Friday 16 October 2009

John Swinney takes the stage

I've just finished listening just to John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth. Conference loves John, and he got a huge welcoming round of applause before he said a word!

John started by describing the actions taken by the Scottish Government to protect jobs and work for economic recovery.

John remarked that even relatively simple things can make a difference - 95.3% of Government bills are now paid in ten days. This responsible action helps businesses by ensuring they're not kept waiting for what they're due.

John also talked about the importance our Government places on the Third sector in Scotland, and how they sit at the heart of recovery and growth. Under the SNP, resources for the third sector are up 37%, and the SNP are supporting moves by voluntary and charitable organisations towards becoming sustainable social enterprises. In addition, third sector organisations can access a £1.7m resiliance fund. John announced that charitable water rates relief will be extended for a further 5 years.

The recent draft budget announcement gave John the opportunity to talk about how Scotland - in contrast to the highly indebted UK Government - must living within our means, setting and implementing a balanced budget and taking difficult decisions. John got a hefty round of applause when he said that "the SNP Government knows how to manage the peoples money".

John also fired a shot across the bows to the opposition parties, recalling last years political games with the budget and saying that they can't play games with Scotland's public services.

The speech was light on attacks on other parties, about which I was glad; I think it's much better to speak of our achievements and say what else we can do. That said, John was clear that the public are right to beware the cuts the Tories will make, but we should not forget the cuts Labour are making to the Scottish budget now.

Through the speech, a theme ran through of the restrictions placed on the Scottish budget through the limitations of devolution. John spoke movingly about the imagination and inspiration of our founders 75 years ago, who confounded the critics who never believed we would achieve people elected, a Scottish Parliament, or a SNP Goverment. I got a wee excited shiver up my spine as John got to the culmination of his speech; next step independence.

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