Brendan’s Newsletter February 2018

WESTMINSTER GIVEN A TASTE OF ARGYLL & BUTE
Last Month I invited thirteen local producers to the House of Commons to showcase some of the finest food and drink in Scotland.

Co-hosted with the Duchess of Argyll, we welcomed Loch Fyne Oysters, the Scottish Salmon Company, Bute Brewery, Mull of Kintyre Cheese, the Puffer Restaurant, Lussa Gin, Gigha Halibut, Inverawe Smokehouse, Ritchie’s of Rothesay, and Argyll Hill Lamb.

I didn’t want just another tasting event at the House of Commons so I was delighted that we persuaded a number of UK based food buyers to come along to meet the producers.
Their feedback was fantastic and they all felt that it was worth making the near 1000 mile round trip. Many contacts were made and I hope some orders get on their books. My thanks to Food from Argyll and Highland and Islands Enterprise for their support .

CRAGGY ISLAND RESCUE CASH
The good folk of the Oban Mountain Rescue team are £5000 better off this month thanks to the Craggy Island Triathlon. The now legendary triathlon, which is held every October was so successful that having covered all their costs, they were still able to make such a significant donation to this hugely worthwhile cause. Back in October I blew the starting horn to begin the event and I can confirm that thus far, I have resisted all attempts to become a competitor in 2018!

LOCAL ACTIVISTS CAMPAIGN TO HALT RBS CLOSURE PLANS

On Saturday I was joined by local SNP activists in Inveraray as part of the party’s National Day of Action against the Royal Bank of Scotland’s decision to close
62 local branches, including those in Campbeltown,
Rothesay and Inveraray.

Earlier in the month, I cautiously welcomed the news that the RBS has
given a short-term reprieve to the branch at Inveraray, but promised to continue with the campaign to halt ALL the proposed branch closures
across Argyll & Bute.

Saturday’s Day of Action gathered more signatures for our parliamentary petition; a petition that will be presented on the floor of the House of Commons in the next couple of weeks, alongside dozens more from across Scotland.
The importance of the issue locally was emphasised with
both a BBC Alba news crew and the editor of the Argyllshire Advertiser coming along on to cover the event.

The SNP have opposed this RBS closure issue since day one and I think our fight is being recognised in the communities who will be affected, so I am
extremely grateful to all of the local SNP members who turned out on Saturday to help with this campaign.

COMMITTEE REFUSES TO “RUBBER STAMP” POLITICAL APPOINTEE
It is very rare that a House of Commons Select Committee
refuses to “rubber stamp” a candidate for a government appointed job. But that’s exactly what the DCMS Select Committee did last month when it refused
to sanction the appointment of Baroness Stowell as the new Chair of the Charity Commission for England and Wales.

Baroness Stowell, until recently was the Conservative Leader of the Lords and while she may be the government’s preferred candidate the committee told the government, without experience and vision, that was not enough to secure a top job like this.

You can view the proceedings here:

HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL
At a time when we see the rise of bigotry and prejudice against minority communities and religious groups, both in the UK and across the world, the
Holocaust Memorial Day is a poignant reminder to us all that we
have an obligation to challenge this whenever and wherever we see it.
On behalf of the people of Argyll and Bute I again signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment to honour those who were murdered
during the Holocaust and pledged to do all I can to stop it ever happening again.

FINALLY MEETING BOTH BILLY AND YVONNE

Far too often in the last couple of years I have had to meet up with Yvonne MacHugh in London, either to join her in delivering a petition to Downing Street or to attend a meeting with the Foreign Office or accompany her to one of the
many public meetings campaigning for the release of her fiancé Billy Irving from
jail in India. So I was absolutely delighted a few weeks ago when she called to say that both she and Billy would be in London for a Human Rights meeting about
protecting British nationals being held abroad.

After so long it was great to finally meet Billy in person and to share a drink with them. Billy and Yvonne are finally getting married later this month and I’m sure everyone will join me in wishing them all the very best for the future.

“GAME-CHANGING” RENEWABLE PROJECT HEADING EAST
A Tidal Energy platform, with “game-changing” technology built by Scottish company Sustainable Marine Energy, has been going through its final test
underneath the Connel Bridge for the last few months before being taken to the Philippines to be put to work commercially. Before it left Argyll & Bute on its long journey to Asia, I visited the platform with Christoph Harwood of Sustainable Marine Energy, not just to see how the platform works but also to better understand why, despite the abundance of fast flowing water in Argyll &
Bute, this sort of technology wasn’t being utilised and better supported by the UK government to help get its cost down to a commercially viable level.

SUPPORTING OUR BOOMING AQUACULTURE BUSINESSES
The importance of the Aquaculture sector to our local economy is undeniable with fishing, fish farming, marine engineering and marine science all making an enormous contribution to Argyll & Bute, bringing jobs, investment and very often, world-wide kudos for the quality of what we produce.

In the wake of my China Business Summit and my Taste of Argyll & Bute event, I have taken the opportunity to visit as many of these important local businesses as I can.

Last month I visited the world-wide fish farm equipment manufacturer Fusion Marine at their Dunstaffnage HQ as well as the Scottish Salmon Company at Cairndow, who invited me to see their new filleting and processing plant in
action. Both companies have ambitious future growth plans and both are equally committed to achieving that growth here in Argyll & Bute. I have often said that we desperately need this type of investment in order to create the long-term employment that will encourage more families to stay and put down roots in this
constituency.

OBAN’S UNIVERSITY BID
The so-called Beast From The East that battered most of the UK, apart from western Argyll it seems, prevented me from appearing in person at the launch event of Oban As A University Town. I was due to speak at the event in The Corran Halls to add my voice to the many others who wish to see Oban develop as a centre of educational excellence. The massive snow dump over
London prevented me from flying up but thanks to modern technology and the help of the SNP’s firstclass digital media team here at Westminster, I managed to record my speech and have it relayed to the packed Corran Hall
audience…
who by all accounts were enjoying a balmy spring afternoon!

We are extremely fortunate given that we already have the University of Highlands and Islands, SAMS, Ballet West all currently offering degree-level education and with almost 800 students, Oban is already regarded by many as being a university town. It is hoped that this project will attract even more students and investment into the educational infrastructure
already there.
It is a hugely important piece of the jigsaw to encourage as many of our young people to stay in the town and I have pledged to support this campaign in any way I can. You can view my speech here:

PLANES, TRAINS ETC…
Just a few years ago, the idea of me driving from Helensburgh to Oban, to fly to Coll, to spend a day on the island, to then fly back to Oban, to then drive to Glasgow airport in order to catch the last flight to London would have been a bit
far-fetched. Now, being the MP for Argyll & Bute however, it’s just what you do. And so it was a couple of weeks ago I went on a 17-hour planes, trains and automobiles adventure that took me to one of the most beautiful places on the planet, to the bustling streets of London’s East End. And I loved every
minute of it. I hadn’t been to Coll for a wee while and I really wanted to go so with a light-business Monday, I took the opportunity to hold a constituency surgery as well as visit some of my favourite places on this beautiful island, including the wonderful RecyColl Charity Shop…where I found and purchased a brand new SNP Golf umbrella.

DCMS TAKING ON THE TECH-GIANTS
During  recess, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee visited New York and Washington to grill the big Tech companies as part of our ‘fake news’ investigation. Senior executives from Google, Facebook and Twitter faced 5 hours of questioning on everything from Russian interference in the US elections and the Brexit referendum, their use of algorithms and their social responsibility towards protecting children online

FEB18

CATCHING UP WITH THE LOCAL COUNCIL MEMBERS
While I was hosting the Chinese business conference in Oban last year, I on the off chance and carrying a plate of sandwiches, popped into say hello to the
local council members at their monthly Members’ Day who were meeting in an adjacent room. We had a brief but very interesting discussion on what was happening in and around the Oban, Lorn and Isles and what issues were likely to emerge in
he coming months. We all agreed that it was a useful exercise and that a longer discussion would be extremely helpful. As a result, last month I was delighted to accept an invitation to attend a meeting of the Area Committee where we had a
long discussion about a whole range of local issues. So useful was it that I’ll be writing to all the other Area Committees offering to have the same kind of
meeting with them too.

TALKING POWER-GRAB TO THE FELLOWS AT CAMBRIDGE
The only upside of being stuck in London because of the snow storm was that I was able to take up a long-standing offer to speak to the Fellows and PhD students at Cambridge University. I had been invited to speak at Robinson College by Baroness Smith of Newnham and I took as my topic, Scotland, Brexit and The Westminster Power-Grab.
It was a fascinating evening of a lecture, a lengthy question and
answer session, followed by dinner and a discussion in the college. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and although it’s often difficult to gauge how these thing are received, I suppose when a politics professor at Cambridge asks for your notes and a copy of your speech, it’s not a bad sign.

Source: Brendan’s Newsletter February 2018

Scotland after Brexit

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

David Hume Institute

16 January 2018

Thank you, Jane-Francis (Kelly). It’s a pleasure to be here again.

The meet the leaders session has become a new year tradition – it’s almost becoming part of the winter festival programme. This series of events is a really good and powerful demonstration of the institute’s role in leading and informing public debate in Scotland. I greatly value – as I am sure all the party leaders do – this opportunity highly because it is an opportunity to discuss with you some of the key issues facing Scotland now and in the future.

All of the leaders this year have been asked to speak about Brexit specifically. In doing that, the second half of my speech I will focus on an issue I was talking about yesterday and that is the issue of migration – an issue which is of considerable importance to Scotland, and one where Brexit presents us with very distinct challenges which, to my mind, require some distinct solutions.

Before I turn to that, I thought it would be useful to give a brief overview of where I think the Brexit process is now – and give you my views and what the Scottish Government’s priorities for seeking to influence that process as best we can in the year ahead.

Next week marks five years since David Cameron delivered the speech in which he committed to having a referendum on EU membership. Perhaps one of the most significant and fateful political speeches in the UK’s recent history. He made that speech at the Bloomberg offices in London and announced that if the Conservative party won the 2015 general election, he intended to hold a referendum on EU membership.

In that speech he set out his belief that “Britain’s national interest is best served in a flexible, adaptable and open European Union, and that such a European Union is best with Britain in it”. Of course the eventual consequences of that speech, as we now know, turned out to be the exact opposite of what he intended.

Today we stand just 14 months away from the date when the UK is set to leave the EU. Let me be clear, I still don’t want Scotland, or the UK, to leave the EU – my preference is, and will continue to be, for Brexit not to happen. My preference is for Scotland to be an independent member state of the EU. I think that would serve our interests best.

However, as First Minister of Scotland, I have a duty to do all I can to protect Scotland’s interests in all circumstances. Tonight I want to concentrate on how we are seeking to influence the situation now and how we will do that in the crucial week and months that lie ahead in order to help shape the best possible outcome for not just Scotland, but the UK as a whole.

I’ve got to be frank with you in saying how disturbing I think it is that just 14 months away from the planned exit from the European Union, the UK government’s plans still seem to be – and I am putting this as mildly as I can – in a state of chaos.

That’s partly, I think, because there still seems to be a wilful denial of the complexities that are associated with Brexit. The leader of the House of Commons said last week that “It will be easy for the EU and the UK to agree to continue to do things with…zero non-tariff barriers”. That’s not a statement which has any roots in reality. Avoiding non-tariff barriers, which I’m sure everyon wants to do – requires agreement on harmonised regulations and a whole range of other matters – it is not something which will be easy to agree. In fact the trade deal between the EU and Canada took almost a decade to negotiate.

The Prime Minister, meanwhile, continues to suggest that no deal is a viable option for the UK – without acknowledging that no deal is, almost by definition, a terrible deal for the UK. My very simple view is that no Brexit has to be preferrable to no deal.

And the UK Government, perhaps most fundamentally of all, is still delaying setting out a clear proposition on the big issue it faces or what the end relationship is that it is seeking to negotiate. Everybody knows that, as in any negotiation, there will require to be trade offs – for example, between abiding by European regulations in order to gain access to the single market on the one hand, and on the other hand having the freedom and flexibility to negotiate separate trade deals outside of the EU.

In fact, the UK Cabinet has scarcely even begun to discuss some of these issues, let alone agree or articulate a clear position on them. Instead, we are still told that the UK can have everything it wants – regulatory flexibility, the freedom to strike trade deals with other countries and the full benefits of the single market – despite all of the evidence to the contrary.

So I think 2018 – a crucial year in so many different respects – is going to be inevitably the year that rhetoric finally meets reality. And when we look back over the last six months of last year, what we saw was that on every issue of substance where agreement in the first phase of negotiations had to be reached – for example the timetable for talks, on much of the situation around EU citizens or on settling the UK’s budget obligations – the UK Government started with a completely unrealistic position, and then on all of these issues was forced to capitulate and finally agree position that had been the starting point of the EU all along.

That is almost certain to happen all over again if the plan is to stick to unrealistic positions. Far better, surely, to stop wasting time and to stop squandering goodwill and instead embark on this next phase of negotiations with a sensible and credible position at the outset.

In my view and the view of the Scottish Government, the only sensible post Brexit position for the UK is continued membership of the Single Market and Customs Union.

Let me be clear, I don’t think that is a perfect position – it is not as good as membership of the EU. The EU is not a perfect institution – it has many flaws but I think our interests are best served being in rather than out. Being in something short of that is not the perfect position but being in the Single Market is far preferable to any of the quite limited number of alternative future relationships.

In my view – and of course you won’t be surprised to hear me say this – every month that has passed since the referendum has borne out the logic of that position. If the UK leaves the EU, the least damaging way of doing so is to retain membership of the Single Market and Customs Union.

The economic importance of that was highlighted in the paper the Scottish Government published yesterday. Yesterday we published the most extensive economic modeling of the potential future relationships that has been done by anybody so far, which perhaps speaks volumes in itself about the approach the UK government has taken. They have yet to publish modeling and impact assessment of that nature of their own.

The modeling that we published yesterday shows very clearly that, although all forms of Brexit are likely to harm our economy in some way – for example reducing our exports to the UK’s largest market but also by extension reduce our productivity and over the longer term restrict our ability to attract talent to our country. So all of our future options will do some damage to our economy. There is no doubt that harder brexit will cause significantly greater damage. Our modelling looks at what are, probably the only three realistic options when the UK leaves the EU for the future relationship. They are the so called no deal option where the UK reverts to World Trade Organisation terms. Secondly, there’s the option which the UK government says is its favoured option – the negotiation of a free trade agreement, perhaps similar to the one with Canada with bits added on to it. Or thirdly, Single Market and Customs Union membership.

What the evidence we publised yesterday shows is that the no deal outcome will cost our economy by 2030 around £2300 per head of population, compared to what our economy would do if we stayed in the EU. With a free trade agreement the loss in GDP will be around £1600 per head. And if we stay in the single market, that loss will be around £700 per head.

So, there is no cost free option to leaving the EU – but staying in the single market minimises the damage and that surely must be a priority for all of us.

There is also, in addition to the economic argument, to my mind, a fundamental democratic point here. The EU referendum gave no clear mandate for leaving the single market – in fact, during the campaign leave campaigners were often very confused among themselves about this issue of the Single Market.

So the idea that leaving the EU requires us to leave the Single Market is simply an assertion. It is an interpretation of the referendum result, I don’t think it is more than that.

And actually, given the closeness of the EU referendum result across the UK –
And indeed the fact that two of the four nations in the UK actually voted to stay in the EU – surely a soft brexit, rather than a hard Brexit, should be the default position?

Single market membership isn’t just the best way of minimising the economic harm of Brexit; it is the obvious democratic compromise in a UK where opinion on this issue is deeply divided.

So my priority for the year ahead in terms of trying to influence the UK’s approach to this is to make the case for Single Market and Customs Union membership.

I believe that is a position which can and should command majority support both across the country and in the UK parliament. As First Minister and as leader of my party, I will try to work with anyone and everyone – across the political spectrum and across the UK generally – to contribute towards what I think is not the best option for the UK but the least worst option if the UK is intent on leaving the EU.

The duty to proceed in a way that respects the views of all parts of the UK is also relevant to the current debate over the EU Withdrawal Bill. That bill is back in the House of Commons this evening before it goes next to the House of Lords.

That bill is important – it is a highly technical piece of legislation but it is an important one. It is currently the subject of discussions between the devolved governments and the UK Government. Both the Welsh and the Scottish governments have indicated that in its current form we couldn’t recommend to our respective parliaments that they approve that bill. It is subject to the legislative consent process.

Now I should be clear that we as the Scottish Government, although we oppose Brexit, we accept the basic intention behind the bill. If the UK is to leave the EU, no matter how regrettable that is, there has to be a legal mechanism which allows EU law to be carried over into English and Scottish law at the point of Brexit.

However, the way in which the UK Government has chosen to enact the bill runs completely counter to the basic principles of devolution. In particular, clause 11 of the bill prevents the Scottish Parliament, post Brexit, from making any changes to devolved areas, such as justice or agriculture, if those changes would not have previously been allowed under EU law. However, it allows the UK Government to make changes in these areas. So effectively, the bill as it stands, gives the UK Government complete freedom to legislate in areas currently devolved to the Scottish Parliament without first getting the consent of the Scottish Parliament.

These provisions are hugely problematic. On a practical level, they massively increase the complexity of the devolution settlement. For example as the EU’s own rules evolve and change, it will create an ongoing uncertainty about what the Scottish Parliament is and isn’t allowed to do in devolved areas.

But more fundamentally than that, they undermine a basic principle of devolution – the whole principle underpinning the Scotland Act that is the the foundation legislation of the Scottish Parliament is that all policy matters are devolved to Scotland unless they are specifically reserved under the Scotland Act. Effectively it is saying that in these matters that are repatriated, everything is reserved unless the UK government in future decides to devolve them. That is why Professor Nicola McEwen, of the Centre on Constitutional Change, said a few months ago – “Clause 11 cuts across the existing devolution settlements. UK government ministers… do not seem to get this.”

Just last week the Scottish Parliament’s Finance and Legislation Committee unanimously recommended that consent should not be granted to the EU Withdrawal bill in its current form. It’s worth repeating that point – all parties agreed that consent should not be granted. It’s fair to say that Scottish political parties don’t often come together and unite on constitutional questions – so that gives some idea of the scale of the UK Government’s achievement here!

It was actually in my speech to the David Hume Institute this time last year that I first raised this prospect, this concern that the Scottish Government had. This process of Brexit was going to result in a power grab – I remember making that speech and lots of the commentary from other political parties and media was that was nonsense and I was scaremongering. Here we are a year on and there is unanimous opinion in the Scottish Parliament that that is in fact what that bill represents.

So we have work to do if we are to protect the principles of devolution to change that bill before it passes. We were promised UK Government’s amendments would have been lodged by this stage. I think all parties have been unanimous in their disappointment that has not happened. In fact there won’t be amendments lodged before the House of Commons – the amendments will have to be lodged in the House of Lords which actually raises its own democratic issues. On a matter of such fundamental importance to devolution and the principles underpinning it, it will be the House of Lords that has to decide on these amendments.

I hope we can reach a settlement and an agreement on this and we are still working hard to do that. But I think it is fair to say that while there is still the prospect of reaching agreement, and we will continue to do what we can to deliver that, the prospects are reducing rather than increasing.

As a result, the Scottish Government – with some regret – has been required to prepare our own EU Continuity Bill. It means that even if we cannot reach an agreement on the UK’s withdrawal bill, Scottish legislation will be able to protect Scotland’s laws from disruption caused by Brexit. That is not our preferred way forward. There is an argument that this legislation should be done UK wide but we cannot allow it to be done in such a way that it fundamentally undermines the very principles our parliament is built. So I hope we will reach agreement but we are prepared for the eventuality in which we don’t.

The challenges posed by Brexit – and they are many and varied – are at least in part best met by a further devolution of powers thoughout the UK, not a further centralisation of powers. The Scottish Parliament would benefit in particular from further powers over immigration, welfare, trade, employment and employability. But in particular, given some of the challenges we face, the Scottish Parliament would benefit hugely and Scotland would benefit hugely with greater powers and greater flexibility over migration.

Migration is the issue I want to focus on for the rest of my speech this evening – since it was so central to the EU referendum debate, but more importantly, it’s an area where Scotland’s needs and requirements are actually very different from the rest of the UK that the case for a different approach here is, to my mind, overwhelming. Not uncontroversial, but overwhelming in face of the evidence. I say not uncontroversial because I am aware – and John curtice produced very interesting research on this last week – that there isn’t yet a clear public consensus behind having a distinct migration policy in Scotland.

Add to that, the fact immigration is not an easy issue for politicians to be talking about.

But, given some of the stark projections that I am about to talk about, I believe really strongly there is a duty on us – on politicians across the UK, and particulary here in Scotland – both to spell out the importance of being able to attract skills and talent from other countries and also to provide evidence and reassurance where it is needed about the benefits that migration brings to our economy and our wider society.

I thin there is a pressing need for all of us to try and change the narrative around immigration and free movement. When the impact of ending free movement within the EU is discussed, a lot of the focus tends to be on the immediate consequences for specific sectors of our economy. That’s very understandable. For many core public services, and key sectors for our economy, EU migration is absolutely crucial.

More than half of the people who work in food processing industry are EU citizens; so are more than a quarter of our higher education researchers, and almost a tenth of the workers in our tourism sector.

The potential consequences of reduced migration to those sectors are very important. And they are certainly one reason – among many – why I have been so determined, ever since the referendum, to ensure the rights of EU citizens are given priority and protected, and that EU citizens know that Scotland welcomes the contribution they make here and we want them to stay and to keep making that contribution.

I want to focus today on an issue which transcends the immediate consequences of Brexit on specific sectors and talk instead about the consequences of any restriction in our ability to attract skills and talent here for our overall population level and economic prospects well into the future.

The figures here are stark. They should make all of us sit up and take notice. If you look at population projections for the UK as a whole, over the next 25 years, three fifths of the predicted population increase for the UK is projected to come from immigration, and two fifths is projected to come from natural change – births will outnumber deaths.

In Scotland though that is not the picture. All of our projected population growth is estimated to come from inward migration. Births are not expected to outnumber deaths in any of the next 25 years.

So without inward migration, our population will start to fall rather than rise. So we need to think seriously about this in terms of our prospects for the future. If we wee our population, particularly our working age population, decline at a time we know people are living longer so our pensioner population is growing, then we will see that affect our overall economic growth. We will see it have an impact on our living standards. We will see the number of people in the workforce decline – that will make it more difficult to fund our public services. Actually the Scottish Fiscal Commission pointed to this as a real concern in their economic and fiscal forecasts last month. They’ve predicted reduced income tax receipts as a direct consequence of less immigration and a lower working age population is something that we need to think about.

Now, there is evidence that support for parents can increase the birth rate. So the package of policies which we’re adopting with the aim of making this the best country in the world to grow up in are important – all of that in time could lead to a higher birth rate. But that isn’t certain, and of course it takes around two decades before an increased rate of childbirth leads to an increased size of workforce. So in the short and medium term, and probably in the long term, we have a significantly greater need for migration in Scotland than the rest of the UK.

This isn’t a new issue. This was an issue faced at the outset of the Scottish Parliament and it was an issue that was recognised very expressly in those early days. That’s why the previous Labour – Liberal Democrat administration – with cross-party support at the time – worked to introduce the Fresh Talent initiative in Scotland. It allowed people to stay and work in Scotland for up to two years after they had finished studying even when they weren’t allowed to do that in the rest of the UK.

However the Fresh Talent initiative – perhaps because of its success – was then included within the wider UK immigration system. And when the UK Government decided to restrict immigration in 2012, they ended the post-study work visa – because it was by then a UK policy and that meant it ended in Scotland as well.

I think that Fresh Talent is worth mentioning because it is a good example of how sensible, practical, proportionate immigration policies have been enabled in order to allow us to address a particular problem

And Fresh Talent is important for another reason because it demonstrates that it is possible – that a distinctive immigration policy, which is often thought to be something that is completely unworkable in Scotland has actually, on a relatively small scale, has been demonstrated to be possible and to work in the past.
We also know differentiated migration policies work in other countries. If you take Australia as an example, different states have discretion to set different immigration standards and requirements. South Australia has its own immigration office. The same is true in Canada. And in Switzerland, cantons have the autonomy to run their own immigration systems.

So it’s not surprising that three years ago, the Smith Commission – whose recommendations were signed off by all parties – recommended the reintroduction of the post-study work visa.

That has not been implemented yet, and there are no plans on the part of the UK government at this stage to do it. But I think these things have to be looked at again if we are to address these real challenges that we face.

That’s why the Scottish Government will soon publish proposals for powers over immigration to be devolved. The reintroduction of the post-work study visa is one of those proposals.

We also argue that students in Scotland should not count within the UK’s targets and will argue for a more distinctive approach on family migration. We believe that it is counterproductive to restrict the ability of British citizens to bring family members home. So these are concrete proposals we’ll put forward in the near future and I hope they meet with a constructive attitude.

The last point I want to make here, is this argument for a distinctive immigration policy, which, although it is meant to address a distinctive challenge we face, also I suppose is a recognition that the debate about Scotland’s place in Europe isn’t simply about trade rules and regulations – important though they are. It’s fundamentally a debate about who we are, about what sort of country we are and what kind of country we aspire to be in the future. It is so important for us in these crucial months that lie ahead to do everything we can to ensure that we remain an inclusive, welcoming, outward-looking country – a country which is determined to continue to contribute to the world in which we live, but one which is also open to new people and new ideas. We want to attact to our shores the best talent from anywhere in the world.

I began this speech by mentioning David Cameron’s Bloomberg speech five years ago. 2018 also, of course, sees the 20th anniversary of the Scotland Act’s passage through the UK parliament.

And so twenty years ago last week, that bill was being debated on the floor of the House of Commons. Donald Dewar, introducing that debate, made several remarks which turned out to be prescient. He described the Scottish Parliament as offering “a new dimension” to Scotland’s representation in Europe.

We must be determined throughout this year, throughout the twists and turns the year will take, to do everything we can to maintain and strengthen that voice and that role in Europe and the wider world. That’s why arguing at least for us to remain in the Single Market and Customs Union is important for economic and for wider reasons. But it is also why it is so important that we don’t allow the devolution settlement to be undermined; and it is why it is also important that we seek the new powers for immigration or in other areas that allow us in Scotland to retain and to build and to enhance that place in Europe and the world.

2018 provides a lot of challenges but it also provides a lot of opportunity – as the realities of Brexit finally have to be confronted – to build support for these measures, not simply in Scotland, but across the UK. Because if we do build that support and that consensus we’ll minimise the economic harms of Brexit but we’ll also be able to safeguard Scotland’s place as a good global citizen. And in doing that, I think we’ll bring benefits, not just to Scotland, but to people right across the UK. That is what I hope we can achieve in the year ahead to make sure the future for our country remains a bright, open and welcoming one.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon David Hume Institute 16 January 2018

Source: Scotland after Brexit

(You can listen to the speech by clicking here)

Single Market Essential For Scotland

New economic impact analysis by the Scottish Government confirms that in the event of Brexit taking place, the best way to protect the economy would be to remain in the Single Market and the Customs Union.

A failure to remain in the Single Market or to secure a free trade agreement would see Scotland’s GDP around £12.7 billion lower by 2030 than it would be under continued EU membership.

This would mean a loss equivalent to £2,300 per year for each person in Scotland.

The analysis takes account of the impact on trade, productivity and migration of different future relationships. It shows that a so called ‘Canada-type’ deal with the EU would still leave Scotland’s GDP £9 billion lower by 2030 – or £1,610 per head.

Other key findings include:

Remaining within the Single Market could see an additional benefit to Scotland’s economy if the EU makes progress on completing the Single Market in services, energy and the digital economy
Continued migration from the EU in line with Freedom of Movement is required to support continued economic growth, with each additional EU citizen working in Scotland currently contributing an average of £10,400 in tax revenue
Any relationship with the EU short of remaining in the Single Market could have a significant impact on social protections, environmental and consumer policies
Publishing the new analysis Scotland’s Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“By insisting on hard-line pre-conditions the UK Government is itself closing the doors on what can be achieved in talks with the EU on the future relationship.

“The aim of the Scottish Government, and the evidence presented in this paper, is to start opening those doors again.

“For the sake of jobs, the economy and the next generation, today we are calling on the UK Government to drop its hard Brexit red-lines so that Scotland and the UK can stay inside the Single Market and Customs Union.

“Scotland is particularly well-placed to take advantage of the developing and deepening Single Market – the world’s biggest economy of 500 million people, eight times the size of the UK.

“Our brilliant world-class universities, our unrivalled potential in renewable energy, our life sciences industry, our digital sector and other key areas of the Scottish economy are all in prime position to reap the rewards of these developments.

“That will mean more jobs and higher wages. It would be a tragedy for future generations if we let that opportunity pass us by.

“The fact that the Prime Minister wants to leave not only the political structures of the EU but come out of the European Economic Area shows just how extreme the UK Government position is. With just weeks to go before the opening of talks on the future relationship that extreme stance must be dropped.”

Minister for Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe Michael Russell said:

“People in Scotland voted decisively to remain in the European Union and we continue to believe this is the best option for Scotland and the UK as a whole. Short of EU membership, the Scottish Government believes the UK and Scotland must stay inside the Single Market and Customs Union.

“The decisions taken in the next few months will be crucial for jobs, wages and opportunities for generations to come and it is vital that the Scottish Government are properly engaged in these decisions.”

 

Read the full analysis paper here;

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Jobs and living standards must come first.

Source: Analysis shows Single Market essential for Scotland

Keeping Scotland in Europe

“Next few months are a window of opportunity” says First Minister.

Source: Keeping Scotland in Europe

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said today that the first few months of 2018 are a window of opportunity for all those working to protect Scotland’s place in Europe and particularly our membership of the European Single Market.

The First Minister said the Scottish Government will this month publish an analysis of the economic impact of each of the likely post-Brexit trade options facing the UK. The analysis will be included in a forthcoming paper from the government on Scotland’s future relationship with Europe.

Ms Sturgeon said talks on the UK’s future relationship with the EU are expected to start at the end of March.

The First Minister said:

“The UK Government had to give up on all of its hard-line positions in phase one of the talks which ended in December. That shows that they can and should be forced to adopt a more sensible approach going into the next stage.

“The Scottish Government believes that continued membership of the EU is the best option for Scotland and the rest of the UK. However, if the UK Government is intent on Brexit, it must ensure that the damage to our society and economy is minimised. Quite simply, that means staying in the European Single Market.

“Now is therefore the time for all those determined to keep Scotland and the UK in the Single Market – the world’s richest marketplace, of 500 million people – to speak up and work together. These next few months are a window of opportunity.

“The Scottish Government will shortly set out the realistic options facing the UK outside the EU – reverting to World Trade Organisation rules, a basic free trade deal or remaining within the Single Market and Customs Union.

“We will detail the impact each will have on incomes, economic growth,  investment, productivity and other economic measures that will determine our prosperity.

“Over the coming months we will also set out the new opportunities for Scotland if we stay inside the developing Single Market and Customs Union, and why it is essential that we have the ability to continue to attract workers to Scotland.

“The decisions taken in the next few months will be crucial for jobs, wages and opportunities for future generations.”

SCOTS ONLINE SHOPPERS PAYING ADDITIONAL £36.3M FOR PARCEL DELIVERIES REVEALS LOCHHEAD

SNP MSP Richard Lochhead launched his Fair Delivery Charges website last month after first raising the issue at First Minster’s Questions in December 2016 that brought the issue to national attention.

The campaign website has so far received over 2,000 submissions from the public and has highlighted examples of absurd surcharges that are too often levied on Scottish consumers.

The Advertising Standards Authority agreed to crackdown on firms that, despite advertising UK-wide delivery, penalise residents and businesses in rural Scotland with extortionate delivery surcharges, following a meeting with Richard Lochhead MSP last week. Scottish and UK Ministers have also agreed to investigate the cases highlighted by the campaign.

Richard Lochhead MSP said:

“It is absolutely astonishing that online shoppers in Scotland are having to spend an estimated additional £36.3 million each year on parcel delivery surcharges compared to the rest of the UK simply because of where they live.

“This Christmas will be more expensive for many Scots online shoppers because of parcel delivery surcharges that are applied without any justification to many northern postcodes. Many retailers deliver free or for a modest cost but others apply eye watering surcharges amounting to a whopping £36.3 million in extra costs.

“So far, my campaign has led to the UK Government agreeing to review rip-off surcharges and inspired action from the Advertising Standards Authority to crackdown on the firms that are charging extortionate delivery fees for residents and businesses in rural Scotland.

“One of the latest examples of rip-off surcharges is a £500 delivery fee to the Hebrides for Amazon items costing £85, and this is just one of many ridiculous examples of excessive delivery surcharges.

“Rural Scotland is home to some of the most loyal online shoppers and in the run up to Christmas I will continue campaigning and piling the pressure on retailers to end the rip-off surcharge facing too many Scottish consumers.

“This new research vindicates a campaign that has caught the public imagination and won support across Scotland and the political spectrum. It’s now time for the authorities to act and for every retailer to review its delivery charges and to stop discriminating against many parts of Scotland.”

Source: SCOTS ONLINE SHOPPERS PAYING ADDITIONAL £36.3M FOR PARCEL DELIVERIES REVEALS LOCHHEAD

Investing In The Future. #Childcare #ScotBudget

A child’s early years are critical to determining outcomes in later life. This budget sees a step-change in the funding for the transformational expansion in childcare and early years’ education, with investment of £243 million towards providing 1,140 hours of childcare per year.

It also provides £8 million to fund the Baby Box, giving every child born in Scotland the same everyday essentials that they need.


2018 is Scotland’s Year of Young People and the Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that Scotland is the best place in the world to grow up. This is why a £50 million Tackling Child Poverty Fund is being established to trial innovative programmes that address the underlying social and economic causes of poverty. A new enhanced Best Start Grant will replace the current Sure Start Maternity Grant to be delivered by summer 2019.

‘World’s biggest sleepout’ raises £3.6m for homeless

About 8000 people spent the night in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens on Saturday.

Source: ‘World’s biggest sleepout’ raises £3.6m for homeless

About 8000 people spent the night in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens on Saturday.

Sleepout: Thousands joined event in Edinburgh.
Sleepout: Thousands joined event in Edinburgh. Stewart Attwood

At least £3.6m has been raised for the homeless in Scotland by 8000 people who slept outside overnight in freezing conditions.

The event in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens on Saturday was described as “the world’s biggest sleepout”.

Stars signed up to perform at the event included Liam Gallagher and Frightened Rabbit, while John Cleese performed a bedtime story and Bob Geldof joined sleepers.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney, housing Minister Kevin Stewart and communities secretary Angela Constance and also spent the night in the gardens.

Organiser Josh Littlejohn said he was “humbled” by the support.

Mr Littlejohn, co-founder of the sandwich shop Social Bite, which raises money for the homeless, said: “Tonight was the night when people from all walks of life came together in Scotland, to stick up for the most vulnerable people among us.

“There are 11,000 homeless households in Scotland. When I think about all of the amazing different people, sleeping in this garden tonight, the one thing that strikes me about these statistics of homelessness is that they are not insurmountable.

“Scotland is a small enough country, a compassionate enough country and a collaborative enough country where nobody has to be homeless here.

“If we put our heads together, we can wipe out homelessness in five years.”

Mr Littlejohn said he hoped the event would lead to a structural change in homelessness in Scotland to the Housing First model, following pledges that around 475 homes for homeless people will be provided across the central belt by the EdIndex Partnership and Wheatley Group.

He said: “That’s almost 500 homes in the central belt alone that have been offered and that’s going to get people out of sleeping rough, out of hostels and out of the homeless system and give something that we all take for granted, which is a stable place to call home.”

He said the charity would fund a support package for those in the new homes and it has already donated £25,000 of sleepout cash to fund extra capacity at a winter care shelter.

Fundraising is open until Christmas Eve and donations can be made online.

Scotland’s public forests ‘at risk’ from management shake-up

The Scottish Government has been discussing plans for an overall reorganisation of forestry as full responsibility is devolved by Westminster. Ministers want to make FCS a dedicated division within government and turn FES into a new agency called Forestry and Land Scotland.

Full article below

Wildlife, walking and woodland attractions are under threat from plans by Scotland’s largest public landowner to slash specialist staff.

 

Source: Scotland’s public forests ‘at risk’ from management shake-up

Ian Blackford Responds To The Budget

Thank you Mr Speaker

Let me welcome the removal of VAT on police and fire services in Scotland.

It is though a disgrace that we have had £140 million taken out of frontline spending by the Tory Government ahead of this announcement.

VAT should never have been charged on police and fire services in Scotland.

The blame for that lies solely with this Tory Government.

The SNP have spoken out here and in Holyrood 140 times before the Government here finally saw sense.

What about the £140 million that has been paid? The Chancellor has confirmed today what we knew all along, it was a political choice to charge VAT on our emergency services.

He has accepted today that was wrong, but I am calling on the Chancellor today to refund VAT charged for the last three years.

The Chancellor has painted a picture of a strong economy, ready for the impending economic disaster of Brexit.

We all have to wonder, Mr Speaker, just what planet he is on.

Most workers are seeing a decline in their living standards and have done since the financial crisis.

We are living through the worst decade for wage growth in 210 years.

Young people are going to be poorer than their parents.

Housing has become unaffordable for many.

The austerity economic model has failed millions, the Prime Minister alluded to this when she talked about those just about managing.

Today’s budget was an opportunity to address these challenges and make this a budget for people and prosperity.

The reality is there is nothing in this budget that deals with the challenges we face.

We have the impending UK exit from Europe.

We know the government is preparing for a no deal.

Yet the Chancellor made no mention of how the economy is ready to cope with that.

The cliff edge is before us and the Chancellor sits transfixed, unable or incapable of rising to the challenge.

No doubt the Chancellor recognises the economic self-harm that comes with leaving the single market and the customs union but he has failed to act.

Why, because the Brexiters have set the agenda for this Government and the Chancellor is without the authority to challenge the madness.

The Chancellor like his Government is in office – but not in power.

We know the Prime Minister has to present a financial settlement to the EU27 over the coming days, yet there was no mention of that in the statement.

This government has to take its head out of the sand and accept that the future indicates the likelihood of significant economic self-harm.

Before the winds of Brexit hit us, the starting position for millions of people is that by then they will have already been struggling with nine years of austerity.

The cuts being imposed on public services meaning that service delivery is being impacted and public service workers in particular are feeling the squeeze.

This is a budget that shows the chancellor is either blind to what is going on or that he is behaving like a frightened rabbit caught in the headlights.

Either way, people are going to pay a price for the lack of leadership.

This Government, that used to speak of the empty rhetoric of long term economic planning, has failed to provide a vision and has no plan for delivering prosperity.

The long term economic plan has given way to no plan.

Scratch the surface of the economy and you see a structure barely coping with the state of society.

A structure that is so unfairly built in the favour of the wealthy, we have created a situation where we have the worst wage growth in 200 years and the IFS tell us an additional 400,000 children will be in “absolute poverty” within six years due to benefits cuts.

The case is Mr Speaker that working people are paying the price for this government’s ideological obsession with austerity.

Make no mistake it is an ideological obsession.

Effective stewardship of our economy has to recognise the importance of fiscal and monetary policy working in tandem to create the circumstances of sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

Any disconnect leads to a failure to deliver an economy that works for all which is precisely what is happening.

A failure to deliver a budget for prosperity hits all workers, in particular those in the public sector.

In September, the Scottish government became the first in the UK to announce it will scrap the public sector pay cap.

Our nurses, teachers, police officers and firefighters deserve a fairer deal for the future. Future pay rises will be based on the cost of living and today the Chancellor betrayed public sector workers by refusing to fund a fair pay rise.

But it’s not just the squeeze on pay which is leaving low earners struggling to get by.

This UK Government’s social security cuts are specifically designed to remove the welfare state.

The SNP will never accept this ideological attack on the most vulnerable in our society.

The damaging and destructive universal credit system must be halted and fixed.

The system is not only flawed but causing severe societal damage.

The Scottish Government asked the UK government in March, and again in September to halt the roll out of universal credit and fix the system.

The disastrous inbuilt delay of 6 weeks wait for the first payment is resulting in significant financial hardship for families.

The SNP today urges the government, not only to reduce the waiting time for first payment from 6 weeks to a maximum of 4 weeks, but to go further and move to twice monthly payments to ease budget constraints and reverse the cuts in work allowances.

That should just be the start of reforms required to universal credit.

We also call on the Chancellor to scrap the two child policy and immoral rape clause.

According to the IFS, the two child cap on tax credits will mean around 600,000 three-child families lose £2,500 a year on average, and 300,000 families with four or more children lose £7,000 a year on average.

Most affected families are in work.

There is nothing in this budget for the woman born in the 1950’s who are seeing a rise in pensionable age of six years without proper notice, depriving millions of a pension they are entitled to.

Time and again the Government has been asked to slow down the current rate of increase in womans pensionable age which is increasing at three months for each calendar month just now.

Either the chancellor decides to act now in delivering fairness to 1950’s WASPI women or he will find that Parliament will do it for him.

There is a private members bill calling for mitigation to be put in place for 1950’s woman.

Let me say to the Government, recognise the cross party nature of this bill and act or face defeat.

Whilst the Tories attack on benefits pushes more families into poverty, the financial squeeze on household incomes continues as Brexit bites.

Today inflation sits at 3%.

Prices are rising at a faster rate than wages.

The Resolution Foundation has calculated 3% inflation combined with the benefit freeze will impact 7.3m children, 2.4m disabled people and 0.8m people looking for work.

Let me just tell the Chancellor what life is like outside the gilded rooms of Whitehall.

Electricity bills have increased 9% in price.
Children’s clothing has increased 6.7% in price.
Butter has increased 12% in price.
Travel by bus and coach has increased 13%, road 8% and train 3.4%.
Transport insurance has increased 12.6%
Motor vehicle insurance 13.0%
Travel insurance 10.1%
Whilst inflation is making the cost of a weekly shop soar, real wages are falling.

The rise in inflation and squeeze on wages is creating a crisis for low income earners.

Between 2010 and 2016, official GDP per employee had risen by 3.5%, yet real wages are 1.1% lower when adjusted for consumer price inflation.

If inflation is calculated to include housing costs, real wages are down 7.2%.

The collapse in UK productivity growth has driven low growth and stagnant wages.

But whilst many of my constituents and families across the UK are relying on credit cards to put food on the table, a different story is unfolding in the City.

Under this Tory government boardroom pay has soared.

From 2010 to 2016 the average remuneration for FTSE100 CEO’s almost doubled.

The average remuneration of an Executive Director has doubled from £1.5million to £3.1million.

The inequality goes deeper.

European Commission figures revealed the UK had the biggest increase in the EU’s gender pay gap in 2015.

The difference in average hourly pay for male and female workers jumped from 19.7% in 2014 to 20.8% in 2015.

This means in effect that woman are working unpaid for more than two months a year in comparison to men.

This government has not only driven thousands into poverty, it has completely failed to invest in building an inclusive economy fit for future generations.

The legacy this Chancellor leaves is an economy that only works for the rich and reckless.

We needed a Government that would create the circumstances to deliver inclusive, sustainable economic growth, one that would encourage investment, enhance innovation and drive up productivity and living standards.

One that recognises monetary and fiscal policy have to work in unison.

What we have had is a focus on monetary policy that has driven up house prices and stocks and shares but has failed to drive investment in the real economy.

Back in 2009, quantitative easing was an obvious choice to be part of restoring confidence and growth provided it was matched with fiscal measures, particularly investing in our infrastructure, building capacity in our economy with a focus on investment to improve efficiency.

A chance to invest in the economy to kick start growth and productivity.

But under the steer of this government it was invested to benefit the wealthy and in the end has done nothing but exacerbate the gap in the UK between the rich and poor.

Even the Bank of England has recognised the negative effects caused by this policy.

In 2012 they said that although Quantitative Easing had increased asset prices, this had disproportionally benefitted the top 5% of households.

Standard and Poors argued last year that inflating asset prices had exacerbated the gap between rich and poor.

They found that the wealthiest 10% of households held 56% of all net financial assets in 2008.

By 2014 the proportion of the nation’s wealth in the hands of this group had risen to 65%. It’s easy to see why the Tories don’t want to change this policy.

Reducing inequality has never been one of their aims.

The evidence is stark that Quantitative Easing has mostly benefitted those who started with considerable wealth.

The FTSE 100 was sitting at 3805 on the 18th March 2009. Last night the market closed at 7411, growth of 95% in just over eight years.

The Government has stuffed cash into the pockets of the wealthy whilst ordinary folk paid the price of austerity.

The cry that there is no money flies in the face of the Government’s own agenda.

A further £70 billion was invested in QE after the Brexit vote taking the programme to £435 billion.

That is £435 billion onto our debt with no plan as to how this will be repaid.

We could have invested in our infrastructure, investing for example in housing, dealing with the demand for housing and dampening the rise in house prices to affordable levels as one example.

Investing in connectivity, in transport and in digital, to allow all our citizens and businesses to compete effectively and not caught in the slow lane of transport snarl ups or fighting to get decent broadband or mobile connection.

This investment in our people and infrastructure would have grown the economy, grown tax receipts and allowed us to cut the deficit.

There would have been a pay back. They could have supported business at the same time as supporting people.

Don’t tell us that there is no money when you can invest an additional £70 billion in QE at a drop of a hat.

Take proper responsibility for creating the circumstances for inclusive growth and prosperity.

Taking responsibility, is something this Government does not do.

£6.9 billion is lost to our schools and hospitals, every year, because this government has failed to tackle aggressive tax avoidance and tax evasion.

They’ve chosen to cut public services in order to protect the super-rich. On tax, the Tories are the party of the super-rich.

This needs to change. So, I am calling on the Government to take tough new action to ensure the richest in society and the biggest corporations pay the taxes they owe in full.

And if you won’t take the action required, then devolve the powers needed to tackle the issue to the Scottish Parliament.

When I asked the chancellor last month on any assessment he has made on the inter-relationship between monetary and fiscal policy the answer I got was that monetary policy was the responsibility of the Bank of England.

There was no regard for a link between the two.

It is left to the Bank of England to shine a light on the failure of the chancellor to engage in joined up thinking.

In written evidence to the Treasury Select Committee, the Bank of England admitted that the steep rise in house prices in the decade preceding the crisis, together with the fall in longer-term interest rates, has led to “a sharp rise in the inter-generational dispersion of wealth, benefiting in particular older people who had already entered the market before prices began to rise”.

This government has avoided every opportunity to invest in young people.

What hope do millennials have to cling on to?

Robbed of their housing allowance, lumbered with chronic student debt – this government has gone out of its way to avoid investing in future generations.

The intergenerational wealth unfairness is creating the perfect storm for future generations.

Research from the Resolution Foundation shows today’s 27 year olds are earning the same amount that 27year olds did a quarter of a century ago.

A typical millennial has actually earned £8,000 less during their twenties than those in the preceding generation.

We have missed chance after chance to invest in inclusive growth opportunities.

The government has been the proverbial one club golfer relying on monetary measures but in a vacuum.

Even the IFS has warned the Chancellor on his calculations.

First of all we had George Osborne proclaim he wanted to balance the books by 2015. That didn’t happen.

Now the current Chancellor wants to eliminate borrowing by the mid-2020s.

But with Brexit set to hit the economy, even the IFS has called on him to abandon his fanciful fiscal targets.

There is more uncertainty on forecasts now than ever before.

The Chancellor himself told the Treasury Committee a “cloud of uncertainty is acting as a temporary damper, and we need to remove it as soon as possible”.

Well Mr Speaker, I’m in a giving mood today.

I’ll give the Chancellor a bit of fundamental economic advice.

End the suicidal flirtation with a no deal scenario, give business something to invest in and work on keeping the UK in the single market.

The stupidity and recklessness of some of the front bench who rode around in that famous red bus has to be the most damaging economic pledge in modern history.

£350million a week for the NHS they said.

They are silent on that now.

Well, the Foreign Secretary and Environment Secretary should listen up because here are some home truths about the mess they created.

The Bank of England have confirmed 75,000 jobs are at risk in the financial sector due to Brexit.

The LSE has revealed Scotland’s towns and cities could lose up to £30billion over five years.

Fraser of Allander revealed Brexit would cost Scotland up to 80,000 jobs and see wages fall by £2,000 a head per year.

Now the Chancellor is planning for a ‘no deal’.

A complete catastrophe which is unfolding under his watch.

He knows how devastating such a path would be for the UK economy.

He’s given departments £213 million to carry out work in preparation.

To put that into context for you all, that would pay for 11,553 new starter nurses, teachers or police officers.

But it’s not just the spending to fund Brexit that is costing communities.

Leaving the EU will cut off the financial social funds we have benefited from for so long.

This will be devastating for communities where poverty and destitution at the hands of the Tories austerity policies have seen volunteers pick up the pieces.

Although, as the UK haemorrhages EU-funding and the Chancellor proclaims austerity is essential to save, he did manage to find £1billion for the DUP.

Quite remarkable, Mr Speaker.

You see, the Chancellor found £1billion for devolved areas in the Northern Irish Executive to spend, but there were no additional funds being provided to Scotland or any other part of the UK.

Cash for votes. Not very honourable at all.

And what use are – the Scottish Conservative benches – who pledged to work as a bloc to protect Scotland’s interests.

Well, this was your chance to shine.

A golden opportunity to show you were prepared to put politics aside and stand up for Scotland.

But no, party loyalty prevailed and now Scotland is being overlooked in this dodgy deal.

This money cannot be processed until the discussions have concluded on the appropriateness of the way in which the UK government decided to provide the additional financial support.

The Barnet formula rules mean Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are entitled to an extra £2.9billion and £1.67billion respectively as a result of the deal.

Where were the calls from Scottish Tories for this UK Government to match the deal from Northern Ireland? They have been found wanting.

And year-after-year, the UK government continues to let down our world-class oil and gas industry in the North East of Scotland.

Two years ago the Conservatives boasted the creation of a new oil and gas Ambassador.

It would ‘promote the North Sea around the world and boost inward investment’.

How embarrassing then for the Chancellor that the role – two years later – has not been filled.

It seems the Chancellor and his Cabinet colleagues have simply forgotten about our key North Sea industry once again.

Despite the Chancellor’s tight grip restraining Scotland’s economic potential, the SNP have delivered much progress in government.

International exports are up 41% between 2007 and 2015..
The latest employment figures show Scotland has higher employment rates and lower unemployment rates than the UK.
Youth unemployment rates continue to outperform the UK.
The Scottish Government fulfilled its commitment to reduce youth unemployment by 40%, four years ahead of schedule.
See, that’s how you make fiscal targets.
But it’s not just the ability of the Scottish Government to deliver an inclusive economy that works for all.

It’s their vision for an economy that benefits all.

When the UK government chose the rape clause, the Scottish Government chose the baby box.

When the UK government trebled tuition fees, the Scottish Government maintained the principle of free tuition for all.

When the Conservatives pushed for a dementia tax, the Scottish Government stood by free personal care for the elderly.

We know that an economy is not just a tool for inclusive growth but is central to the social fabric of the society in which we grow up.

It’s time to build an economy that benefits all.

End the damaging austerity agenda and stop the catastrophic ideological obsession with a Brexit ‘no deal’.