Muir’s positive words are still an inspiration - Paul McLennan
The power of imagination makes us infinite - these words by the Scottish-American environmentalist John Muir, featured in my maiden speech.
A son of Dunbar, Muir is globally recognised for the pioneering vision and influential thinking that led to the creation of national parks, the preservation of wilderness and ideas about the environment that have now entered the mainstream. An imaginative and scientific thread connects Muir’s ideas to Scotland’s role as a European champion of renewable, green energy, with the skilled, clean jobs that support it.
Carved into Holyrood’s walls is another quote: ‘Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation’. Adapted by Alasdair Gray from a Canadian poet, I used this to ask voters to imagine this ‘better nation’. Many asked ‘how can we build it? How will we define it?’ Answers to ‘how?’ and ‘why?’ questions appear in the new Social Justice and Fairness Commission Report authored by MSPs Shona Robison and Neil Gray.
Wellbeing as our common shared experience; social justice bringing fairness and equality to all; and human rights, a fundamental of civilized society – these are the report’s blueprint for a better Scotland. In East Lothian many already voted for a greener, fairer, sustainable and more equal Scotland. The new report envisages not just a future ‘better country’, and what devolved powers can achieve, right now.
Critics, including Conservative Douglas Ross, complain that 1,488 minutes – in fact an average of less than two minutes a day - were wasted discussing a second referendum. Holyrood’s database records over 4,000 mentions of ‘referendum’, but, by contrast,10,000 references to ‘poverty’ and 12,000 to ‘mental health’. Far from being an ‘obsession’, gaining full powers is simply the way to deliver social justice and fairness with a new social contract based on a government aim to make life better for everyone.
Another statistic from Holyrood is revealing: between 2014 and 2021 MSPs referred thousands of times to a Brexit that nearly two thirds of Scottish voters rejected. Boris Johnson delivered it anyway; East Lothian, like the rest of Scotland, is paying the price.
I will continue to work for the “Better Nation” Alasdair Gray refers to and the powers of independence that will give us that opportunity .
Paul McLennan is the new SNP MSP for East Lothian