Though we don’t need any
more reasons for voting Yes, Westminster Chancellor George Osborne’s
presentation of his budget on Wednesday probably brought another fistful
of Yes voters on board.
This is the last UK budget before the Referendum, so
perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised to hear attempts to undermine
Scotland’s economy. The latest is to declare that a fall in oil revenue
underlines the ‘precarious’ nature of an independent Scotland’s
Leaving aside for a
moment the fact that Scotland doesn’t actually get any of the money
lining its shores and has never done so in the 40-odd years since North
Sea oil was discovered, there is the small matter of massive new
investment in the industry.
So what does Mr
Osborne do? He mounts a tax raid that could seriously damage exploration
and development activity. So what happened to the commitment to ensure
fiscal stability for the sector?
Westminster Chancellor George Osborne
The experts, like
Malcolm Webb, Chief Executive of Oil & Gas UK, finds it “perplexing.” He
also says that “this move will drive drilling rigs, already in short
supply, out of the UKCS (UK Continental Shelf).
The move has also
faced criticism from Taf Powel, Executive Vice President, International
Association of Drilling Contractors who expressed concern at the
hypocrisy of the UK Government’s claim that it is seeking to stimulate
activity in the North Sea – and pointed out that this is the “latest
example of fiscal instability that undermines claims that the UK is open
There have been
several other critics too, including law firm Pinsent Masons, PwC and
So much for Scotland’s
financial stability within the UK. In contrast, Scotland’s Future makes
clear that after independence the Scottish Government will ensure a
stable fiscal regime for the oil and gas sector, working closely with
the industry to ensure the greatest benefit is extracted from the
remaining 24 billion barrels of oil. See page 276:
Nor does the budget
bring any solace to the hard-pressed folk suffering cutbacks in benefits
and increasing food prices – just a promise of more of the same to come.
Money for Life
Over in Larkhall, I
was delighted to see that a group of five young people are in the final
with a great project to help build a sense of financial responsibility.
The scheme, called the Money for Life Challenge, gives out small amounts
of capital - £500 – to help a group of young people design a useful
It is so important
that young people get to grips with financial responsibility from an
early age. Surrounded as we are by offers of payday loans and short-term
financial deals, an understanding of what you might be getting yourself
into is crucial.
With average consumer
debt in the UK running at about £54,000 per household, I commend these
youngsters who are determined not to follow the kinds of patterns that
have got so many people into serious debt.
The team of
volunteers, aged between 17 and 20, from South Lanarkshire Youth Council
and the Scottish Youth Parliament fought off competition from all over
Scotland with their exciting project called Valuable Information Penny
The group has visited
local colleges, youth centres and community events to consult with other
young people. They then spoke to local credit unions, banks, building
societies and payday loan staff about their services, collecting up to
date and accurate information.
Using their research,
they designed information boards, ran workshops in local communities and
trained their members on financial responsibility. The aim was to
provide information to young people aged 16 and over who are accessing
short term or payday loans without really knowing the risks involved.
A total of five teams
will battle it out on Thursday 3 April at 1230 at Our Dynamic Earth in
Edinburgh – next door to us in the Parliament in fact. The winners will
go forward to the UK-wide Challenge Grand Final in London on 15 May.
Our Dynamic Earth in
Holyrood Park, Edinburgh
I have put forward a
motion to the Scottish Parliament commending the work of the Larkhall
team and wish them every success in the final.
Safer school buses
If you’ve ever been on
a school bus, you’ll be well aware of the unfortunate tendency of kids
to move around, play with one another, throw bags, drink out of water
bottles and eat crisps with abandon.
Trying to keep them
safe from harm can therefore be a bit of a challenge for teachers and
So I’m delighted that
Keith Brown, our Transport Minister in Scotland, will be introducing new
legislation to ensure that all school buses are fitted with seat belts
and that children will use them.
As he said, “The
Scottish Government and its road safety partners are committed to the
outcome of safer road travel in Scotland for everyone. It is imperative
that we do everything we can to protect Scotland’s children, ensuring
they are as safe as possible as they travel to and from school.” See
We had a great debate
in the Parliament this week led by Angela Constance MSP and Minister for
The subject was the
European Youth Guarantee. You can read about it here:
The concept is really
about recognising the critical role that young people will play in
delivering long term economic growth throughout Europe.
The issue of youth
unemployment is a concern across the globe. In Europe, we’ve all seen
the problems of Spain and Italy where unemployment rates have hit over
50 per cent. This is a direct effort by the member nations to work
together to make sure people under the age of 25 receive a good quality
offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a
traineeship within a period of four months of becoming unemployed or
So far, only 17 EU
member countries have signed up to the new proposals, but hopefully the
rest will soon follow though the UK doesn’t seem to be in a rush.
Government’s commitment to 25,000 Modern Apprenticeships each year for
the life of this Parliament is a key target and one we have already
surpassed. Young people deserve better than Westminster can offer, has
offered or ever will offer our young people.
restrictions of UK governance, Scotland is doing better on every level.
With independence, we will do much, much more. We have already
established Opportunities for All, a commitment to offer a place in
learning or training to all 16-19 year olds not already engaged.
I don’t think that
youth employment is some insurmountable wall. Meeting the needs and
ambitions of young people as they leave the education system is about
recognising them and listening to them.
The European Youth
Guarantee approach is solid and practical. The scheme demands a quality
offer that is adapted to each individual’s need and situation.
Here are the member
states of Europe coming together in common interest that demands strong
cooperation between all the key stakeholders: public authorities,
employment services, career guidance providers, education and training
institutions, youth support services, business, employers, trade unions
Six months to Yes
We’ve been celebrating
another great stage along our timeline to independence and proof that
bigger isn’t better. On 18th March, we marked just six months to go
until the referendum.
There were lots of
local rallies and events around the country – you can see more at
www.yesscotland.net – and we’ve also been delighted to see a new
poll out that shows support for a Yes vote needs only a three per cent
swing for a win.
While 47 per cent will
vote Yes, the No vote is only marginally ahead on 53 per cent and we
still have the time, the commitment and the people to change Scotland’s
The scaremongering of
the No campaigners is being rejected by people who can see that their
stories are nonsense. I have trust in Scottish voters to see beyond the
mythology to the truth.
We can, we should and
we must win independence so that we gain the powers needed to build a
fairer society and more prosperous economy.
I’m so pleased to see
that Voluntary Action South Lanarkshire has been officially declared
Volunteer Friendly having passed an assessment procedure.
The Volunteer Friendly
Award is a simple, user-friendly quality standard designed to support,
recognise and reward groups who are good at involving volunteers.
services that include group support on providing funding advice and core
training packages covering areas like establishing membership, dealing
with volunteer vacancies, funding, recruitment, mentoring and caring for
The voluntary sector
offers services that make a huge difference to people’s lives through
lunch clubs, befriending services, community transport and activity
groups to mention just a few of the things that these folk do.
It is important that
these fantastic services are given due recognition.