As always at the start of a new year we look back at what the previous year has brought to us, and forward with hope and aspiration for the year coming. This year, 2016, of course we have the election in May. I am delighted to have been selected to be the Scottish National Party candidate, working for East Kilbride, and building on the record of Nicola Sturgeon’s Government in Scotland.
There’s much to be done, both in East Kilbride and in Scotland, and I believe that looking over our past record we have achievement and ambition to build upon. In our time in office the SNP has focused on delivering on issues that matter to us all: We have frozen the Council Tax, protected free university tuition, scrapped prescription charges, protected Free Personal Care and increased Scotland’s health budget to record levels. We have maintained the concessionary travel scheme, put over 1,000 more police on our streets, exceeded our target of 30,000 new affordable homes and protected those hardest hit by unfair Tory welfare cuts.
Our record is strong and our New Year resolutions for 2016 are firm.
We will continue to protect our National Health Service, and invest further in health and social care. Already the merging of health and social care is making a difference in East Kilbride. It is never easy to make such fundamental change, but NHS Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire Council are working hard to make sure that people are not kept in hospital for longer than their medical needs require and that adequate home-care packages are in place.
We will develop a new framework to drive up standards in our schools. I am particularly pleased that it has been agreed that we will review the guidance on education for children with additional support needs. This guidance has not been subject to review since it was introduced in 2001 and there are concerns. I know this to be the case in East Kilbride as I have many constituency cases where local parents feel that there is inconsistency in approach. So, this review is certainly welcome and I know that many will contribute to the findings. As always I am happy to relay views to the appropriate Minister.
East Kilbride has a strong business base, despite our worries about job losses by major employers such as Rolls Royce and HMRC. That’s why the work of the East Kilbride Task Force has to be more open and transparent. That’s why it is so important that we carry on supporting Scottish business with competitive business rates and of course the very successful Small Business Bonus which is appreciated by businesses right across the town. Lots of our businesses are paying the Living Wage too and that has to be extended and encouraged along with equality and gender balance in all areas of working life.
Housing is a crucial issue in the country and in East Kilbride which is expanding all the time. The target is 50,000 affordable homes over the next parliament, with the Deputy First Minister having already committed an additional £90m in his budget for next year. Residents will have noticed house building going on in some parts of the town, noting the Scottish Government investment, along with the Council. Over the term of the SNP Government, Councils have been able to increase their housing stock again, by building Council houses. The abolition of the Right to Buy should also make a noticeable difference in East Kilbride.
Things are not easy – budgets have been cut by Westminster as we know, and our Government has had to find funds to mitigate some of the excesses of the Tories, but sound financial management is crucial and I believe that the SNP has been delivering that. Should new powers come to our Parliament then we will use them to best advantage, but we will never stop campaigning for further powers, to really make a difference.
That’s surely our main resolution for this New Year – a better and fairer Scotland.