Please enjoy reading my newsletter and blogs about areas of interest.
Education and skills are critical, and particularly for future generations.
I will be supporting moves for the further development of a whole system approach to education and training, from nursery school to school, to college and university.
I also support the development of different pathways through learning to provide greater choice and opportunity for learners and businesses.
I will say more about schools in a later blog, but I want here to focus on the skills sector, and in particular for young people about to enter the labour market.
Skills opportunities must take a variety of forms. For some young people who may have lagged behind at school, they will require well supported first steps into skills training. We are lucky in having colleges who already have developed the capacity and provision to provide such early support and opportunities. I will champion the role our colleges, such as Forth Valley College, can play.
I think we could do more to support the development of world leading skills provision. The competitive demands of the 21st century combined with the right of every Scottish citizen to have the best possible opportunities require further development. At present there is an understandable focus on “competence”. But as a recent report commissioned by the SNP Government highlighted, we need to target international excellence.
We need to build the qualifications that will allow us to do so. I will be arguing the we should move beyond benchmarking Scotland’s skills system against other nations of the UK, and refocus on international benchmarking against the best in the world. This would support the SNP Government’s ambitious international trade policies.
In my life outside politics, I have been involved in research that has begun to scope out some of the opportunities available to Scotland.
We need to grasp the international opportunities becoming available and raise our ambitions on behalf of both our young people and our economy.
Only the very best should ever be good enough.
I have been asked a number of times about ‘the currency issue’ when Scotland is an independent country.
There is no country in the world that does not use at least one currency. A currency provides a means of exchange and an internationally recognisable means to trade. It is underpinned by a financial infrastructure, aimed at securing stability. There are many currency arrangements in operation across the world.
Let us quash the first big myth. There is nothing (and nobody) to stop us using the pound; it being a fully convertible currency.
In many countries across the globe the pound can be used without any agreement from the UK being necessary. Anyone that tries to tell you otherwise is, quite simply, telling you fibs! Ireland, for example, used the pound for 56 years after gaining independence.
What was discussed during the independence referendum of 2014 was setting up a currency union with the rest of the UK. The UK Government at that time claimed they would not wish to do this – but have subsequently conceded that this was simply them playing politics.
The Sustainable Growth Commission published in 2018 advised using the pound but without a currency union until such time as it makes economic sense to launch our own currency. I am happy to leave the precise timing to the judgment of an independent Scottish Government as we can’t know in advance what will be happening globally at the point of independence.
Many businesses in Scotland already operate in parallel currencies and have accounts in other currencies such as US dollar and the Euro as part of their international trading strategy.
For each option there are considerations; for example, at the point of independence it makes sense to continue contracts such as pensions and mortgages in pounds sterling. Mortgage-holders and issuers, and pensioners will look for stability and certainty at the point of transition.
Fundamentally, you use the currency(s) that suits your needs the best.
Finally, the question of currency has not been vexed over by the multitude of other countries that have become independent. It is but one of the areas that will need to be considered – and by no means the only one. We have already started thinking about transition plans to ensure we are well prepared to provide the Scottish people the strongest possible financial and economic infrastructure to enable the best future choices to be made.
Scotland’s right to protect our children is under threat from the Tories at Westminster. Sounds unbelievable?
Yes, it does, and all the more shocking that it is true.
On March 16th 2021 the Scottish Parliament approved the bill to enshrine the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots Law. This international convention is based on the notion that children have clear rights as human beings. It requires governments to enshrine four basic principles in law, namely:
Governments must respect children’s rights “irrespective of the child's parents or legal guardian, race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, poverty, disability, birth or other status.”
Government’s must adhere to the principle that “In all actions concerning children…… the best interest of the child shall be a primary consideration."
Government’s must “ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child."
Government’s must ensure “the view of the child (is) given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.”
However, the UK government have indicated in a letter to the Deputy First Minister on 24th March that “our concern is that…. the bill would affect the UK Parliament in its power to make laws for Scotland”. The UK government is threatening to take their case to the Supreme Court.
In plain language, the UK government wants to retain the power to make laws for Scotland that may not comply with the rights of the child.
I can think on no better example of where the values of Scotland so dramatically diverge from the attitude of the UK Government. Scotland has made its choice to value all children, to protect all children and the UK government is now challenging our right to do so.
It is also an example of where Scotland wants to be outward looking, and set the best of ethical standards for our future. Isn’t the future of Scotland deserving of the best?
I know from talking with many people, and local small businesses, that over recent years there has been a loss of trust in banks and other financial institutions. Most small savers are effectively paying banks to hold their savings with interest rates near zero and, together with bank charges, many are in reality facing negative interest rates.
Small businesses all too often in recent years have faced additional burdens. Indeed, the behaviors of some banks have been widely condemned as they have in effect ruined perfectly viable local businesses through unforgiveable practices such as bank loans being manipulated and leading to asset stripping. RBS has probably been the most prominent culprit via its GRG division, but other banks too have squeezed the life out of many small businesses.
That’s why when I was an MP, I was a member of an all-party group for “Fair Business Banking”. When I left parliament, I was then appointed as an Ambassador for the all-party group, and I continue to fight for a fair deal for individuals and small businesses alike. Last year, I was also appointed as an adviser to Northern Ireland’s all-party “Fair Banking and Finance” group. However, I have been surprised to find there is no equivalent cross-party group in the Scottish Parliament.
Therefore, if I become the MSP for Falkirk East, I intend taking the lead in creating a cross-party group in the Scottish Parliament, similar to those at Westminster and in Northern Ireland, to fight for a fairer deal for the people of Scotland, including our local small businesses.
I know from my discussions locally, that there are many small businesses in our community that would benefit from fairer dealings from their banks, as would many individuals. I intend using my experience and knowledge to ensure their case is heard and reform put on the agenda. I’ll be fighting for you.
Thank you for selecting me to be your SNP candidate for Falkirk East in the Holyrood elections of 2021. Thank you also to my colleagues Cecil Meicklejohn, Laura Murtagh and Sue Friel for participating in such an enlivening selection process.
I have been in touch with all the key individuals across the whole constituency and have started doing some planning for my campaign. Watch this space for more information - I am going to need a great team to help me.
Yours for Scotland,
I was delighted to receive this endorsement from John Riley of Tryst branch - thank you John.
Fellow members, I’m backing Michelle Thomson as our SNP candidate to secure the Falkirk East constituency at the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections.
I have been an active SNP member for many years but have never previously publicly endorsed an individual as my preferred candidate.
In the run up to the 2014 Independence Referendum, I was impressed with Michelle’s work as media spokesperson for Business for Scotland. Having viewed the recent local hustings and researched the biographies of our four potential candidates, I am firmly of the opinion that Michelle is the clear frontrunner to represent our diverse area of Falkirk East.
Our best chance of achieving independence is likely to be during the next term of the Scottish Parliament. In order to help achieve this, I am convinced that we need to choose Michelle as our candidate.
Michelle Thomson has extensive life, business and political experience. She is an excellent communicator, with a proven track record in dealing with hostile media. She has a breadth of business experience at a senior level in banking, corporate finance, IT, research and business change.
Michelle is an empathetic listener and is excellent at building relationships and networks both locally and nationally. I believe that she has the necessary leadership experience and abilities to be our MSP and would work tirelessly to achieve a strong independent democratic Scotland.
We need Independence. We need the best candidate. We need Michelle for Falkirk East.
John Riley SNP