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Paul Sweeney: Only Labour can provide change that is necessary

NEXT Thursday, voters across the constituency of Rutherglen and Hamilton West will have an opportunity to send a clear message to both of their governments; a message that unequivocally expresses their desire for a fresh start and a change.

It is a by-election prompted by the ousting of the rule-breaking MP, Margaret Ferrier, who knowingly travelled from Glasgow to London by public transport after testing positive for Covid-19 at the height of the pandemic.

Despite being sanctioned repeatedly by both the parliament and her party, Ms Ferrier clung to her job for more than two years before being forced to resign by a recall petition.

It was an act of selfishness that left the people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West without effective representation amid a cost-of-living crisis and one that will undoubtedly come back to haunt her former party, the SNP, next week.

When speaking to people across the constituency, that cost-of-living crisis is the number one issue that arises on doorsteps, followed closely by the crisis that persists in Scotland’s NHS.

Those are the issues that really matter to people, and those are the issues that the Labour Party is laser-focused on tackling if elected to form a government at next year’s General Election.

Because for too long we have had two incompetent governments that have become arrogant with power and have refused to engage with the day-to-day issues.

Far more comfortable fighting culture wars or tedious constitutional battles, the bread and butter of efficiently governing our country has fallen by the wayside, and the people who pay the price are ordinary working people.

You can see it wherever you turn – two parties distracted by their own internal problems and declining popularity, both fast running out of ideas.

At Westminster, the Tories are emerging as the party of climate denial, pushing back targets for positive climate action in the hope of appealing to the worst instincts of certain voters.

Meanwhile, at Holyrood, the Scottish Government believes that hiking the council tax bills of up to 700,000 households will provide cover for more than a decade of economic incompetence.

And that economic incompetence knows no bounds. Just last month we were treated to the grotesque spectacle of SNP politicians essentially begging First Bus bosses not to cut routes while simultaneously seeking to impose congestion charges on the people of Rutherglen and Hamilton West when they often have no alternative but to drive into Glasgow.

We see once proud symbols of industry like the former steelworks at Clydebridge rotting with a for sale sign hanging above the door, despite being ‘saved’ to great fanfare by the Government with your money just a few short years ago.

And we know that people across Lanarkshire face delays of up to nine months for vital dental treatment, with the disastrous health consequences that could arise as a result.

Fundamentally, people across Rutherglen and Hamilton West, Glasgow and Scotland more broadly have been badly let down.

They are struggling to make their pay packets stretch far enough each month to keep up with their sky-high bills, they cannot get a GP appointment or are languishing on an NHS waiting list, and they are watching as basic public services crumble following a decade of savage cuts to council budgets.

In the absence of leadership from the Scottish Government, it has been Labour that is proposing solutions to the woes facing people across the country.

We have committed to emulating the pioneering work of Greater Manchester’s Labour mayor Andy Burnham to take back control of buses in Greater Glasgow making journeys more affordable and reliable; called for a £100 rebate on water bills for every household; for a relaunch of the mortgage rescue scheme that was scrapped previously to ensure no one loses their home; and for the cancellation of punitive school meal debt.

Given the recent news that some councils in Scotland are sending debt collectors to the doors of vulnerable families who are unable to feed their kids, those calls to cancel school meal debt are even more pertinent than ever before.

It simply cannot be right that in 2023, living in one of the richest economies in the world, families face the choice of being hounded for money or their kids going hungry.

But that reality is not exclusive to Scotland, it is an affliction that befalls families across the whole of the UK.

That is why we have set out five key missions for an incoming UK Labour government, ending the continuous cycle of sticking plaster politics and ultimately delivering for working people the length and breadth of this country.

They include creating the fastest growing economy in the G7; building an NHS fit for the future; delivering security for families and communities; making Scotland and the UK a clean energy superpower; and creating opportunities for everyone ensuring that no one is held back due to their background.

Those missions will be the backbone of our manifesto and the pillars upon which the next Labour government will be built.

Each of them seeks to improve the lives of working people and deliver a society where aspiration is supported, and potential is unlocked.

That is the change Scotland needs. It is a change that only Labour can and will deliver, and a change that starts in Rutherglen and Hamilton West on Thursday, October 5.

You can view my column on the Glasgow Times website here: Paul Sweeney: Only Labour can provide change that is necessary | Glasgow Times


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