On Tuesday the First Minister will announce his Programme for Government.  I am clear that Scotland needs a fresh start, a new government led by Scottish Labour and Scottish Co-operative Party MSPs.

Until that new government is elected along with my Scottish Co-operative Party colleagues in the Scottish Parliament I will be looking for the Scottish Government to deliver a fairer, more co-operative Scotland.

Double the Size of the Co-op Economy

Co-ops are businesses owned by their workers, customers, or community members, rather than distant shareholders. They put economic power directly in the hands of local people and ensure the benefits of economic growth are felt by those who create it.  We want to see Co-operative Development Scotland put on a statutory footing and properly resourced and we want to see any Community Wealth Building agenda for Scotland promote more co-operatives and employee owned businesses.

The Scottish Co-operative Party wants to see a doubling the size of the co-operative economy in Scotland.

The Right to Food

Rhoda Grant MSP is promoting a Members’ Bill on the Right to Food.  It is a disgrace that in 2023 people are struggling to feed their families in our country.  Therefore, we are calling on the Scottish Government to take action on behalf of the people of Scotland who are using foodbanks to support Rhoda Grant’s Bill and makes sure that it is given sufficient time in the parliamentary process to become law.

Community Energy

For too long, we have relied on energy produced and owned abroad – empowering oligarchs while multinational oil and gas companies make record profits.

With prices reaching record highs, there has never been a more important moment to invest in cheap, clean renewable energy produced and owned right here in the UK, Scotland and locally.

We need a new energy production system that is cheap, green, and owned and controlled by the people who use it. We are calling on the First Minister to ensure that co-operatively and community-owned renewable energy is supported by the Scottish Government. We need a jobs-first just transition and supporting community-owned renewables will provide those opportunities for jobs.

High Streets

High streets should be the beating heart of our community. They are the place we do our weekly shop, pick up prescriptions or grab a coffee. They form the backdrop to our social life, the stage for our community action and the centrepiece of our civic pride.

However, many high streets are struggling. Even before Covid-19, town centres faced many challenges. In recent times lockdowns, uncertainty, reduced footfall, as well as a financial crash that has squeezed consumer spending, has accelerated this trend. In 2020, British high streets lost more than 17,500 chain store outlets – an average of almost 50 a day.

We are calling on the Scottish Government to look at ways to promote our High Streets and make sure that they continue to be the beating hearts of our communities. This should include supporting greater community ownership of assets, such as cinemas and leisure centres, which can help to turn around the fortunes of high streets. Support for a community-led approach to high street regeneration will ensure they are shaped by the people who use them – providing essential good and services in new civic spaces.

Peoples’ Bus

Bus passenger numbers are still 35 per cent lower than pre-pandemic levels, and under the SNP the number of bus passenger journeys taken in Scotland has plummeted by 52 per cent – falling faster than the UK average.

The number of buses in service has plummeted from 5,400 in 2007/08 to just 3,700 in 2021/22

Buses are “on the brink of collapse” and we urge you to back our Scottish Labour & Co-operative 3-point plan for buses, which calls for:

No more blank cheques for private operators – strict conditions should be placed on public funds provided to private bus companies to maintain services and provide the necessary commercial information to bring buses back under public control.

A cap on bus fares – Scotland’s bus passengers are paying amongst the highest bus fares in the UK. Co-operative Mayors have capped fares at £2 in Manchester and Leeds. To increase passenger numbers fare caps should be urgently introduced in Scotland too.

Local buses under local control – the Scottish Government should give local transport authorities the franchising powers, guidance and resources now to bring local buses back under local control.

The Scottish Co-operative Party group of MSPs is ready to work with others in the Scottish Parliament to ensure that Scotland becomes fairer and more co-operative.