A very welcome post from Ken Macintosh, Labour MSP for Eastwood and frontrunner in the party’s ongoing leadership contest.

What kind of society do we want to live in? What kind of future do we want to see? What kind of country do we want Scotland to be?

Prosperous, healthy and safe, undoubtedly, but I think we would want more than that.
How about more equal, fair and just? In fact, I hope most of us would go further still: more caring, honest and more trusting.

You see, I believe our task in the Scottish Parliament is not just to secure good government and a sound economy, but to build the good society, a happier, kinder and more confident Scotland.

Scotland’s Labour Party may have lost the election but we have not lost sight of our values or our ambition for the country Scotland can be.

It was the Labour Party that devolved power to Scotland. It was Scotland’s Labour Party that introduced the smoking ban and concessionary travel, delivered free personal care and took on the difficult issues like Section 28 and the scourge of sectarianism.

These are the actions of a party with a vision and our task now is to remind both ourselves and our potential supporters across the country of that vision.

My vision for Scotland’s future starts with us getting the simple things right. I want a country where every young couple starting out in life can find the home they want in a safe community; where our children can go to a school that raises their ambitions; where we are looked after when we are ill and cared for when we are old.

I want to live in a country where everyone is able to better themselves because of their talent and ability; a country where if you work hard and do well, you are able to enjoy your success.

The Scottish Parliament can help us be that country and it has already given us the confidence to take charge of our own destiny. We have decided we don’t want to see smoking as an everyday part of life. We are fed up with our reputation as hardened drinkers. We are changing our lifestyles and diet to reduce our risk of cancer. These deliberate steps towards the society we want to be and the healthy lives we wish to lead have been helped by a Parliament in which our own voice is heard.

But we can do so much more. The powers of the Scottish Parliament are not an excuse for why things can’t be done; they are a liberator to release the potential of our nation.

Education is entirely devolved and it is up to us here and now to improve the opportunities offered our children. Health is entirely devolved and it is already up to us to ensure the care older people receive does not vary depending on where they live. It is not good enough to blame others or hide behind the constitution when we can change lives for the better starting today.

There may be no individual policy which by itself will deliver the good society, but I believe the pursuit of full employment comes close. Having a job gives people self-esteem and a sense of purpose. It helps tackle dependency and poverty, it makes our country more productive and each of us more prosperous. Full employment can help give everyone a stake in our society and provide an antidote to a range of social ills. It may be that governments by themselves cannot create full employment but we can provide the education and training to make people more employable. We can create the conditions for business and enterprise to thrive. Above all we can make the pursuit of full employment the overarching aim of public policy.

There are other policies we need to develop too, from the economically essential such as expanding child care, to the culturally vital such as promoting sport and the arts. And of course we have to contrast our vision for Scotland with the limited aims of the SNP to be simply “competent” in Government, while leading us down the dangerous path to separatism.

The SNP claim to defend Scotland’s interests but separatism is clearly not in Scotland’s interests. I firmly believe that most Scots want us to decide our own affairs as we do in the Scottish Parliament, but to do so within the United Kingdom. We want to continue to enjoy the best of both worlds.

I am a patriotic Scot first but our shared British identity is equally important to me. I am proud of the NHS. I like having the BBC. I am more interested in the many things we have in common with our neighbours in the rest of the UK than in the few areas that supposedly separate us.

I consider myself to be a devolutionist and I believe devolution has given Scotland the opportunity not only to get the simple things right, but to be the shining light for others: a caring society where we look out for one another, not just ourselves; a society that values ambition but not greed; a society where selfishness is balanced out by selflessness.

The conclusions of Scottish Labour’s review and the forthcoming leadership election provide Scotland’s Labour Party with the opportunity to renew and refresh our relationship with the Scottish people. We need to attract support from all sections of society and to build a progressive alliance here in Scotland. We need a new voice, one that people will warm to.
Above all we need speak up and speak out on behalf of the people of Scotland.

I want to lead that progressive alliance and in the forthcoming campaign I intend to be a new voice for Scotland’s Labour Party, a voice for Scotland’s future.