Scottish Parliament: Here are the issues that should be top priorities for PSMs – Neil Findlay

MSPs returned to Holyrood after summer break (Photo: Jane Barlow / pool / Getty Images)
MSPs returned to Holyrood after summer break (Photo: Jane Barlow / pool / Getty Images)

Well, I hope so, because the issues facing the citizens of Edinburgh, the Lothians and across Scotland are enormous.

The National Records of Scotland recently released their latest inequality statistics and they are devastating. Research has shown a huge gap in healthy life expectancy across the country.

Men born in poorer areas can expect to be around 25 years younger in good health than those in wealthier parts of Scotland, and the gap is over 21 years for women.

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Low wages, job insecurity and abusive labor practices are rampant, leading to levels of in-work poverty that mean more families have no choice but to depend on supplies emergency charity food.

Scotland has the shameful record of having the worst level of drug-related deaths in Europe – four times more than in England and Wales where the same drug laws apply – and if you live in in a poor community, you are 18 times more likely to die from drugs. than a person richer and 4.3 times more likely to suffer from an alcohol-related death.

Over the years we have been told that education is the way out of poverty for people in my class, but this year only 14.4% of new Scottish students will go to university in the lesser regions. poorest in Scotland, the lowest number since 2016.

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In our NHS, patients are supposed to have a guaranteed 12-week treatment time guarantee – before the Covid pandemic hit, wait times were at record highs, now they’re off the scale. There is a mental health crisis and a huge backlog in dental health.

In the year Scotland welcomes world leaders to Cop26, rail operator Abellio ScotRail is proposing to cut 300 rail services a day.

And in the make-believe world where Abellio operates, they justify this by saying cutting trains will help fight climate change. You couldn’t make it up.

Across the country there is a housing crisis, but in Edinburgh it is now well beyond the point of crisis.

House prices and rents are now completely beyond the reach of ordinary people – average house prices are over £ 300,000 and rents are on average over £ 1,000 per month. At the same time, waiting lists for town halls and housing associations continue to grow, with huge sums being paid to private landlords and hotel owners for temporary accommodation. And let’s not forget the impact of Airbnb.

In the Scottish Councils, more than a decade of budget cuts are putting our public domain in a terrible state. Weeding has ceased and the regularity of mowing has reduced, with clogged gullies and litter piling up.

These are the questions that should focus the minds of our new MPs and political leaders from all parties in this new Parliament. These issues should be their priority. I hope they are listening and ready to act.

Neil Findlay is a former Labor MSP and is now director of social enterprise Unity Consulting

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