Election 2015: Owen Thompson
SNP's Midlothian Candidate explains "why him?"
I’m Owen Thompson, I’m an SNP candidate in the upcoming General Election and I am seeking your support to be the next MP for Midlothian on May 7th.
In asking for your support I’d like to tell you a little more about me.
I moved to Loanhead in 1985 when I was 7 years old after my dad had taken up a new post as minister at Loanhead Parish Church. I attended Paradykes Primary School in Loanhead and then went on to Beeslack High School in Penicuik.
After school I studied at Napier University where I graduated with a BA(Hons) in Accounting and Finance and worked for a number of years in the financial services industry.
In my spare time (of which there isn’t a lot) I enjoy playing and watching football, watching films, reading and I also put some time towards raising money for Charity. Last year I completed a Tough Mudder challenge – raising £500 for Children 1st.
I feel it is important when choosing who to represent us in Westminster that we elect a candidate who already knows this constituency like the back of their hand. I know Midlothian – people still want to be part of something and hold dearly to community identity. Our MP needs that understanding and my local roots mean it’s part of me and what I believe in.
In 2005 I was asked to stand in the Loanhead by-election and it’s been some roller-coaster of a journey since then. Winning made me the youngest elected Councillor in Scotland and the only SNP Councillor in Midlothian. That meant I had to learn the hard way simply by getting on with the job. It also meant that I had to learn how to build alliances to get anything done for my community and I think I’ve done a decent job of winning for those I was elected to represent, both as a councillor and as the leader of Midlothian Council.
My track record
Being a councillor is an honour and privilege. In my 9 years in Midlothian Council I have been able to help shape some genuine improvements to the communities I represent: park improvements in Roslin, Rosewell and Loanhead; amenity space improvements in Bilston; supporting the groups developing the Kabin in Loanhead and the Auchendinny Centre, and more recently have pushed for the new primary schools at Paradykes in Loanhead and in Roslin. As leader I’ve helped the council do the same for the County – new facilities are being developed like the new Newbattle High school; we’re supporting high tech industry to expand at the Bush bringing highly skilled jobs to the county, and we’ve driven improved performance for our school leavers, improving from 31st place of the 32 Councils in Scotland to 7th. I’ve got a sound track record in delivering in the front line of politics.
I also have a sound track record in delivering for this County. Midlothian has, since the SNP took the administration, been at the forefront in Scotland of introducing the Living wage, first for Council staff, and now through our procurement processes. The SNP administration I lead has also been working hard to address low pay, tackle inequality and to improve opportunities for all our residents. Only this week (31st March) I have signed a letter with colleague council leaders in neighbouring authorities, to progress an Edinburgh City Region Deal, which could result in tens of thousands of new jobs for the region, many of which would be in Midlothian
I know that some of the national issues are already gaining headlines in this campaign, and although they seem at times almost distant, I know these will have an impact on us in Midlothian so I feel it is important that readers know my position. I’ve tried to keep this as close to what constituents are telling me on the doorsteps.
Austerity & unfair welfare reforms
The first and biggest concern I have is the current programme of austerity – the cuts we have seen implemented by the current UK Government, with more planned for the next Parliament, and backed by the Labour Party is simply the wrong approach to take in tackling the UK deficit. This is by far the biggest concern of Midlothian constituents and I’m often shocked and saddened by resident’s feedback at my drop in councillor sessions. Stories of unfair benefit sanctions, child poverty, food bank reliance for the working poor is all way too common in Midlothian. But there is another way – a fairer way, which is more progressive, and that is to see a modest increase in real terms spending. This would free up billions of pounds of additional funding to support public services, to stop the austerity cuts, to protect the most vulnerable in our society and would still see a reduction in the deficit and debt. This is something I’ve tried to tackle on a local level already by standing up to Westminster and arguing against the introduction of Universal Credit. The plans for these Welfare changes have been badly thought through and rushed by the Tory government to implement. We need to be sure that any changes offer help and support to those who need it, which is why I have written to the UK Government to call on them to halt introduction in its tracks.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a series of trade negotiations being carried out between the EU and US. The theory is that this could reduce the regulatory barriers to trade for big business in things like food safety law or environmental legislation. There is however real concern about proposals to include public service within TTIP agreements as this could mean that some of our most vital public services are under threat from private companies, most specifically the NHS.
The First Minister and SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon has stated that she strongly opposes the inclusion of public services in TTIP, that she has big concerns about the rights of corporations to sue governments, and that she opposes any agreement that has terms like that included in it. I agree wholeheartedly and I will fight tooth and nail against any moves to privatise the NHS in Scotland by the back door, and if the TTIP agreement ever put that threat I’ve no doubt the party as a whole would take as strong a position on this, as they have with the issue of the NHS as a whole.
Again, it is the Westminster agenda of austerity, privatisation and patient charging in the NHS in England that threatens to harm Scotland’s budget, on which our NHS depends.
All of the SNP MPs, including me if elected in May, are prepared to vote for a Bill which would restore the National Health Service in England to the accountable public service it was always meant to be.
I believe this would be a good step for England by giving people their health service back – and also represent enlightened self-interest for Scotland, by protecting the Scottish budget from the cuts which English privatisation are undoubtedly paving the way for. We want Scotland to be fully financially autonomous, but until that is achieved SNP MPs helping to reverse English health privatisation would be a vote in the Scottish national interest too.
Another area that has been raised with my by many residents already is fracking. I have real concerns about the prospect of fracking in Midlothian and I was delighted that the Scottish Government introduced a moratorium on this to allow the detailed analysis to be completed on the risks. My worry is that given the rich mining history we have in Midlothian there are countless mine workings under our county and I have worries over the impact an operation like fracking, with the significant ground vibrations, could cause. You don’t have to look too far back in time to see some examples of ground issues, just take the subsidence in Rosewell a few years ago, or the crater that opened at Straiton in the 80’s… and this was without fracking.
The UK’s submarine-based Trident nuclear weapon system is approaching the end of its operational life and one of the key differences between the main UK Parties (Tory, Labour, Lib Dem) and the SNP is our opposition to the replacement of these weapons of mass destruction.
Each of the UK parties want to spend over £100 billion to replace Trident however one of the biggest decisions of the next government will be to decide whether to carry out the current coalition government’s austerity programme. Given the scale of cuts that have taken place so far, and the impact these are having on residents in Midlothian, I feel the £100 billion it would cost to replace Trident would be far better spent on public services rather than on weapons of mass destruction.
There will also be a duty on the next Government to attend the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York. The SNP believe that the next UK Government should support a nuclear weapons convention leading to a ban similar to those for chemical or biological weapons at the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.
Tax Dodging & the House of Lords
Another issue which has been getting media coverage of late is Tax dodging. Tax avoidance and dodging is denounced by the SNP, and elected members expect all businesses and individuals working in Scotland and the UK to meet their tax responsibilities in full.
SNP MPs, including myself if elected, will back measures in Parliament to tackle tax avoidance, including early legislation to address tax dodging by global corporations.
Tackling tax avoidance is one way in which the Government could reduce the need for further cuts in public spending, I would suggest another would be to abolish the House of Lords. This unelected body, which now has more members than the House of Commons, has no place in a modern democracy. This is yet more public money that could be spent on schools and hospitals rather than giving appointed wealthy individuals an extra £300 per day tax free!
The campaign so far
In the campaign so far I have been overwhelmed by the level of support I’ve met on the streets and on the doorsteps. From people coming out to help campaign to messages of support and encouragement from so many who will be voting SNP for the first time. In previous General Elections I know many have questioned why vote for the SNP because they couldn’t see a reason to, now it is clear that there is a very strong reason to vote SNP, and there is, possibly for the first time, a real chance that the SNP can win here in Midlothian. I am not seeking election to become part of the Westminster establishment, I want to be your MP to ensure the views of Midlothian are best represented in the House of commons, that the issues you are raising with me are heard, and that we make the case to stop some of the Westminster vanity projects so that money is available to spend on our public services and to support those who need it most in our communities.
This General election is not a re-run of the referendum, but it is our chance to hold Westminster to account, and ensure they keep their promises. In this General Election a vote for me is a vote to say enough is enough to the Tory, Labour and Lib Dem austerity cuts and a chance for a progressive party that puts bairns before bombs.
Midlothian is my home and my community. Give me your trust, give me your support, give me your vote and together we can make Midlothian’s voice heard.
Vote Owen Thompson
Next Week: The Labour Party’s Kenny Young explains why you should vote for him. Catchup on our series so far by clicking here.