IF the First Minister was expecting his Programme for Government to be roundly heralded by workers as they try to escape the suffocating cost of living crisis, then he’s in for a rude awakening.

I’m not in the business of complaining for the sake of column inches. This is a platform to try, as best I can, to shine a light on issues impacting workers and how we can fix them. It’s also to hold power to account.

In that vein, I will try to be constructive. The Programme for Government mistakenly tried hard to be all things to all people. In fairness, I understand the strategy. The First Minister is trying to reach out to businesses, entrepreneurs and those feeling neglected by the previous leadership.

But just because I understand something doesn’t make it acceptable though. The First Minister said during his speech that he wouldn’t be afraid to “pick a side”. Thus far, he hasn’t.

He set out his stall, that being pro-business and pro-growth can also be simultaneously anti-poverty. That line can’t hold. More importantly, it doesn’t work.

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Almost 40 years on from the scourge of Thatcherism promoting a free-market, business-first approach, we have higher rates of poverty, inequality and a less dynamic economy, with businesses extracting profits rather than re-investing them into our economy.

The reality is we need sweeping redistributive reforms that take the money raised by those at the top and put it into the hands of those most in need. This Programme for Government didn’t do that. It was a misaligned attempt to reset the Scottish Government’s relationship with the business community while trying to stick to the laudable and incredibly welcome campaign pledges to tackle poverty.

In the end, this Programme for Government raised more questions than answers. This was a common thought across civic Scotland. Don’t just take my word for it, Poverty Alliance acting director David Reilly said: “When he was elected, the First Minister said tackling poverty was to be his defining mission. But this Programme for Government is a critical missed opportunity to turn our shared values of justice and compassion into meaningful action.”

Yes, undoubtedly, there are elements of the Programme for Government that are welcomed that we can, at a push, try to work with. A rise to £12 an hour for early years and care workers, a Housing Bill to introduce rent controls and an expanded trial of a four-day working week are good starts.

But workers aren’t at the start – they’re reaching the end of their tether. Yes, £12 an hour is a decent beginning and it must act as an impetus to £15 but if we’re brutally honest it doesn’t even scratch the surface.

In addition to having to wait until April for it to be implemented – with people facing another grim and cold winter of inflation, an economy hurtling towards recession and predicted energy price rises again – workers across Scotland, according to Scottish Trades Union Congress research, have already had their wages cut by £1400 in the last two years – higher than the UK average of £1100.

At a time when FTSE 350 companies are announcing record profits and CEO pay rises, the loss of income to workers in Scotland has profoundly negative implications for Scotland’s tax base and public services. The cumulative loss of income over the last two years represents more than £3.5 billion in lost income to Scotland’s economy.

These are staggering sums that put £12 per hour into perspective. We know there are constraints on Scottish public finances. The relentless, brutal austerity agenda from the UK Government, coupled with its abject failure to control inflation, has led to this point. This UK parliamentary term is on track to be by far the worst for living standards since the 1950s.

There is something rotten at the core of our political process if those suffering during this humanitarian crisis should just, therefore, sit back and take whatever offerings the Scottish Government can produce on the premise that “at least it’s more than Westminster”.

That doesn’t work. We aspire to be better; we demand more from both governments. This is why it’s welcome, if not puzzling, that in the days after the Programme for Government launch, the First Minister has made all the right noises about taxing wealth.

Yes, I know these “big ticket” fiscal items such as tax reform, land, property and wealth taxes can’t be announced during a Programme for Government, but they can, absolutely, be trailed to set the tone for the upcoming Budget.

More to the point, if we are serious about replacing the council tax, then we need a full land and property rates review – something a Budget can’t provide for but a Programme for Government could have.

The least we expect from our politicians is to use the power at their disposal to set out their vision. Whether you agree with it or not, a Programme for Government is Ronseal – it does exactly what it says on the tin. It is a programme for governing. It’s as much about ideals and values as it is about policy and legislation.

Quite why the First Minister chose not to offer that hope and vision for a redistributive nation as he has done now in the media is a matter for him. All I’m saying is it would have saved a lot of ire and rebuke from trade unions, charities and civic Scotland who were let down by the lack of impetus within his debut Programme for Government.

If the Scottish Government and the First Minister want to stick to their progressive, anti-poverty pledge then they will find support among our ranks. If they want to follow our proposals on taxing wealth, reevaluating our land and property, redistributing resources and raising vital public revenue – almost £3.3bn worth we calculate – we’re all in.

But if the Scottish Government try to be all things to all people – continuing a pro-business approach without setting out how we will redistribute money from those with wealth to those in poverty – then they will be on the wrong side.

We know what side we are on. We just need the politicians to join us.