THERE’S been a lot of talk during this election about waiting to make big decisions once the pandemic is over. In other words, the big decision of our time – independence for Scotland.

There’s no doubting that this pandemic has shaken us to the core, and all future plans must take into account its impact and its implications for our health, physically and mentally, as well as economically and with regard to the climate crisis. This is one big issue, and all these strands are tied together – targeting just one aspect of it will not be enough. Nor will putting off difficult decisions or deep analysis on preparations for independence until later on down the road cut it.

Slogans and vague talking points are no substitute for joined-up thinking, analysis of the pressing questions, planning, and purpose-driven action. Kicking the can will not serve Scotland well. The pandemic has thrown a long shadow over our lives. The arrival of vaccinations and a return to level three may feel like this shadow is receding, but in its wake so many people have been left traumatised by the death of their loved ones, the loss of employment, or the debilitation of long Covid. The appalling situation in India is testament to the fragility of the world’s resistance to this virus and our responsibility to each other in the global community.

This virus has shown us that there is nowhere to hide if you are disadvantaged, that if your job (or multiple jobs) is zero hours, you can hardly take time off to be sick because you need to be able to buy food; that living in cramped housing makes it nigh impossible to isolate or keep warm.

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The hard reality is being a frontline job when it comes to interaction with the public – such as driving buses or working in shops – can be risky for your health. This global pandemic has highlighted the gross disparity between the haves and have-nots, the deprived and the fortunate. If ever there was a time to address this inequality and unfairness it is now; as we slowly recover from Covid-19 we can imagine a better future

for our nation.

As an Alba candidate, I can vouch that no-one in our party is planning on letting the grass grow under our feet on these entrenched inequalities, left to fester and grow in the wake of the pandemic and a callous administration at Downing Street.

Independence is what motivates our candidates, independence so we can deliver a new Scotland. A Scotland rooted in opportunity and resilience, and which doesn’t pretend that these issues are someone else’s problem or merely tinkers round the edges with policies that benefit just a handful of Scots rather than the majority living at the thin edge of society.

We need to be making big decisions now because of Covid and because we face a number of crises on a wide range of fronts. Holyrood is being squeezed by Brexit and the Internal Market Bill and by a Prime Minister who is belligerent in denying our sovereign rights as a nation. However, our Parliament in Edinburgh needs to wake up or be shaken up.

As we say in our manifesto, we may not be independent yet, but with our devolved Parliament: “Scotland is perfectly capable of both getting on with what it can do and fighting to change what it can’t do, all at the same time.”

It will take courage to push back against the weight of Westminster marginalisation but deeds as well as words, focus and pressure must be the order of the day. No more prevarication, no more waiting for their say-so, while they parrot their “now is not the time” mantra. It is our democratic right to choose our future and Holyrood needs to be shouting that from the rooftops.

That’s why addressing Scotland’s shocking poverty statistics to end the horror of deprivation and institutional and structural disadvantage woven into our society must be tackled without delay. 

It’s an enormous scandal that almost one in five households in Scotland is living in poverty, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Alba have a five-point plan to tackle this damning statistic, to help the real people behind the appalling numbers, including a £500 annual payment to help offset the Westminster government’s attacks on the welfare state.

This would be paid to the half-a-million households in receipt of a council tax reduction and is in addition to our proposed increase of the Scottish Child Payment to £40 per week for hard-pressed families.

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While we may not be able to end poverty without full welfare powers, we can pledge that by the end of the new parliamentary term we will have done everything within these powers as a nation to eradicate the terrible injustice of child poverty.

For Holyrood, the next five years will be critical in setting the foundations for change when it comes to poverty, so we can start our independent journey on a more equal footing, with much more to offer our children and young people.

Alba stands for ambition and determination, for robust planning and preparation, for urgency and courage to be gallus in the face of intransigence at home and hostility from Number 10. As our Makar Edwin Morgan once wrote of the people’s expectations of their Parliament – “a nest of fearties is what they do not want” Alba stand for independence, because Scotland deserves far better than this.