Scottish Budget Agreement is Grown Up Politics

Maree ToddWhen Holyrood’s debating chamber was built, there was a deliberate attempt to create a more conciliatory style of politics. That may not always be the result, but coupled with a voting system designed to prevent majority governments, it was all supposed to move us away from the combative atmosphere of the House of Commons.

Last week’s Scottish Budget gave us a welcome contrast to the recent behaviour of the two main Westminster parties, and shows that we can do grown up politics north of the border. The agreement struck between the SNP and the Green Party ensured that Holyrood has backed a budget offering economic stability in the face of Brexit while boosting funding to Scotland’s health service, schools and other vital areas.

Despite a decade of Westminster cuts totalling almost £2 billion to Scotland’s block resource grant, the SNP is proposing almost £730 million extra for Scotland’s health and care services, including £49.6 million for NHS Orkney.Orkney Islands Council will receive an additional £1.4 million.

With the UK Tory government in complete chaos, it is good to be part of an SNP government that is offering certainty and stability with a budget that protects public services, supports the economy, and helps build a fairer country.

Giving our schools, hospitals and other vital services in the islands the money they need to deliver better services for local communities is vital to this government.

It’s a pity that Orkney’s MSP failed to back a budget promising more resources to his constituents. Liam McArthur and his Lib Dem chums were more interested in stopping independence than increasing resources for mental health, education and the NHS.

Meanwhile, as the Brexit mess unfolds it is shocking to learn that salmon producers in Scotland could be hit by £15 million costs in export health certificates.

My government colleague Fergus Ewing has highlighted to DEFRA the potential impacts to Scotland’s salmon and other seafood products, unless issues surrounding export health certificates are resolved immediately.

Writing to Michael Gove this week, Fergus states that ‘the practical consequences of a no-deal Brexit become more stark by the day’.

Failure to stop the clock on Article 50 in knowledge of the catastrophic consequences, he said, would be ‘unpardonably reckless’.

A forecast quadrupling of the number of certificates would cost around £15m extra each year – even if the EU’s more stringent requirements for certificates are disregarded. Imports of similar products to the UK from the EU will not be subject to these requirements, ‘creating an asymmetry that is only to the detriment of our own industry’.

Issuing a plea to seek derogation at the very least, Fergus urged Mr Gove to commit that the UK Government will reimburse these costs, whether borne by the public sector or by industry.

This work by Fergus, coupled with Mike Russell’s trip to Orkney on Monday, as Cabinet Secretary for Constitutional Relations, to discuss potential Brexit strategies with Orkney Islands Council, are great examples of the SNP getting on with the day job.

This is a regular column by local MSP Maree Todd, SNP, all other list MSPs covering the Orkney area have been offered the same space 

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