Monday 21st March 2016
END OF AN ERA
It is hard to believe that I wrote my very first column for the Greenock Telegraph over 15 years ago. There have been many since then but regrettably this will be the very last as I officially retire in two days’ time. It has been an absolute privilege representing the area where I was born and bred. As a 15 year old entering the gates to the Cartsdyke shipyard I could never have imagined that one day I would go on to become the Member of the Scottish Parliament for Greenock and Inverclyde. I am eternally grateful to all those people who made it possible and those who have supported me over the last 17 years.
On the opening day of Parliament I stood just a few feet away from Donald Dewar when he made his famous speech. There is one reference that sticks in my mind to this day when he said “In the quiet moments today, we might hear some echoes from the past: the shout of the welder in the din of the great Clyde shipyards.”
I was a caulker/burner, not a welder, but I hope that I have provided more than just an echo of Scotland’s industrial past. I have always tried to be an authentic voice on behalf of the people in Inverclyde raising issues that mattered to them.
In my life, and indeed the life of this community, we have seen the worst of Governments which have created mass unemployment and taken away the livelihoods of thousands of people. However, we have also witnessed the power of good Government, of which I was lucky enough to have been part of and who believed it was important to create jobs, build new homes and schools and transform lives.
As I retire, Holyrood is set to become one of the most powerfully devolved Parliament’s in the world. I believe this presents a real opportunity to make a positive difference to people’s lives. Good government will use the new powers with a purpose to tackle the big issues of how we build a successful economy, how we transform the health service to make it even better than it is, and—the biggest challenge of all—how we tackle the inequalities that affect and exclude so many of our people and condemn them to poverty.
I hope and expect good government will prevail and powers will be used for the benefit of the good people of Inverclyde. I wish them well in that endeavour.