Iain Grey: What Scotland needs is a first minister with passion

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The Independent Online

It is sometimes said that Labour has governed Scotland for 50 years. Well, I joined the party in a council scheme in a city, Edinburgh, which had been ruled by the Tories for centuries. It did not feel like Labour was in charge.

I promised a fresh start. It is time to close the manifesto on which we fought the 2007 election, and begin to write our programme for 2011 and beyond.

I have been asked how we respond to the loss of Glasgow East. This is what we do. We embrace the message of that defeat into the heart of our campaign in the forthcoming general election and we write it into every line of our programme for winning in 2011.

I started this campaign with a simple statement. I am as Scottish as Alex Salmond. But our story is different. While Alex Salmond was studying the dismal science – economics – in the academic birthplace of Thatcherism, I was studying natural science in the academic home of the enlightenment. While Alex Salmond was an official in the Scottish office, I was learning to be a teacher in a tough school and a community activist in the biggest council housing scheme in Edinburgh.

While he moved to the Royal Bank of Scotland I moved to Mozambique, where I taught for two years in a country fighting for its life.

While he spent the eighties and nineties developing the tricks of politics in Westminster, I spent them developing my values working for Oxfam.

In 2001, when he abandoned the Scottish Parliament, I served it as minister for social justice and enterprise, transport and lifelong learning, delivering £1bn of housing investment to this city and seeing more Scots enter higher education than ever before. We don't need a first minister whose pride is putting people down. Scotland needs a first minister whose passion is lifting people up.

I am Scottish and my story is a Scottish story. But I am also Labour and my story is a Labour story. I was born in the NHS that labour created, a child of the health service's first decade. I was the first in my family to be able to go to a university, opened up to the likes of me by a Labour government. I was a teacher in schools that Labour had made comprehensive and open.

I was a founder member of the Scottish Parliament that Labour created and my name is on the first legislation it ever passed. To be given the chance to serve this movement as leader of Labour in that Scottish Parliament is a precious privilege.

But the real prize we seek is the opportunity to serve Scotland and make it all that it can be for every one of its citizens.

Iain Grey is MSP for East Lothian and the new leader of the Scottish Labour Party