I was delighted with the success of SNP candidates throughout Scotland at last week’s General Election, not least with Corri Wilson’s election here in Carrick. That said I would like to pay tribute to Sandra Osborne for her hard work and commitment to her duties as an elected representative for the area. Political opponents we may have been but more often than not we worked well together to serve the interests of local people.
Now the people of Scotland have spoken and the people have placed their trust in the SNP to represent Scotland at Westminster as well as at Holyrood - and our pledge is that these 56 SNP MPs will represent the interests of all of Scotland. The SNP will represent in Westminster, just as we do in the Scottish parliament, people in every corner of our country – north, south east and west. People who voted no in the referendum as well as people who voted yes. People who voted for the SNP at the General Election and people who did not.
Scotland has given the SNP a mandate on a scale unprecedented for any political party- not just in Scotland but right across the UK. We will use that mandate to speak up for and protect the interests of Scotland. And let us be very clear the people of Scotland voted for an SNP manifesto which had ending austerity as its number one priority - and that is the priority our newly elected MPs will now take to the very heart of the Westminster agenda.
We promised in the campaign, that strong voice will be a voice for more progressive politics. We will continue to seek to reach out to people of progressive opinion right across the UK so that we can put ending austerity, investment in our public services - like our National Health Service, investment in a stronger economy to get more young people into jobs. We will work with others to put those priorities right at the heart of Westminster.
That is what the people in Scotland have tasked the SNP now with doing, no longer will Scotland be sidelined or ignored in Westminster - our voice will be heard - our interests will be protected - that is what voting SNP is going to deliver.
I very much welcome the Devolution (Further Powers) Committee report on new powers for Scotland, which was published this week.
New Powers for Scotland: An Interim Report on the Smith Commission and the UK Government’s Proposals is available at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_ScotlandBillCommittee/Reports/dfpr-15-03w-rev.pdf
This all party report endorses the Scottish Governments long held view that the draft clauses published by the UK Government before the election simply fail to reflect the Smith Commission recommendations. I share the Committee’s concern that in a number of key areas, particularly in relation to welfare, the draft clauses do not meet the spirit or substance of Smith. I expect the UK Government to take the unanimous views of the Devolution Committee very seriously and amend the Scotland Bill before it is introduced.
The First Minister will press the Prime Minister to devolve further job creating and revenue raising powers to the Scottish Parliament. Within that context the Scottish Government will continue to put forward constructive proposals to ensure UK legislation delivers both the spirit and letter of agreements between the Scottish and UK Governments.
House of Lords
I wholeheartedly support The SNP’s call for all parties at Westminster to commit to ensuring that MPs who lost their seats or retired from the Commons are not given a free pass to the House of Lords.
On top of this, peers in the House of Lords should pay tax on their expenses which includes a daily allowance of £300 plus travel, accommodation and other expenses – something that doesn’t happen currently as neither tax nor National Insurance Contributions (NICs) are payable on the expenses and allowances they receive. Scottish Lords alone cost the taxpayer over £2 million a year – at a time when more families are relying on foodbanks, this is indefensible
The SNP has long believed the House of Lords is deeply undemocratic, and should be scrapped and replaced with a fully elected second chamber.
The Westminster parties have failed to bring about any significant reforms to the House of Lords in recent years – while the SNP remains committed to its replacement.
In the interim, the SNP is calling on the Westminster parties to make a commitment not to send defeated or retired MPs to the House of Lords following the General Election.
I very much welcome the comments from Labour MP John Mann who has stated that Labour should follow the SNP’s lead on this issue, calling on his party not to appoint any Lords for the duration of this Westminster Parliament – let’s hope the rest of his party are like minded and go further to consign it to history.