Just Say Yes

20141129_113734By Jamie Szymkowiak, part of our #newvoices series

“The dream shall never die”.

That was my moment. It just hit me but I tried to ignore it for weeks. I had been asked to think about getting involved in politics and even consider becoming an MP during the referendum campaign several times but that thought was never on my radar. I didn’t know if I could…people like me don’t or at least it seemed that way.

However, that feeling from Salmond’s resignation speech refused to go away. I can only describe it as a feeling of duty. I eventually decided that I would put my name in the hat. I’m currently a Director/Owner of a growing recruitment firm but now I want to serve the people of Scotland. My name is Jamie Szymkowiak and I am one of 12 SNP candidates for Edinburgh North & Leith.

I’ve always believed in independence; to me it just seems normal. Like many however, I wasn’t sure if it was my place to discuss self-determination and the ridiculousness of nuclear weapons, welfare cuts or child poverty with strangers.

That changed one Saturday morning in early 2014 when I was driving down Leith Walk and noticed a huge “Yes Edinburgh North & Leith” banner, balloons and lots of happy people handling out leaflets. Once home, I liked the Facebook page, attended Yes Ambassador training soon after and was out canvassing across Pilton, Granton and Leith within days.

My motto quickly became say Yes to every positive political experience: I was interviewed by STV News and Good Morning Britain, campaigned with Jim Sillars on the Margo Mobile, organised a LGBTI debate in CC Blooms with Patrick Harvie, Alyn Smith and Susan Stewart, mass canvassed with Radical Independence where I met Sarah Beattie-Smith who got me involved with Referendum TV where I became a production assistant tasked with booking guests. I’ve since joined the SNP, written for Bella and helped launch Scotland’s first Common Weal café in Leith.

Then the decision to stand as a SNP candidate…

I campaigned before the referendum with the belief that another Scotland away from the power hungry Westminster austerity agenda that attacks the most vulnerable in our country was possible. I still believe it. I campaigned for social justice and for equality. I still want them – now more than ever.
In May, we have an opportunity to send a strong team to Westminster who will challenge austerity, fight for the people of Scotland and help deliver more powers to Holyrood. It would be such a powerful statement if that team represented the diverse people of Scotland – if it really represented social justice and equality. As I’m a person with a disability, I couldn’t help but think “If not me, then who?”

As we know, the post-referendum political landscape across the UK is in unchartered territory. SNP and Green party memberships continue to surge, Cameron is still dancing to UKIP’s tune from the dark ages and Scottish Labour is busy picking out which hat they’ll wear today. As things from a mainstream media perspective return party political, we must not lose sight of why so many of us voted for independence… And if we needed a reminder, we got one this week as the 3 main Westminster parties reaffirmed their support of a ridiculous “long-term economic plan” that is failing women, the disabled and those below the poverty line – at a time when record numbers are relying on food banks.

I was at an event earlier this week where Jeane Freeman from Women For Independence recalled a comment made by Jim Sillars during the referendum campaign. He said we should learn to be audacious in our thoughts and actions and to challenge the grey politicians who say “You can’t do that, it will never work.” I suppose that sums up perfectly why I want to go to Westminster. At a time where the out of touch Westminster politicians are making awful decisions that have a detrimental impact on people’s lives, I want to be a constant reminder that their decisions are affecting people like me.

I’m not sure if I’ll be selected by my fellow party members to represent Edinburgh North & Leith, as we’re lucky to have the choice between 12 talented candidates with a lot of different skills and experience to offer, but with the disappointing yet unsurprising outcome of the recent austerity vote, I know without a doubt, that I’ve entered the process for the right reason: to serve and speak out for the people of Scotland.

You can find out more about Jamie – http://www.jamie.scot
Twitter – @jamieszymko



Categories: Commentary

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12 replies

  1. I just looked up the Wikipedia list of disabled members of Parliament – most are in the Lords. So, go for it Jamie, more ordinary disabled individuals are needed to bring about the changes YES desired as I cannot imagine anything more unlikely than members of the House of Lords voting for social justice, etc.

  2. Yes get in there Jamie and give them hell!

  3. I say go for it. This has been running around my head for days and gives me hope.

    Sam: It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something.

    Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

    Sam: That there’s some good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.

  4. Good on you. My own belief is that Scottish independence is now inevitable.

  5. Never before have SNP members had such a range of potential candidates to choose from , ” the previous selection process often consisted of ” I have served the party and it’s my time ” and rarely delivered any contest. Local members can and should be able to select their preference from as wide a field as possible. Yet I hear of excellent nominees failing at the first hurdle . VETTING (definition-to examine and appraise for acceptability)

    I would suggest that the main thrust / criteria of these panels appears to be an exercise in a crude form of censorship. Decisions made rejecting nominees deemed suitable by their local peers is creating problems that the SNP have not experienced before.

    Good Luck Jamie I hope your name appears on Candidate ballot paper having been vetted successfully.

    Your reference – I was at an event earlier this week where Jeane Freeman from Women For Independence recalled a comment made by Jim Sillars during the referendum campaign. He said we should learn to be audacious in our thoughts and actions and to challenge the grey politicians who say “You can’t do that, it will never work.” I suppose that sums up perfectly why I want to go to Westminster. At a time where the out of touch Westminster politicians are making awful decisions that have a detrimental impact on people’s lives, I want to be a constant reminder that their decisions are affecting people like me.

    SNP members who made the Independence arguments on the doorsteps and workplaces can be trusted to make their Candidacy selection to examine and appraise their suitability from the range put before them. Relax the vetting system it’s post referendum use is no longer fit for purpose. Democracy at local level must not be diluted by the misuse of vetting. Anecdotal evidence suggests all is not well.

    TO ALL NEW SNP members are vetting panels about manipulating the outcome? You should decide the outcome from all available nominees.

    When I see many out of touch SNP grey politicians at all levels, I wonder how did they pass vetting?

    If an experienced Diplomat – Craig Murray is unacceptable the system of vetting looks in need of a review.

  6. OOPs to avoid confusion – SNP members who made the Independence arguments ……… My piece resumes these are not attributed to Jaime.

  7. ” to challenge the grey politicians who say “You can’t do that, it will never work.”

    It is not just the grey politicians that say such things, it is the senior civil servants and ‘establishment Scotland’; in other words the people who really ‘manage’ (or rather mismanage) Scotland. Their ethos, structures and ways of doing things (or not doing things) has hardly altered even after 7 years of SNP Gov. And as the implementers of policy and spenders of public money such people are not always helpful. They are also mainly ‘No’ voters, with a competing agenda. Hence many SNP Gov policies continue to encounter problems with implementation. Changing the political faces is only half the battle – the ‘enemy within’ remains a key challenge.

  8. Good for you, great to see more diverse backgrounds rather than the usual suspects and a good article highlighting social justice. I do have a few questions though about the SNP –

    Craig Murray was struck off the list for refusing to agree to take the whip for everything…in particular the bedroom tax, if the party voted for it or in conjunction with the Conservatives. Great to hear your opinion?

    Also, if home rule is now the objective how does the SNP plan to fill the 18.6 billion pound short fall in the public purse since the collapse of the oil price? How will public expenditure be maintained at current levels? Wouldn’t federalism be a better goal, in cooperation with English regions given that 70% of trade is south? Also in your opinion will Scottish tax relief for the Oil industry mirror that of the UK and set it in coordination to help the whole industry/ vital supply chain across the UK?

    Also, will home rule mean that funding and inclusion in core city regions 1.2 billion for glasgow be lost?

    (As a renter) Housing issues have been divolved for a longtime – will the SNP policy be the same as before, carpeting scotland expensive ‘luxury’ homes that no one can afford to appease the maximum profits of the building/ construction/ land owners lobby? Will they increase the affordable housing threshold? If so to how much. Also will they increase tax on high end property (mansion tax)?

    Also, how will the SNP mitigate aspects of the Land reform bill, for the good estates that provide affordable housing and do lots to aleiviate rural poverty in terms of jobs?

    Similarly, the SNP have repeatedly voted with the Torries to block amendments to include rent caps/ controls in the Housing for Scotland act 2014. Given bad rented accomodation/ slum landlords and excessive rents are a crucial aspect of poverty in Scotland, can you tell me why there has been no reform yet from an SNP Scottish government? And what exactly is the policy?

    What exactly is the detailed outline for the deficit in Scotland under home rule? John Swinny said he was going to borrow heavily in the first few years? Isnt this dangerous in a currency union? How will the deficit be met and what are the actual policies?

    Great to here your response.

    Thanks.

    • Hi ‘Bernicia’, I won’t defend SNP policy as I’m not a member.

      But in terms of ‘Federalism’ you’ll remember GB saying: “Westminster’s claim to undivided authority over the country? Dead and buried.” It was a striking admission. The upshot, after a no vote, he argued, could be “a system of government as close to federalism as you can have in a nation where one part forms 85% of the population.”

      This was clearly nonsense, which is why it hasn’t and won’t happen (apart from him having no authority whatsoever). But the other reason why Britain won’t (ever) be ‘federal I outlined here:

      http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2014/06/14/the-f-word/

      • Hi Bella,

        Some good points (Yup Brown had no authority) but I think the ‘Kilbrandon Commission’ is somewhat of of date given the light of what has happened in the Uk in the last 20 years. It was written at a time when the unity of the UK seemed unassailable and when the centralised state better fitted the international scene. Simply there was no real reason to think too deeply about federalism, nor was there the political will or urgency that there is now, UK/EU/Supranational bodies – this is the direction of travel. In fact the problem of asymetry (size, wealth, econ) that Kilbrandon points to between a federation of nations, applies equally to Scottish independence given the realities of interdependence (econ, currency etc) as was often argued in the indy ref. But this is a bit of a red herring as asymetry is only an issue if there is an overlap between competencies of power + there is a balanced feral constition. An English parliament would not be in competition with a Scottish parliament any more than it is now with the Welsh assembly – in fact there is great scope for cooperation as they would both be in against the Federal Westminster govt, especially if that parl is in Manchester or Leeds. Plus on top of this can be maintained the devolved core city regions (mainly for econ reasons). The EVEL stuff is nonsense and totally unworkable – Westminster as both English parl and UK parl? No thanks – that really is asymetry.

        And the idea that this kind of Federalism can’t work is simply not true. (the more than half population thing is a problem). Plus there are many options, breaking up England into regions, overlapping city regions, multi level options with specific constitutional arrangements such as weighted votes and const court provisions. The UKarguably invented Federalism and has helped design all manner of federal constitutions (Iraq being the last depressingly).

        I’m no expert but worth considering if we really want to reweight away fro London.

        http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/politics/federalism-could-work-here-too (worth a mull over.)

  9. JAm that’s a great presentation I’m just sorry you have withdrawn from Argyll and Bute you would have been number 1 on my list good luck for your for your future within the political aarena and the SNP I will follow your pryour progress . Kind regards Jimmy Bell

  10. The very best of luck to you!

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