As a proud member of the Co-operative Party, I want to continue our work to build an open, outward-looking and diverse nation.
But the Labour Party and our wider family is always at its best when it is in power.
That’s why I don’t want to be a leader who just talks about fighting inequality, creating opportunity and ending austerity – I want to deliver equality, opportunity and economic growth as the next First Minister of Scotland.
As a son of Glasgow, I’m immensely proud of our parties’ shared history. It was in Glasgow that the first Scottish Co-op MP, Thomas Henderson, was elected in 1922, and Mary Barbour, a champion of co-operative principles, served as one of the city’s first female Baillie.
Scotland’s co-operative sector serves local people day in and day out; it is worth over £2.5billion to local communities and Scots are more likely to be co-operative members than anywhere else in the UK. That’s an incredible success story, but we need to be even more ambitious.
We must work together to double the size of Scotland’s 560-strong co-operative sector, putting it on a par like the economies of Germany or the US.
I will fight for employees and customers to be represented on the board of a People’s ScotRail, and demand that a re-regulated bus system is future- proofed when the Transport Bill comes to Parliament.
With so much more to be done to tackle Scotland’s housing crisis, we have to take the opportunity to embed collective ownership as new homes are built – and share the proceeds of our investment.
As First Minister I will deliver a Labour Housing Act, which will include:
- Targets to facilitate and increase the number of housing cooperatives.
- Support for credit unions and councils to create local mortgage schemes.
- Simplified rules for community energy generation projects.
We need to promote and learn from modern day pioneers in the sector. West Whitlawburn, Lister, and the Edinburgh Student housing co-ops, as well as the Harlaw Hydro and Edinburgh Solar co-ops, these are just a few examples of how our economy must be rebuilt to help local people.
A Labour Scottish Government that I lead will overhaul how we invest and procure goods to enable social enterprises and co-operatives to grow.
Co-operative Development Scotland must be reviewed and strengthened as its own national agency, embedded into an enterprise system which is regionally organised – not centralised.
Ahead of the upcoming budget I will ensure that Scottish Labour pursues the extension of Business Rates exemptions for social enterprises and mutually-run organisations, such as worker co-operatives.
But we can only deliver this real change that people need if we win elections once again.
That’s why I’m standing in this contest, because I want to return Labour to power and ensure the next First Minister puts the Co-operative Party’s principles into practice.