CHRISTMAS is often a time we remember loved ones that are no longer with us, parents, or grandparents for most. Imagine spending Christmas day at the graveside of your 31-year-old son.

I met a mother and sister on January 2 who have spent each Christmas day visiting their loved one since 2016, spending time decorating the graveside with a little Christmas tree and wreaths of remembrance. This is an all-too-common story. 

Across Scotland thousands of families suffer in silence after the loss of a loved one. Every death reflects failed policy to help people with alcohol and drug addictions issues. Our strategies have failed.

Parents often blame themselves, as the mother I met just yesterday did. This mother reached out to me as she would babysit me as I was growing up in the village of Maddiston, Falkirk. She trusted me to tell the story of Jamie, his letters written in prison cried out for help. He suffered from a health issue, yet we locked him up in a cell. It was an emotional meeting, but I was able to, I think, provide some comfort. In no way was this family to blame. Society is to blame, bad policy is to blame.

READ MORE: Peter Krykant: Nicola Sturgeon must treat drug addiction as a health issue

When I shared Jamie’s story online hundreds of people helped remember him, including new drug policy minister Angela Constance. The family are grateful, they want Jamie to be remembered, but they also want change now, so others do not suffer as they have.

Over 2020 I actively campaigned for safer drug consumption through Overdose Prevention Centres. As we now move into 2021 I will take my campaign forward to become the first candidate to run for the Scottish Parliament who has openly suffered from addiction leading to homelessness, trauma and despair.

Make no mistake, alcohol and drug addiction often stem from much deeper issues and people who are dying primarily come from areas that have suffered decades of poverty. Mental health and underlying physical health problems for families who are unable to properly feed themselves due to lack of work and a benefits system that has been ripped apart by Tory austerity must be addressed.

Independence for Scotland is now I feel inevitable, I will be voting Yes from No, however we must start answering the questions that were unanswered before. We need to build a benefits system fit for all, we need to build a bank of last resort and we need to confirm that we will use our own Scottish pound. We need to campaign for re-entry into the EU market for trade and freedom of movement for workers who come here and provide skills of all levels. In the meantime, we need to do all we can to support the most vulnerable and poorest in society.

I am under no illusions. When campaigning starts for Holyrood, I am going up against political party machines.

Running for election for the SNP will be a candidate who has a political background, Michelle Thomson. If the First Minister retweets a couple of her posts, her reach will go into the hundreds of thousands and increase her following by thousands. However, I have some big things on my side.

READ MORE: Drugs activist Peter Krykant to run for Scottish Parliament at May election

People like Jamie’s Mother have known me my whole life, my grandmother has lived in the same house in Slamannan for 70 years, I have friends and family in Grangemouth, Bo’ness, and throughout the lower and upper Braes area and indeed throughout Falkirk. Ms Thomson and I may share some views about the future of our country, however, when it comes to representing the views of our community, I can hand-on-heart say that I will do that and not side with any party, I will side with the views of my community.

I feel that people who stand to represent a community that they do not live in see it as a job rather than a calling to help and aid that community.

At the root of my campaign will be to work hard for the voices of all in my constituency to be heard, I will work hard for investment into local businesses and community projects, one way we can do that now is to stop criminalising people like Jamie, take the money saved and invest it into educating our kids properly around alcohol and drugs. Scottish Government must be held to account, we must push constitutional boundaries as we strive for a better fairer Scotland for all.

In memory of Jamie Kevin Walton 6th July 1985 – 20th July 2016. Aged just 31 years old.