With Holyrood in recess, it seems a good time to take stock of goings on in the first half of 2018.
At the turn of the year I said I believed that a new Scotland would continue to emerge as a more confident and assertive nation. Even back then we were witnessing the chaos of the Tories’ Brexit plans. Given the events of the past few days, I believe more than ever that the threat to our economy and society means a new spirit of Scottish assertiveness is needed.
January saw Holyrood’s constitution committee unanimously back the Scottish Government’s refusal to put Brexit legislation to a consent vote without changes. This was backed by a 93 to 30 vote in May that Holyrood “does not consent to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill”, with only the Tories voting against.
The SNP has continued its strong resistance to an extreme Brexit, outside the single market and customs union. The next few weeks will be critical in holding the Tories to the deal struck at Chequers last Friday, and which already appears under serious threat.
Back to the day job, and the Scottish Government delivered on fair ferry funding for the Northern Isles through Derek Mackay’s revised budget statement, with Orkney receiving its full ask of £5.5 million to run its inter-island ferries.
In my own portfolio as Minister for Children and Young People, I agreed almost a billion pounds of investment annually with local authorities, to fund a huge expansion of early learning and childcare, transforming the life chances of children in Scotland. A landmark agreement.
The Scottish Government will invest an additional £567 million per year by 2020-21 to ensure every child can access 1140 hours of fully funded early learning and childcare, bringing total annual public spend on early learning and childcare to around £990 million.
In addition, we will provide councils with total capital funding of £476 million over four years to support associated buildings projects.
We have also seen the landmark Islands (Scotland) Bill unanimously passed, a tangible legacy of the award-winning Our Islands Our Future campaign, and central to the Scottish Government’s aim to empower island communities.
At the Spring conference, John Swinney spoke passionately about his aspirations for Scotland’s education system. I know he was pleased to visit Orkney recently to open the new Evie primary school, the construction of which was supported by a Scottish Government grant of £1.36 million.
Returning to the idea of a more confident and assertive Scotland, I was delighted that May’s Sustainable Growth Commission’s report set out a “Come to Scotland” package as one of its key recommendations for growing the economy, by incentivising inward investment and driving population growth.
The proposal, tailor-made for Scotland’s social and economic needs, is in contrast to the UK Tory Government’s hostile approach to migration, which presents significant barriers to attracting the talent and investment that Scotland needs to reach its potential.
I know which future I prefer.
This is a fortnightly column by Maree Todd MSP, SNP. Other List MSPs have been offered the same space in The Orkney News