Nigel’s Notes - Exciting times are ahead

This year is set to be a very exciting time in the political world.

Looking back to the Referendum, there was never a time when so many engaged in the political process. I hope all my constituents join with others across Scotland and continue their participation in the coming months, as we move toward the general election in May.

As a constituency MSP, I spend much of my time involved in the lives of folk who, for one reason or another, need support and encouragement, and sometimes just a listening ear.

I can’t always help, but the one thing I am aware of is that to serve my constituents well empathy might be my most important characteristic.

Evidence shows that increased inequality can decrease empathy. Put simply; having more money than someone else makes you think that you are different from someone else.

If you succeed financially the natural impulse is to regard yourself as more important than others and to regard your success as deserved rather than as a matter of luck, and by luck I mean here circumstances of birth, natural talents and abilities.

This lack of understanding is a problem because, by and large, people who make important decisions are rich and they make decisions on behalf of those who are not.

This lack of compassion allows people who are rich to make cuts in, say, the welfare state, without considering for a moment that those targeted, the most vulnerable in our society, are human beings just like they are.

Benefit sanctions are one of the most common reasons why people use food banks. Perhaps if those with power really considered the lives of those who are struggling to get by, they wouldn’t be so keen to remove their ability to feed their families.

And the working poor may look like the more advantaged – they have jobs, houses and cars.

But the truth is that they live on the margins of financial disaster.

Unfortunately, because they look like the advantaged, the genuinely well-off assume that the working poor are just like them in all relevant respects except for hard work, and think they’re just lazier or have failed to develop the same skills.

In short, those in positions of power naturally assume that the poor have freely chosen not to succeed. This is, for the most part, untrue.

David Hume and Adam Smith argued that our moral compass comes from our ability to identify with others.

In today’s global world, the impact of our actions affects those beyond our immediate family, neighbours and communities.

Our empathy must extend to those affected by, for example, war, disease and climate change.

And if we feel empathy, then surely individually and as a society, we need to take responsibility for our behaviours, it’s not someone else’s job.

Campaigning in the general election, it will come as no surprise that I will banging the drum for the party that puts fairness, equality and responsibility at the heart of its policies.