On Monday evening at the Policy and Resources Committee there was a very interesting report put forward which looked at the Dundee fairness strategy and child poverty, (Pages 61-85 of the pdf). This is a good report in that it highlights the problems faced by people in Dundee, it is an disgraceful report in so far as it highlights a situation that has no place in twenty-first century Dundee. The report recommends that councillors and a wide range of others get together and form a Fairness Commission for Dundee. I welcome that although I want to be reassured that this commission will include people who live in poverty and that this process will follow the principle of nothing about me without me. Tackling poverty should not be about officers or councillors, no matter how well intentioned, doing things to or for people it should be about respecting the innate human dignity of each individual and empowering them and their communities.
I was a little disappointed when Councillor Jimmy Black brought forward an amendment to his Administration's own report which basically said that independence is a magical cure-all and that it is the only way to solve these problems. I know that Councillor Black cares passionately about poverty and I respect him for that and I know that he can do better than this. There are competing visions of how we solve poverty but merely by changing the flag we will not eradicate poverty.
Our colleague Independent Labour councillor, Bailie Ian Borthwick was right when he said, 'There is a deplorable situation in the city. It is a situation that is happening all over Scotland and all over the UK. Contributions (made by SNP councillors) serve to diminish this report and the efforts of our officers. Does the tone of this debate really encourage people to join together to tackle poverty? We should be focusing on the people who are actually suffering rather than turning it into a sham debate.'
I respect the strongly held convictions of other councillors including those who think that independence is part of the solution to poverty. I am clear in my own view that it isn't and I am also clear that it certainly isn't a magic cure-all. As councillors in Dundee we have an important duty placed upon us by the people of Dundee. Of course, over the next week or so we will all make our views known about the Referendum. However as councillors our job is not to talk about constitutional solutions, it is to do our best for the people of Dundee. We need to make Dundee a fairer place to live. Every political party represented in the City Chambers has made mistakes that have led to the disgraceful statistics. If we try to indulge in a pointless blame game we are not helping a single person living in poverty in the city. Our job is to try to find a solution to these disgraceful problems. We need to make this city a better place and we would do well to remember we need to work together to deliver on that.
I think the report before us gives councillors and others who want to make a difference to Dundee a real opportunity to work with communities across Dundee to change Dundee for the better. Turning the report into a petty party political squabble does a disservice to the people we should be trying to serve.
I become involved in politics to make the world a fairer place and to eradicate poverty (or at least give it a very good go!) and I am prepared to work with anyone to do just that to make Dundee a better place.