Back in Holyrood and it was straight to business with Tuesday’s launch of the SNP’s Programme for Government. I’m confident it will help contribute to a successful and vibrant Orkney, driving progress in health, social security, the environment and the economy.
The islands will benefit from ambitious action in a wide range of areas throughout 2018-19, including £250m to be invested to reform the way we treat mental health in children and adults in Scotland – delivering 430 new school, college and university counsellors, and fast-track specialist treatment systems for those with serious mental illness.
Head teachers will be empowered to lead improvements to their schools with more say over their own budgets; developing ways for parents and pupils to ensure their voices are heard in decision-making; giving £10m to schools and councils to work together across regions; continuing to support teacher recruitment; and investing £33 million over three years to help children in care with education.
In this Year of Young People, I believe that the commitment to incorporate the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law says a lot about the kind of country we want to be:while the Tories are eroding human rights we are strengthening them.
The National Infrastructure Mission, the most ambitious infrastructure spending plans yet, will invest £1.5 billion more infrastructure each year by 2025-26, including for faster broadband, improved transport and more low-carbon energy.
As Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan said during Tuesday’s debate, the roll-out in our times of broadband in rural Scotland – particularly in the Highlands and Islands – will prove to be as transformative as the roll-out of telephone lines was in these areas in the 1940s and 1950s. If we really are coming to a point where families will be as likely to move to a place without broadband as they would in the past have moved to a place without telephones, then the commitment to 100% coverage by 2021 is all the more crucial.
I also welcome the investment of £1bn each year in funding for low carbon transport solutions and to phase out new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032 – creating at least 20 electric towns across Scotland by 2025. This will add 1500 new charge points in homes, businesses, and in public areas. £20 million will be invested to help people switch to electric vehicles, and more than 1500 new ultra low emission vehicles will be added to public sector fleets; with a further £1.7 million to add over 100 green buses.
Despite Brexit, we will ensure Scotland remains an attractive place to live and work and provide advice and support for those EU citizens already living in Orkney that are dealing with the Tory government’s unfair plans to charge them for the right to live and work here.
These bold and ambitious plans for the year ahead are just some of the reasons why the SNP is the second biggest party in the whole of the UK!
This is a fortnightly column by local MSP Maree Todd, SNP. All list MSPs have been offered the same column space in the Orkney News