A strong Scots voice needed at Westminster

Almost twelve weeks ago I stepped down as First Minister. I said I believed that Scotland could still emerge as a winner from the referendum process.

It is now clear what we have to do as a country in order to secure that progress; the progress which we were promised.

I believe that three things are now self-evident.

Firstly, the Smith Commission has not measured up to what was promised. It is not proposing “home rule”, “devo max” and still less “near federalism”.

It is real control of one more tax and a small proportion of welfare spending; it would leave Scotland still in the clutches of Westminster austerity. That is not Lord Smith of Kelvin’s fault; it simply reflects the reality that the Westminster Parties will concede to Scotland as little as they can get away with.

It is up to us to ensure that they get away with nothing.

Secondly, the man who said he would stand guarantor of the vow has retired from politics, after describing the central proposal of the Smith Commission on income tax as a “Tory trap”.

Whatever Gordon Brown had in mind when he underwrote the Vow it cannot be, by definition, what has been offered and there is certainly no way now he can guarantee any delivery.

Thirdly, the SNP and progressive allies can emerge as a powerful force in the next Westminster Parliament. Under our brilliant new leader, Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP is now the only true mass membership party in these islands.

No overall majority seems the most likely outcome of the Westminster elections and therefore the opportunity exists for Scotland to emerge from next year’s election in a commanding position.

Without the gaining of that real power and influence Scotland faces a bleak prospect. Continued austerity with further cuts in public services; the renewal of a Trident weapons system which is both unaffordable and unusable; the undermining of our vital European relationship and a continued assault on the poor and powerless by a Westminster elite without a semblance of social conscience,

In the weeks since the referendum the people of Scotland have refused to give up on the hope of a better Scotland. For those who voted yes, the referendum offered the possibility of real change. For many who voted no, they insist on the vow being properly redeemed.

Therefore it is incumbent on all of us to step up to the plate – to match the spirit being shown by the people. And that is why I decided to tell the constituency on Sunday that I am a candidate for the SNP nomination for Gordon.

I have no ambition to lead the SNP Group at Westminster and would if elected, for a year with a dual mandate for Westminster and Holyrood, donate one salary to a charity supporting local youth causes.

I have been First Minister of Scotland. I have no interest in titles and fully support Angus Robertson who is an excellent leader of the SNP at Westminster, a close friend and a fine MP.

I am perfectly content as a constituency member of parliament and will seek to have a role in negotiating the progress for Scotland which would arise from a powerful group of SNP MPs and our allies.

If elected with a dual mandate for Holyrood and Westminster I will do as I have done previously and donate one of the salaries to support youth causes in the North East of Scotland. #

The Mary Salmond Trust has already used £100,000 in this way to excellent effect in supporting young people in our area and I will be delighted to be able to give them more funds.

During my first intervention in the chamber of the Scottish Parliament since standing down as First Minister, I urged members of all parties to get behind the staff at NHS Grampian in light of recent reports published by Healthcare Improvement Scotland.

Comparing the serious problems at NHS Grampian to the tragedy at the Vale of Leven, I realised that the essential lesson learned was that the health service needed to develop systems that identified problems before they impacted on patient care and safety.

And this seems to have happened at NHS Grampian, for example, the health board’s accident and emergency rates are vastly better today than they were in 2006. Shona Robison, the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport puts that down to the excellence and hard work of the staff at NHS Grampian and I think she is right to do so.

I think it is time for everyone, no matter which side of the chamber they sit on, to rally behind the staff and the new leadership of NHS Grampian and take measures forward.