JENNY MARRA MSP says the change Dundee needs now is to get the city working again.
If there’s one clear message from Thursday’s referendum result in Dundee, it is this: that some people who feel they’ve been left behind voted for a prospect of change in their lives.
Looking across Scotland to Glasgow, West Dunbartonshire and the close result in Inverclyde, and looking at the areas in Dundee where the Yes vote was strongest, Whitfield and Kirkton, it is clear that the communities who endorsed the independence proposal were where deprivation thrives, where employment is scarce and where life opportunities are often stifled. Now not everyone who voted yes did so for this reason, motivations were many. But the campaign for nationalism broke through in these communities where hope and answers have been lacking.
Throughout this debate, I never felt that an independent Scotland could deliver that change. It was never clear that the finances would be there to make it happen. Indeed the financial prospectus offered by the SNP carried the massive risk of making our public finances a lot worse. To seriously address intergenerational poverty and worklessness would require buckets of imagination, creativity and then significant investment to back it up. I say ‘would’ because no-one really has yet come up with solutions to worklessness. It is not a problem borne of Scotland, it is a problem that affects the post-industrial world and our youth unemployment rates are a scar on our European neighbours as well. However, worklessness is alive in Dundee, a stark and grinding reality for many of our citizens.
Only 60% of the working age population in Dundee are working. For a city with such a proud industrial heritage this is our greatest shame. And that shame manifested itself in the votes of our people on Thursday night, who, so scunnered without a job and money, turned to the ideology of nationalism to seek a way out.
It is in the interests of all political parties, everyone involved in business, churches, sports, music and all of our civic life, to get our city working again. The solution to worklessness cannot be found by politicians alone. We have to recreate a culture of work in our City, ask ourselves difficult questions and find ways to bring employment back into the town to let prosperity thrive.
I know there are other important lessons and hopefully legacies from this referendum; political engagement of young people, a full appreciation of the issues facing this country. But perhaps because of the name of my party, or perhaps because I just believe it to be true, work and prosperity, available in all our communities, is the only answer to making our city a better place and to stem the tide of nationalist politics.
I understand why people want change and I am going to redouble my efforts to make that happen here in Dundee.