Smith Hails SNP Conference Acclaim For Nordic Scotland

16 October 2010
SNP Member of the European Parliament Alyn Smith has today (Saturday) hailed the unanimous adoption by acclaim of a motion he put to SNP national conference in Perth proposing the establishment of an index benchmarking the lives of the people of Scotland against the Nordic Council members.

In a good-natured debate the conference accepted that such an index will allow a transparent comparison of public policy across Scotland, and allow an evidenced based debate on how public policy in Scotland can do better.

Speaking after the debate, Smith said:

"I was confident there was a lot of support for the idea, but this index as we roll it forward will throw down a challenge to all Scotland's politicians, including ourselves.  But we're up to it, and up for it, and if we're serious about making Scotland better then we need to start with an objective assessment of how we're doing.  If there's anything we can improve, then let’s see what the Nordic Council countries are doing and see if we can learn anything.

"It also throws down a challenge to the other parties: come and join us in making the better Scotland we all want to see.  A clear eyed and hard edged examination of how other countries do things and whether they have better outcomes for their citizens than we do can only lead to an honest discussion about how we can make Scotland better."

Scottish Nordic Development Index - Motion 22, Saturday 10:30 -

Conference, making Scotland better, forging the better future for our people is the raison d'etre of this Party.  We don't want independence for the sake of it, for itself, we want it because with it comes the tools to energise our country and forge the better nation we know we could be.

This motion represents a step shift in how Scottish politics could work.  Because let's be honest, all of Scotland's politicians want to see Scotland do better, but for them it's a vague aspiration, and in the absence of ideas politics is just about managing and processing, not leading.

But we're different.  This motion shows how we want to make real progress.

Step one is recognising the problem, and what better way to do that than to compare the lives of the people of Scotland with the lives of people in other countries.  Handily, there's a group of progressive, stable, prosperous countries in our own backyard.  Countries with a similar geography, people, outlook, the sort of countries you could take home to met your mum!  Any here's the clincher, they already produce this fabulous publication [flourish yearbook] the Nordic Statistical Yearbook, this is the latest edition if you're looking for some reading material.

This is a stouter conference, and while to be fair you might not have had me down as a statistics anorak, I'm full of surprises, and this is a great publication.  The lives of the people of five progressive countries, summarised and compared, and I propose in this motion that we take the average of the five and compare that with the life outcomes of the people of Scotland.  And I stress that.  This will lead to real evidence based politics centred on the lives of our people, not independence as an abstract, not wrangling about the constitution which for so many people seems so far removed from their lives, but an evidence led debate about the better lives people in other countries are having and our people deserve.

So we compare the statistics, be it household disposable income, commuting time to work, oncology survival rates, whatever, and where there's a gap lets lose the wha's like us and see what they're doing that we're not.  And if there are things to learn, then let's bring those ideas home, and reach out to the other parties and build a long term consensus to make the lives of our people better.  And where we lack the powers let's have an evidenced based debate about why we need them, not that we want them for themselves.

That's the sort of radical consensual politics we're evolving in Scotland, so totally divorced from the punch and judy showbiz for ugly people down at Westminster.  That's politics focussed on the needs of our people, that's the sort of politics the people of Scotland deserve and the sort of national leadership this Party will provide.

[quote broadband example, question how Scotland could improve]

So that's the sort of hard questioning I want us to subject every aspect of Scottish life to.  So different to the vacuous posturing of our opponents.  And it also debunks the silly, wilfully stupid arguments against the Arc of Prosperity.  The arc of prosperity was never a "vote for us and we'll be Norway, or vote for us we'll be Iceland" it was a way of underlining the point to the people of Scotland that there's a big old world out there and there are other ways of doing things.  We don't want to be any other country, we want to be Scotland, but better!

Conference, I've had a bit of a rethink lately about where I fit in this Party, what I bring to it and where I add value, except for a touch of international glamour now and again!  I'm restructuring the team, and I'm refocusing, ruthlessly, on plundering the whole of Europe and wider for ideas and best practice, to bring them home translate them to our reality and to inject them into the national politics.

If politics isn't about ideas it's about nothing!  So I'm in this job for four years to make a difference.  Because we've got the ideas, we've got the commitment, we've got the passion and we've got the intellect to not just talk about making Scotland better, but to make it happen too.  This motion will challenge us and will challenge Scotland's politics, and I commend it to you.