Scottish Labour leadership contender KEN MACINTOSH says it’s time for Labour to speak up and speak out for Scotland’s people

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.

It is right that there has been a root and branch review of our party. I welcome the package of proposed reforms and in particular the new devolved structure with its clear focus on Scotland. Now is the time to learn the lessons: some local, some national, some political, some organisational.

Yes, Scottish Labour lost the election, but we have not lost sight of our values or our ambition for the country Scotland can be.

It was a proud Scot who rose from humble beginnings to found the Labour movement on the fundamental principles of equality and justice that still guide us today. Keir Hardie revolutionised politics and created an organisation that has changed countless lives for the better.

Indeed, it was Keir Hardie’s Labour Party that devolved power to Scotland under the stewardship of another iconic leader, Donald Dewar. And 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.

Scotland’s Labour Party has a proud record which we will vigorously defend and a proud history which we will continue to celebrate. But we must also be a movement with a positive message based on the fundamental principles of equality and justice that bind us all.

Remember, thousands of people across Scotland voted for Scotland’s Labour Party and they are looking to us to represent them, to stand up for them, to give them hope for a better future.

My hope 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; 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; and above all, I want a country where we can make the pursuit of full employment the overarching aim of public policy.

The Scottish Parliament can help us be that country and it has already given us the confidence to take charge of our own destiny. But we can do so much more. Labour’s legacy of devolved power is not an excuse for why things can’t be done; it is a liberator to release the potential of our nation.

We have to contrast our hopes for Scotland’s future 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 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 want to keep Britain together but I don’t describe myself as a unionist. 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.

Any Scottish Government’s key role should be to make Scotland fairer, happier and wealthier, not to get sidetracked by constitutional squabbles. My politics aren’t about personality – I’m not in it because I’m against Alex Salmond – I’m in it because of the values that I stand for.

Our task is to give voice to these values, for ourselves, our supporters and, crucially, our potential supporters. We need to win back people 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.

Ken Macintosh is the Labour MSP for Eastwood and the Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education. He can be followed on twitter here @kenmacintoshmsp