What a welcome and historic sight last week it was to see Humza Yousaf elected by the Scottish Parliament as Scotland’s sixth First Minister. I had made no secret during the campaign that I felt Humza was the best choice, with his progressive agenda and commitment to equality which really resonated with me as it did with so many of my SNP colleagues.
Our new First Minister can call himself something of a Bankie too: his campaign launch in our town hall was chosen specifically because it was to Clydebank that his grandfather had emigrated from the Punjab in the 1960s, to take up a job at Singers.
As someone whose own grandparents came also from somewhere else, the words he quoted from his mentor Bashir Ahmad throughout the campaign certainly resonated: “it’s not where we came from that’s important, it’s where we’re going together.”
There was also a message of hope on independence, for which Bankies clearly voted for in 2014. Both Humza and his main rival for the job Kate Forbes were in agreement over the campaign that the only way to secure Scotland’s freedom was to create a sustained and inarguable majority for independence.
While the cost of living crisis bites, it is understandable that some may wonder why we continue to talk about the constitution, but as our new First Minister said in his first Questions last Thursday – “We need independence now more than ever.” In a UK with shocking and unchanging levels of inequality, where living standards have plummeted in comparison to our European neighbours, places like our town simply cannot afford another recession and all that comes with it.
Any idea that a UK Labour Government will be able to change this unavoidable reality has been squashed over the last couple of months, as Sir Keir Starmer’s party unveiled a list of policies designed to appeal to voters in key swing seats in the South East of England: there will be no reversal of Brexit which has done so much to harm the economy; benefits sanctions will continue to humiliate the poorest in our society; and a Labour Government will refuse to raise taxes on those most able to pay as a means to help those most affected by inflation.
We got a taste of things to come in West Dunbartonshire recently, with a Labour budget that decimated local services, taking cash away from lifeline options like Citizens Advice and youth groups like Y Sort it, and placing libraries and community under review for possible closure.
And so just as a Humza Yousaf administration with the goal of a fairer economy for all will do it’s best to mitigate the coming wave of Westminster austerity, so too must we continue to have SNP MPs in the House of Commons keeping Labour honest.
This article was written for publication in the Clydebank Post.