FIONA HYSLOP RE-ELECTED MSP FOR LINLITHGOW WITH MAJORITY DOUBLED

Fiona Hyslop MSP Cabinet Secretary for Education

FIONA HYSLOP RE-ELECTED MSP FOR LINLITHGOW WITH MAJORITY DOUBLED

Fiona Hyslop has been re-elected as MSP for the Linlithgow Constituency with 19,362 votes – receiving over 50% of the vote across the constituency and doubling her majority over Labour to 9,335.

She secured the second highest number of votes for the SNP in the country in this one of the biggest seats in the country. The SNP have now secured an historic third term in Government – something no other party in Scotland has been able to achieve at Holyrood.

Speaking after the result was declared Fiona said;

“It is an enormous privilege to be re-elected for the Linlithgow Constituency.

“We ran a positive campaign setting out what the SNP would do for the country and I what I would seek to achieve for my constituents.

“I worked extremely hard with my superb, enthusiastic and committed campaign team to earn the vote of the people of West Lothian, campaigning and meeting local people in every corner of the constituency. I am delighted to have received such a positive response to the SNP’s message.

“I will now continue to work hard to deliver for the people and communities across West Lothian. We have such great people with great potential here and as we enter into the SNP’s historic third term in Government, I want to take the views and priorities of my constituents to the heart of Holyrood and work with them to improve the lives of the people of West Lothian.

ENDS

Results:

BOYD MOOHAN, Angela (Scottish Labour) – 10,027

FARTHING-SYKES, Dan (Scottish Liberal Democrats) – 1,319

HYSLOP, Fiona (Scottish National Party) – 19,362

KENNEDY, Charles (Scottish Conservatives) – 7,699

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Fiona Hyslop MSP – Letter to Infrastructure Secretary on Flooding at Wester Inch

Keith Brown MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment & Cities
St. Andrew’s House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

Wednesday, 2nd March 2016

Dear Keith,

I write to you on behalf of my many constituents affected by the devastating floods in the Wester Inch community of Bathgate over the past week to seek your assurances that the Scottish Government will lend their full support in ensuring the immediate safety of residents and assist in the longer term recovery.

You will be aware that during the morning of 24 February a major water pipe ruptured severely flooding Meikle Inch Lane. Following an emergency repair only 4 days later at night on Saturday 27 February the same pipeline ruptured at another point causing the same area to be again flooded. This is the 3rd time in 4 years that residents have had to face this issue.

I visited the site on the morning of Sunday 28 February and I saw first-hand the devastation and heartache this flooding has caused. I spoke with residents and Peter Farrer, Chief Operating Officer, Scottish Water.

It is now essential that there is a permanent repair carried out as a matter of urgency and Scottish Water treats this as an investment priority. Anything that can be done must be done to protect those affected and assist them in rebuilding their lives. Can you reassure me that this will be treated as an investment priority? Is it possible to document this in an amendment to Scottish Water’s quarterly investment plans?

There are immediate concerns of the sustainability of the back-up supply to 20,000+ residents in surrounding areas as an implication of this and my constituents are very concerned about any temporary repair and re-opening of a pipe that has failed with devastating effect twice in a week.

At the community meeting I attended on the afternoon of Sunday 28 February residents raised a number of concerns about the insurability and ability to mortgage/re-mortgage or sell properties in future. They also wanted an immediate emergency hotline and website presence and a warning system about the affected pipe.

I would be grateful for any interventions you can make in assisting my constituents and ensuring Scottish Water take every necessary action in the immediate and medium term.

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Fiona Hyslop MSP

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Hyslop Visits Wester Inch site after flooding and calls for urgent investment

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Hyslop Visits Wester Inch Site after Flooding and calls for urgent investment

Local Constituency MSP, Fiona Hyslop has called for the safety and security of her constituents to be the utmost priority following a visit to the flood affected site at Wester Inch.

On Sunday she spoke with affected residents and Peter Farrer Chief Operating Officer of Scottish Water who was there on site. She also attended the packed community meeting on the Sunday afternoon at Simpsons Primary School.

Fiona Hyslop commented:

“When I visited the site at the weekend I saw first hand the devastation and heartache this flooding has caused. It is essential that there is a permanent repair done and I will be demanding that Scottish Water treats this as an investment priority.

“Scottish Water gave a commitment that they will support and compensate residents and said that there will be a significantly improved service compared with the flooding situation in 2012. Peter Farrer said on Sunday that “this pipe is not fit for purpose” and Scottish Water agreed that it is extremely important that they take away any risk for residents for the future.

“I will be making sure that the Scottish Government Ministers are informed and in the immediate next few days we need to ensure there is no risk to the residents. I am aware that 25,000 other properties rely on accessing water from these pipes and are currently being supplied by other means but the situation may not be sustainable. It is essential that piece of mind, safety and security of Wester Inch residents is not jeopardised.

“It is also essential that basic accommodation and support is provided to my constituents many of whom have lost so much. To be flooded once was a dreadful experience, twice was devastating but a third time is completely unacceptable.

“It is vital for the safety and security of my constituents and their properties that this matter is given the priority it deserves.”

ENDS

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Local MSP for Linlithgow Constituency Fiona Hyslop responds to publication of Edinburgh Airport Report

Local MSP for Linlithgow Constituency Fiona Hyslop responds to publication of Edinburgh Airport Report

Fiona commented:

“I have noted the report released this week by Edinburgh Airport regarding the trial flight path of the TUTUR route, in particular their points made regarding Community Complaints. I am pleased that Edinburgh Airport have acknowledged the need to engage more with the community and that they acknowledge that there has been substantial noise disturbance to many local residents.

“I am concerned however that the Report only refers to the complaints received via their own microsite when clearly the Airport are also in possession of the concerns of over 2000 people who completed my survey, the submitted petition from hundreds of Uphall and Dechmont residents which I handed to the Airport Chief Executive personally and a number of other petitions which were sent to the Airport from other MSPs and interested parties. It is simply incorrect to say that the complaints have only come from a small number of people – even if this is what their own complaints microsite has shown.

“It is clear that although existing flight routes may not have changed, the types of aircraft flying the original TALLA and GOSAM routes have changed with more jets flying on the GOSAM route in particular and so compounded the noise heard on the TUTUR route – explaining why local residents can still hear unacceptable levels of noise despite the TUTUR route ending.

“There is still some way to go to dissuade Edinburgh Airport of the need for the TUTUR route but I am pleased that when I met with Edinburgh Airport at the end of January they agreed to consider other options after having seen the results from my flight path survey conducted over the summer.”

ENDS

Results of Fiona Hyslop’s Survey:

http://www.fionahyslop.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Fiona-Hyslop-MSP-Survey-Results-for-CAA-final-3.pdf

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MSPs Focus on Positive Outcome of Health Review

MSPs Focus on Positive Outcome of Health Review

With regards to the ongoing story about the NHS Lothian Health Review, Fiona Hyslop said;

“My focus as local MSP for the Linlithgow Constituency is to make the case first and foremost for Children’s services at St John’s. That is I what have done with my SNP colleagues in a 2 hour meeting with the independent Review team where we set out well researched evidence in a comprehensive Report presented to them.

“With an above average 20% of West Lothian’s population under 15 and with new housing attracting more families to West Lothian we need strong local health services. The clinical support overnight at St John’s underpins maternity and special baby care services and the connection between provision makes a strong case to maintain overnight paediatric services in hospital. With 40% of all Lothian births taking place at St John’s Hospital, they need to look at the overall picture of the contribution of the Children’s Wards to pan-Lothian health care.

“This is an independent review – independent of any political party and any timelines are between the independent Review and NHS Lothian and the fact that The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child’s Health advised that not all of the Royal College’s independent expert review team would be able to start work before January rather than the originally envisaged November, is a matter for them. My constituents don’t want to see political arguments about process they want to see a positive response from the independent Review group and that is what I will be focusing my attention on.

“I would urge my constituents to share their views on the pan Lothian review of paediatric services by completing the survey online at
https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/RCPCHLothian

The full submission Report from SNP MSPs, MPs and the Council Group can made available on request.

ENDS

The survey will be confidential and anonymous and will run throughout the term of the review, although ideally responses should be completed by February 14th.
Additional information on the review can be found on the RCPCH website at

http://www.rcpch.ac.uk/improving-child-health/better-nhs-children/service-delivery/invited-reviews/lothian-review/lothian-r

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Hyslop Welcomes £160m to Help First Time Buyers in West Lothian

Hyslop Welcomes £160m to Help First Time Buyers in West Lothian

Local Constituency MSP for Linlithgow has welcomed the announcement that the Scottish Government will invest more than £160 million in 2016-17 on schemes that will help people across West Lothian buy their first home.

Commenting, Fiona said;

“I am delighted that the Scottish government will continue to help people in West Lothian purchase their first home with £160 million of funding across Scotland this year.This funding will be targeted at people on low incomes and will be vital for young people and their families looking to get on and up the housing ladder.

“These schemes don’t just boost homeownership but boost house building – creating jobs and supporting economic growth.

“Applications for the Help to Buy (Scotland) scheme open on March 1st and I would encourage eligible people in West Lothian looking to buy their first home to apply.”

ENDS

Notes:
More details on the Scottish Government announcement can be found here: http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Fresh-help-for-home-buyers-2190.aspx
More information about Help to Buy, including purchasing price limits, is available at: www.gov.scot/htb
For OMSE, priority access is provided to social renters, disabled people, members of the armed forces, veterans who have left the armed forces within the past two years, and widows, widowers and other partners of service personnel for up to two years after their partner has been killed while serving in the armed forces. http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Built-Environment/Housing/BuyingSelling/lift/FTBOMSEP

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Local MSPs Fiona Hyslop and Angela Constance lead delegation meeting with the Paediatric Review Team

PRESS RELEASE
For immediate Use:

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Local MSPs Fiona Hyslop and Angela Constance lead delegation meeting with the Paediatric Review Team

The two constituency MSPs for West Lothian, Angela Constance and Fiona Hyslop, led a delegation of local SNP politicians to meet with the team tasked with reviewing paediatric services across the Lothian’s. On Tuesday night the SNP politicians presented a detailed case outlining why a 24 hour 7 day a week paediatric ward at St John’s Hospital is crucial to a community with a growing population. Also in attendance and giving support to local services were MPs, Hannah Bardell and Martyn Day and Cllr Janet Campbell, a qualified midwife and the SNP group spokesperson on Health and Care.

Speaking after the meeting Fiona Hyslop MSP said:

” It was important for the Review Team to hear about the strength of feeling in West Lothian in support of our children’s ward and services being maintained on a 24/7 basis but also to have this backed up by facts, local experience and evidence in a rational manner and to avoid any unwarranted scare-mongering.

“With an above average 20% of West Lothian’s population under 15 and with new housing attracting more families to West Lothian we need strong local health services. The clinical support overnight at St John’s underpins maternity and special baby care services and the connection between provision makes a strong case to maintain overnight paediatric services in hospital.”

Angela Constance MSP said:

“Along with my SNP colleagues, we had a lengthy and productive meeting with the Paediatric Review Team and we presented a detailed case in support of a 24/7 children’s ward. Everyone knows that West Lothian population is the same as Dundee and that we have growing numbers of children. 40% of babies across Lothian region are born at St. John’s therefore a range of children’s services are essential.

“I also presented real examples of local children who had benefitted from first class treatment in their local hospital, where they have been assessed and treated quickly. If it had not been for the paediatric ward these children would have been cared for far away from home, with their families experiencing additional financial costs and for some children longer recovery times. For some seriously ill children they can return to St. John’s from Yorkhill or the Sick Kids to recuperate nearer to home.”

Both MSPs are urging constituents to share their views on the pan Lothian review of paediatric services by completing the survey online at

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/RCPCHLothian

Additional information on the review can be found on the RCPCH website at

http://www.rcpch.ac.uk/improving-child-health/better-nhs-children/service-delivery/invited-reviews/lothian-review/lothian-r

The survey will be confidential and anonymous and will run throughout the term of the review, although ideally responses should be completed by February 14th.

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Fiona Welcomes Trial of People Power for Budget Setting in West Lothian

Fiona Welcomes Trial of People Power for Budget Setting in West Lothian

Local Constituency MSP, Fiona Hyslop today welcomed a Scottish Government initiative giving residents in West Lothian direct control over aspects of council budgets.

West Lothian Council is one of thirteen local authorities to benefit from a £500,000 funding boost designed to trial participatory budgeting – receiving an investment of £1,125.

Commenting, Fiona said;

“In these times of unprecedented political engagement in Scotland, participatory budgeting offers communities the chance to have a direct say in how councils spend their money.

“This funding will support initiatives to give local people the opportunity to address the issues that are important to their communities.

“Participatory budgeting has been used in other countries and the impact can be transformational. I hope that this is the first step in empowering residents in West Lothian and supporting their engagement with local government and their local community.”

ENDS

Notes:
The Scottish Government funding will be used to match-fund existing council commitments, provide support for participatory budgeting events, support communities to engage with the process, evaluation and learning.
Scottish Government news release on funding:

http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Councils-giving-more-power-to-people-2120.aspx

More information about participatory budgeting is available at: http://pbscotland.scot/

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Fiona Hyslop – Speech in Parliament, Members Debate: Charlie Hebdo

Member’s debate: Charlie Hebdo
7 January 2016

Introduction
Presiding Officer, I thank Christian Allard for securing the debate and for an excellent speech and I thank all the members who contributed to what has been a very thoughtful reflection on the horrific attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris.

A total of 17 people were killed in three days of attacks a year ago that also targeted a Jewish supermarket and police. Since the attacks in January there have been a number of other incidents, in February, April, June and August, and finally the murder of 129 people in November.

Charlie Hebdo’s offices had already been firebombed in 2011 and other magazines in Europe had also been threatened. But the attack in Paris in January last year shocked the world.

Solidarity with France
Within hours of the shootings, the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie went viral, rallying millions behind the plight of free speech and opposition to brutal killings. The horrific crimes prompted an unprecedented showing of solidarity, with demonstrations and vigils held around the world.

On 11 January about 2 million people, including more than 40 world leaders, met in Paris for a rally of national unity, and about 3.7 million people joined demonstrations across France.

Here in Scotland the First Minister spoke to the French Consul General after the attacks, and wrote to President Hollande to convey Scotland’s condolences to and solidarity with the French people. She made a statement during First Minister’s Question Time, and flags flew at half-mast on Scottish Government premises, and here at Parliament. Rallies were held in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. I signed the book of condolence at the French Consulate, and attended and spoke at an event organised by the French Community outside the French Consulate in Edinburgh.

With today’s debate we signal that we continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of France, united in our condemnation of the atrocities. We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life. But at the same time we are absolutely steadfast in our defence of the fundamental freedoms that we all cherish so much.

The attacks were intended to spread terror and to drive a wedge into communities and societies. However, the response has achieved the opposite to what the terrorists intended to.

Diversity
In the aftermath of the attacks the Scottish Government has been clear that we stand together with the Muslim communities in expressing our condemnation.

Following the Charlie Hebdo attacks the Scottish Arab Federation issued a statement in which they publicly declared their condemnation of the terrorist act. They highlighted that the vast majority of Muslims are horrified and sickened by the attacks, and that Islam as a religion advocates tolerance and freedom of belief. Furthermore they point to the fact that Muslims and other ethnic minority groups are very concerned about the rise of resentment against immigrants in many European countries. Let me quote from the final section of the Scottish Arab Federation’s statement:
In order to eradicate terrorism, the fight against it must not be confined to security and military measures, but should include political, socio-economic, ideological and cultural factors. Mutual understanding is essential to build confidence and avoid unreasonable behaviour. Constructive communication helps to overcome prejudice and slanted media reporting; and establishing dialogue through robust channels will go a long way towards defusing tension and maintaining a peaceful and calm existence for all.

I think the debate today has echoed many of those sentiments. A peaceful and calm existence for all is a cornerstone of our diverse and multicultural society.

Terrorists want to undermine the values we share. They aim to damage community relations. It is clear that terrorism is about propagation of fear and provocation of hate as Christian Allard said. An important challenge for us is to work towards creating cohesive and resilient communities within which the terrorist messages will not resonate.

Freedom of expression and Human Rights
With today’s debate we reaffirm this Parliament’s commitment to a modern, inclusive Scotland which protects, respects and realises internationally recognised human rights principles.

The assault on the Charlie Hebdo offices was an act of terrorism, and also attack on the freedom of speech.
It was Benjamin Franklin who said that “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” The principle of freedom of expression is a centre piece of the European Convention of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It was a fundamental feature of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948 in response to the conflict and catastrophe brought about by the dictatorships of the 1930s.
The power of caricature and satire has long been recognised. It was understood in ancient Greece and in Rome, and is still feared by tyrants and dictators. Amnesty International’s current Write for Rights campaign highlights the case of political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque – aka ‘Zunar’ – who is facing a long prison sentence in Malaysia for “seditious” cartoons.

Such cartoons exists to highlight injustice and to make the case for change through challenge and ridicule. It can sometimes be hurtful as well as thought-provoking. But in a modern democracy like Scotland there is more than ample room for legitimate commentary through the medium of cartoons and caricature. Those who seek to influence the views and opinions of others in our society need to accept that their own views are also open to challenge – a compliant, reverential media is not compatible with modern democracy. Democracies thrive in the face of challenge through freedom of expression. Elaine Murray talked about historical context of political satire and cartoons. Chic Brodie spoke eloquently about the modern context and relationship of democracy, satire and the power of the pen. Jamie McGrigor reminded us of the importance of the freedoms we value and how we can’t and shouldn’t take them for granted.

Of course, in a respectful, democratic society, where human rights are valued, there are also limits to the right to express views which challenge and provoke. Giving of gratuitous offence is not a right, and satirical attacks motivated by hatred and prejudice step over the line of what is acceptable. Indeed, international treaties including the ECHR recognise that the exercise of freedom of expression brings with it duties and responsibilities – not least of which is the obligation to respect the rights of others. That includes the right of other people to hold views with which we may ourselves fundamentally disagree.

Conclusion
In closing I want to refer to the motto which appears on the coat of arms of the City of Paris, which shows a ship at sea. The motto is fluctuat nec mergitur, which translates as She is shaken by the waves but does not sink. This century old motto had a surge in popularity and is used in social media as a symbol of Paris resistance in the face of terrorism.
Whilst we are all shaken by the terrible events in Paris, we continue to stand united with France in the fight against terrorism.

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First Minister’s Speech on Supporting Public Services, Tackling Inequality and Growing Scotland’s Economy

Debate on Supporting Public Services, Tackling Inequality and Growing Scotland’s Economy

Tuesday, 5th January 2016

The First Minister’s Opening Speech:

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I wish you and all members a very happy new year.

Given our discussions at question time a few moments ago, I take this opportunity to express my sympathy to everyone across the country who is dealing with the impacts of flooding, and to express my heartfelt thanks to all those who have been working over the past few days, and who continue to work, extremely hard to respond to the challenges that the flooding is posing.

The year 2016 will be another hugely important year for Scotland. That is why it is right to use this first debate of the new year to look back at the progress that has been made and, more important, to look to the future. Over the next four months there must be a great, ambitious and thriving debate in Scotland about how we will build on our achievements, address the challenges that we face and, in so doing, realise the full potential of our nation. Let me be clear that it is a debate that I, my Government and my party are determined to lead in the months ahead. It is on the strength of our record, ideas and vision for this country that we will ask people to elect us as Scotland’s Government for an historic third term.

In setting out our future priorities, we are building on strong foundations. Today, for example, our national health service has a record budget, has record numbers of staff working in it and is—as we have seen this morning—delivering some of the best and fastest care in the United Kingdom. I again take the opportunity to thank NHS staff for their efforts day in and day out.

We have more world-class universities per head of population than almost any other country in the world. Our universities are also accessible to a higher proportion of students from deprived backgrounds than was the case in 2007. I am proud that this Government has ensured that our universities’ success has not, crucially, been achieved at the expense of the free tuition on which our students depend.
We also have a reformed school curriculum. We have seen record exam passes, and the information that we have about performance in the upper stages of secondary school shows signs of a narrowing of the attainment gap. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, we have the potential to become a world leader in education.

We have also taken tough but necessary decisions to reform our police and fire services. As the Deputy First Minister has just said, we have in recent days seen the benefits of the new arrangements in our fire and rescue services as they have responded to flooding.

We have seen crime fall to a 41-year low, and we have built new colleges, schools, hospitals and health centres in every single part of our country. We have not met but have exceeded our five-year target to deliver 30,000 affordable homes, and we have helped into home ownership 20,000 people—three quarters of whom are under the age of 35.

Those are all hard practical achievements. Just as important, although less tangible, is that we have, by trusting the people of this country to decide their future, helped to create a flourishing of democratic debate and have played our part in building renewed national confidence.

Those achievements have made society stronger as a whole, but they have also made a difference for individuals across our nation. It is worth reflecting on the impact on people of just some of those initiatives. For example, before prescription charges were abolished by this Government, 600,000 families who were earning as little as £16,000 a year had to pay for their medicines for conditions including asthma. Now they receive essential medication without financial worry.

In 2007, just 85 per cent of hospital in-patients and day-case patients were seen within 18 weeks, which was the waiting time back then. Last year, 95 per cent were seen within 12 weeks.

In 2007, just 45 per cent of school students stayed on until year 6; now 62 per cent do so. That is because, among other things, we took the decision to retain the education maintenance allowance when it was being abolished by the UK Government.

At the start of 2014, just 4 per cent of Highlands and Islands’ households had access to superfast broadband; by the end of this year, the figure will be 84 per cent, which is making a major difference to the opportunities and quality of life in our rural communities.

On those and many other indicators, we should be proud of our achievements. Our challenge is to build on them. In the run-up to the election, we will set out a range of ambitious plans that will, over the next five years, help to transform our country even further.

Let me make it clear that education will be at the front and centre of our plans for the next session of Parliament. Our attainment fund is already helping more than 300 primary schools across the country. In the coming weeks, we will set out further plans to achieve both excellence and equity in education by building on the work that we are already doing through the attainment challenge. That will start tomorrow, when I will publish the new national improvement framework to ensure that our focus on closing the attainment gap is driven by robust evidence on children’s progress in primary and early secondary school.

In health, we must focus ever more on the needs of our older people, which is why the process of reshaping care is well under way. Health and social care integration is the most significant reform of how we deliver healthcare since the creation of the national health service. In the coming months, we will set out further plans to shift the balance of care and the balance of investment even more decisively towards primary and social care. We have already set out plans to create five new elective treatment centres in order to meet growing demand for hip and knee replacements and cataract operations. In the weeks to come, we will set out detailed plans to further improve child and maternal healthcare, cancer care and mental health services.

Our ambition for public services is matched in other areas. Last month, we received the final report of the commission on local tax reform. Since 2007, households across the country have, of course, benefited from the council tax freeze. In the coming weeks, building on the commission’s report, we will make proposals for a fairer and more progressive system of local taxation. I call on the other parties to do likewise so that the people of Scotland can make their choice at the election.

We will also set out plans to use new welfare powers to create a distinctively Scottish approach to social security.

We will continue to do everything that we can to mitigate the bedroom tax, for example, and to shield people from the worst impact of Tory cuts, but our approach will not just be about mitigating bad UK decisions; we will reject Westminster‘s sanctions-based approach and will place the dignity of individuals at the heart of what we do. Delivery of efficient public services and delivery of humane social security are among the ways in which we will create a fairer and more prosperous country. Make no mistake: those two ambitions go together. We want a society in which strong public services are underpinned by a successful economy, and in which our nation’s prosperity is stronger because it is better balanced.

Our commitment to sustainability means that we will continue to prioritise action to meet our ambitious climate change targets. We want everyone to be able to contribute their talents in full and to be well rewarded for doing so.

Our employability services will focus on improving individual skills and confidence, and on helping people into productive employment. We will promote greater gender equality in the workplace and we will build on the approach that means that Scotland already has one of the highest female employment rates anywhere in the European Union, with greater support for people who are returning to work after maternity leave and increased efforts to tackle the pay gap. We will also build on the success that we have seen over the past 12 months in setting out action to extend even further payment of the real living wage.

We will support internationalisation and innovation as the bedrock of a successful modern economy. We will publish an action plan for manufacturing and a new trade and investment strategy to grow our exports and maintain our position as a leading destination for inward investment. Indeed, it is precisely because we need to strengthen the global links that are so vital to economic growth that we plan to reduce air passenger duty.

Our review of business rates will ensure that Scotland continues to have a competitive business tax environment, and we will set out how we will use new powers over tax fairly and progressively.

We will also continue our strong investment in infrastructure. By the end of this year, the new Queensferry crossing will be completed. Work on dualling the A9 has begun. We will also see major investment in the Aberdeen bypass, the central Scotland motorway network and rail services between our major cities.

We will boost house building even further with our commitment to building 50,000 affordable homes by the end of the next parliamentary session, backed by investment of more than £3 billion. Of course, we will also continue to help people into home ownership through our successful shared equity schemes.

Let me make it clear that our most transformational infrastructure investment in the next parliamentary session will not be in a bridge or a road; it will be in our investment to transform early years education and childcare by providing parents with 30 hours a week of Government-funded childcare. That is double the current provision; it will enable parents to return to work, to pursue their careers, and to know that their children are being well cared for, well educated and given the best start in life. As I have made clear previously, as we extend childcare, we will focus as much on quality as on quantity, with investment in teaching skills—especially in our most deprived areas—as well as in bricks and mortar.
We will use the powers that we have as a Government to the full. Of course, I believe as strongly today as I always have that independence is the best future for our country. That is why, in the months to come, we will also lead a renewed debate on how the enduring principle of the case that decisions about Scotland are best taken by people who live here is relevant to and demanded by the circumstances of the world in which we live today. We will make that case positively and powerfully, and we will do it in a realistic and relevant way. In doing so, I am confident that, over the next few years, we will build majority support for that proposition.

My party enters the new year riding high in the polls. However, the support that we enjoy today has not come easy, but has been hard earned over many years. As we now seek the endorsement of the Scottish people for a third term in office, we will not take one single vote for granted. During the next few months, no matter what the polls say, we will not assume success. We will work for it—we will work harder than we have ever worked before. Our perspective for the future will be ambitious, upbeat, visionary and detailed. The coming months will see this Government and my party set out plans to invest in and improve our public services, to innovate and grow our economy, and to tackle inequality.

Our plans will mark a new phase in Scotland’s journey. They will see us take the next steps towards fulfilling our great national potential. I hope that our plans will win the trust and support of all those whom we are so privileged to represent.

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