We have room: Kez’s Daily Record column

7th September 

We have room.

We have room. Scotland will welcome refugees fleeing from war and persecution – that’s the clear message from Scotland’s political leaders.

It’s moments like this that make me ever proud of both Scotland and our Parliament. We have always been an outward looking nation, and our values have always led us to help people in need.

The decision by David Cameron at the end of last week to take more refugees was largely down to the outrage expressed by people across the UK. It was a real victory for people power and everyone working together to exert pressure on the Government.

Everyone I’ve spoken to has been affected by the images that have played out on our television screens over the summer, all culminating into one picture. The image of a small boy – Aylan Kurdi – washed ashore in Turkey.

Has one picture of one boy ever been as powerful? The reality is every one of these images lives with us. For as long as they are on our front pages they will serve as a constant reminder of the need to find a solution to this crisis.

So while people across Europe can be proud of the pressure they have exerted on politicians, it is the leaders of countries across Europe who now need to rise to the challenge. Especially when the front pages give way to the next big story.

What became the European Union was founded out of the ashes of the Second World War. A war which led to events that made us say ‘never again’. But time and again politicians have been shamed by humanitarian crises where the response has been at best late and, at worst, non-existent.

This can’t be another one of those crises. European leaders need to come together and find a solution to this crisis that offers compassion to refugees and stands by the European Union’s founding principle of solidarity.

Germany’s Angela Merkel deserves praise for being first to offer sanctuary to the refugees in Europe and for so strongly condemning those who would see them turned away.

The images of her citizens applauding the arrival of refugees into Munich stand in stark contrast to David Cameron’s statement earlier in the summer warning of a “swarm” of migrants into the UK.

Two right wing leaders, but only one of them is in touch with the mood of the people they seek to serve.


The SNP's Legislative Programme 

The SNP Government keep telling us they are ambitious for Scotland, but the legislative programme outlined last week just set out their solutions to problems of their own making.

Whether it was new rules for private landlords and rents or a review of Police Scotland, these are problems the Scottish Government could have dealt with anytime in the last eight years.

And while they didn’t give any hints about what they would do with many of the new powers that are coming their way next year, but they did offer a £250m tax cut for airlines.

Now, I’ve got nothing against people getting cheaper holidays. But why does the Government prioritise this ahead of tackling the attainment gap in our schools?

Government is about making choices. For me the best thing we could do right now is to invest in the future of our country and make sure that kids from low income backgrounds get the same chance as those coming from well off families.

The SNP argued that cutting taxes on air travel would make good business sense. If tax cuts helped the economy grow then there would be more money coming in to tax and spend. But these are the discredited arguments they used to make when they supported cutting corporation tax. A policy Nicola Sturgeon abandoned when she became First Minister.

We’re constantly told she’s more left wing than her predecessor. Some will tell you she’s more left wing than Labour, but how can that be when she’s happy to spend 10 times as much money cutting Air Passenger Taxes than she is on closing the gap between the richest and poorer kids in our schools?


The Tories Trade Union Bill

Government bills are often long and complicated things. They can be tidying up exercises, they can introduce new laws or long needed reforms. But everyone now and then a bill comes a long with a simple and clear purpose – like the Tories Trade Union Bill.

This bill has one intention and one intention only, which is to undermine the rights and ability of working people to organise for better wages, terms and conditions in the workplace.

The withdrawal of their labour is the most basic right that working people have, and its effective use over time has resulted in better wages, better health and safety standards, and better pensions and, as a result, better public services and a better society.

This is an ideologically driven bill and it’s mission is to attack those hard-won rights and must be resisted. It must be stopped and the Scottish Labour Party under my leadership will do everything it possibly can to do just that.

Labour leadership

It’s the last week of campaigning in the Labour leadership race. Having just finished a leadership campaign, I know how exhausted all the candidates must be. Nights away from family and friends, a constant diet of petrol station pieces. But for one of them, the hard work is only just starting.

It’s a big week for the Labour Party and I’m looking forward to being in London next Saturday for the announcement. No matter who is elected, I know Scotland will be at the top of their agenda.