MSP Gil Paterson's speech during the Scottish Budget debate on Thursday, February 23 2017.
This budget delivers on the promises this SNP government was elected on.
This is a budget created by Scotland for Scotland.
Not dictated to us by Westminster.
Of course – Scotland’s finances are still being strangled by the UK Tory Government.
However, we will not bend to their plan of total austerity.
We will not sell off Scotland’s public services.
We will not bow to privatisation.
We will ensure:
This is a solid economic plan.
We all found out yesterday from independent research that Scotland is not the highest taxed part of the United Kingdom.
This destroys complaints from the Tories that this was the case.
SPICe found out that any tax rises are mitigated by the lower council tax in Scotland.
And it is important to mention all council tax will be spent locally.
Nationally, Labour is saying increase tax.
But last night Labour West Dunbartonshire Council voted to freeze the council tax – after years of complaining about this freeze.
We have the business bonus but we also have the social bonus: free further education, free prescriptions and free bus passes, among other benefits exclusive to Scotland.
But I am sad to see the Tories demand a tax reduction for the highest paid.
Should we not maintain the principle, the more you earn the more you return?
Thankfully, there are many higher earners who will gladly contribute their fair share.
The party of the fortunate, whose Westminster cabinet is jam-packed with millionaires.
Presiding Officer, the only purse that matters to me is the public purse.
This Scottish budget protects Scottish services.
We have invested in education.
Funds set to be given to all schools in Clydebank.
But importantly, MORE funding will go to under privileged pupils.
This will help improve the life chances for many young people.
And it will help reduce the attainment gap, as the Government has vowed to do.
The funding increase for universities and colleges is also excellent news.
And as I said, free education will continue.
If the Tories had their way, everyone would have to pay the huge fees seen down south.
But I believe that every person, no matter what their background is, should get a chance for a great education if they so choose it.
The SNP is delivering on its promises.
Presiding officer, poverty scars Scotland.
The problem is historic.
But we are tackling it.
Many of my constituents will benefit from the Scottish Government continuing to mitigate the impact of the hated Bedroom Tax.
Many in my constituency also benefit from the Scottish Welfare Fund.
A fund that will clear up the mess left by the UK Government’s punitive welfare programme.
The wheels are in motion for a new Scottish social security system.
With the powers we will have, we will run welfare with dignity and respect.
Presiding Officer, economic growth is the key to prosperity in Scotland.
With the few tools we have, we are still driving economic growth.
Four billion pounds invested into our infrastructure.
Most of us will have seen the amazing developments taking place.
For example, the motorway projects on the M8 and M74.
The stunning Queensferry Crossing.
And there are many more progressing across the country.
These are all drivers of economic growth and will improve the lives of millions.
This SNP government is building our economy.
In Clydebank, we boast one of the finest heart and lung surgery hospitals in the world.
The Golden Jubilee National Hospital is to receive a multi-million-pound expansion, and 700 new jobs.
Not transfers – brand new jobs into the local economy.
Health and Social Care Partnerships help some of our most vulnerable constituents.
Presiding Officer, this budget is about economic growth, investment in our public services and social justice.
Protecting our most vulnerable from the class war waged by the Tories.
This budget is about making Scotland’s economy prosper.
This budget is about investing in and protecting public services.
I call on all MSPs to show consensus and back this budget.