“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