TOMORROW, Scottish Labour MSPs will vote against a second independence referendum.

I don’t want to see a repeat of the divisions that caused families, friends and colleagues to fall out and saw communities split down the middle in 2014.

No bus, no train, no pub, no community centre, no work place, no living room escaped the fall out.

We don’t want to go back to that.

I will stand up for the majority of Scots who don’t want to return to the divisions of the past. In doing so, I will respect the will of the people of Scotland.

Eighty-five per cent of our fellow citizens voted in the first referendum, and they voted by a very clear majority to remain in the United Kingdom.

That’s the will of the Scottish people and that is what should be respected.

It is intolerable that the Scottish Parliament will spend two days discussing the process of another referendum on leaving the UK.

I would much rather be talking about how to improve our education system, our hospitals, or how we can tackle Tory austerity and welfare cuts.

But the SNP is only interested in one thing: division.

When the UK Labour Government created the NHS and the welfare state after the Second World War, the SNP wanted Scotland to leave the UK.
When the UK Labour Government introduced ground breaking legislation to deliver greater equality in the workplace, the SNP wanted Scotland to leave the UK.
When the UK Labour Government introduced a National Minimum Wage and tax credits, the SNP wanted Scotland to leave the UK.
So Brexit is just the latest convenient excuse, the excuse the Nationalists have been looking for, to impose yet another divisive referendum on the people of Scotland.

But while I will vote against the SNP’s reckless plan, the parliamentary arithmetic cannot be ignored. The Scottish Greens long ago abandoned any pretence of being a party that cares about anything other than taking the passenger seat in the SNP’s independence drive.

There is a majority of pro-independence MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.

So if there is another referendum in the years ahead, the Labour Party will campaign with everything we have to remain in the UK.

Because it’s a union of nations that redistributes wealth across the country, so that those with the broadest shoulders pay more to provide public services we can all enjoy.

I believe in the United Kingdom not to remember past glories, but as a living, breathing union of nations that delivers for the people of Scotland.

It provides prosperity and security at a time when so much of the world is ravaged by division.

The SNP cannot escape from the facts: leaving the UK would make things much worse for the poorest people in Scotland.

When the trend in too many places is separation, I value the fact that four nations come together to share sovereignty and resources.

That we recognise that together we’re much stronger than we ever could be apart.

A party conference speech tells you a lot about a politician’s priorities.

In my speech at the Scottish Labour conference in Perth last month, I unveiled a radical new policy to tackle child poverty.

We are calling on the Scottish Government to use Holyrood’s new powers, delivered as part of The Vow, to top-up Child Benefit by an extra £240 per year by 2021.

I will urge the SNP to include the plan in the Child Poverty Bill that is currently making its way through Holyrood. If that is rejected then we will seek other parliamentary mechanisms to bring the policy into effect.

It is estimated the proposal to top-up Child Benefit could lift 18,000 children out of poverty in the first year alone - and 30,000 children by 2020.

Last week, it was revealed that the number of children living in poverty has risen by 40,000 since last year. The rise means more than a quarter of children in Scotland are now growing-up in poverty.

That should worry every single politician. When he was Chancellor and later Prime Minister, Gordon Brown made it a priority – and he helped to lift thousands of families out of poverty.

But how many times did Nicola Sturgeon mention poverty in her conference speech? Not once.

She did mention Scottish independence 13 times, however, and also found time for a snide attack on Gordon Brown. That tells you everything you need to know about the First Minister’s priorities.

Of all referrals to mental health services for youngsters in 2015, around one-in-five were rejected.

That means over the last three years the number of rejected referrals involved around 17,000 children and young people.

It is time for a full review of the referrals for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services which are being rejected.

That’s something Labour has repeatedly called for, and I have raised it at First Minister’s Questions with Nicola Sturgeon. And my Holyrood colleague Monica Lennon has continuously pressed the government to make this a top priority.

I’m delighted we now have the backing of Barnardo’s Scotland in calling for a review of these key failings in child mental health services.

Labour wants to ensure no child or young person is missing out on treatment they should be receiving.

We have a plan for access to a school-based counsellor in every secondary school and a review of rejected referrals is a crucial step in ensuring young people receive the right support at the right time.

Many children across Scotland in need of mental health care are clearly not able to access the help they need, and I urge the SNP government to listen to Barnardo’s Scotland’s call for a complete review of the referral process.

LAST week I had the privilege to meet survivors of the mesh surgery scandal in the Scottish Parliament.

These inspirational women are fighting for justice with passion, dignity and decency.

There is an independent review group looking at the safety of mesh implants, but the two survivor representatives have quit, claiming the final report has been diluted with key passages previously agreed now removed.

This report must not become a whitewash – survivors are entitled to answers and my colleague Neil Findlay is fighting to ensure this happens.

It’s ten weeks at number one for Ed Sheeran with his fantastic single Shape of You.

The way the modern charts work, thanks to streaming, means there isn’t quite the same level of excitement when the rundown is announced every week.

But history could be made if Ed smashes Bryan Adams’s famous record-breaking run.

Share This