Next week sees the pomp and ceremony of the Queen’s Speech. Signifying the commencement of a new parliamentary session, the Queen will outline the Government’s legislative programme for the year ahead.
Imagine, though, for a moment an alternative Queen’s speech, one that responded to the issues that my constituents talk to me about on a daily basis.
What we need is a programme where recovery is made by the many, not just a few at the top. We need to recognise that the real wealth creators are the people who do the hours, put in the shifts, get up early and go home late. And we need new ideas.
This alternative Queen’s speech would start creating jobs and putting people back to work through a jobs bill. A guaranteed six-month paid job for all young people out of work for more than a year, paid for by a banker’s bonus tax. It would introduce a jobs guarantee, a paid job for every adult who is out of work for more than two years, and requiring large firms getting government contracts to have an active apprenticeships scheme that ensures opportunities for the next generation.
I want real jobs with real prospects. Unemployed people I’ve met in Edinburgh are desperate for work, and the Government should do everything to create jobs.
We could have a finance bill that would kick-start our economy; help make work pay by introducing a new 10p tax rate paid for by taxing property worth more than £2 million. We would also reverse the millionaire’s tax cut and protect tax credits that help working families.
Fuel poverty is becoming a national disgrace and action needs to be taken now. A consumer bill of rights would stop vulnerable people being ripped-off by electricity and gas firms, with proper reform of our energy market to break the stranglehold of the big six energy companies. The bill would also tackle hidden pension charges that hit pensioners’ incomes hard.
There would be action to ensure our banking system works for business with a new banking bill – lending to those firms that invest, invent, train make and sell – rather than allow the banks just to work for themselves. As a former small-business owner, I know the importance of affordable credit and, as a shadow business minister, this is what businesses tell me is really holding back growth. To tackle this, there could be a new British investment bank to make decisions according to local needs through local knowledge.
We could pass legislation through a migrant workers bill to strengthen laws to stop workers having their wages undercut illegally by employers exploiting migrant labour, ensuring strict enforcement of the National Minimum Wage and ending modern day slavery.
We have had three years of failure under this Conservative-led coalition: low growth and increased borrowing; falling living standards and a cost of living crisis. Yet all this Government offers is more of the same: no growth, more debt, and no hope for the unemployed.
Instead I can imagine a Queen’s speech that responds to the issues that people talk to me about every day. I want a Queen’s speech which is for the many, not for the benefit of a few.
Football club in need is a friend indeed
How does the saying go? You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your football club.
I was delighted to take up the voluntary short-term challenge of helping the fans of Hearts get together a bid to buy the club.
I would hope any other football fan would do the same for their club.
That’s all my spare time gone now for a few months but I’m confident it will all be worth it.
No place like Edinburgh
I SPEND every Monday afternoon to Thursday night in London but one of my favourite times of the week is when the train pulls into Waverley.
Edinburgh is a truly wonderful place to live and work and I often have to remind myself and others how lucky we are to part of it.
The sight of the Castle gradually appearing as you heave up the slope out of the station always makes me glad to be home.
Our classrooms are filling up
It’s that time of year when parents find out if they have been successful in obtaining a placing request for their children.
This is always a tough time for parents and pupils. Our schools are bursting at the seams and that is making it near impossible to accommodate parental requests. My postbag is absolutely bulging and I think back to when the previous council wanted to close 22 schools.
Some that were threatened with closure, like St Catherine’s Primary, are now full.
The News report last week that the council is to build a new school for South Morningside will be music to the ears of all those who have campaigned for this for so long. Now to persuade the Scottish Government that it’s a good idea.