Drew Smith MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Drew Smith (Glasgow) (Lab)

Will the cabinet secretary give way?

Meeting of the Parliament 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Drew Smith (Glasgow) (Lab)

This morning, Johann Lamont paid tribute to Angus Macleod on behalf of my party. I thank Jackson Carlaw for putting his comments in the Official Report, and I associate us with them.

For the past few years, the business of the Parliament has been preoccupied with one question. In the weeks that have followed the answer, our politics has continued to be dominated by constitutional issues. We have heard that over the past hour.

Labour members have always been clear that entrenching and enhancing devolution was our alternative to Scotland leaving the United Kingdom.

Scotland’s future should not be discussed without considering the powers of this Parliament and we are clear that the timetable that we set out before the referendum and the cross-party process that has begun must be held to. We are committed to delivering the powers for a purpose that we are pledged to. Although we cannot accept the redefinition that is offered in the amendments today, we will listen to the ideas of others who are committed to devolution in good faith. Where common ground can be found, we will join with others with differing visions of what this place should be.

The parameters of that future are set not by the Scottish Labour Party but the people of Scotland. It is they who have instructed us to continue devolution within the United Kingdom, not in competition to it. The challenge for us all cannot simply be what powers, but rather how power is to be used: in whose interest will it be exercised? Powers for politicians in Edinburgh rather than London is not good enough.

The story of Scotland’s referendum, beyond determining the people’s endorsement of Scotland’s place in the UK, was, as Patrick Harvie said, about the participation of people in our politics. Across our country, people have come together and discussed their hopes and aspirations for our society in a way that, as Willie Rennie said, never happened before. That can only be a good thing; in fact, it is a great thing.

Yet in the weeks following the referendum, and this afternoon, too much of the debate in this Parliament has taken place as if Scotland’s people did not come to a decision at all last month. Parliament, with eighteen months of its current session to run, cannot spend week after week rerunning the referendum, blaming groups of our people for a result that did not suit our world view. We cannot accept a platform for a more powerful Parliament being built upon an argument that continues to pretend that this Parliament is powerless now; neither can the debate about how we make devolution work within the UK be transformed into a proxy for the same old arguments for a separate Scotland—the arguments that lost—being put again and again.

It has been said so often this year that we live in a historic time. For months it was said that we were about to take the biggest decision that our nation had ever faced. The year is not out; this parliamentary session is not out—the historic time has not yet passed. Our approach to the next period will determine Scotland’s future as profoundly as the votes of 2 million Scots on one side and 1.6 million Scots on the other.

This Parliament was established with hope for the future as its foundation stone. Taking responsibility for the affairs that are controlled from here is as important as negotiating the terms of our partnership with the rest of the UK. Both sides of the campaign argued that the success of devolution should drive us in our decision, whether to recreate this Parliament as an independent institution or to recreate it as a beacon of good democracy, passionate debate and informed deliberation within the union.

The challenge we face in the remaining time that we have here is just as important, whatever people’s views were—or whatever remaining view they have—of constitutional change. That is the common ground on which we should all now stand.

Meeting of the Parliament 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Drew Smith

Thank you, Presiding Officer.

The motion and amendments that we have debated reflect that change was the language of the campaign and that the people cannot now be put back in their place. The people who come to my surgery, as well as those who have never willingly listened to a political speech or attended a public meeting but who voted for the first time last month, have a similar demand of us who are privileged to serve here. They demand a politics not in the abstract but authentic to the real world that exists outside these walls.

How many times during a public debate did those of us on either side suggest some deficiency of the other side and watch people in the audience glaze over? The problem was put best to me by a wise man whom I met on the walkway outside his upper-floor flat in Braid Square, in the North Woodside area of Glasgow. He said, “The trouble with politicians is that you are all the same yet you spend all the time refusing to work together. The real issues become lost and the ordinary person is at a loss to understand you.”

Few of us here believe that we are all the same—our debate this afternoon has shown that—but when it comes to an inability to work together that man has a point. We are not all the same, but the challenges we face are. Over the last year, we have had a stream of reports about our NHS, which is being driven at full speed just to keep pace with the traffic of health inflation, demographic change and medical innovation. Too many of the staff who work in the service and the patients who rely on it, and their families, feel that signs along the road are being ignored and that those in the driving seat have no map to follow.

On childcare, we were all agreed in this chamber before the referendum that what we have now is not good enough. We may have different priorities about how we should tackle the problem, just as we have different views on the powers needed to make a difference, but can we not prove wrong those who believe that this parliamentary session will be remembered only for a referendum being held?

There is no bigger and more important response to all those who engaged in the debate on our nation’s future than to listen to what the people told us about the nation’s problems and resolve to act together to create the better Scotland that was being demanded in every conversation that took place.

The energy of the referendum and the willingness to debate ideas was the prize of the past few months—we cannot now let business as usual be the price. Tomorrow evening we will all go back to whichever part of the country sent us here and enjoy some rest and reflection. When we return, the Government will shortly have new leadership, and we will have precious few days to define our politics for the future.

I have said before that this Parliament needs to get back to work, but you have said, Presiding Officer, that it cannot go back to old ways of working. The constitutional question has dominated Scottish politics all my life and the referendum had dominated this parliamentary session. That question has been answered, and the answer must be heard.

I say to Gavin Brown that it is not just the SNP back benchers who have denied the referendum result. In this week’s Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser, Alex Neil talks about the referendum simply being a “staging post”. The referendum was not a staging post; the result was the decision of the people of Scotland and we must respect that decision.

Powers over health, childcare, tax, welfare and running our railways are important. Whether we talk about existing powers or new powers, let us argue not just to hold them but to make use of them with the purpose that united people on either side of the campaign: the power to make our country a better place.

Meeting of the Parliament 01 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 01, 2014
2. Drew Smith (Glasgow) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government how it will introduce the Glasgow and Clyde valley city deal. (S4O-03542)

Meeting of the Parliament 01 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 01, 2014
Drew Smith

Probably the biggest barrier to Glasgow’s economic growth that this Government has created remains the issue of an effective surface transport link to Glasgow’s airport. What steps will the Scottish Government now take to ensure that the opportunity of a city deal is maximised and to finally take forward a practical solution for a fast connection by rail between Glasgow city centre and Glasgow airport? Does the cabinet secretary now accept that the Scottish Government’s decision to scrap the previous Glasgow airport rail link scheme, which resulted in the land on which it would have been run being sold off at considerable loss to the public purse, looks as short-sighted as it was misguided?

Meeting of the Parliament 23 September 2014 : Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Drew Smith (Glasgow) (Lab)

Thank you Presiding Officer, and for your own words in time for reflection this afternoon.

I begin, perhaps unusually but not without precedent, and hopefully not for the last time, by agreeing with Annabelle Ewing. It is a privilege for all of us to take part in this debate today, just as it has been a privilege to be part of the historic discussions that we have had in this chamber and outside it during the past two or three years.

All the votes are now counted and the result is known; the people have had their say. Before this afternoon’s debate began, one might have asked what was there for politicians to add when the people have spoken so decisively. Unsurprisingly, we have managed to fill the time. Beyond the anecdotes from the campaign trail, our next task will be to meet the hopes of those whom we represent.

When Parliament last met, members on this side made it clear that whatever the result, we would accept it. There was much talk about self-determination, and it was pointed out then that self-determination would be the result whatever the outcome of last week’s vote—and so it is. The people of Scotland have, by a margin of 10 percentage points, exercised their right to self-determination in favour of union with the rest of Britain and Northern Ireland.

I appreciate that there are people in this country and, most obviously, in this chamber who are grieving as a result of their side losing this argument among the people of Scotland.

Meeting of the Parliament 23 September 2014 : Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Drew Smith

Will the First Minister give way?

Meeting of the Parliament 23 September 2014 : Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Drew Smith

Of course, the question that was asked was about national self-determination, and I believe that that is what Sandra White has been campaigning for. I hope that we will respect that.

In the public debates in which I took part during the past few weeks, I said that if the vote was to be for breaking up the United Kingdom, I would have accepted it, but would have deeply regretted it. I am therefore happy that the positive case for partnership has won, over the case for independence. That means that, although I accept that the grief—and, unfortunately, the bitterness that we have heard from members including Christine Grahame and Christina McKelvie—is genuine, we cannot allow grief to be transformed yet again into grievance. The vote was a decisive endorsement of our place in the United Kingdom and of this Parliament’s permanent place in the governance of that kingdom.

We argued that Scotland could last Thursday vote for the best of both worlds, and that is what it did. It voted for a strong Scottish Parliament within the UK and not in opposition to it, and that is now the duty of all of us in this place and generation who have determined our future. The Parliament has come of age, and now it will be strengthened.

Those who continue to believe that nationhood can be demonstrated only through statehood might see more powers as some kind of consolation in their defeat, but I do not believe that devolution is a consolation prize. It is a prize that is worth taking on its own terms. This Parliament has always had real power, even if it has not always had the unity of national purpose to exercise it. Big decisions lie ahead in the days and, as we are now agreed, the years to come. The first decision that faces all of us is whether we have the courage to accept the result and to choose to make this place work as the campaigners and leaders who founded it wished it to work.

As we have heard this afternoon, the referendum campaign had good and bad points. However, it is a truth that is acknowledged by us all that the energy and ideas that have dominated the past period were not just about the country that we will be, but about the kind of country that we choose to be. I often felt that many people on the yes side were asking the right questions about our politics and future, but I was never convinced that their answer was the right one, and the people of Scotland have made that decision for themselves, too.

The questions about social justice and democracy are the questions that led to this Parliament’s creation at the end of the last century. They must now lead our approach to the future of devolution, which is—as others have said—the settled will of the Scottish people. In two referendums in my lifetime, the people of Scotland have affirmed the place of this Parliament, and now they have affirmed the place of Scotland within a union with our closest neighbours and friends. It falls to us to reach out to one another, whether we are cheered or depressed by the result, and to pick up the baton that campaigners on all sides and all the people of Scotland have carried to the final result.

The result of the vote is more than a rumour; it is the settled will of the Scottish people. The nation as a whole has determined it and no one in this place or elsewhere has the right to ignore that. As members of a great and proud labour movement, we on this side relish the task that lies ahead of us to reconnect, to articulate in this Parliament the concerns of real people—just as you asked all members to do, Presiding Officer—and to rebalance power in our society in favour of people, which is the job that Labour has always strived to do.

Whether or not the hand of reconciliation is accepted by the other side, there can be no doubt that it has been extended today. What happens next will be the ultimate test of positivity. I hope that those who have lost their argument have the courage to accept that hand in the spirit in which it is offered.

No one side of this binary debate has demonstrated that they have all the answers. We are now a country that is blessed with a national ambition for change. Whether on the question of powers, the purpose for which they are exercised or the course that the people have set, let us have partnership, and not partisanship. Let us have the ambition and the determination to deliver the better Scotland, the better Britain, that our people have instructed us to bring about.

Since you have generously given me the time, Presiding Officer, I turn finally to one example that I used in the campaign, which was the 1 million children who were lifted out of poverty by the previous Labour Government—800,000 across the rest of the UK and 200,000 here in Scotland. I was a no voter because I am just as proud of that achievement and of that change in the rest of the UK as I am of any change that we have made here in Scotland. That is the bigger idea and the ideal, which people voted no for last Thursday—to make change here and to be part of change with all our neighbours and friends in our United Kingdom.

Meeting of the Parliament 21 August 2014 : Thursday, August 21, 2014
Drew Smith (Glasgow) (Lab) The debate marks the final consideration of the issue by the Scottish Parliament, but neither I, the Deputy First Minister nor any other member will have the last word on the question because, rightly, the decision is now a matter for the people of Scotland. Self-determination is their right, and they will decide whether Scotland leaves the United Kingdom or whether we continue devolution within the United Kingdom. When we next meet, their answer will be known and all will be bound by their decision, with a responsibility to make their choice work.

We in the Labour Party believe that the Scottish Government has failed to make a compelling economic, social or political case for ending our partnership with the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Our view is the minority one in the Parliament, but I believe that it will be the majority wish of Scotland’s people. When the old Scots Parliament, to which the First Minister is fond of referring, decided for union some 300 years ago, ordinary Scots were not asked. The course of history was set by Scottish men, untroubled by the people’s will. Today, this democratic Parliament, a modern institution that was created in a spirit of hope and progress, calls for the people to decide their own future.

I believe that a no vote will represent a decision to democratically join Britain and to continue devolution. It will send a message to the rest of the UK that Scots want and choose to work with our closest neighbours and friends for the benefit of all our people. Scotland will never be the same again, whatever the result, and Britain will be forever changed, too. With Scotland as a committed member of the United Kingdom, we will all be bound to put forward our political arguments in that spirit, and that will be a healthy thing.

The long campaign that has already run has re-energised my party in our belief in an idea that is bigger than independence. It involves the pooling and sharing of resources across the UK; a strong Scottish Parliament that is backed up by the strength and security of partnership; and social progress and change here in Scotland and across the UK. That remains an idea and an ideal that is worthy of the Labour movement.

The campaign has been a long one. Throughout 300 years of union, voices have been raised for repeal. All my life, this question has been the dividing line of Scottish politics. For some on the other side, it has been a motivation that has driven lifelong political activism. Over the past seven years, Government has in our view been on pause but, in the SNP’s view, it has been preparing for the next four weeks and for the day when Scotland will decide its future.

We on this side of the chamber can acknowledge the achievement of nationalists in getting to this point, even if they have failed to convince us of their case. We will all welcome an answer to the question, and we are committed to putting this Parliament back to work in the nation’s interest, whatever the result.

I hope that the debate that will continue, not in the Scottish Parliament but in the homes, schools and workplaces of Scotland, will be worthy of us all. The Government motion makes, by and large, familiar arguments. After all, independence was the nationalists’ answer when the great Labour Government of 1945 was building our welfare state. It was their answer when the previous Labour Government created this Parliament and embarked on its quest to tackle child poverty and build a fairer economy. It was their answer when the banks were booming and when the banks went bust. Today we heard little that is new. We heard the same arguments, which have been rehearsed over so many decades but are soon to be settled.

Our questions have been consistent throughout two and a half years of campaigning. How is the enormous risk to our public finances, which independent experts have identified, to be managed? How do the admirable ideas about a better society, to which we should all aspire, square against corporation tax cuts and the creation of competition on this island, which will inevitably lead to a race to the bottom, for Scots and our neighbours? What are the set-up costs? What will be the cost of renegotiated European Union membership? How can it be that postal voting will begin in just days but a party that has campaigned for an independent Scottish state for nearly 90 years cannot tell us what its plan is if a currency union, which is not in the SNP’s gift, is not agreed to?

What is the principle behind breaking up so many of our institutions and starting afresh, when there is so little evidence that people’s hopes and aspirations in life differ greatly on either side of the Tweed? Are Englishmen and Scots really so different that no form of Government between our nations can be made to work? Are our values so different from those of the Welsh that they preclude any adjustment of our partnership such that we can continue to live together under different devolved Governments but within one union? Is the desire of people in Belfast for recognition of national differences so far removed from the sense of identity of Glaswegians, Highlanders, Borderers and Aberdonians that we cannot share citizenship in a United Kingdom?

I acknowledge the right of nationalists to put the case that nationhood must be demonstrated by independence. I even accept that some nationalists will carry on making that case even if the nation tells them that it does not agree. I also acknowledge that not everyone who is arguing for a yes vote is a nationalist. I hope that many of those people will put the enthusiasm that they have found in this debate back into the mundane old world away from constitutional politics—those questions of decent housing, fair pay and the chance to better our lives and those of those around us.

A positive choice to work together is the best option for Scotland. The existence and extension of devolution mean that Scotland can have the best of both worlds. The struggle to make Britain better governed and a better place to live is a bigger idea than the idea of withdrawing into ourselves. To say that the Tories can never be defeated is the politics of despair, just as to say that Tories do not and will not exist in Scotland is conceit.

Time is running out in the debate and in the campaign. For many months we have heard the Scottish Government make the case for freedom, armed with focus groups, unhearing of those who do not agree with it. The challenge for us all over the next four weeks is to put the case as well as it deserves to be put, for tomorrow’s generation, so that when today is history they will be able to discern the honest disagreement that there was among us and understand the decision that we took.

Malcolm Chisholm mentioned the national health service. Labour has a special attachment to the national health service. It is Labour’s greatest achievement in office and our biggest task is always to defend it. However, the NHS does not belong just to the Labour Party; it belongs to people throughout Britain. Devolution allows us to steer our own course, but the ideals of the NHS are burned deeply in our sense of who we are whether the service is administered from Cardiff, Belfast, London or Edinburgh.

There are ideals on either side of the debate, and to pretend, when all the arguments for independence have fallen away, that the cause is somehow the defence of our national health service is to cheapen the value that is placed on Britain’s greatest achievements, across the nations of the UK. Indeed, it is to dishonour the genuine and heartfelt arguments that nationalists have made for an independent Scotland over many decades.

Meeting of the Parliament 21 August 2014 : Thursday, August 21, 2014
Drew Smith I hope and believe that Scotland will choose partnership over disunion on 18 September, and I hope that that is done on the basis of an honest evaluation of the merits of the arguments. We covet, as much as any member on the other side covets the prize of independence, the prize of returning this modern institution of men and women to the work that it was created to do, ending grievance and enabling a new politics in Scotland to flourish at last. I urge the Scottish Parliament to support the amendment in the name of Johann Lamont.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-11123 Joe FitzPatrick on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau: Business Motion—That the Parliament
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S4M-11114.2 Kenny MacAskill: Policing—As an amendment to motion S4M-11114 in the name of Graeme Pear
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S4M-11114 Graeme Pearson: Policing—That the Parliament acknowledges that policing in Scotland contin
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S4M-11116.1.1 Patrick Harvie: Scotland’s Future—As an amendment to amendment S4M-11116.1 in the name
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S4M-11116.1 Nicola Sturgeon: Scotland’s Future—As an amendment to motion S4M-11116 in the name of Jo
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S4M-11116 Johann Lamont: Scotland’s Future—That the Parliament recognises the result of the independ
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Amendment 61 moved by Elaine Murray on motion S4M-11101 Kenny MacAskill: Courts Reform (Scotland) Bi
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Amendment 62 moved by Margaret Mitchell on motion S4M-11101 Kenny MacAskill: Courts Reform (Scotland
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Amendment 63 moved by Margaret Mitchell on motion S4M-11101 Kenny MacAskill: Courts Reform (Scotland
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Amendment 64 moved by Margaret Mitchell on motion S4M-11101 Kenny MacAskill: Courts Reform (Scotland
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Search for other Motions lodged by Drew Smith
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11140: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 08/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11130: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 07/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10682: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 29/07/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10675: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 28/07/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10508: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 30/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10482: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 25/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10374: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 18/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10172: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 29/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10146.1: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 28/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10059: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Drew Smith
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-22919: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 22/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22918: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 22/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03617: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22736: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 03/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22738: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 03/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22734: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 03/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22729: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 03/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22728: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 03/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22730: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 03/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22733: Drew Smith, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 03/10/2014 Show Full Question >>

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