Wikinews interviews Neil Manson, SDP candidate for 2021 Airdrie and Shotts by-election in Scotland

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Monday, May 10, 2021

File photo of Neil Manson.
Image: Social Democratic Party.

Voters in the Scottish constituency of Airdrie and Shotts are to go to the polls on May 13 to elect a replacement member of parliament (MP) to the United Kingdom House of Commons.

The outgoing MP for the seat is Neil Gray — a representative of the pro-independence Scottish National Party — was resigning to run in the Scottish Parliament election, which was to occur on May 6. Gray won the seat with 45.1% of the vote at the 2019 general election, winning 13.1% more than the second placed candidate Helen McFarlane of the Scottish Labour party, who received 32.0% of the votes.

One of the eight candidates running in this constituency is Neil Manson, the Scottish regional chair of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). The SDP website claims Manson has "enjoyed a varied career working across international markets in both the manufacturing industry and energy sector", and Manson joined the SDP in 2019 after reading the party's New Declaration, which outlines the party's principles.

Wikinews spoke to Manson about important issues facing Airdrie and Shotts in this by-election.



Why did you decide to run in this by-election?

((Neil Manson)) The SDP are seeing a genuine resurgence across the UK, as more and more people become disillusioned with current party politics and look for an alternative party with honest policies at its heart based on our families and communities - no more so than in Scotland. As the Regional Chairman for Scotland I'm a strong advocate for the SDP and also a local, having moved here over 20 years ago and brought up my family in Airdrie.

A British government press conference on the coronavirus pandemic.
Image: 10 Downing Street.

((WN)) What are your thoughts on how the coronavirus pandemic has been handled by Westminster?

((Neil Manson)) To be honest it's been a difficult task to lead the country through the pandemic, and I don't think there's any doubt mistakes have been made by both the Westminster and Holyrood Governments but being overly critical doesn't help. We as a party supported the first lockdown, but since then have been sceptical of the ongoing Stop-Go approach which didn't suppress the virus and has only served to undermine peoples liberties, and risked causing a prolonged economic depression and negative impact on society.

((WN)) What do you think needs to be done to improve transport services in the Airdrie and Shotts constituency?

((Neil Manson)) Our primary policy pledge for transport is to nationalise the rail system, and in the first instance to assert greater control over bus services, particularly an increase in funding support for regional and rural bus travel.

((WN)) Do you support the idea of a second independence referendum?

((Neil Manson)) No. The constitution is a reserved matter and the UK Parliament agreed to a referendum which resulted in the decision of the Scottish people to remain in the the United Kingdom. Any change would need to first be discussed and agreed at Westminster.

Climate change protestors in Edinburgh, Scotland, 2014.
Image: Scottish Greens.

((WN)) Do you think the Conservative government is doing enough to combat climate change?

((Neil Manson)) Environmental issues suffer from too much talk and not enough action under the current (and previous) governments. Whilst the SDP will honour and comply with our global environmental obligations, we would look to implement sustainable changes by encouraging behavioral changes within industry and society as a whole.

((WN)) The SNP describes themselves as social democratic. Where are some primary areas of difference between your party and theirs?

((Neil Manson)) Firstly, we'd disagree that the SNP are social democrats, they're populists. The SDP are actually social democrats in our every day thinking, beliefs and policies - and not just at election time. We're also patriotic, and believe in a strong Scotland within a strong United Kingdom for the benefit of all its citizens.

((WN)) Do you agree with your party's policy that an English Parliament should be established?

((Neil Manson)) Yes, I believe this policy can assist in healing many of the divisions we see across the UK, ending the perception of the UK Parliament as an English parliament with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland under its rule. This multi-tiered approach dissolves accountability, fosters a culture of apathy and creates a vacuum where parties like the SNP thrive.

((WN)) What does social democracy mean to you?

((Neil Manson)) The SDP seeks the common good in Britain's national interest. We represent neither capital nor labour, not private industry nor the public sector, but only the welfare of the British people and residents of these islands. We seek a path where all the constituent elements of our society can grow and prosper. We believe in a Social Market Economy where pro-public sector and pro-market policy can beneficially coexist within a balanced programme – provided each inhabits its correct domain, and neither is allowed to distort our country's economy in the service of ideology.

Airdrie Leisure Centre.
Image: Elliott Simpson.

((WN)) What is a local issue that you think isn't being addressed that should be?

((Neil Manson)) I have concerns over the long term plans for our sports and leisure facilities in our local towns and communities throughout the constituency. Many are potentially at risk due to continuing Scottish Government funding cuts to council budgets and access for people of all ages to these facilities to improve our physical and mental health is vital, even more so now to ensure our recovery from Covid[-19].

((WN)) If you're elected, what's one thing you'd like to change about the law?

((Neil Manson)) I'd support the repeal of the much-maligned SNP Hate Crime and Public Order Act, which threatens to criminalise speech on a range of issues if it is thought to be 'hateful'. We feel the bill is ambiguous and lacks sufficient safeguards, even after a recent campaign found that 87 per cent of Scots hold free speech to be an 'important right'. The Hate Crime Bill also raises issues over the erosion of sex-based rights. Within the SDP Transgender and Biological Sex-based Rights policy, we state that it is our belief that biological sex is real, and pledge to support the use of plain English for discussions of biological sex in health and reproductive care.


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.