Sarah Boyack: Set agenda, Don’t follow debate

Scottish Labour Party leadership candidate Sarah Boyack. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Scottish Labour Party leadership candidate Sarah Boyack. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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When I announced my candidacy last week I said it was time for a proper debate, not just within the Scottish Labour Party but across our country too.

I campaigned for a Scottish Parliament when I was a student because I believed in devolution and making decisions closer to home.

I still believe in that ambition and, with the Smith Commission under way, we now have a chance to expand and improve upon it.

So we need to be radical, to be bold, to think to the future and take Scotland forward.

I want to draw on the many good ideas people have about how to make Scotland a better place to live.

As leader I would work with the SNP Government where they are doing the right thing for Scotland. But a constructive opposition must also hold ministers to account when they get it wrong.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be listening to people up and down the country about their ideas and suggestions and before the ballot closes I’ll publish 100 new ideas that I believe need to be debated to improve people’s lives.

We’re entering a new era in Scottish politics. The Labour Party urgently needs to renew itself, to re-engage, listen and respond to what people have to say. But we also need to lead again. Not following the debate, but setting the agenda about how we move our country forward.

Over the next 18 months we face two watershed elections. The 2015 general election is about who governs Britain. It’s our chance to get rid of an unpopular, divisive Tory Government. It’s our chance to get a Labour government that is committed to tackling social inequalities and reinvesting in our country.

Then in 2016 our Holyrood campaign in Scotland needs to link our values to people’s needs and their desire for change.

We need to use the power of government for the renewal of our country. To deliver a health service that is properly funded and accountable. To deliver affordable childcare, quality schools and opportunities for young people at college to get the skills they need to get a decent job and a decent chance in life. To return power to local councils and communities to decide on the provision of essential frontline services. To fix local government funding after years of stalling and inaction.

I believe I can be the unifying leader we need – not just for my party, but for my country too.

It’s not enough just to be angry; not enough just to have the right policies; not enough to have great party organisation.

Labour needs to get elected to office to deliver on its promise and that is the privilege I seek for the party and for me as its leader in Scotland.

A fairer, more equal, more socially just and sustainable country is what I want to deliver and I am up for the challenge.

• Sarah Boyack is a Lothian list MSP