The remit of the Scottish Parliament is wide and varied and it would be impossible for me to cover all the policy areas that members might be interested in. So instead, here are some of my areas of interest, in no particular order, to give you a flavour of the way I think about the things that matter to us.
Locally Delivered Services
I believe that services are best designed, managed, monitored and delivered as close to our citizens as possible, and central government must fund these services properly.
Councils, Health and Social Care Partnerships and other local bodies are vital in ensuring that people get the services they need in the way they need them delivered.
There are certain things that make sense being delivered at a national level, hospitals, police, fire etc, but when it comes to things like care at home, education, community resilience and hundreds of other services, it’s vital that they are planned and run locally. Every community is different and there can be no one size fits all approach.
Having worked on the front line, caring for vulnerable children and adults, I have a real passion for care. It may be a cliche, but it’s very true that you can learn a lot about a society by the way it treats those in need of care.
Policies such as free personal care, free prescriptions and Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) are so important. These things and more have saved lives and must be protected.
There is an on-going debate right now about the nationalisation of care homes, and with both my care worker and Council Leader hats on, I fully support the principle of this move. It will be important to have people like me, with not only experience of the strategic delivery of these services, but also experience of front line service delivery by care workers that the implementation of changes might impact upon.
There is not place in our society for domestic abuse, regardless of the sex or gender of either party.
My first act as Convener of Social Work Services in West Dunbartonshire back in 2007, was to commission a report on the services available and the policies in place to protect survivors of domestic abuse. Since then I have worked hard to implement innovative and reactive services to help those in need and to ensure that domestic abuse remains a priority area.
When Community Justice Authorities formed, I led the way and an ensured that domestic abuse was not only a top priority for my own Council, but for the whole North Strathclyde region; after leading the debate and moving the motion, it was adopted unanimously across all six member authorities.
Recently in West Dunbartonshire, I have been very proud to oversee the implementation of our ‘No Homes for Domestic Abuse‘ policies. Working in partnership with the Social Work, Police and the Sheriff Court, we help survivors and their children remain in their home while protecting them from the abuser. No more having to run and leave everything behind.
At the risk of sounding like a cheesy American political ad, young people are our future. Oooft, that really did sound terrible, but it’s very true.
Nobody knows better what the needs of the youth of today are than the youth of today themselves. That is why I spend a lot of my time as a Council Leader taking to young people and their representatives.
As a regional MSP, I will ensure that I continue this and will have an open door policy for our Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYP). Where the Scottish Parliament is debating a policy/bill, I will seek the views of our MSYPs as part of my research and at any time, I will be happy to meet our MSYPs to discuss issues of importance to them.
The Scottish Government have made a number of important strides to help care experienced young people have better chances in life and to express their needs to those with the power to make changes. I hope that I can be part of continuing to improve services and opportunities for care experienced young people across the region.
Emotive and Personal Policy Areas
In politics there are always a number of areas of conscience that are where you position is formed by your personal moral values. Areas such as policies on abortion, euthanasia and gender recognition; we should not shy away from them, but we must be respectful in how we debate them. I think if I’m asking for your vote, I need to tell you a little about my personal thoughts on these areas.
While I don’t believe that aborting a pregnancy should be the first consideration, it absolutely must always be an option. Frankly, who the hell am I to tell someone else what they should do with their own body. It’s none of my business. But as an MSP, should the issue be brought forward for debate, my role would see me having to make a decision.
My thoughts are quite simple. The current legislation seems on the face of it, and I say this as a man and as someone who has never faced this decision, to be adequate for the time being.
I have not heard anyone proposing to make changes, and unless the status quo is revealed to be causing harm, I would not be in favour of either tightening or loosening the controls in place.
Similarly to my thoughts on abortion, I do not feel I should have the right to interfere with another person’s right to choose their own future.
I do think this is a debate that needs to return to the Parliament and I would support changes in legislation to allow those of sound mind, who are suffering or are going to be suffering, to end their own lives at a time of their choosing.
This is an extremely difficult are and protections would need to be extremely robust to minimise the risk of harm being done. I do not know what those controls should be, but as a nation, we must bring our greatest minds together and design a system that allow the suffering to end.
We need the tone of this debate to cool down if we are ever going to find an amicable and reasonable solution to this very real issue.
I absolutely agree that it is too difficult and often insurmountably stressful for a person to transition their gender to the correct identity for them. Change must come, but not without protections to minimise the opportunity for abuse of the system.
I’m sorry, but saying, “it wouldn’t happen” or “nobody would do that” isn’t good enough. There are evil people out there who would use any opportunity to do harm.
There is a balance to be had here, and before I form an opinion I need to hear a lot more measured debate. Most times I’ve tried to engage with either polarised side of what has become more of a rammy than a debate, I get abuse, and that’s not acceptable.
One individual went apoplectic when I said it was important for the planning and delivery of medical services that we continue to gather data on biological sex as well as gender identity. An example of my point being that if you have a prostate, you’re susceptible to prostate cancer and we need those services to be available to you.
The bottom line is that everyone must have the right to be who they are, but we must find a way to enable that without causing harm. I look forward to talking more about this in a calm and respectful way.