Maiden Speech – Equal Pay and the Gender Pay Gap [1 July 2015]

Thank you, Mr speaker, for giving me the opportunity to make my maiden speech in this debate.

It is my privilege to represent the area in which I was born and grew up.

Prior to me Inverclyde was served by Ian McKenzie. Iain won the seat in a by election after the sudden death of David Cairns. I am sure that both Iain and David worked hard for their constituents. I am sure they shared my desire to improve many aspects of Inverclyde.

Traditionally we were the home to shipyards, jobs were available, apprenticeships too.

An honest day’s labour produced an honest day’s wage.

And that’s what we are asking for here today.

When I was a child my late father owned a pub and one of my jobs was to stand at the end of the bar at closing time and shout   “time gentlemen please”.

I never knew that in a few short years it would be the shipyards of the lower Clyde we were shouting time on, not the pubs.

Inverclyde has never fully recovered.

Although I was delighted to visit Ferguson Marine last Friday and hear their visionary plans to revitalise the business and heartened by their confidence in our local community.

Its good to note that in a male dominated environment their apprentices are both male and female.

My constituency sits at the tail of the bank of the River Clyde, it encompasses part of Kilmacolm and all of Port Glasgow, Greenock, Gourock, Inverkip and Wemyss Bay.

Historically Greenock has shown great innovation including that of James Watt.

Watts improvements in the design of the steam engine made them cost effective and radically enhanced their power and efficiency. These new engines fuelled the industrial revolution.

In the early eighteen hundreds Robert Thom designed a clean water management system which drew water from the hills behind Greenock and powered a grain mill, paper mill, loom manufacturer, sugar refinery, cloth manufacturer and even a mill grinding clay for a local pottery works.

In clean renewable energy Inverclyde led the way almost 200 years ago.

We enjoy our sport too, with vibrant athletic, tennis , cricket, golf and many other sporting clubs.

And I don’t need to tell you that we are home to the finest wee football team of them all, the original hoops, the mighty Greenock Morton. And close to my heart, close to my red yellow and black heart, Greenock Wanderers Rugby Football Club.

From Inverclyde we enjoy stunning views across the water to the constituency of Argyll and Bute. Only marred by the obscenity that is a ballistic missile system called Trident being ferried to and fro by four Vanguard submarines.

Sometimes I think people approach Trident as an abstract concept, well in my constituency it is very real. It’s a real weapon with the very real capacity to murder hundreds of millions of men, women and children.

On the positive side Inverclyde has great potential for growth.

We have a major road that runs East to Glasgow and beyond and West to Ayrshire.

We have two railways that run from Wemyss Bay and Gourock into the heart of Glasgow City.

We have a river that runs by us.

We are situated between two international airports.

Most importantly we have a ready, willing and capable work force

AND it is my aim to represent Inverclyde to the best of my ability so as once again we can declare that Inverclyde is open for business.

Since being elected I have attended community events for Autism, carers, Alzheimers, Sea cadets , school choirs and brass bands.

I am delighted to be included by these groups and acknowledge that my job is back there in my community, however my challenge is to bring their voice into this place and make it heard.

I grew up in the sixties and it was a decade that formed me.

We had the beatles and the stones, Carnaby street and Woodstock.

But we also had the assassinations of John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King

and we had the Vietnam war, when America sent over 300 thousand young men to die.

Mostly conscripts.

And I watched in awe as man walked on the moon.

Jim Lovell in his book “The lost moon” says that going to the moon wasn’t so remarkable.

“We just decided to go there”.

The Apollo missions proved to me that if a nation sets its sights high and is prepared to work hard to achieve its end goal, great things can and will be achieved.

I watched the American civil rights movement, massive and dignified, march across America and through peaceful protest and civil engagement, change the psyche of a nation.

And I remember in 1967 when Winnie Ewing (Madame Ecosse) was elected to these chambers.

Nobody ever suggested that Winnie would be paid less than her male counterparts.

So by the age of 11 my political identity was forming.

I stood in my primary school mock election in 1971.

I stood on an SNP ticket and I won.

My teacher told me then, she wondered if this was an indication of where my generation would take our nation.

I walked home, I was ten feet tall.

It was now, surely only a matter of time before my country was independent.

As a child I never knew how slowly time could crawl forward.

But standing here today. As the result of a monumental SNP victory, amongst so many SNP victories

I know, that if it is the will of the citizens of Scotland then that day will come.

And hopefully from that, greater self-determination for all of the regions and countries within the UK.

During the Scottish referendum I had THE conversation with many people, some didn’t agree with me, as it turns out, more didn’t agree, than did. But 87% of the electorate turned out and voted.

Those people engaged with the political system.

In bars and restaurants, in cafes, hairdressers, at the school gate and at sporting venues, people talked politics.

And one of the great benefits is that politicians in Scotland are now more accountable.

I have a dialogue with my constituents. They text, they email, they facebook, they tweet, they phone and they stop me in the street.

And that is how it must be.

The viewing figures for parliament TV must have gone through the roof. Our maiden speeches are followed and critiqued.

My wish for Scotland is that we can take our place as a modern, diverse, inclusive and equal nation. One that is not afraid to question ourselves because in doing that we will come up with stronger solutions.

But frankly as a small northern European country in the 21st century we are not doing well enough.

Lesley Riddoch put it eloquently in her fabulous book “Blossom” when she wrote

“Generally life today for the majority of Scots is not bad, it just isn’t as long, healthy, productive, reproductive, literate, wealthy, sustainable or creative as it could be.  That either bothers you or it doesn’t”

Well it bothers me…..

In a country that is not blighted by natural disasters, enjoys a temperate climate, has an abundance of fresh water and arable land.   We still have 1 in 4 children living in poverty and in some areas of Inverclyde that figure is an even more disgraceful 1 in 2.

We need to understand that as we sit in these cosseted surroundings shouting hear hear, it is out there  that the austerity cuts are hurting the most vulnerable in our society.

In this place, we make the choices that can improve that. We can choose to invest in our children or invest in weapons of mass destruction.

Well I say “Bairns not bombs”.

In Lewis Grassic Gibbons – Smeddum he berates historians for trashing Scotland history, including depicting Jacobite’s as dashing rebels and romanticising Stewart queens.   When they should have been focusing on the poverty and injustice that was wreaked upon the people.

I can do nothing about the history books – but with my fellow SNP MPs I believe we can be at least a footnote in a brave new future where we are inspired by hope and not restrained by fear.