Anas Sarwar writes for TFN ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections
The last year has seen our third sector and voluntary organisations pushed to their limits; the demands on their time, resources and funding stretched by families facing hunger, people enduring mental health crises, young people missing school and jobs losses totalling thousands as businesses across the country went to the wall.
Throughout this, charities stepped up to operate food banks and deliver free meals. They were instrumental in creating some of the biggest changes to our society, such as reducing homelessness figures and helping to end rough sleeping. But they faced brutal cuts to revenue streams as traditional fundraising events were cancelled: cancer patients, the elderly, children, no one in society was left untouched by the pandemic. But, working with communities, the third sector ensured no-one was forgotten and for that we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.
Structural and wealth inequalities have been laid bare but they have also given us a clear roadmap on what really needs to change and highlighted what really matters to the people of Scotland. What mattered most this past year was how we came together, how we expressed unity with each other – and that is what Scottish Labour is about. We want to build on that sense of unity, pool our strengths and our common resources to help Scotland recover and create a better country, built on fairness, respect and equality.
And that is why this election is so important. We cannot go back to the old ways. We have a chance to reshape and deliver communities that work for people, with a jobs guarantee for young people, and a starting pay of £12 moving to £15 an hour for our care workers, better mental health support and an immediate restart of our cancer care services. We will work to end the housing crisis, deliver green jobs and end zero-hours contracts.
Scottish Labour believes this driving force for change can come from the continued partnership between government, local councils and the third sector. We will empower them to be responsive to local needs, to deliver warm homes and safe streets, to help businesses to recover with thriving high streets and clean public transport. We will work with the third sector to enable these changes, using their expertise and local knowledge.
The road ahead is tough but not impossible. Scottish Labour will not return to the old ways, or shy away from the work that has to be done. Working to deliver a national recovery plan will be our only priority, focusing on what unites us, not what divides us.
Anas Sarwar is leader of the Scottish Labour Party.