The last diary entry of
You can almost see the
end of the year from here Ė if you look hard.
Weíre in a time of
economic turbulence with a great deal of concern for all of us, but
especially so for those who are facing unemployment now or in the coming
months. My thoughts are with them and my determination, which is shared
across the political divide, is to get our economy back on its feet,
making whatever contribution I can to that effort Ė as I am sure my
colleagues in the SNP and politicians in other parties will do.
I am pleased that the
Scottish Government refused to follow the London Government in cutting
back the pensions of those pensioners who have been overpaid by a few
pounds as a result of errors made in London. Itís unfortunate that the
London Government wants to cut the money those pensioners receive Ė
especially considering that many of these pensioners will be among the
poorest pensioners in the country. It seems to me to make more sense to
be leaving that money with those pensioners because itís the right thing
to do, but also because they will spend that money and it will help the
country to break the recession.
I took the opportunity to
say so in my contribution to the budget debate earlier this week. You
can find the Official Report online here:
Weíll return to the
issue, no doubt, in the new year.
This is my final diary
entry of 2008, and Iím dashing it off quickly because itís the SNP
Parliamentary Groupís Christmas party tonight Ė an opportunity for us
elected Members to show our gratitude to the staff who make our job
possible. They work incredibly hard throughout the year and you hardly
ever hear anything about them unless you are lucky enough to work with
them, and they deserve our thanks for everything they do.
Before I sneak off,
though, I thought that the end of the year was a good time to have a
look back at how SNP Government has been changing Scotland since the
victory in May 2007. Iíve done it in bullet points for your delight and
Itís quite long and itís
not everything weíve done, but I hope you enjoy reading it. Have a
cracking Christmas and a wonderful New Year and Iíll write again in a
How the SNP is
∑ Smaller, more
effective Ministerial team.
Conversation on Scotlandís constitutional future.
Communities' fund - dedicated legacy fund to present new opportunities
for people across Scotland.
Broadcasting Commission to investigate TV production and broadcasting in
∑ Extra funding of
£6 million over 3 years for Edinburgh Festivals to promote
∑ £10 million
towards buying díOffay collection of modern art, valued at £125m
Scotlandís International Development budget by 100%.
∑ World's largest
ever single prize for marine renewable energy, the £10 million Saltire
prize, with support
of National Geographic Society.
our available resources with the lowest under-spend since devolution -
just £42 million of the budget of £27.4 billion was unspent; less than
0.2% of total budget.
∑ Implementing the
Crerar Review to simplify and streamline Government.
Homecoming 2009 with a budget of £5 million. Event Scotland to double
this through contributions from other sources. A number of Homecoming
2009 promotions activities have now been successfully launched.
launch of Scotland Performs the platform for public accountability.
Social Attitudes Survey 2007 module on Trust in Government showed that
trust in the Scottish Government has risen.
Revised Ministerial Code and
appointed independent advisors to strengthen standards of conduct and
∑ 18th century
Dumfries House and its collection open to the public for the first time
in 250 years.
∑ Summer Cabinet
meetings held outwith Edinburgh in 4 locations across Scotland and
confirmation that this will happen in future years.
∑ The Scottish
Government has exceeded its efficiency targets according to the final
outturn report for the 2005-08 efficient government programme which
shows savings of more than £1.7 billion against a target of £1.5
∑ Bringing forward
£100 million of affordable housing investment
∑ Early in the new
year we will introduce a Mortgage to Shared Equity Scheme
∑ £25 million to
kick-start a new generation of council house building
∑ An additional £10
million for the Central Heating Programme this year to deliver record
numbers of systems for private homes
∑ £3 million to
provide legal advice and representation for people facing repossession
and other problems, such as debt
∑ £380,000 pounds
to fund an awareness raising campaign for the National Debtline to
encourage people to take early action to address debt problems
∑ Signed historic
Concordat with COSLA setting out a new relationship with local
government. Removed ring-fencing, enabling councils to allocate
resources in line with agreed national and local outcomes and have
received a draft Single Outcome Agreements from each Local Authority.
∑ Fully funded a
freeze in the Council Tax.
∑ Proposals for
Local Income Tax published.
detailed plans to reduce number of public bodies by 25%.
∑ Introduced Small
Business Bonus Scheme.
∑ Created a Council
of Economic Advisers to advise on how to improve Scotlandís sustainable
economic growth rate.
∑ Go-ahead for
extension to the M74 with £445 million investment.
∑ Ferry fares to be
cut by up to half on all W Isles-to-mainland routes under new pilot
∑ Removed tolls on
the Forth and Tay bridges.
∑ Tripled funding
to help householders, small businesses and communities generate clean
∑ Biggest wave
energy project in the world given the go ahead.
∑ Increased support
for the Third Sector by more than a third.
£30 million Scottish
Investment Fund launched to help enterprising Third Sector organisations
become more effective and efficient.
∑ Around 12,000
jobs created or safeguarded through Regional Selective Assistance
totalling £87.4 million in the last financial year.
∑ £2 million in
grants to develop 5 groundbreaking knowledge transfer projects.
∑ The Scottish
Veteran's Fund, totalling £127,000, over the next three years.
∑ Free benefits
checks have banked £1 million for Scottish pensioners.
∑ An extra £5
million for Mortgage to Rent scheme which helps families at risk of
losing their home, bringing total investment in the scheme this year to
∑ Grants worth £4
million have been awarded from the Scottish Government's International
Development Fund to a range of international development programmes in
∑ Government will
spend an additional £3 million over the next two years to extend the
range of legal advice and support available across Scotland to families
facing home repossession and other problems, such as debt.
funding for phased 50% increase in free nursery provision.
extra 300 teachers and 250 more teacher training places from August,
Additional £40 million in
capital funding for school buildings to enable councils to plan
∑ All school pupils
in primaries 1 to 3 are to be entitled to free school meals following
successful pilot projects.
∑ Announced review
of national qualifications system including literacy and numeracy exams,
in line with new Curriculum for Excellence.
∑ £1.5 million
funding increase over 3 years for youth organisations such as the
Scouting Association and YMCA.
£2289 Graduate Endowment tuition fee.
Secured future of Crichton
University Campus in Dumfries with Additional
financial support of £1.5 million.
∑ Colleges and
universities to receive an extra £100 million capital funding.
∑ New Skills
Strategy to better meet needs of individuals and employers.
∑ Asylum children
who have been here for at least 3 years given same access as Scottish
children to full-time further and higher education.
∑ Major overhaul of
system to support children looked after by foster and kinship carers.
Better financial support for carers.
Apprenticeship in life sciences introduced as part a package of changes
to national training being introduced through Skills for Scotland.
∑ £5 million to set
up a Creative Scotland Innovation Fund.
launched on saving rural schools from closure.
Baccalaureates in science and languages for S5 and S6 pupils in
∑ Support for
international students to stay & work here after their studies.
∑ £2.7 million
funding made available for a range of Gaelic education measures.
∑ Saved A&E
Departments at Ayr and Monklands Hospitals.
Approved £842 million project
to build integrated children's and adult hospital on site of current
Southern General Hospital, Glasgow.
∑ Children's cancer
services retained and enhanced in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and
charges cut by 25 per cent across Scotland.
∑ Funding for NHS
boards will rise to £8 billion next year.
∑ Extra £23 million
to improve and modernise primary care premises.
Funding of £6
million will help at least 20,000 overweight and obese children.
£64 million cervical cancer
immunisation programme began in September 08.
∑ Launch of new
approach to tackling alcohol misuse with the aim of changing Scotland's
relationship with drink along with record
funding of £25 million for tackling alcohol misuse (£10.13 million in
∑ Launched a school
based preventative dental health service.
∑ Opened the £21
million Aberdeen Dental School.
∑ More than £10
million to improve eye care services in Scotland
∑ Aberdeen and
Edinburgh funded to develop swimming facilities.
∑ £12 million for
physical activity initiatives.
∑ Enhanced range of
services in six hospitals in Scotland's remote & rural areas.
£40 million a year from 2009/10 for free personal and nursing care.
∑ New £19 million,
state-of-the-art, Gartnavel Royal Hospital in Glasgow opened
∑ £600,000 new
funding to improve support and raise awareness of dementia.
Ambulance Service to receive an additional £4.7 million to ensure it can
eliminate the practice of rostered single-crewing of traditional
∑ Car parking
charges at NHS hospitals across Scotland abolished
publicly-run prisons at Bishopbriggs and Peterhead.
community penalties and action plan to revitalise penalties.
Attendance Orders to reduce those imprisoned for not paying fines.
police presence and working towards 1,000 more police officers.
funding package for new fire and rescue capital projects.
Cashback for Communities continuing to redirect millions of pounds from
the proceeds of crime back into Scotlandís communities.
science lab to be built in Dundee.
∑ First national
drugs strategy since devolution.
£1.5bn to create at least 21,500 new approved affordable homes.
representation in Brussels at both Ministerial and Official level to
promote interests of Scotland's justice system in the European Union.
Rape and Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill.
blueprint to tackle domestic abuse unveiled.
∑ A new partnership
between Scottish football and the Scottish Government to promote
∑ Recorded crime is
at its lowest level for a quarter of a century with almost 34,000 fewer
crimes recorded in Scotland last year.
∑ Scottish Climate
Change Bill, making Scotland a world leader.
∑ £27.4 million
over 3 years Climate Challenge fund.
∑ Secured deal at
fisheries talks in Brussels giving Scotland control over its own days at
sea; international recognition for our conservation credit scheme.
∑ Instigated review
of how wildlife crime is investigated and prosecuted.
million funding for two new freight rail services from the central belt
to Inverness to cut congestion and reduce emissions.
∑ The Scottish
Government's Energy Consents Unit is currently processing 32 renewable
project applications - 24 wind farms, seven hydro projects and one wave
project, with more applications expected.