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Election

This is not a referendum

Like nearly 45 per cent of Scots, I voted Yes in the 2014 Referendum, my own reasons for doing so too lengthy for this letter.

I do wish to say it was by no means out of any sympathy for Nationalism which is a divisive and dangerous political ideology. Nor did I believe that a simple tick in a box would solve all of Scotland problems as many in the Yes campaign tried to have us believe.

Whilst many were opposed to conducting the referendum, it is difficult to argue against its significant and lasting impact on civic and political life in Scotland. Voter turnout is at record levels and political parties of all persuasions have seen increases in membership.

Post Referendum, I feel we have two pressing questions to ask ourselves. How do we make best use of this new political awakening in Scotland and how do we utilise the new powers in the Scotland Act to reverse austerity and build a fairer Scotland?

In the lead up to May, those politicians that supported the Yes Campaign will be keen to continue the debate into the Scottish Election. Indeed many will be pressing for a Second Referendum.

Regrettably this argument has descended into the position of blaming everything bad in life on Westminster, whilst talking down the Scottish Government’s ability to tackle any of the challenges we face in our communities today.

The people of Scotland deserve better than this simple “flags over facts” narrative. This election we have an opportunity to move on and instead debate the truly important issues of the day such as employment, economic growth and the management of our public services, all issues well within the remit of the Scottish Parliament.

We could be debating the Council Tax Freeze, a policy that disproportionately benefits the wealthy and is contributing to the cuts to local public services. Or the new Income Tax Powers and how they could be used to end cuts to Education and other essential public services.

We could be debating the privatisation of public services that has been accelerated by the current Scottish Government and the impact this will have on local communities.

Whilst I’m personally not opposed to the idea of Scotland becoming an Independent country, it is not the question we are being asked this May.

Any political party that wishes to use this election as an extension of the Referendum is doing the people of Scotland a complete and utter disservice.

Let us use these months to debate how we best use the powers of the Scottish Parliament today, not waste this opportunity rehashing old arguments from a Referendum campaign that was lost and ended over 500 days ago.

John Hackett

Chairperson

Midlothian North & Musselburgh Labour Party

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