eunisEunis Jassemi watched last night’s STV leaders’ debate and says the choice is now clear: an SNP-Tory low-tax alliance, or Labour’s fair plan to invest in our future.

 

Well we all watched it. The second Scottish leaders debate of the 2016 campaign was last night. What a show!

What did we learn? Well, it’s official: only the SNP and Tories are now against taxing the rich more in order to fund our public services. Despite our national wealth gap widening dramatically under this right wing Tory government, despite spending cuts, both the Scottish National Party and the Scottish Conservative Party refuse to do anything. They are prepared for the poorest to suffer even more rather than taxing the wealthy a tiny bit to end austerity.

I may be too young to remember, but I thought those who campaigned hard for a Scottish Parliament kept saying ‘We can prevent Tory polices imposed on Scotland, we can have different political agenda compared to the rest of the UK’ – something on those lines. But the fact that these two parties don’t have the guts to exercise the Scottish Parliament’s both current and new powers for change says it all.

We learned that the Tories will start imposing tuition fees on Scottish students of around £6000, and that they will start charging for prescription medicine. And Ruth clearly thinks the unfair Bedroom Tax should stay. She wants to be the new opposition to the SNP! Ha. This is quite amazing, as the Tories have voted WITH the SNP a huge number of times – the most recent of which has led to large cuts to local government! Some opposition, eh?

And the SNP? Well, Nicola Sturgeon literally stood should to shoulder with Ruth Davidson to bad mouth Scottish Labour’s progressive tax plan. And she rubbished Labour’s 50p tax to close the attainment gap. But I’m confused now; the SNP in 2015 supported the 50p tax, the SNP on March 23rd this year opposed the 50p tax; then on March 25th they made another U-turn and said they wanted it again, and now on March 29th Nicola warns that it could cost Scotland. She actually spoke Tory language against a tax rise on the rich. Breathtaking.

The constitution took up a good portion of the debate. It was amazing to see that both Nicola and Ruth, who both had the chance to question Kez on anything, chose to talk about the constitution. They could have talked about health, our economy or education, but no, what we saw were two individuals trying to score cheap points against Kez on an issue the Scottish people have decided upon. Nicola in particular is truly shameless given that she went around the country for three years saying it was a “once in a generation” vote. The constitution is important, but given that we settled the independence question in 2014, and have now passed the Scotland Bill, it’s time for all parties to set out their stall on how they will use the new powers.

Willie Rennie’s performance? Meh… All I’ll say is that the Lib Dems have a long way to go to rebuild their credibility. And Patrick Harvie? Quite good actually, he spoke well and he set out a bold Green Scotland; but I find it difficult to see why someone who was keen to have fairer taxes, halt fracking and protect the environment by not cutting APD would vote Scottish Green over Scottish Labour.

No surprise who I think won. Kez was the only one out of the panel to set out a clear, progressive agenda for Scotland. We heard ideas, we heard them delivered with energy and motivation, and we saw a real sense of change from her.

Like replacing the hated Council tax with a new, fairer system based on property value which would see nearly 2 million households pay less than they do today. On top of this Scottish Labour will devolve radical powers over tax to local government to give them the extra ability to raise revenue for local services.

And a bold vision for our education. When Scotland has 4,000 fewer teachers, 152,000 fewer college places and kids missing out on nursery places, Scotland needs a government that will invest in our next generation.

And we need to raise revenue to invest in our future. Labour would protect education spending in real terms for the whole of the next parliament, and the Fair Start Fund would see primary schools receive £1000 for every deprived pupil. I study economics, and from what I can tell… money doesn’t grow from trees. People need to be honest with themselves; if you want better services then you have to pay for them. Labour is asking the wealthiest to take on more of the burden. There’s nothing wrong with that. Kezia said it herself: if you want a world class education system, you need to raise the money.

All I want to say now is, if there are undecided voters out there, keen for change, keen for a fresh vision for Scotland, a stronger Scotland, a more educated Scotland, then I urge you to look at what Kezia Dugdale and the Scottish Labour team has to offer. We can stick with more of the same old same old with the SNP and their cuts, or we can vote for a party that will invest in our people, that is prepared to take tough decisions, that’s ready to write a new chapter in Scotland’s story. I urge you to back Kezia and Scottish Labour. I’m only 21, I’m excited for our future but I know our country needs to go in a new direction. We need a party to secure a prosperous future for not just my generation but for the next generation.

For a stronger, fairer Scotland, vote Scottish Labour.