This time last year Scotland’s fate was decided, we said "no" to independence and now it's time to move on for the better.
Following the hasty offering of more powers to Scotland, we essentially said “better the devil we know, than the devil we don’t.” A year on are we any further forward? This has been in part honored and in part not.
The great news is Scotland has far more control over its own budgets (some £17.4bn is moving to Scottish government control). The bad news is we are probably going to have marginally less to spend on public services unless the tax raising powers are deployed. Simply put this is a zero sum game; any budget under Scotland's control is simply deducted from the overall Barnett formula, and we need to build the systems to manage these funds which comes at a cost.
On tax, the promise of more powers has been honored, but on welfare the UK government has diverged on two issues offered by the cross-party Smith Commission. Given the crippling effect welfare cuts and sanctions have on the most vulnerable, this isn’t great news, so we need to think creatively about how we tackle this issue. Having met with various Scottish Ministers, I believe where there is a will there is a way, and that they share this view.
Scotland can and must eradicate poverty, particularly child poverty. Why should a child born in one postcode, gain significant advantage over another a few miles down the road? It is unfair, unjust and wholly unacceptable for a 21st century Scotland.
If we can cure poverty then believe me, it will underpin improvements in educational attainment, health and work opportunities. It's quite simply a nation’s silver bullet.
So for me there are three imperatives we must work towards which are deliverable with the powers we now have.
Firstly, eradicate poverty. Secondly, build a world class education system that prepares people for the ever-changing face of work. Thirdly, build large-scale businesses that generate more employment, and thus more taxes, so we can invest more in Scotland, our people and in eradicating poverty. This is a truly virtuous circle.
So here’s my point. We could keep on arguing over more powers, challenging the numbers and wasting time. But what we should be focusing on building a fairer and more equitable Scotland.
We voted and we said no. We now need to use the powers we have and move on. But let’s not accept the status quo, let’s not accept food banks as normal, let’s return to a society founded on community, dignity and opportunity for all.
I believe if we all come together, aim high and aim strong we will be a leading nation of the world.
With guile, determination and innovation, I truly believe that - with the Scottish government and its new powers - we can eradicate poverty from Scotland. We would be leading the world in an exceptional way that would better this nation forever - surely we can all buy in to that vision?