Parliament started back following Summer recess last week, and kicked off with the Programme for Government for the year ahead. The First Minister unveiled her plans for the upcoming legislative programme for the year, with plans to introduce 16 new bills during the 2017-18 session of the Scottish Parliament.
These bills will cover a range of areas, including education, planning and transport to name a few.
I made it clear in my response to the First Minister that where we can work together we should, and Labour will not oppose for the sake of opposing. If we can work together to deliver positive change then we should.
However, the Government must be bolder in their ambitions, they must go further, and they have to be more ambitious with their plans to deliver the change we need to see here in Scotland.
If we are to work constructively with the Government then they must be open to listening to other advice, ideas and experiences. To carry on with the poor education governance reforms, which have been criticised by all in the sector, is pure dogmatic politics.
It is time to use the Parliament’s powers to pay for a fairer and more equal society and to support our public services. It is time to introduce a 50p top rate of income tax, to have an honest discussion with the people of Scotland to show that those who can afford to pay a bit more should do so and to scrap the unfair council tax, as the First Minister once promised she would do, because no amount of tinkering with the bands will make it any fairer.
The Government should drop the proposal for the 50 per cent cut in air passenger duty, a measure that will cost Scottish taxpayers about £190 million. Instead this money could be used to invest in tackling the unacceptable poverty levels.
Also, the SNP Government’s obsession with centralising local government and the willingness to pass on Tory austerity to local public services have got to stop. The Government must change course and build a new partnership with local councils that is built on mutual respect, understanding and joined-up planning to tackle the big issues in our communities.
There are positive measures in the Government’s programme, but huge challenges that Scotland faces are not addressed. We will work with the Government where we can, we will hold them to account where we can, and we will introduce the ideas to tackle the big challenges facing communities up and down Scotland in 2017 and the year ahead.