Until comparatively recently, Scotland was a fairly socially conservative country – it wasn’t until the 1980s that Scotland decriminalised homosexuality, whereas it had been decriminalised in England since the late 60s. For a long time we held onto many of our more traditional values, but in the recent past, that has all changed.
Scotland has become a world leader in social progression, fighting to help those faced with injustice. We are now one of the most gay friendly countries in the world, we have championed workers rights, fought hard to tackle gender inequality, opposed right-wing policies aimed at penalising our poorest and most vulnerable and worked tirelessly for an inclusive society at all levels. This has not come easily and it did not happen over night. It is the result of a decades-long battle to make Scotland a fairer place to live, work and learn.
In the past nine years, the SNP has stood on the front line of this particular fight, ensuring that we work hard to tackle inequality at every opportunity.
With new incentives to businesses to pay the living wage of £8.25 per hour to their staff and having become the first government in the UK to pay their staff the living wage in 2011, the SNP has seen more than 80% of Scots now paid the living wage.
Following the introduction of the bedroom tax, the SNP government made a pledge that nobody in Scotland would ever have to pay it. More than £90 million has been invested to mitigate the bedroom tax in Scotland. With no person in Scotland paying the bedroom tax, more than 72,000 households have been saved from the threat of eviction and homelessness.
Cuts to Council Tax Support, imposed by Westminster, have been mitigated as well, protecting over half a million of our most vulnerable households, including 200,000 pensioners and 86,000 single parents. Without support like this, many of our societies most hard-up would be facing difficult choices between feeding their children or heating their homes. Likewise, the Independent Living Fund Scotland was set up after Westminster ditched its support has allowed the Scottish Government to support almost 3,000 disabled people to live independently.
With these supports, poverty in Scotland is falling too, with more than a quarter of a million fewer people in poverty in 2014 than in 2000.
The government is also working to promote fairness in businesses too, with more than 200 companies signing up to the new Scottish Business Pledge. This voluntary code ensures that companies work hard to promote fairness and equality, increase diversity and boost their productivity. This has come alongside the SNP’s 50:50 campaign that is working to ensure that private sector and third sector companies work towards gender-balance at their top levels by 2020.
To mark the Scottish Government’s commitment to bridging the gender gap, Nicola Sturgeon appointed Scotland’s first gender balanced cabinet.
Following on from Scotland’s hesitation over the decriminalising of homosexuality, Scotland has become one of the most LGBTI friendly countries in the world, with an SNP government presiding over Scotland’s equal marriage bill. Scotland now enjoys some of the most progressive equal marriage laws of any country in the world.
The Scottish Government has also remained committed to helping those worst off in our society and across the world, with more than £75 million spent since 2007 to provide help and support to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.
It’s clear to see that Scotland has come a long way in the recent past and we are working hard to become a world leader in socially progressive policies, promoting fairness and equality for all. The SNP’s record in this area is evidence of just how far we have come since 2007 as well.
With an ageing population and poverty still remaining a large issue across Scotland, though, we will have to be clever about how we tackle unfairness and injustice across a wide spectrum of social issues and demographics. However, with their current record to back them up and with a clear plan of action to continue to lead the world in the fight for fairness, it’s the SNP that can truly make a fairer Scotland for all.