Scotland needs Labour's 'can-do' attitude, not SNP's 'eye off the ball' as drug deaths and child poverty blight the nation – Ian Murray MP

As people prepare to meet up in larger groups tomorrow, there’s a real sense of excitement about the lifting of Covid restrictions. It feels as though it’s been a long year.

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 7:00 am
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has put forward exciting proposals during the election campaign, says Ian Murray (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)

And who hasn’t looked on with a bit of envy as our friends and family in England enjoy a cold pint in a beer garden? I was so envious I may even have bought them!

After so many months of pain and hardship, business owners in Edinburgh are now more hopeful for the future, if also apprehensive.

Because simply re-opening doors isn’t going to be enough to immediately rebuild the economy.

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There are difficult times ahead, not least when furlough comes to an end and Covid support stops.

Hospitality, retail and events industries are the lifeblood of Edinburgh’s economy, and there are certain things they need immediately.

The first is certainty. It’s fantastic news that the International Festival will return this summer, with outdoor marquees being planned to stage events.

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But it won’t be business as usual, of course. And it remains to be seen what this year holds for all the other festivals.

Scottish government clarity is needed for organisers, because it’s vital we do everything we can to get safe events on.

Secondly, there needs to be greater government support to protect jobs.

Scottish Labour has proposed precisely that, outlining the largest economic stimulus plan in the history of devolution.

Our high streets were suffering before Covid and this has been exacerbated by the move online.

So, the first part of Labour’s plan would see every adult aged 16 and over given a £75 prepaid card to spend in non-food, physical retail businesses within Scotland.

It would be launched alongside a 'shop local' campaign, like Small Business Saturday, designed to encourage people to support their local high streets.

To jump-start our vital tourism industry, we would promote the Great Scottish Staycation 2021, offering a ‘Third Night Free’ in holiday accommodation across Scotland, including hotels, B&Bs and self-catering.

The Scottish Retail Consortium has called these “big, bold and imaginative proposals to help reignite the economy after lockdown”.

We’ve also put forward plans to help people financially, which in turn will help the local economy.

This includes a proposal to use Holyrood’s current powers to effectively reverse the decision to scrap the free over-75s TV licence.

This kind of imaginative thinking is possible in Scotland, using the tools we currently have at our disposal.

It’s about having a ‘can-do’ attitude, rather than the SNP’s constant claims that it can’t take action because of Westminster. Utter nonsense.

The First Minister admitted this week she took her “eye off the ball” on devastating drug deaths, but she’s taken her eye off the ball in too many areas over the last 14 years.

Sky-high child poverty rates, fewer teachers and police officers, and millions wasted on mismanaged projects. Her eye has only ever been on the separation wrecking ball.

Anas Sarwar is right: Scotland deserves a better government and a better opposition.

It’s no wonder that people across Scotland are excited about the proposals he’s putting forward during this election campaign, which stands in stark contrast to the negativity and grievance of the SNP and the old Tory arguments of the past.

Ian Murray is Scottish Labour MP for Edinburgh South

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