THERE’S not much that everyone agrees on in Scottish politics these days, but I hope we can all agree that our top priority now has to be recovering from the significant impact which the pandemic has had on our lives.

There were a number of positive examples of cross-party agreement and co-operation during the initial days of Scotland’s response to the pandemic but, unsurprisingly – come election time – we’re all back in our respective corners talking down our opponents.

However, there’s a part of me which dreams that out of all of this adversity might come a little bit of hope. A new politics for Scotland. A new future where we can focus on what’s best for Scotland’s schools, hospitals and, most importantly, Scotland’s people, rather than the depressing point-scoring we are used to today. A new future where we leave our planet to future generations in a better state than we inherited it from our forebears. A new future where fairness is woven into the fabric of our lives. But that sort of new future demands our focus, our undivided attention, a needle-sharp precision. People hunting for a job, waiting for mental health support, children and students looking for a good education – they can’t wait for years for politicians to sort their differences out. They need action now. They deserve a bit of hope, unity and partnership.

If the last decade was about what divides us, let us make the next decade not just about what unites us but, much more importantly, about what makes our lives better and helps us recover.

At the heart of the recovery must be education, a great liberal cause. The Scottish Liberal Democrats and I will address the attainment gap in Scotland’s education, especially where it seems to be associated with pupils from low-income households. A Lib Dem vote would be a vote in favour of more in-class support for children who need it, alongside more teachers on permanent contracts, as well as extending free early learning and childcare to include two-year-olds.

Voting for me is also a vote to combine the need for economic recovery with action on climate change, supporting commitments on renewable energy and warm homes, which will be significant sources of employment in the years to come, and will support thousands of new jobs. With your vote, the Scottish Liberal Democrats will convert one million homes to low-cost, low-carbon heating in the next 10 years and give grants to help people train for new careers.

If I am elected, I will work to see a renewed big focus on mental health. This will involve more counsellors and specialists, as well as a mental health first aider in every workplace. Most importantly, by supporting me and the Scottish Liberal Democrats, you are supporting a new kind a politics, one which says: let’s work together, let’s work in partnership, a partnership for recovery.

Charles Dundas biography: I was brought up in rural West Lothian, the eldest of four siblings, and my parents were both teachers. I went to school at Whitburn Academy and was active in the Boys’ Brigade (I was awarded the first Queen’s Badge in my company’s 100-year history) and the local Miners’ Welfare Brass Band. I went on to study history at the University of Glasgow. At university, I got involved with the Liberal Democrats, inspired by Paddy Ashdown’s leadership and the philosophy of his colleague Charles Kennedy. I was also a keen student debater, and one of the vice-presidents of the student council. After graduating, I trained and worked as an accountant with the Clydesdale Bank’s head office in Glasgow; then went on to manage the constituency office for the Liberal Democrats in North East Fife and was Ming Campbell’s election agent. I contested my home constituency of Livingston against Robin Cook in 2005 and again later in the same year during the by-election after his untimely death. I was elected myself as a Liberal Democrat councillor to the City of Edinburgh Council in 2007, and went on to become chair of the Lib Dem Group there. I also sat on the planning committee, the transport and environment committee, and the education committee. In 2013, I started working as head of public affairs for a national environmental charity, specialising in conservation forestry across Scotland. This meant that I co-ordinated all the policy and campaigning work we did trying to protect and promote native tree species and semi-natural woodland regeneration all over Scotland. In this role, I worked in collaboration with colleagues from all of the other charities and environmental bodies working across the sector, so I really value the benefits which come from co-operation and agreement – and I feel that influences my politics too. In 2020, I was appointed as the chief executive of a similar smaller conservation charity covering the south of Scotland.