I would be lying if I said that the last few years have been an easy time for the Scottish Labour Party, but I believe we are starting to find our feet. There is clear red water between us and the nationalists, as we saw last weekend from Scottish Labour Conference in Perth.
Nothing is more cynical than subjecting Scotland to eye-watering austerity in order to drum up support for Scottish independence. They know perfectly well that these cuts hit the poorest hardest, but are unwilling to admit that strong public services need the better off to pay a higher rate of taxation. Under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour has championed a tax rise for those earning above average incomes – at a rate that would see most people pay a just a pound extra a week. This is surely a price worth paying for a compassionate society.
The Tories and the SNP (and even the supposedly 'left wing' Greens), will go to the public in May with a platform based on a lie; that you can provide more services with less money. Make no mistake, these cuts mean fewer teachers, diminishing subject choices and vanishing support staff.
Scottish Labour is coming up with bold ideas. As a passionate feminist, I am especially pleased to see the proposal by councillors in Glasgow and Fife for a Universal Basic Income - the only way that women will be remunerated for all the work they do. There is no separating austerity from gender; women bear the brunt of public service cuts and are vastly over represented in the low wage economy.
I agree with Kez that it is not enough to have women in public office; we need feminists in positions of power. One of my key campaign pledges was to help my members, especially women, to navigate the Labour movement. I want to see more and more women putting themselves forwards as candidates - not just in elections, but also as shop stewards and trade union representatives. We will never achieve pay equity while liberation remains in the hands of male-dominated bureaucracies.
Labour councils are now the last line of defence between people and the SNP government. Our councillors are fighting back, while their SNP counterparts are willing to bend over backwards to avoid criticising budget cuts. Even with less money, they are doing more. The new Labour administration in North Ayrshire, battling at the forefront to protect public services, has guaranteed hours for care workers, ensured employment opportunities for care leavers, and instituted the full Living Wage for council staff.
Glasgow City Council set out plans last week to build 11,000 new homes in the Glasgow City Region, has approved an £8million grant to improve Glasgow’s housing stock, and was the first Scottish council area to welcome child refugees under the Dubs amendment. When we go to the public this spring, we’ll do it knowing that we are the only party with a positive plan for improving ordinary people's lives.
By championing the good work that Labour councils are doing and will continue to do, we’ll see them returned to office. And Scottish Labour Students will be at the forefront of that, as we have been at every election. This is the first step in Scottish Labour's return to power. I joined the Labour Party because I know a more equal society is possible, and I know that the only way to get there is a Labour government.
We'll see you on the doorstep!
Kate Shaw Nelson is the Chair of Scottish Labour Students.