As a working-class girl growing up in Lanarkshire, it never crossed my mind that one day I would be seeking to lead the Scottish Labour Party.
I learned about the workplace from my dad, who got a second chance at education and worked his way up to be a health and safety manager within the local council. He cared about people having dignity at work and for their physical and mental well-being, when stress and mental health was rarely discussed.
My dad had his own battles, mainly with alcohol, which led to early retirement at fifty and his death from his alcohol-related illnesses at sixty. This left me heartbroken but determined to fight for better healthcare and support for people before they reach a crisis.
First as a local councillor, and now as an MSP and party health and social care spokesperson, my politics remains rooted in making life better for working people and ending poverty. In my first term in Parliament I have delivered the world-leading Period Products Bill, working with trade unions and people from all walks of life.
The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the health and wealth inequalities that existed before Covid-19. Our NHS and social care services have been pushed to the brink. With too little support, our front-line workers have battled every day saving lives while risking their own. Health and social care must get the attention and resources it needs.
As Scottish Labour leader, I will be a friend and ally to the Socialist Health Association, I will work with you to realise our shared ambition of a world-leading integrated healthcare system, including a publicly-owned National Care Service.
I am seeking a supporting nomination from the Socialist Health Association Scotland, so that we can demonstrate together how we will put our socialist principles into action to meets the needs of Scotland today and for the future. We need to protect and build on a progressive policy agenda, one that I helped Richard Leonard to build. There is too much at stake to let the Scottish Labour Party drift in another direction.
Working people need the Scottish Labour Party to be in safe hands. Too many people in Scotland have nothing and that’s why I’m not prepared to sit on the side-lines. I am part of a new generation of leadership.
I can promise you that I will be true to our shared values and I have the best interests of the Scottish Labour Party and our affiliates at heart. It would be an honour to have your support.
The last year has been a very difficult one for people across the country, with lives and livelihoods tragically lost. 2020 demonstrated who the real heroes are that keep our country running. Our wonderful nurses, carers, cleaners and so many more key workers sacrificed so much to keep Scotland going. These are the workers who must be respected, rewarded and appreciated.
We learnt how, despite the incredible commitment by NHS staff – by the nurses holding the hands of those all alone in ICU, the cleaners and porters working longer and more gruelling hours, the doctors fighting against the virus on the frontline day in, day out – our National Health Service has been left severely vulnerable, underfunded and left behind.
It taught us about some of the deeply ingrained, systemic injustices running deep through our society – the poverty that can lock families out of opportunity for generations, the racism that has taken a deep root and the impact of climate breakdown on communities across the planet.
2020 was the year that Labour needed to be there. To call out injustice, to fight for our workers and protect the hardest hit in society. The Labour Party in Scotland was not there and I am determined to change this, make a stand and work together with our trades union movement to ensure that key workers, who have scarified so much are championed and supported.
I’m clear the next Parliament has to be a Covid recovery Parliament. We need a period of healing, to bring the country together, to build back better, to protect jobs and to fix our education system.
And I will work every day to deliver an NHS that never again has to choose between treating a virus or treating cancer.
The pandemic has exposed the need to look again at our NHS and how we do health in this country. Ill health and life expectancy isn’t just a health issue, its economic, its social, educational and environmental. Social and economic inequality lies at the heart of health inequality.
And some say that Covid was a great leveller. They are wrong. It’s the poorest, it’s BAME communities, the most excluded or vulnerable who are paying the greatest price. This has to change.
The pandemic has also taught us that our social care model isn’t working. The National Care Service is an idea whose time has come. The current system is broken, often overlooked by policy makers and undervalued by Government. For those receiving care, their families and care workers, we need to do better.
With your support, I will ensure Scottish Labour becomes the credible and trusted opposition I know we can be. l'll do this by working with key workers, trades unions, experts and business leaders across Scotland to build a platform that looks to the future.
With your support, I will champion voices from across Scotland and our movement. I will work hard to bring all of us together, so we can rebuild our party, and rebuild Scotland.