At the kind invitation of the Chairman of the Tenents and Residents of Muirhouse and Friends of West Pilton, candidates are invited to write an open letter to voters of the neighbourhoods.
Here is my letter.
My name is Martin Veart and I am standing on behalf of the Scottish Liberal Democrats in our constituency of Edinburgh Northern and Leith.
The Liberal Democrats have been taking a bit of a battering of late. I have stuck with the party because out of all the political parties, it is the only one that believes that government should serve people. That is the core of liberalism. Liberals understand we that know our own local communities best of all: knowing both the problems but also the opportunities to improve. The Liberal Democrats want to return power to the most local level possible, to tackle the challenges that we face right now.
At this point I will do something that may surprise you. I will praise the SNP. Alone of all the parties, they engaged and got stuck into the grassroots of civil Scotland: the residents' associations, the voluntary groups and respected community individuals. They have raised hopes that have been long absent from the political scene.
It is the job though of politicians to deliver results and that is where the SNP have failed. Edinburgh is undergoing continuing rounds of cuts: to the council (2,000 jobs), to the health and social services (wards being closed, Liberton Hospital due to shut and staff frightened into silence) and our educational facilities suffering from cuts to places and staff, resulting in overflowing class sizes.
It is little wonder that the only party that have consistently supported the SNP budgets over the years are the Conservatives.
During the post-Referendum talks, Liberal Democrats took a full and constructive part in the Smith Commission negotiations. We helped bring back new powers to Scotland and we now want to use those powers to improve people's lives. Not is some distant future, after a new referendum, but starting right now.
Our main policy to achieve this new start is a rise in income tax of 1p in the £. The extra £450 million raised would be used this to invest in education: from pre-nursery to adult life-long learning. Through the Pupil Premium, a policy Liberal Democrats have already delivered in England, the pupils who are most disadvantaged gain the most benefit. For Scotland that means £1400 for each disadvantaged primary school child and £900 for each young person at secondary school. The funding follows the pupil so if the family moves, the child does not lose out on resources.
The extra money will increase a child's chance of going on to further education and even to university. In some neighbours in Scotland, a young person has more chance of ending up in a young offenders unit rather than at their local university. That cannot be allowed to continue.
The 1p in the £ will see funding returned to pre-2008 levels, returning our education levels to where it used to be: among the finest in the world.
It is all very well providing our young people with a good start in life if, when they are looking for a home there is nowhere they can afford to live. Edinburgh is in the mist of a housing crisis. I want to see the plans for Leith and the Western Harbour reactivated. The city needs more social housing. We also need better planning in the city. I have been listening to residents in Muirhouse and I understand it is not good enough building new homes if there are not the services for people to use. People need nearby places to shop and shouldn't have to travel miles to find health facilities like GPs, pharmacists and dentists. As your MSP, I will work closely with Edinburgh Council to ensure the services that people need are delivered and that new homes are built.
When it comes to health services, the Liberal Democrats want to see better treatment and availability for mental health problems. Only one-in-four young people in Scotland suffering from mental health issues have their first appointment within the 18 week target. There are over 50 children in Scotland who are waiting over a year for their first consultation. For too long mental health treatment has been the Cinderella service of the NHS and that needs to change. We will be listening carefully to Scottish health professionals how we can improve matters here, as well as drawing on the Liberal Democrat experience in England, where we have already delivered real improvements.
Liberal Democrats also want to see the end of criminalisation of drug use in Scotland. Supply of illegal drugs would remain a criminal offence, with suppliers facing long prison sentences, but users are suffering from health and social problems and are not criminals for being addicts. This approach have led to good results in Portugal, which, after fifteen years of following the policy, has seen a decline in drug use among the young.
Liberal Democrats value evidence-led policies and that is what we will deliver for the people of Scotland. For more details, visit our website: http://www.scotlibdems.org.uk
I will just like to end upon a further word or two about myself. With my family, I live at Newhaven Harbour. Previously I worked in oil and gas but, like many in the industry nowadays, I am now looking for new opportunities.
If one looks at the leaflets of any political party, each of them promise to supply a strong voice for the constituency. Very good, but what does a strong voice actually mean? Meekly following the party leadership, despite private doubts? Not rocking the boat in case that means being overlooked for a ministerial post in the future?
My pledge to you would be to use my best judgement on every occasion: to listen carefully, to consider the issues and work for the best outcome possible for the people here. I am a liberal to the core and as such I am not afraid to speak out on the issues: even to be point of disagreeing with the leadership, openly if need be.
In voting for me, Martin Veart, you will be voting for a person, not just a party. In using your second vote for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, you will be voting for the party with wants use power to serve you, your family and the community.
You can contact me on email@example.com and my personal blog is at http://martinveart.blogspot.co.uk/