Our de­ci­sions will make a dif­fer­ence to peo­ple’s lives

Evening Times - - NEWS -

IN Scot­land, the SNP is gov­ern­ing in tough times – ev­ery day we face the chal­lenges of aus­ter­ity and Tory poli­cies with lit­tle sup­port here.

But while we bat­tle to mit­i­gate the im­pact of West­min­ster de­ci­sions, we also con­tinue to move ahead with am­bi­tious plans of our own for build­ing a bet­ter fu­ture.

I’m just back from the SNP con­fer­ence in Aberdeen where I set out what we are do­ing to de­liver on our am­bi­tious vi­sion for Scot­land, from in­vest­ment in our in­fras­truc­ture to supporting jobs and liv­ing stan­dards.

For ex­am­ple, I an­nounced in­vest­ment of £25mil­lion to de­liver 3000 new homes – that’s over and above our ex­ist­ing tar­get of 50,000 affordable homes over this par­lia­ment. This will be a huge boost to the econ­omy and de­liver homes that peo­ple need.

I also con­firmed that over the same time pe­riod we will build, ex­tend or re­fur­bish around 750 nurs­eries across the coun­try to help de­liver our child­care ex­pan­sion – quite lit­er­ally build­ing a bet­ter fu­ture for our chil­dren.

We’re in­vest­ing in in­fras­truc­ture and we’re in­vest­ing in our peo­ple too.

NHS em­ploy­ees are a huge as­set to Scot­land, and we value their con­tri­bu­tion enor­mously. That’s why while

We’re in­vest­ing in in­fras­truc­ture and we’re in­vest­ing in our peo­ple too

we are ne­go­ti­at­ing a full three-year pay deal for our NHS staff, we will de­liver a full three per cent pay rise this year for nurses, mid­wives, al­lied health pro­fes­sion­als, ther­a­pists, paramedics, ad­min­is­tra­tors and oth­ers as a down pay­ment on the deal – an in­vest­ment of over £160m to put more money in the pock­ets of 147,000 peo­ple who care for us when we need it most.

We also want to sup­port those who look after us in times of need, in their own time. I’ve had the priv­i­lege of meet­ing many peo­ple across all of Scot­land, of all ages, who are un­paid car­ers. I know we can’t ever thank them enough for what they do but here is an ex­am­ple of the pos­i­tive changes we can make when the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment in­creases the pow­ers it has.

Since Car­ers’ Al­lowance is now in the hands of the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment, we can take ac­tion. So, from this sum­mer, back­dated to April, we will in­crease Car­ers’ Al­lowance by more than £500-a-year.

The de­ci­sions we as a govern­ment are tak­ing in Scot­land will make a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence to peo­ple’s lives. That is what we are fo­cused on day in day out.

We can do this be­cause the pow­ers of the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment al­low us to choose an al­ter­na­tive path to To­ryruled West­min­ster. But the pow­ers of our Par­lia­ment are un­der threat thanks to the UK Govern­ment’s EU With­drawal Bill, which to­day goes to a vote at West­min­ster.

As it stands, that Bill al­lows UK min­is­ters to re­move the pow­ers of the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment for up to seven years in ar­eas like agri­cul­ture, fish­ing, trade, en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards and con­sumer pro­tec­tions, whether or not the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment agrees to it.

The SNP, the Greens, Scot­tish Labour and the Lib­eral Democrats joined to­gether to pro­tect the pow­ers of the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment in defence of de­vo­lu­tion, and refuse con­sent for this UK Govern­ment power grab. There was only one party happy to sign away Scot­land’s pow­ers – the Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tives.

Far from stand­ing up for Scot­land, Ruth Davidson’s party stands alone and iso­lated.

So to­day is a test for her col­leagues at West­min­ster. They can choose to re­spect de­vo­lu­tion and the will of the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment, or they can prove what many in Scot­land have long be­lieved – the Tories can’t be trusted.

It has never been more im­por­tant to fo­cus on what makes a dif­fer­ence – not just now, but in the long term. So while the sham­bolic Tories seem in­tent on hold­ing Scot­land back, the SNP Scot­tish Govern­ment is de­ter­mined to keep mov­ing Scot­land for­ward.

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