Many congratulations from Edinburgh Labour and all of the Scottish Labour family to Daniel Johnson, our newest MSP, who today made his maiden speech in Parliament.
Once again Labour helped to prevent the SNP from holding all seats in the capital when Daniel Johnson won the Edinburgh Southern seat from the SNP’s Jim Eadie.
Daniel has been a Labour party member for 20 years and has a background in business. He started working for Labour in 2014 with priorities surrounding local policing, school investment community control of planning and access to health services. Notably, he was the first independent retailer in Edinburgh to become an accredited Living Wage Employer.
You can read the full text of Daniel's maiden speech below:
It is a privilege to be called for the first time as the new member for Edinburgh Southern in this Parliament—a privilege that comes with a sense of duty and responsibility to my constituents to ensure that I deliver on their priorities. There can be no better debate than this one in which to make my maiden speech, because Edinburgh Southern regularly polls as one of the most pro-EU areas in not just Scotland but the whole of the UK. From the many, many doorstep conversations I had during the election, I can attest to that.
I acknowledge and pay tribute to the work and dedicated service of my predecessor, Jim Eadie. It is a tribute to him not just that consistently warm words have been said about him by members throughout the chamber but that many of the warmest words have come from my fellow Labour members—a tribute indeed given that this lot stopped saying nice things about me after about five minutes, let alone five years.
Edinburgh Southern is a diverse constituency. It is a network of communities and an area of contrast. On its northern boundary, we have Fountainbridge—a site that once sustained jobs in the brewing industry but is now one of the city’s largest gap sites. Edinburgh Southern is also an area of leafy suburbs, sustained by high-quality, professional, high-productivity jobs. Europe matters to my constituents because, whether for investing in future jobs or sustaining existing strengths, our membership of the European Union is vital. For the avoidance of doubt, this Johnson is definitely more Alan than Boris.
We need to change the terms and tenor of the debate on Europe. To date, the focus has been on personality and overblown rhetoric. Both sides talk in telephone number statistics and race to see who can claim the biggest financial calamity if the other side wins. It is not good enough.
There is a reason why my constituency is one of the most pro-Europe, and that is because Europe is real. In the middle of Edinburgh Southern, we have the King’s buildings—a hub for science at the University of Edinburgh. It alone provides a multitude of reasons why Europe is a positive force. Universities are institutions with a global perspective. In academia, collaboration is what builds better learning and better research. Edinburgh university alone receives £45 million a year in research funding from the EU. Universities gain strength from their diverse student communities. At Edinburgh, there are 4,500 non-UK EU students; and more than 1,000 Edinburgh students participate in the Erasmus programme every year. For them, the opportunities of Europe are clear and concrete.
Our responsibility in the debate is to make the issues real and to point out the benefits of European co-operation and integration. It is too easy for those benefits to be taken for granted and dismissed.
The benefits and opportunities are not confined to academe. Representing an Edinburgh constituency, I am all too aware of the importance of the financial services sector. Some 100,000 people are employed directly by financial services in Scotland, with another 100,000 in supporting roles. Edinburgh is a major centre of asset management in Europe. That activity and those jobs rely on Europe. So-called passporting enables our skills and expertise to be applied across the borders of Europe. Our service sector has become fundamental to our export drive, and our financial services expertise is at the core of that.
On talk of trade, Brexiteers snort that the Germans will still want to sell us Volkswagens and will continue to buy Dyson vacuum cleaners. However, in reality, the export of services is far more important and is far more likely to get snarled up in cross-border regulation—with justification, because it is important that cross-border financial activity is controlled and regulated. Ripping us out of Europe would put thousands of jobs at risk in what is indisputably one of Scotland’s vital industries.
In Europe, we enjoy better working conditions and better public services, we are more productive and we have higher standards of living than exist anywhere else in the world. Through the European working time directive and the standards that are set out in the social chapter, we enhance and guarantee working conditions. It is not just that those standards are created here; it is that they are strengthened by being consistent across the continent and by the fact that we act collectively.
Although we need to make Europe real, we also need to make the debate bigger. We are living in an increasingly globalised world. The ability to move products across the world puts huge pressure on wages and working conditions. The argument for Europe from those of us on the Labour benches is obvious: by working together, we achieve more; through co-operation and collective interest, we are stronger. Those ideas are embedded in the Labour movement and they also underpin Europe.
In a time of ever-increasing globalisation, we have a choice: we can compete in an unwinnable race to the bottom; or we can work with others for mutual benefit. We are faced with issues that are global in scale: climate change poses a massive threat to our way of life; the global financial crash is still with us, almost 10 years on; and the crisis in the middle east has triggered the biggest movement of refugees since world war 2. Those are the issues of our time, and the only way to tackle them is together. To contemplate withdrawing from the EU—the most effective supranational institution that we have—is quite simply a move in the wrong direction. Isolation makes it harder to deal with those issues. We achieve more by removing borders and frontiers than we ever can by putting them in place.