A Better Scotland....
Scotland can be more successful. In the SNP's first four year term, despite the unprecedented challenges, progress has been made. We have record low class sizes, shorter waiting times in our hospitals and crime is at a 32 year low. This is a good start, but it is only a start. There is so much more I want to achieve for our nation. So much more to do to create the sort of country we all know Scotland can be. Now is a time for Scotland to keep moving forward, and if we do, prosperity and opportunity will come.
The economic crisis has caused real hardship for many families and businesses. By stopping increases in the Council tax and reducing other costs for families - like phasing out prescription charges – we have taken steps to ease the pressure. And I know from speaking to small businesses across the country that the Small Business Bonus has saved jobs and helped businesses survive the downturn.
We have firm foundations to build on as we move into a new phase for our nation. Difficult choices are being made and my commitment is that an SNP government will continue to focus resources on jobs and frontline services. We are doing what any family would do when money is tight: we are being much more careful with the money you give us, so we can still do the things that are good for our country and right for our society.
To allow us to do more of these important things and to deliver policies that will make life a little easier or fairer or communities that bit safer, we have cut back on the money we spend running government. Our marketing bill has been cut by 50%, we have frozen the salaries of senior civil servants and we have brought together government agencies to reduce overhead costs and management overlap.
These savings, and others, create the room in our Budget to allow us to protect the services you have told us are most important.
We will continue to protect the concessionary travel scheme, and will continue to protect families via the Council Tax freeze.
As part of our work to secure more jobs for Scotland, we will continue our efforts to bring new job-creating powers to the Scottish Parliament. We will keep pressing for improvements to the current Scotland Bill to bring greater financial responsibility to the Scottish Parliament. This will include responsibility for Corporation Tax and Excise Duty, enhanced borrowing powers and responsibility for the Crown Estate Commission.
We can enhance the Bill and give our nation the freedom it needs to flourish by taking on more responsibilities here in Scotland. The independence we propose for Scotland is exactly for this purpose. It is with independence - the natural state for nations like Scotland - that we will have the ability to determine our own destiny and build the best future for our country.
We, the people of Scotland, have the greatest stake in our future. That is why we are best placed to govern ourselves.