Here’s why these council elections really matter

A week tomorrow – on Thursday, May 5 – people across Scotland go to the polls to elect the local councillors who will represent us in our communities over the next few years.

Elections to local councils across the country are always important because the quality of local services and local representation really matters. This election is no different.

The councillors and council administrations returned next week will have a big impact on our everyday lives.

But if all local elections matter – and they do – it can be argued that this one is particularly crucial due to the backdrop against which it is happening.

People are currently living through a brutal cost-of-living crisis.

The severity of this crisis is unlike anything most of us have known in our lifetimes – with fuel and energy bills through the roof, and food prices rocketing.

Many people need support with basic, everyday essentials and many more will be feeling an impact on day-to-day living.

That means politicians, at all levels of government, need to step up.

In my view, we need a pandemic-level response to this crisis. Political will and determination is essential to respond effectively to the challenges people are facing.

I am determined that the Scottish Government will play its full part.

With the SNP in government, people in Scotland already get prescriptions, university tuition and eye tests free of charge. Scots also pay, on average, lower council tax bills than people south of the border.

These policies matter at any time, but at a time like this, the value of them becomes all the more obvious.

The SNP manifesto for this election commits us to building on this and doing even more to help.

We have already doubled the Scottish Child Payment and will increase it again later this year.

We are increasing benefits and protecting investment in the Scottish Welfare Fund and Discretionary Housing Payments.

SNP councillors will also prioritise the expansion of free early years education to all one and two-year-olds, starting with children from low income households.

They will also build a system of wraparound childcare, providing year-round, before-and-after school care, which will be free for those on the lowest incomes.

Our manifesto outlines plans to build a fair, green and resilient recovery from Covid in every community in Scotland.

That includes supporting local businesses and creating high-quality jobs, making more progress towards our target of 110,000 more affordable homes over the next decade, and delivering a National Care Service to transform the way care and support is delivered for people who use community health and social care.

We will continue to use every power at our disposal to help families in tough times.

Of course, this cost-of-living crisis didn’t just begin in the last few months. It is the result of catastrophic Westminster policy decisions over many years.

From the moment they took power, the Tories have chipped away at living standards and family incomes.

A toxic combination of cuts, regressive tax hikes, rising energy bills and the impact of Brexit has left many families hundreds or thousands of pounds worse off.

And while the Scottish Government will do all it can to help, the fact is that most of the key powers and resources to tackle this emergency still lie with government at Westminster.

Tory politicians are so distracted by Partygate, however, that they have failed to bring forward any meaningful package of support to help families with crippling price rises.

So at this election, as well as voting for strong local voices, we can choose to send a strong message to the Tory Government that much more needs to be done.

Next Thursday, people across Scotland will have the opportunity to cast their verdict on the antics of the Prime Minister at the height of lockdown and on his woeful inaction when it comes to tackling the cost-of-living crisis.

The Prime Minister has lost the moral right to govern, and that matters because his constant distractions are getting in the way of him doing the job of making life better for those he is meant to serve.

Time may well be running out for Boris Johnson. But the problems of Westminster Government are about more than just one politician.

The Westminster system is broken. It is mired in scandal and sleaze, and those in the UK Government are showing contempt for Parliament, democracy and the country.

In these serious times people, families and communities across Scotland need and expect serious leadership to steer Scotland through the cost-of-living crisis and on to a better future.

There is a clear choice facing the people of Scotland on May 5 – it is SNP action and leadership, or Tory inaction, self-interest, complacency and sleaze.

We can all use our voices to demand that this deeply out of touch Tory Government at Westminster takes real action now on the cost-of-living crisis.

This election is Scotland’s opportunity to demand real support for families and communities here in Glasgow, and right across the country.

This article was originally published in the Glasgow Evening Times.