraged by the work the SNP are doing nationally and proud of what we stand for. We are calling on a boost to the economy, the protection of our public services, tackling poverty, delivering real action on climate change, and respecting Scotland's right to choose our own future.

This stands in stark contrast to the UK Government who wish to "take a wrecking ball" to public services, living standards, and the economy.

I might not believe in Santa, but I’m proud to believe in a party that wants the very best for the North-east. It has been my privilege to serve as your MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast this year.

The message of Christmas I do support is one of hope and that is the special part of Christmas time that I am keen to focus on regardless of political parties.

‘Peace on earth and goodwill to all’ has never gone out of date, unlike cheesy Christmas hits, and it feels particularly important this Christmas time.

So may I wish you and your family a very merry Christmas and my best wishes for the New Year. I look forward to continuing to work hard as your voice in parliament over 2020.

3 December 2019

It’s raining leaflets, leaflets .. it must be a wintery election

You are not supposed to agree with this column.

What's the point in reading only things you agree with?

I study our opponent's leaflets and press releases with an avidity I sometimes deny my own political party's publications.

And I encourage you to do the same. Step outside your comfort zone and learn.

But it's the kind of thin gruel that even a starving Oliver Twist would pass on a second helping of. That's this election.

All I can find about the Tories election promises is that they are saying NO to something. And the "word" that follows NO on their posters and leaflets is not even in any dictionary I have ever opened. How can one communicate using a word only political geeks use?

And NO is such an unpleasant word isn't it? It is often one of the first words used by an infant. Often before "daddy" or "mama". But definitely one the proud parent grates their teeth at hearing.

While the infant first deploys a word emphatic - NO - they soon move to a word interrogative - WHY?

So let's. Because normally any party in their tenth year of government would be trumpeting their achievements. Filling their leaflets with the words "better", "new", "more" to draw attention to their time in office. And encouraging you to return to their political "shop" for repeat buys. So WHY are they not?

The window of Tory achievements is far from empty. But it's filled with "achievements" they'd rather you forgot.

Universal Credit started off as a widely supported idea that involved making it simpler for those who needed support from the social security system to get what they need when they needed it.

And every one of us will use social security - even Tories. Do you know anyone who turns down their state pension?

But what started as a good idea turned into a Tory opportunity to turn the screw on those in need - waiting times for money, reduced payouts, tighter rules, even the dying being ruled "fit to work".

And diverting the "savings" - which don't save anyone - to reduce taxes for the more well off.

So what else should be in the window?

Cut 20,000 police officers from the service down south. And then find crime rises. A primary school essay on public safety might have made that connection. So that's another "achievement" that needs to be hidden in the store at the back of the shop.

Or - shut the door on the vital workers that come here to keep our fish processing industries, our fruit farming, hospitality industries the huge successes that they are.

So read everything that comes into the house, especially if you don't expect to agree with it. You might even find a few positive reasons to vote in a particular way. But it's unlikely you will find a positive reason to vote in anything where the big word on the cover, inside and on the back is - NO.

Stewart Stevenson
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