Scotland has a strong reputation of being open, hospitable, and warm-hearted. At no other time is this more clear to see than at Hogmanay, when we welcome visitors from all around the world to celebrate with us. It is this warm reputation that makes me proud to be Scottish, and is something that many of us cherish. At this uncertain time, it is important to make this message clear – to the hundreds of thousands of EU nationals that have chosen to make Scotland their home, I want you to know that you are valued and will always be welcome here. This remains the case, regardless of what happens in 2019, and with Brexit.
A defining mission in 2019 for the SNP will be to continue to make the case for staying in the EU. We know that crashing out of the EU without a deal will be calamitous for Scotland. Theresa May’s deal offers little reprieve, which makes a second referendum on the EU the only viable alternative at this stage. It is high time Labour provided some real opposition, stopped dithering and backed the People’s Vote. Of course the Brexit chaos and lack of progress since 2016 has only made the case for Scottish Independence stronger. Scotland voted overwhelmingly to Remain, yet our voice has been wilfully ignored at every stage in the process. For those who voted No in the 2014 referendum to ensure we remain in the EU, the situation we face now is especially galling. It is evident that Scotland’s interests can’t be protected within the current set up in the UK. Recent events underline this and not only reaffirm, but make the case for Scotland being an independent country, in charge of its own destiny, even stronger.
Of course 2019 is not only about Brexit. The SNP will continue to get on with the day job and the small matter of running the country. In February we will vote on the Scottish Government’s budget. Our proposals continue to provide strong investment in key public services such as our NHS and education system. As Minister for Children and Young People, I have a key role in rolling out our transformative expansion of childcare provision. The new Scottish Social Security system will treat people with fairness, dignity and respect and help those most in need – a welcome departure from the callousness of the system in Westminster that was introduced by the Tory/Lib Dems coalition in 2010.
Looking back at 2018, some of my highlights undoubtedly have to be the Year of Young People. Young folk form all across Scotland, including here in Orkney, took part in these events. There is an abundance of talent, creativity, and drive in the younger generation that assures me the future of our nation is in good hands. Although the Year of Young People has finished, it shouldn’t end here – 2019 will be about continuing to unlock their potential and provide opportunities for our young people to lead and flourish.
This is a regular column by local MSP Maree Todd, SNP. All list MSPs for the Highlands and Islands have been offered the same column space.