Paying all citizens a basic amount of money to live off, regardless of status, is at the same time a very old and a thoroughly modern idea. As far back as 1795, American revolutionary Thomas Paine wanted to reduce inequalities between people who did and did not own land by creating a nation fund, supported by an extra land tax, that would have paid a lump sum to everyone at the age of 21.
The past few days have been a calamity for Labour. At their Scottish conference the London Mayor compared independence with racism, their only Scottish MP bizarrely claimed there is no mandate for a fresh referendum on independence, and their UK leader said we must get on with Brexit despite Scotland voting to Remain.
But amid all that, one small piece of logic did emerge.
The devolution of some aspects of the social security system is proving to be a huge opportunity for Scotland to show that a fairer society is possible. The package of powers devolved in the wake of the independence referendum was limited but even so, we can use these powers in creative ways to prove that we are a caring nation.
"For a while I had to stop going to events, to educational stuff to do research and I’ve even turned down work in Edinburgh.”
The words of Helen Jeffrey. Helen and her husband Rab, a retired couple from Bo’ness near Linlithgow, who have made the headlines with their plan to run a bus service between their town and Edinburgh since cuts in public funding have reduced local services.
A sick child is every parent’s worst nightmare at the best of times, but it is usually just a cold or a runny nose and rarely lasts more than a few days. This is not the case for the parents of the 5,800 babies born across Scotland every year who require specialist neonatal care – so small and fragile, fighting for their life in an incubator surrounded by tubes and bleeping monitors that are helping to keep them alive.
This week, I spoke in a debate about a disability delivery plan. The government's “A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People” plan, which lays out an ambitious approach to achieving disability equality, is one that I broadly welcome.
With non-disabled people being almost twice as likely as disabled people to be in work, and given that that figure has barely changed in more than a decade, the Government’s aim to halve the disability employment gap is welcome and could not be more urgently needed.
I recently hosted the Scottish Apprentice of the Year Awards for the Scottish Building Apprenticeship and Training Council in the Scottish Parliament, and it underlined how vital it is that we offer apprenticeships.
Fourteen young people were honoured for their outstanding work. To have reached the final when there are some 5,000 apprentices registered with SBATC is no mean feat. Yet it became clear that many would struggle to find place on their crowded mantelpieces for another award, such is their talent in their chosen trade.
In the run-up to the independence referendum in 2014, a question I posed pretty regularly at town hall debates across Scotland was what kind of country do we want to live in. I find myself posing that question again this week in response to a report by Cancer Research.
The report says that during the last decade almost 83,000 Scots children started primary school overweight or obese. We have one of the heaviest populations in Europe, with two in three adults overweight or obese. We spend more than a quarter more than other UK nations on sugar-laden fizzy drinks.
Every Tuesday for more than 12 years, residents will have spotted Tiphereth’s ‘Colinton Community Compost’ red tipper truck doing the rounds of local streets, carrying members of their Pentland Group as they collect bags of green garden waste from around 600 houses in the Colinton area, bring the load back to Tiphereth, and unload it onto the compost heap.