John Smith was right in 1993, and he’s still right now - Ian Murray

To seasoned political observers, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise. Having spent an election campaign insisting that another independence referendum wasn’t a priority, as soon as the votes were counted the SNP made another independence referendum their only priority.

Thursday, 13th May 2021, 7:00 am

In the Commons debate following the Queen’s Speech this week, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford even decided to make his response all about independence.

He simply doesn’t care about a fair national recovery.

While he is motivated by a line on the map just north of Carlisle, Keir Starmer demonstrated what motivates him by appointing a Shadow Cabinet level post for the eradication of child poverty.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Yesterday was the 27th anniversary of the death of Ian Murray’s political hero, John Smith. Picture: JPIMedia

Labour has always cared more about tackling poverty than waving flags, and our ambitions aren’t defined by which side of a border children live.

Yesterday was the 27th anniversary of the death of my political hero, John Smith.

A proud Scot who cared passionately about ending injustice across the entire UK.

While he never had the opportunity to serve as Prime Minister, his legacy lived on in the ground-breaking work carried out by Gordon Brown to lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty.

In his last conference speech in 1993, Smith branded the Tory Government “arrogant, centralised, and unresponsive to people”.

It’s a description that once again applies today, nearly 30 years on, emphasised by the latest Queen’s Speech as it fell short of what is needed and lacks the ambition and vision for making Britain a leader on the world stage.

The Tory government did not announce any new measures to create jobs and tackle unemployment, beyond those announced nearly a year ago.

This is despite nearly 1.7 million people currently unemployed, forecast to rise to 2.2 million by the end of the year.

The government’s job schemes are not working and are failing to match both the scale of the challenge and their rhetoric.

In 1993, John Smith said everyone “knows somebody who does a job of work, not for greed, not purely for profit, but for the satisfaction of helping and caring for others”.

“And not a word of thanks do they get from this gvernment, not a word of praise, nor any recognition of the value of their effort,” he said.

“All they get is a constant barrage of attack. They see their work devalued, their jobs threatened by cuts, their status and conditions undermined.

“And they see their wages frozen, cut in real terms by a Government that have no idea of how ordinary people live or how hard they work.”

His words, once again, resonate today after a hollow Queen’s Speech that concentrated on making it harder for people to vote than to find work.

In Scotland, there are 330,000 people on furlough who have no idea if they’ll have a permanent job.

That is what should motivate every politician – not tired old arguments about separation that split the country in half.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has rightly said nothing should be more important than securing a brighter future for the people of Scotland and that means securing more and better jobs.

He has offered to work with ministers to go further, be bolder and be more ambitious to make this a reality.

They should take up that offer and prioritise what really matters to you.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Ian Murray is the Labour MP for Edinburgh South