Politics

Tories crush SNP in glorious victory – BBC News

Yes, ladies and gents, if there is one thing to be learnt from the most recent council elections it’s that you shouldn’t trust the BBC with arithmetic. In the follow up from the election the BBC and the other mainstream media outlets took it upon themselves to announce that the Conservatives had scored a stunning victory in Scotland and beat the SNP into submission by coming in a blistering second place… behind the SNP. Good heavens.

On their website, the BBC put the SNP at -7 seats, on the news it was first -14 which was, itself, an advance on “a handful” of seats lost. The Guardian managed to confuse things further by stating in their graphic that the SNP were up 31 seats, but later on in the article said that they were actually down 31 seats. In fact, at the last council election, the SNP took 425 seats; in this election they took 431. That is an increase of six, please do check for yourselves on your pocket calculators.

The SNP had just over 56% more seats than their Conservatives, who came in second by 155 seats. The SNP increased their share of the vote on the last election, became the largest party in 19 councils (up by 10 on last time) and ousted Labour in Glasgow for the first time in about 40 years.

The Tories, meanwhile, came in second place – and a weaker second place than Labour who were runners up last time. Did Ruth Davidson concede defeat then? Of course not. She proclaimed her party the victors, the true winners of the election and the champions of Scotland. No, my dear Ruth, you came in second. In order to win, you must come in first, that’s how it generally works. That is, unless this is one of those school sports days, in which case, we’re all winners.

David Mundell even tweeted “@ScotTories have second most Councillors in Scotland. There is only one winner today.” Yep, Dave, it was the SNP. They came in first.

But, naturally, the mainstream media jumped on this too to portray the Tories as the sole victors in the local elections, the SNP have been trounced! Everywhere you looked it was the same, Tories triumph, SNP on the decline.

I hate to use terms like “mainstream media” sometimes as I feel it makes me sound like one of those conspiracy theorists with a wardrobe of tinfoil headgear and matching suits. But this result acts as further proof that our country’s media are showing blatant political bias. The newspapers, they can post what they like, that’s fine, but television and radio broadcasters have a legal obligation to remain politically neutral and impartial in the UK. By using their broadcasting power to favour one political party over another, they are not only abusing their power, but they are breaking the law, plain and simple.

Over and over again, the SNP and the wider pro-Independence movement, have been demonised by the British media outlets. If you wonder why the Tories are doing so well, it’s because the BBC is telling us that they are; they tell us Labour are inept and the SNP are vile separatists and only ‘Theresa May’s Party’ can put an end to their foolish game-playing.

Don’t get me wrong, the BBC are the only one’s at it; ITV, Channel Four are all at it too, but the Beeb, by virtue of being the largest broadcaster is also the largest culprit. Hence, they get the majority of my spite here.

I feel bad here because the BBC is a great service and does so much right, the likes of Just a Minute and Test Match Special… basically all of Radio Four… but this kind of nonsense if quite unacceptable. With so large a viewer and listener base, taking sides is a colossal abuse of power. Notably, when it comes to the entangling of national and local affairs.

At this point, I will turn my fire away from the BBC and back to the Tories and much of the printed media (though the odd bit of this will be quite relevant for our friends in Television Centre or wherever they currently reside). They painted this election out to be a battle between independence and the union…

They are fucking council elections you thick bastards!

This was not a question of independence, it was a question of who do you want to organise bins and fix the roads. Christ, it’s not like Motherwell is going to declare independence any time soon (though it may considerably increase the UK average life expectancy). The election was for local matters, to choose the folks we wanted to keep our towns and cities running at the most basic level for the next five years.

We keep hearing that the SNP are obsessed with independence. In my humble view there is only really one party with such an obsession at the moment and it’s Ruth Davidson’s Tories. While the SNP’s candidates in Glasgow spoke about the state of education, social care and the roads all we heard from the Tories was “save the union”.

The Tories have made this whole episode about Independence while the SNP have been getting on with the day job; yet as far as the media are concerned, the SNP are obsessing over IndyRef2 while the Tories tackle the real issues. Try to understand why I am so enraged when I read the “news”.

However, the Conservatives have obsessed over independence and come in second… strange how things work out, eh? I suppose you won’t mind then, Ruth, if we tell you to get over it and respect the result for what it is? And perhaps you should eat your cereal too, while you’re at it.

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SNP Celebrate Historic Third Term, Labour Reel at Historic Third Place

It’s likely that you noticed there was an election yesterday in Scotland; even if the disturbing lack of coverage in the run-up to the election left you in the dark, the wall to wall coverage this morning should make you aware. In some ways, it was the night we expected, but in many others it was a night full of some unexpected developments.

Across the country, the Conservatives made gains in SNP and Labour seats, in Glasgow the SNP wiped Labour out completely and in the list vote, Labour’s Kezia Dugdale managed to hold onto a seat by a hair’s breadth. The Greens made significant inroads too, taking 6 seats and forming a fully fledged parliamentary group for the first time since 2003.

BBC results

SNP the largest party – Image Credit: BBC News

The main story is, of course, that of the Scottish National Party, securing an historic third term in office. They pulled out 63 seats, falling shy of the 65 required for a majority and the 69 they held after the 2011 election. Many were speculating that the SNP would be looking at a majority again, seeking to replicate 2011’s monumental achievement, with many treating is as a given; however, very early on in the night and prior to even the first declarations, Alex Salmond said that it was, “by no means a foregone conclusion”.

Sturgeon

Nicola gets five more years – Image Credit: Getty via BBC News

Indeed, the Scottish Parliament’s additional member system is specifically designed to prevent a single party majority. Many spectators even referred to the SNP as having “broken the system” in 2011, with it now returning to normal. This morning’s result, then, should not be seen as a defeat for the SNP, rather as a fantastic “vote of confidence” -as Nicola Sturgeon said following the counts – for the SNP to continue in government for another three years.

Rtuhie

Ruth Davidson become leader of the opposition – Image Credit: Getty via BBC News

However, if there are any real winners this morning, it is, rather unexpectedly too, the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, who thumped Labour across the board to become the largest opposition party in Holyrood. There had been the odd speculation from the pundits throughout the campaign that the Tories could be the second largest party, pushing Labour into third, but it was largely laughed off by most of us. It was, however, the platform upon which Ruth Davidson based her whole campaign – “A Strong Opposition”. Credit must go to Ruth Davidson too, she has turned the Scottish Tories around spectacularly achieving their best Scottish Parliament result to date.

The real losers, after the dust settled, were indeed the Scottish Labour Party. Most were convinced that Labour would still hold onto second place, after all, how could Scotland ever places the Tories above Labour? However, it wasn’t to be; the traditional Labour heartlands of Scotland fell and Labour were put into a horrifying third place, behind the Tories for the first time in generations.

Kez

Kezia Dugdale “heartbroken” by results – Image Credit: Press Association via BBC News

Well, some may argue that the proposals for raises to various bands of income tax were to blame; but a 1p rise for middle income earners was hardly going to turn the entire country against them and those affected by a hike to the highest levels were probably not voting Labour to start with. By and large, the reason for Labour’s downfall seems to be on the question of independence.

It’s this constitutional question that has rattled Labour then, with Kezia Dugdale trying to stay out of the whole rotten business and giving neither a clear yes or no to support for independence. This maybes aye maybes naw approach, compared to the staunch defence for the Union only a couple of years ago, has hurt the Labour Party more deeply than they could have imagined.

Those blaming the SNP for the demise of Labour should take a look at the results; whilst in Yes strongholds such as Glasgow and Dundee the SNP routed Labour, increasing majorities or making gains, the SNP vote stayed largely level across the country. The Yes vote has shifted to the SNP, but most of them were there to begin with in 2011, however a large number of Labour’s Yes voters have stayed with Labour.

Instead, it’s the No voters that appear to have deserted Labour. The Scottish Tories ran their campaign on the idea of a “Strong Opposition”, but that was not only to Nicola Sturgeon’s government, but also to any further push for independence. It was the Tories who drove home the idea of continued campaigning to preserve the centuries long Union with the rest of the UK. Whilst Labour try to brush the whole idea under the carpet, the Tories have recognised that this issue will not go away.

Now, I am a Yes supporter, as many may have gathered by reading this blog, but it is pointless to disregard those who support the Union and their opinions. Labour, however inadvertently, did just this by trying to ignore the whole constitutional question. The result was that those who had supported Labour and who wished to remain as part of the United Kingdom felt that their party was not going to deliver the commitment to that cause.

Now, regardless of one’s position, one cannot fail to realise that this issue is going to be at the forefront of Scottish politics for quite some time to come and will remain the dominant issue throughout this parliament and possibly the next. So, where then do Labour’s No voters go? They go to the only mainstream party that is fully committed to fighting for the Union, the Conservatives.

If you want proof of this, you need only look at individual constituency results which mostly sit around SNP level (or up slightly) Labour down dramatically, and Conservative up dramatically.

Whilst it was always assumed that the SNP would win overall, the real battle was the traditional one of Conservative vs. Labour. And the Tories punished Labour in a way we haven’t ever seen in the Scottish Parliament. In just about every seat, the Tories gained what Labour lost and it was for the very simple reason that the Labour party have tried to ignore the question of Scotland’s constitutional future.

Where now for Labour, in that case? Having been thumped into a humiliating third place with their own supporters crossing over to the traditional enemies of the Tory party, there is a lot of building to do. As a party they need to show strength and unity – two horrid buzzwords, but it’s true. They need to stand behind Kezia Dugdale and the leadership, knuckle under and push forward a unified policy front on all the issues including independence and, sorry Jackie, Trident. Only then can they even hope to become a serious political establishment in Scotland again and regain the voters they lost to Ruth Davidson.

As for the SNP, they’ll form a minority government. It’s what the Additional Member System was made to do. With 63 MSPs, however, they should have no real difficulty in pushing forward their agenda.

Nicola Sturgeon will be elected as First Minister. She said this morning that she would not seek to form any formal coalition government, but with the common ground shared with all parties on varying issues, it’s likely that cooperation will be the key word in this parliament. The minority will also make for more balanced debates and perhaps a more rigorous examination of policy in the chamber.

And it’s this minority that may offer Labour a second chance at convincing voters to back them in the future as they try to hold the SNP to account. It also brings the Green Party into place again as they expect to push the SNP on issues such as fracking and taxation.

Yes, we expected the SNP to govern and yes, we expected Labour to suffer slightly, but, as usual, there was so much we didn’t expect. All that can be said for certain is that the next five years will definitely be interesting for all parties and for everyone in Scotland. We will likely see questions over reform to the NHS, education, housing, taxation, jobs, the economy and benefits. We may even see the independence question thrown up again, but who knows.

We now just have to look forward to 2017 for the local elections, this will be the next real challenge for all parties and should provide an interesting indicator of how they are all doing in the public’s opinion.

Until then, though, we’ll just have to wait and see what the new government looks like and what the first year in parliament brings. It will be many things, but it shouldn’t be boring, that’s for sure.

7 Reasons to #VoteSNP – No. 7: A Brighter Future for Scotland

In this series I have spoken about the record of the SNP in Government, and it’s a strong record indeed. You can view it in its entirety at snp.org/record . But what is also important is to see how the SNP are planning ahead for Scotland and just how they are going to build on their record for the future.

Ever since the referendum in 2014, Scots have become more politically engaged than ever before. For the first time, Scots are looking ahead to the future, the possibilities of what could be, as opposed to looking back and remembering what was. The SNP are the embodiment of that spirit – whereas Labour harks back to the days of Red Clydeside, the Conservatives look back to the glory days of Thatcher or the late 19th century and the Lib Dems try desperately to remember a time when they were of any use whatsoever.

Instead, the SNP looks forward, to a brighter future for Scotland; where the NHS will see £500 million more above inflation to their budget, where university students won’t pay a penny towards their tuition, where job grants are introduced to our young people to help them into work, where we seek to boost productivity of businesses and help small businesses grow, where we make land ownership more transparent, where we work towards ambitious and world leading climate change target and where we work towards convincing the people of Scotland that we can and should be an independent country.

In the past term, the SNP have proven that the are the strongest party to represent Scotland. When the UK Government decided that it would ignore the “no detriment” ideals of the Smith Commission report and decided that Scotland’s budget should be slashed by £7 million, John Swinney sent them packing. Then they came back with a cut of £3 million, we sent them back again. Finally, £2.5 million, and still Mr. Swinney would have none of it.

The SNP stood up for the people of Scotland, with John Swinney saying we would not stand by and watch as Westminster ripped the money from out of the Scottish people’s pockets. As Nicola Sturgeon so well put it at the spring conference; “we gubbed them!”

The SNP are the party with the boldest plans to revitalise the NHS with increases in funding of £500 million above inflation. With reforms to primary care and a £1.3 billion investment in health and social care partnerships, we can meet the changing challenges faced by an ageing population. A new set of five elective treatment centres coupled with a £200 million investment to expand the Golden Jubilee Hospital will increase our capacity to care for the sick and injured. The SNP are also proposing an overhaul of mental health services, coupled with a £150 million investment, to treat mental health care with the same level of care and commitment as physical healthcare.

In eduction, the SNP are planning to implement the National Improvement Framework to close the attainment gaps in schools. New plans will give teachers more of a say over how their schools are run, putting teachers and parents in the centre of their school’s improvement. The Scottish attainment fund is set to increase by £750 million, with more money going directly to headteachers to help them make the right decisions for their school. Crucially, the SNP vow to maintain free university tuition, making sure that all who meet the minimum entry criteria are able to study at university if they so wish – regardless of financial circumstance.

In areas of housing, the SNP are proposing more support in Help to Buy and shared equity schemes to help first time buyers onto the property ladder. £3 billion will be invested to build 50,000 new affordable homes, 70% of which will be for social housing.

A new Scottish Social Security Agency will be established to administer benefits devolved to the Scottish government with the principles of fairness, dignity and respect as its core values. The current level of disability payments will be maintained with the assessment process made fairer. As well as this, the SNP will abolish totally the unfair and unjust Bedroom Tax as soon as it has the power to do so.

They SNP have other bold plans for tackling climate change, domestic abuse, crime, child poverty and so many more of the issues that affect our society today, but to tell you of all of them would take too long. That’s because the SNP are committed to doing everything in their power to make Scotland fairer, stronger, safer, greener, wealthier, healthier and so much more. They are committed to securing more powers for Scotland to improve in areas currently reserved by Westminster, such as much of our social security and fiscal policy.

They have a sterling record to work on and some bold promises which they will, no doubt, follow through on. But they can only follow through on these with a majority government, and a strong one at that.

To get the Scotland we all want and that our people deserve, we need a strong government. We need a government that can hold a strong majority in Holyrood and that can send a strong message to Westminster when they try to tell us we’re too wee and stupid to manage things ourselves. We need a strong government that will stand up for everyone in Scotland, from the bottom to the top.

To get that government, all you have to do is vote for it. On Thursday, for a Stronger Scotland and a Brighter Scotland, make it #BothVotesSNP

 

7 Reasons to #VoteSNP – No. 6: A Greener Scotland

In Scotland, we are lucky to have the spectacular scenery, beaches, mountains, forests and wildlife that make our country truly unique. From the lush, green, rolling hills of the lowlands to the rugged moorland and mountains of our highlands, Scotland’s environment is stunning. It’s little wonder, then, that we work so hard to preserve that environment with efforts to look after our countryside as well as doing our bit to tackle climate change.

As a country, we have recognised that climate change affects us all and it’s up to all of us to do our bit to keep our planet, and our own wee corner of it, greener. By working with renewables to cut greenhouse gas emissions, to recycling more to help prevent pollution in our countryside, rivers, lochs and seas, Scotland is doing its bit to tidy up.

Leading the charge has been the SNP government, with funding and incentives across the board to help companies and individuals do their bit.

Campaigns to save electricity and so on have seen the targets for energy consumption reduction of 12% by 2020 already surpassed, with an overall reduction in usage of 13.3% between 2006 and 2013. More of this energy than ever before is now coming from renewable sources, with renewables being the largest source of electricity contribution in Scotland – this is due to renewable output more than doubling since 2007.

The SNP has remained committed to reducing the impact of fossil fuels too, with the Scottish Government on set to reach its ambitions and world leading targets of a 42% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. As well as this, the Scottish Government is safeguarding our countryside and holding off further dependence on fossil fuels with its moratorium on underground liquid coal gasification and hydraulic fracturing.

As a result of SNP policies, we are now managing our waste better. In Scotland, recycling levels are at an all-time high and climbing, with 43% of household waste being recycled in 2014. As more councils roll out easier ways to recycle too, this number will only increase, decreasing the size of landfill sites and our pollution to our environment. Disposable arrier bags, the bane of the environment, have been seeing a decline lately, since the SNP introduced a 5p bag levy in Scotland. The 5p carrier bag charge as seen usage of disposable carrier bags fall and more people opting for reusable bags. As another result of this charge, over £7 million has been raised by shops and supermarkets for numerous good causes. This model has since been used by the Westminster Government and rolled out across England.

Our waterside communities are now safer from flooding than ever before, with the Scottish Government brining investment for new flood defences and counter flooding measures as well as the new measures to be implemented under the Flooding Act. Floods are becoming more and more of a regular occurrence as a result of climate change and have the power to destroy homes and livelihoods, devastating families and wreaking havoc on the local economy; the SNP are committed to doing everything possible to mitigating these disasters.

These policies and other besides them are just part of the SNP’s record on making Scotland greener and helping Scotland to become a global leader on issues of climate change and environmental protection. In Scotland, our environment is truly dear to us; the idea of living in a rugged environment, braving the rain and wintry weather (be it December of July) is part of our national identity, our natural environment brings tourists from all across the world and brings millions to our economy.

It truly is worth protecting.

And it’s the SNP who’ve been doing that for the past nine years. So, if you want to see a greener Scotland, a Scotland paving the way for international action and standards on saving the planet, it has to be Both Votes SNP.

7 Reasons to #VoteSNP – No. 5: A Fairer Scotland

Until comparatively recently, Scotland was a fairly socially conservative country – it wasn’t until the 1980s that Scotland decriminalised homosexuality, whereas it had been decriminalised in England since the late 60s. For a long time we held onto many of our more traditional values, but in the recent past, that has all changed.

Scotland has become a world leader in social progression, fighting to help those faced with injustice. We are now one of the most gay friendly countries in the world, we have championed workers rights, fought hard to tackle gender inequality, opposed right-wing policies aimed at penalising our poorest and most vulnerable and worked tirelessly for an inclusive society at all levels. This has not come easily and it did not happen over night. It is the result of a decades-long battle to make Scotland a fairer place to live, work and learn.

In the past nine years, the SNP has stood on the front line of this particular fight, ensuring that we work hard to tackle inequality at every opportunity.

With new incentives to businesses to pay the living wage of £8.25 per hour to their staff and having become the first government in the UK to pay their staff the living wage in 2011, the SNP has seen more than 80% of Scots now paid the living wage.

Following the introduction of the bedroom tax, the SNP government made a pledge that nobody in Scotland would ever have to pay it. More than £90 million has been invested to mitigate the bedroom tax in Scotland. With no person in Scotland paying the bedroom tax, more than 72,000 households have been saved from the threat of eviction and homelessness.

Cuts to Council Tax Support, imposed by Westminster, have been mitigated as well, protecting over half a million of our most vulnerable households, including 200,000 pensioners and 86,000 single parents. Without support like this, many of our societies most hard-up would be facing difficult choices between feeding their children or heating their homes. Likewise, the Independent Living Fund Scotland was set up after Westminster ditched its support has allowed the Scottish Government to support almost 3,000 disabled people to live independently.

With these supports, poverty in Scotland is falling too, with more than a quarter of a million fewer people in poverty in 2014 than in 2000.

The government is also working to promote fairness in businesses too, with more than 200 companies signing up to the new Scottish Business Pledge. This voluntary code ensures that companies work hard to promote fairness and equality, increase diversity and boost their productivity. This has come alongside the SNP’s 50:50 campaign that is working to ensure that private sector and third sector companies work towards gender-balance at their top levels by 2020.

To mark the Scottish Government’s commitment to bridging the gender gap, Nicola Sturgeon appointed Scotland’s first gender balanced cabinet.

Following on from Scotland’s hesitation over the decriminalising of homosexuality, Scotland has become one of the most LGBTI friendly countries in the world, with an SNP government presiding over Scotland’s equal marriage bill. Scotland now enjoys some of the most progressive equal marriage laws of any country in the world.

The Scottish Government has also remained committed to helping those worst off in our society and across the world, with more than £75 million spent since 2007 to provide help and support to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.

It’s clear to see that Scotland has come a long way in the recent past and we are working hard to become a world leader in socially progressive policies, promoting fairness and equality for all. The SNP’s record in this area is evidence of just how far we have come since 2007 as well.

With an ageing population and poverty still remaining a large issue across Scotland, though, we will have to be clever about how we tackle unfairness and injustice across a wide spectrum of social issues and demographics. However, with their current record to back them up and with a clear plan of action to continue to lead the world in the fight for fairness, it’s the SNP that can truly make a fairer Scotland for all.

 

 

 

7 Reasons to #VoteSNP – No. 4: A Safer Scotland

We Scots are, let’s face it, a pretty rugged bunch and, as a consequence of that, there are certain stereotypes that persist about us. These vary from being a bit foul-mouthed and enjoying the odd tipple whilst telling stories and singing songs, to the slightly more serious ideas that we are all violent lunatics with at least one sharp implement on our person at all times.

In some of our cities, such as Glasgow, this is more pronounced. Glasgow has an image of being a very rough, very violent city and, rather unfortunately, there is an element of truth in this. Historically it’s not just been Glasgow, many of our towns and cities – and indeed some of our rural communities – have been plagued by crime and violence.

It’s an issue that is, quite rightly, at the forefront of politics today; with a great deal of money, resources and effort being put into tackling crime at all levels and I truly have no hesitation in saying that the SNP, during their time in government, have made a great impact here.

Since 2007, the SNP have ensured that there are more than 1,000 new police officers on our streets, at a time when forces across England and Wales are having to cut numbers. The creation of the new Scottish Crime Campus has provided a centre for intelligence gathering, forensic science and evidence gathering that has helped to tackle serious organised crime.

This has been aided by the creation of a single national police force, further facilitating the sharing of evidence and intelligence and making cooperation between divisions even easier. The £216 million investment in the service has meant more police on the streets and better tackling of crime across the country.

The re-conviction rate has been reduced to its lowest level in 16 years as a result of the introduction of tough community sentences and automatic early release has been scrapped. This means that prisoners who pose an unacceptable threat to public safety are made to serve their sentences in full. As part of the SNP’s new prison programme, two new facilities were opened – HMP Grampian in 2014 and HMP Low Moss in 2012.

Money seized from gangs and criminal networks, amounting to some £75 million, has been reinvested into the communities in youth projects, helping to keep young people out of crime and tackling crime and criminal lifestyles at the roots.

Almost £33 million has been invested into projects to tackle domestic abuse against women and girls. This record amount of investment is helping to keep women safer and provide a way out of abusive relationships. Access to justice for the survivors of domestic abuse is also being improved greatly.

In a country with such pronounced sectarian divisions, record investment has been made to tackle instances of sectarian abuse and violence. Across Scotland, nearly everyone has been affected, directly or indirectly, by sectarianist behaviour, the SNP remain committed to wiping this deplorable behaviour out.

Scotland has also become the first part of the UK, under and SNP government, to to implement a national action plan on human rights. The SNP remains committed to tackling human rights issues and leading by example to champion human rights causes at home and abroad.

All of these things, and more, go towards the massive drops in the levels of crime across Scotland. Since the SNP took office in 2007, violent crime is down by 55%, handling of offensive weapons (including knife crime) is down by two thirds and homicides are down by more than half. In fact, overall crime is at its lowest levels in over forty years.

For a country with such a reputation in our towns and cities of violence and crime, we have come on in leaps and bounds. Our cities are now safer places to live work and visit, gangs are having less and less of a hold on our towns and communities, and the image of the violent drunkard lurking in the streets of Glasgow is becoming less true.

It is this great record we need to build on to continue making the Scotland we all love a safer and happier place. Over the course of the next parliament, there will still be much to do, though. We are not finished yet and there is still a long way to go, but there is only one party, in my view, that has the track record and the commitment to deliver the results we need.

So, if you want to see a safer Scotland, it has to be #BothVotesSNP

 

7 Reasons to #VoteSNP – No.3: A Wealthier Scotland

It may sound a bit odd coming from a socialist blog, over the past nine years in government, the SNP have made Scotland, and Scots in general, wealthier. This is not to say that those at the very top are lining their pockets further or using a £50 note to light their gauloises as opposed to a mere £20, rather it is to say that, in general, all Scots have more money in their pockets.

In a country so plagued by poverty as Scotland, I recognise that this is an ongoing issue and that the eradication of poverty is still quite far from complete. With some of our larger cities, such as Glasgow and Dundee, still home to many of the poorest families in Britain, let alone Scotland, there is still a lot that needs to be done.

However, as Scotland becomes wealthier, it becomes easier for us to help those in our most deprived communities, with health and education projects. In making Scotland a wealthier nation, we get on track to being able to do more to help those who need it most, and the SNP have made great progress in making Scotland a wealthier nation for all.

In Scotland, employment rates have continued to climb, with the Scottish rate of employment now the highest in the United Kingdom, with our rates of youth and female employment now higher than the UK as a whole. Typical pay for Scots workers is also higher than that in England, with Scotland championing the Living Wage.

Our young people have benefited from SNP policy too, with more that 186,000 young people having the opportunity to undertake modern apprenticeships since 2007 and another 30,000 places on the way every year by 2020.

For the first time in years, Councils have been enabled to build new council homes, with over 5,000 new council houses built since 2011. Ending the Right to Buy scheme has safeguarded 15,500 social homes for rent, ensuring that those relying on social housing can have somewhere affordable to live.

Around 20,000 families have been supported by the government to buy their own homes through various ownership schemes – around three quarters of buyers were under 35. This gives families who want to buy their own homes the help they need to do so, providing families with a stable and secure family home for years to come.

The tax burden on the sale of homes has also been lessened, with 93% of buyers paying less than they would under UK stamp duty or no tax at all – further helping people onto the property ladder.

In Glasgow and the Clyde valley, £500 million has been invested to stimulate economic growth. This is a huge investment in some of our most deprived areas, helping to create growth and jobs and to lift many families out of poverty. With £125 million invested into economic stimulation in Aberdeen and £254 million investment in infrastructure in the North East, Scotland’s oil capital, as well as a number of deprived areas, will benefit, allowing for the creation of more jobs.

In addition to these investments, £60 million has been put towards town centre regeneration funds, helping to revitalise our town centres, encouraging businesses to open in towns and high streets to boost jobs and grow the local economies.

The SNP has also been working hard to tackle fuel poverty, ensuring that, in a wealthy, oil producing nation, our most vulnerable aren’t having to choose between eating or heating. With half a billion pounds put towards tackling fuel and a third of homes helped so far to improve their energy efficiency, the SNP are making sure that it’s energy prices we’re freezing, not grannies.

Our private businesses are also booming, with the number of private sector businesses in Scotland now at a record high of over 361,000. Productivity in Scotland is up by 4.4% compared to just 0.2% across the UK as well. This has gone a long way to creating jobs and boosting economic growth. On top of this, between 2007 and 2014, our international exports increased by over £7 billion.

Since 2007, spending on research and development has increased by 44%, with enterprise and development spending in Scotland almost double that of the rest of the UK. This is allowing Scotland to lead the way in emerging industries, technology, renewable energy and other crucial areas – all of which are leading to more money going into the economy and the pockets of ordinary Scots.

As a result of this, the Scottish economy has seen three years of growth up to the third quarter of 2015, and this looks set to continue.

Scotland is leading the way in so many areas and the SNP have done a huge amount, helping both our local communities, and the country as a whole. In a time of austerity driven economics imposed by Westminster, the SNP have achieved a great deal in ensuring that ordinary Scots have more money in their pockets and that those at the bottom are being afforded all the help we can give them.

I concede, that there is a great deal still to do in making Scotland a more equal society; where poverty is but a distant memory, where unemployment is unheard of and where everyone has enough to get by and support their families – the road ahead is still a long one. But with the SNP’s record in government since 2007, it is clear to see that they are the party best suited to continue down that road.

So, for a wealthier Scotland, not just for those at the very top, but for everyone who calls this beautiful corner of the world home, it has to be a resounding #BothVotesSNP!

 

7 Reasons to Vote SNP- No. 2: A Smarter Scotland

A good education really is one of the most important things anyone can get and, in Scotland, it’s something we’ve always taken very seriously with a long history of providing public education. In Scotland, our education system has always been distinct from that south of the border, with a broader range of subjects in general and the provision of free higher education with all Scottish universities being public universities. In fact, in recent studies, Scotland has been ranked as the most well educated country in Europe and among the most well educated in the world in terms of achievement in tertiary eduction.

It’s no wonder then that the Scottish Government has continually put a great deal of focus into our education system with things such as the abolition of tuition fees, and a continued commitment to closing the attainment gap between the better off and worse off in our society.

It all starts at the very beginning of the learner’s journey, with all pupils in Primaries 1 to 3 now benefiting from free school meals, ensuring that children have a healthy, balanced lunch and saving families around £380 per year per child.

In our most deprived areas, the Attainment Scotland Fund, amounting to some £160 million, is helping to improve literacy and numeracy rates, as well as health and well-being in over 300 primary schools. This is a marked part of the SNP’s commitment to closing the attainment gap in our schools that has resulted from differing socio-economic circumstances.

The SNP has managed to keep spending per pupil higher in Scotland than across the border, with spending per pupil 9% higher in Scotland at primary level and 12% higher at secondary level – ensuring that every child has the resources they need to become successful and confident learners.

Another result of increased attention to eduction is the 607 school projects delivered- the result of a £1.8 billion investment in our schools, meaning that more pupils are now learning in well designed and inclusive environments. The provision of a good, accessible and inclusive environment is crucial in creating a space where pupils feel they have the tools they need to learn, helping them reach their potential in every way possible.

The Education maintenance allowance, which was scrapped in England and Wales, has been expanded by the SNP government to support 57,000 school pupils and college students from our poorest families. Another crucial aid, scrapped by the Tories too, has been the Disabled Students’ Allowance, which has been maintained by the SNP.

At College, the number of full-time college places is now up to over 119,000 places, exceeding the commitment of the SNP’s 2011 manifesto by more than 3,000 places. Our college students can now enjoy the highest bursary anywhere in the UK, allowing students financial peace of mind to study and gain the qualifications they need.

To help college students gain these qualifications, the SNP have invested £530 million in new college estates and buildings with state of the art facilities in Glasgow, Kilmarnock and Inverness, with a further £140 million for the colleges in Fife and the Forth Valley. These new facilities are helping to provide students with an effective learning environment as well as the tools and equipment to excel in their studies.

Our universities are seeing a record number of Scots being supported into and through university studies, with record numbers of those from our most deprived backgrounds more likely to study at university. Our graduates in Scotland are also more likely to go on to further study or employment upon completion of their degrees than in any other part of the UK. As well as that, graduates from Scottish Universities, on average earn more than graduates from other UK universities.

Our universities are also helping to close the attainment gaps too, with our poorest students living at home being guaranteed a minimum support level of £7,625 per year. And more women going to study at university are now choosing to study STEM subjects, with our young women now making up 48% of all those gaining a degree.

These are just a few of the achievements that the SNP have made in government for our education system.

It is clear that an educated population is a more successful one; it is one that drives innovation, earns more, thinks more, pushes our politicians further, and helps us to make a real impact for the better on the international stage. Moreover, an education population is one that is happier, because it drives the change for the better.

The SNP have seen this and have remained, over their nine years in government, committed to ensuring that Scotland’s education system retains its place as one of the best in the world, a real envy of other countries.

It is for that reason that the SNP are committed to ensuring that everyone gets a fair start, that everyone is supported all the way, regardless of personal circumstance, that everyone has the tools they need to excel, that everyone who wants it gets the chance to study in tertiary education, and that everyone in Scotland can truly be the best they can be.

So if you, like myself and the SNP, want to see a smarter Scotland, leading the way forward on the international stage, then it has to be #BothVotesSNP

 

7 Reasons to #VoteSNP – No. 1: A Healthier Scotland

Today marks exactly one week until the Scottish General Election and so, as a kind of week-long round up, I am going to be posting a reason each day as to why, on the 5th of May, you should vote for the SNP. I’ll be basing these articles on the SNP’s record in Government as opposed to the mud-slinging used by the other parties, to give a clear idea of why the SNP really is the best party to lead Scotland forward through an historic third term in office.

The first reason I’ll be voting SNP next week is for a Healthier Scotland. The NHS is, quite rightly, our most beloved and valuable public service and, for all we might sometimes complain about it, our healthcare system is seen as one of the best in the world. It is, therefore, right that we fight for this service to make sure that it is always free at the point of use.

The first, and perhaps most logical place, to look is the hospitals themselves; with staffing up by 11’200 under the current government to record levels, it’s no wonder that Scotland has the best performing Accident and Emergency departments in the UK. More than £5 billion has been invested into our hospital infrastructure, including the Glasgow South Hospitals and the Emergency Care Centre in Aberdeen; at the same time as we have seen hospital carpark charges, saving patients, staff and visitors £25 million.

With pay rises to NHS staff, our nurses are over £700 a year better off than their counterparts elsewhere in the UK.

We have also seen our hospitals becoming cleaner and safer than ever before, with hospital bugs such as C.Diff. and MRSA falling to some of the lowest levels on record. Our cleaner hospitals mean that our patients and staff are safer and that we are spending less time and money treating such preventable illnesses, freeing up beds for other patients.

In prevention we have seen a crackdown on the availability of alcohol and tobacco to young people and restrictions to help curb excessive use. The SNP raised the age at which tobacco can be bought from 16 to 18 years of age, preventing more young people from taking up the habit.

The selling of alcohol at discounted rates or in deals has been banned in Scotland too, making it harder to get cheap alcohol, in turn cutting the number of hospital admissions through alcohol related incidents.

In 98% of our primary and secondary schools, children are getting two hours of physical education, up from just 10% in 2005. The use of PE to promote a healthy and active lifestyle is helping to combat the childhood obesity problem faced in our modern society, helping to keep the next generations fit and healthy.

The Scottish Government has also invested almost £40 million into public cancer awareness programmes, helping people to catch it earlier. With early diagnoses of a wide range of cancers, we are helping to continually improve survival rates. The risk of cervical cancer in Scotland’s younger generations is also being cut, thanks to the provision of the HPV vaccine to all secondary school girls.

We are also seeing more and more Scots taking their day-to-day health more seriously now as well, with more General Practitioners per head of population in Scotland than anywhere else in the UK, with more and more practices now open during the evenings and at weekends. Since the SNP took office back in 2007, 2.2 million more Scots are now registered with an NHS dentist, which is up by 85%.

Under the SNP, Scotland became the first country in the UK to introduce targets for mental health waiting times, with over £150 million being invested over the next five years to improve our mental health services. We are making great strides forward in tackling the stigma associated with mental health and helping people get access to the services they need.

Extra funding has also been provided for our veterans’ charities, ensuring that those who have put their lives on the line for the rest of us have priority access to treatment in the NHS and our other services.

The SNP is also looking after our carers too, with over 22’500 carers and young carers benefiting from the Short Breaks Fund. The Self-directed Support Act also now enables to all who use social care services to manage their own care budget.

All of this has been done with a strong SNP government who have had to fight tooth and nail to defend the funding of these services. Despite cuts to the Scottish budget as a result of cuts via the Westminster government, the SNP have kept our most valuable public service running.

And they have done more than just that; under the SNP, our NHS has thrived and Scotland has become a healthier nation for it. Our health, in Scotland, has always been an issue and the SNP have fought to improve it.

So, for a healthier Scotland with an NHS that will always be free at the point of use, on May the 5th, vote for the SNP.

#BothVotesSNP : It’s about sending a message

It’s an issue that a lot of Yes and SNP supporters have been grappling with recently – is both votes SNP a good call? The other pro-indy parties in Scotland, notably RISE and Solidarity have been playing on the idea of giving your second vote for them in the Holyrood Election as a means to get more pro-indy parties into Parliament in May.

The argument they have is based on the counting method employed in counting the list vote – the d’Hont method. Essentially, the more seats a party has to start with, the more difficult it is to get list seats; whereas smaller parties with fewer seats to start with have an easier time of it, which works to allow smaller parties to gain representation. This is, of course, a fairly shoddy explanation and I can’t afford to go into it now, but I’d suggest you click on the link above to find out more.

In simplest terms, the number of votes a party has is divided by the number of seats already held (plus one) to determine which party is awarded the seat.

The other parties argue that as the SNP is likely to sweep the constituency vote, they will have a lot of seats (a larger denominator and hence a smaller vote) and therefore won’t get any list seats – these instead going to the pro-Union parties such as Labour and the Tories. The one thing they also forget is that a lot of seats is a larger number of votes cast (larger numerator, larger vote).

By taking away the list vote from the SNP for other, smaller parties, there is an even greater risk of pro-indy parties being sidelined by the Unionist parties as the SNP’s vote is split.

Over the years, the SNP have proved that they are a responsible, capable and fair party of government here in Scotland. They have proven that, even with a slashed budget from Westminster, they can deliver record spending in the NHS, reduce crime to a 41 year low and reduce instances of violent crime by more than half, putting 1000 extra police on our streets, maintaining free university tuition, continuation of free prescriptions and mitigation of the bedroom tax to name but a few.

They have also shown that they are the party who will stand up for Scotland in Westminster, being the only main party going into the 2015 General Election with an anti-austerity message. They fought the treasury over further cuts to Scotland’s budget – a violation of the vow made in 2014 – and won. They remain committed to removing Trident from Scotland. Above all, however, they remain the party with the loudest voice when it comes to fighting for Scottish Independence.

Since the referendum in 2014, Scotland has shown that it wants change; we want a fairer system that looks after our most vulnerable, a system where we invest in healthcare and education, closing the attainment gaps in schools instead of funding weapons of mass destruction, a system that provides new parents with the ability to return to work with free childcare, where jobs are protects and our public sector thrives instead of facing slash after slash in funding.

We showed this in 2015 with a record 56 SNP MSPs going to Westminster. But even with the 56 sitting in the House of Commons, Cameron and his cronies still don’t get the message. It’s up to Holyrood, where the SNP can govern and can face Westminster head-on, to send that message.

In this election, Scotland has the chance, not only to elect a fair and capable government, but to send a clear signal to London that we’re not just going to sit quietly in a corner and take orders: we’re going to follow our own path.

On the 5th of May, we have the chance to elect a strong majority SNP government who can send that message, but it can’t be done if we, as Mhairi Black MP said, ‘gamble’ our second ballot. This misnomer of the list vote conjours up the idea that it’s not as important a vote, that it’s a kind of second choice. It’s not. It’s just as important.

In 2011, the SNP’s majority hinged on the list vote; and whilst many speculate that the SNP will sweep the constituency vote, we cannot take that chance – we cannot take anything for granted. Taking the electorate for granted is what Labour did in Scotland and hit has forced them into political obscurity.

During a branch meeting, one of the members had a rather good analogy for the list vote. Think of the constituency vote as being for the person you wish to represent you and think of the list vote being for the party you want to represent you.

If you want to see a strong majority SNP government in May, to send a strong signal to London, and to see a brighter future for Scotland and all Scots, regardless of their circumstance, then the only way is Both Votes SNP.