Better together: my dream for my grand-daughter

These are my remarks that I gave today at the Scottish Women’s Convention’s debate on the independence referendum. Thanks to the audience of great women, from across Scotland, who made it such a lively, passionate event. 

In a few week’s time my grand-daughter will be born.

I want her to grow up in a country where gender equality is right, not something politicians pay lip service to, and then ignore as they pursue their own narrow political agendas.

I want her to grow up believing she can do anything. Become a scientist, or a hairdresser and nurse, like her mum or an electrician like her dad.

Or like many of us, change her job and ambitions several times over her lifetime. Be a scientist and a hairdresser. And a mother too, if that is what she wants.  Even a politician.

I want her mum and dad to feel secure economically, so that they can enjoy bringing up their wee girl, not spend sleepless nights worrying about how the cost of living is threatening their family’s future.

I want her and her parents to benefit from good quality, affordable childcare – in the next few years, not ten years time by which time she will be need after school care, not nursery anyway.

And I want her to enjoy the best of everything that Scotland and the rest of the UK has to offer.

Our culture and sporting life. Robert Burns and David Bowie, Andy Murray and Jessica Ennis. Sarah Millican and Elaine C Smith.

I want the NHS to protect her. It’s the one public service that marks the UK out from the rest of the world as a progressive society.

It was forged by a Welsh miner, Nye Bevan, a man who understood that we are stronger together than we are apart.

That together ordinary people, from Swansea to Stranraer, can achieve miracles, like a national health service.

That national health service saved her father’s, my son’s, life only four years ago. Our family has a relatively rare, life threatening, genetic condition.

There is a 50 percent chance my grand-daughter will inherit it from her father.

Scotland’s NHS is an amazing public service. As I said it saved my son’s life. But the medial research that underpins our NHS is UK wide, Scotland’s NHS would be so much weaker without access to that research or the specialist services in England that are ours by right just now.

When she grows up I want her to be free to choose live in Stoke, where her granddad comes from, or Edinburgh where we live now. Or New York. Or Johannesburg. Even London.

I don’t want her ambitions shackled by artificial borders. And definitely not borders that would separate her from her family in Northern Ireland and the North of England.

I would definitely prefer if she lived in a Tory free country, which is why I will be campaigning to rid the UK of the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government next year.

But I want her to grow up in the United Kingdom. Because like me, like most of us, she will be Scottish…and she will be a wee bit British.

Over the next few months, all of us will be bombarded by facts and figures from both sides, desperate to prove their case.

I have the White Paper at home – it is a nothing more than civil service policy briefings and political wishful thinking.

I hope the Labour Party will produce their vision for Scotland’s future, for my granddaughter’s future.  I am sure they will.

But for my grand-daughter, my vision is very simple. I want her to be proudly Scottish.

And feel a sense of belonging to something bigger too, of belonging to the United Kingdom, the most successful political, social, cultural and economic union the world has seen. We are better together.

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