Why We Need to Re-set Our Strategy for Equalities

Covid has changed everything hasn’t it? It isn’t just a global pandemic shaking us to the core, it is the shuddering, awful impact this will have on our society as we move forward. From Brexit to Covid, change is being thrust upon us, and, if we are to protect our people and communities, then we must re-build something much better: a new independent Scotland that benefits us all.

I have spent the last 5 months running Dundee Thegither – an emergency food delivery service set up just before lockdown. Our group understood that this virus would knock the life out of our city. Because after ten years of austerity we have had to fight very hard to even stay still. Across Scotland childhood poverty has increased, our mental & physical health has deteriorated, and our women and disabled people have been hounded by the DWP; Dundee has very much felt the brunt of this.

And, as most of us knew from the start, Covid thrives on poverty. Our most deprived communities are twice more likely to die from Covid than those who are the least deprived. The impact of the (inevitable) economic collapse on our society, however, must also be addressed. Because we run the risk of yet another generation experiencing deeper, more brutal poverty than we can possibly imagine.

A post- Covid Scotland cannot allow this to happen. And for me, this now has to become our urgent focus. If we do not take steps to tackle the ever-increasing gap between rich and poor, then it will impact on all of us. As a society, we risk literally crumbling under the weight of the bigger poverty gap that looms on the horizon.

But a post-Covid Scotland is almost inevitably becoming an independent one, giving us an opportunity to think and build accordingly. And if we want to genuinely build a fairer and more equal society then we have a lot of work to do. A new Scotland allows us to embed equality into its very foundations. And if we can do even a quarter of what we imagine to be possible, then we will do something genuinely remarkable.

I have decided to stand for election as Equalities Convener on the SNP National Executive Committee. And I do this with a call to all members. Firstly, we work on the assumption that we will be independent within the next 5 years. And secondly, we think creatively and build practically, offering tangible structures that can create the widest reaching and most effective socially inclusive society we can, within the time-frame we have.

The SNP and the Scottish Government are developing strategies for building a new, sustainable and fairer Scotland. The Scottish Investment Bank, the Public Energy Company, our Just Transition and the Social Justice & Fairness Commission all have the capacity, and will, to create a more equal & inclusive society. But there is a lot more to do. As Equalities Convener I would try to build consensus for tangible and workable solutions that would complement, add to, and even challenge, these developing visions and frameworks.

With independence coming then, I see the role of the Equalities Convener changing, spearheading tangible initiatives that works hand in hand with the Social Justice Commission, or the strategy for a green economy; to offer our voices and make these frameworks as inclusive as they can be. Discussion and debate must now be transformed into action. So we build an equalities manifesto, acting as a template, perhaps, for equalities in our coming constitution for an Independent Scotland.

But importantly, we put these principles into practice. We can look at our housing strategy, say, and think about what more is needed to create maximum social inclusion. We could look at a universal Basic income through an equalities agenda lens and show how this can reduce poverty across all marginalised groups. These examples are not set in stone but we can bolster and create practical solutions that puts equality into the very heart of our new Scottish society.

My proposal would be that we work on an anti-poverty agenda. Not just because it now becomes so very urgent, but because it impacts on so many marginalised and excluded communities: our women and our BAME women are particularly affected by poverty, for instance, as is our disabled people. Reducing the gap between rich and poor becomes the springboard for developing new political processes for inclusion across the board.

I am aware of the enormity of this task and my campaign begins with a note of caution: we are not building a Nirvana. We must approach these tasks with pragmatism and restrictions of time, prioritising practical decisions based on their widest and most powerful impact for social inclusion. But these must be concrete proposals and they must create a genuinely positive impact on our day to day lives. It must give stability and security. These are the issues I would start from should I be elected as Equalities Convener. Because people must feel an equal society in every single thing we do.

An Equalities Manifesto – building the foundations of a new Scotland

  • Health and Wellbeing first
  • Financial security for all
  • Inclusive transport, energy & housing
  • Community engagement in everything we do



Comments (6)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Cathie Lloyd says:

    Your checklist is welcome. Please make sure that the interests of disabled people are put first and foremost in new schemes like sustainable travel. Equal opportunities aren’t just the practical things but the small considerations which show that our interests are taken into consideration. Like managing spill out into the street to make movement less hazardous for people with problems with their vision and hearing. And considering people who can’t cycle or walk far in schemes to limit motorised transport.
    This is a growing issue and it’d be great if we had a strong champion.

  2. Hank Rearden says:

    Can I politely suggest you check the definition of the word “pandemic” before using it again? I get it of course, everyone uses it, so everyone uses it, but a pandemic, it is not.

  3. Robbie says:

    Manifesto looks good to me I would vote for that anyday,can’t wait to see an Independant Scotland . Am getting on a bit so sooner the better, best of luck to you.

  4. Blair says:

    “And if we can do even a quarter of what we imagine to be possible, then we will do something genuinely remarkable.”

    The basis of equality is unlikely to succeed given the diverse nature of society based on past experiences of our governments policies.
    The way forward is to create systems where individuals can choose because everyone is different and it is each individual or family that has to make a living according to their circumstances.
    Governments have a role to protect the whole population but given the gross inequality in society they have and are continuing to fail.
    It is time government created more division and variables. Our Scottish government wants full powers: We are leaving the EU apparently so our UK government has more control. Too much power and decisions are being made by our politicians with very poor results.
    Can we please imagine a system of government which protects our environment, gives individuals more control. A system which provides help to the needy but also challenges the successful.
    Our UK Economy is now in debt to the tune of £2Trillion, how can we expect anything but inequality from whom we label the ‘political classes’ when the system they are managing is incapable of raising fund’s to pay for the equality desired.

    Perhaps if politicians can imagine a quarter of what’s possible as a framework and leave the actual choices down to individuals and families we might stand a chance chance to rebalance and rebuild.

    Our government is only as good good as its citizens very much like global companies. If our government wants to do something remarkable it must first come up with some imaginative and remarkable ways of balancing the budget in real time.

    All very much possible.

  5. SleepingDog says:

    Surely inclusive education merits a mention? Abolishing private and religious schools would make a great leap forward in re-equalization, would it not? If we cannot be bold now, then when?

    The other thing that strikes is the sedimentary segregation often seen in society, too many of the same types of people congregating in groups. Is there a way to mix this up a bit more? To take a less controversial example, perhaps there are often too many arty people in some decision-making slots, and presumably too many sciency people in others (although I cannot think of any examples off the top of my head)? Too many bossy people in charge, too many avaricious people in lucrative offices, too many loud speakers at the microphones…

  6. Axel P Kulit says:

    1 Health and Wellbeing first
    2 Financial security for all
    3 Inclusive transport, energy & housing
    4 Community engagement in everything we do

    Overall I agree with reducing inequality, though we need to determine whether we mean economic, social or some other form of inequality.

    1 and 2 are entangled. The feeling of a financial trapdoor under your feet leading to the street will affect mental then physical health ( and mental and physical health are also entangled)

    3: What do you mean by “inclusive” it seems redundant.

    4. As long as community engagement does not become mob rule or the will of those with the loudest voices and strongest bladders.

    In other words the manifesto sounds nice but devils lurk in the details and an initiative can be captured and diverted or nullified.

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.