I, like all MSYPs, are incredibly lucky. As members of the Scottish Youth Parliament we have the ability to stand up for the issues which we really care about. We can directly engage with elected politicians, with civic leaders, and even with the media to make our case. It’s a great opportunity, and one I think every MSYP takes seriously.
But that ability to express our opinions has a serious responsibility. It means we can’t just focus on issues which personally affect us, but instead we have a responsibility to stand up for the issues which matter to all young people. That’s why I was so proud when MSYPs voted to campaign for the Living Wage in our June Sitting.
The facts are staggering. Nearly two thirds of children in poverty come from working households. A 17-year-old school leaver is expected to work for £3.68 an hour. There’s been unprecedented growth in working families using food banks because they can’t afford dinner. 15% of adults are in poverty, as are over 200,000 children. This is not a problem for the future, this is right now.
That’s the challenge One Fair Wage, our new campaign, wants to tackle. We want to get employers to sign up to pay their workers at least the Scottish Living Wage, which is currently £7.20 (this will be reassessed in early November) an hour. If every employer in Scotland signed up that would mean over half a million low-paid workers getting at least £2000 more per year and would make a very real step towards tackling poverty in Scotland.
Our campaign is designed to fulfil a specific gap in the wider campaign for the Scottish Living Wage. There has been a lot of good lobbying work done by the Poverty Alliance and other groups to ensure the Scottish Government pays a Living Wage. Real progress has been made, many Local Authorities are Scottish Living Wage employers as are some private businesses but much more needs to be done and that’s were One Fair Wage comes into play. Many Local Authorities have also done this – although there are a few left who need convinced. There are also groups working on the very technical issues, such as procurement. We are working with these groups, but the very nature of these issues doesn’t play to our great strength.
Our strength is of course that we have over a hundred passionate dedicated and articulate MSYPs who want to make a difference. That’s why we are running to run a grassroots campaign – which allows MSYPs to engage in their communities and make the case for One Fair Wage. It’s through this grassroots campaigning, this local work by our MSYPs that we will achieve real change.
There’s been some great work done already. Labour MSP Ann McTaggart has raised a motion at the Scottish Parliament, which is supported by MSPs from four of the five Holyrood parties. Over 30 councillors from across Scotland have supported, and we even have our first businesses signed up.
I’d like specifically to congratulate Terri Miller and Jahura Hussain for their work on Edinburgh Council, Ross Greer for signing up three MSPs already, and John Gillies for our first businesses. They are just the first, and you can follow all the news at the campaign site at www.syp.org.uk/onefairwage
Please remember to tell us what you have planned, even if it’s just that you have sent an email to a local employer, we need to know to track national activity and support. To request your pledge board and to update us on your campaigning please email Kate on kate.b@SYP.org.uk
However, this is nothing more than a good start. To make a difference we need a lot more support. Every company, charity, councilor or politician we sign up means more people are entitled to this wage – designed to allow a worker to achieve an acceptable standard of living. Every extra employer means more workers who can afford what they need to live. That’s something worth campaigning for.
Last year, Scotland’s young people argued for marriage equality – now we demand economic equality. It’s time we stood up for all those who aren’t able to do so themselves. It’s time for every MSYP to start calling up businesses, writing to employers, and making One Fair Wage a reality for Scotland.