Getting on with the day job

“Getting on with the day job” is a phrase widely bandied about Scottish politics.

It’s a jibe thrown around by opponents who, all too often, use it as a smokescreen to hide their lack of anything to say beyond their own constitutional obsessions.

Well I’m more than happy to outline how the SNP Government has been getting on with the day job.

For a start, tomorrow sees a major milestone in the transformation of our justice system.

We will begin the demolition of Cornton Vale Women’s prison, a move which marks the next stage in our plans to ensure that Scotland’s penal policy doesn’t just punish people who’ve committed crimes – important though that is – but helps deliver safer communities in the long term.

Since 2007 our justice system has been transformed, with huge reductions in reoffending, particularly among young people, a dramatic fall in knife crime and a stronger focus on some of the key challenges we now face like domestic abuse, sexual offences and serious and organised crime.

In other areas – like climate change and energy infrastructure – we have set hugely ambitious targets that have delivered real results.

By setting bold ambitions to increase renewable electricity generation we sparked new investment and opportunities that have created jobs across the country.

And our world-leading climate change target has delivered positive changes in behaviour by individuals and businesses.

Our programme of building a better Scotland has seen over 600 new or improved school buildings, as well as delivering the improved transport links we need between our major cities.

Meanwhile efforts like ending discount deals on alcohol sales have helped to reduce harmful drinking and we have tackled some of our biggest killers, reducing heart disease and stroke.

The transformation of land ownership that began in the early years of the Scottish Parliament has been reinvigorated with new legislation extending right to buy and also through legislation that gives all communities, not just rural ones, the ability to take control of local land, buildings and services.

Later this summer the first new-born infants will receive their Baby Boxes from the national rollout of this scheme connecting parents with vital support for the health and wellbeing of their child.

Those same children will be among the first to benefit from the doubling of free childcare that we are introducing over the next three years – a move that will revolutionise support for parents and ensure all our children get the best possible start in life.

And the reforms we kicked off last month to education, alongside the extra funding we are delivering directly to schools, will help close the attainment gap and drive up standards.

Meanwhile, the Social Security Bill, also introduced last month, will improve our system of benefits by putting dignity as its heart – though we should not forget Westminster still holds most welfare powers.

And of course we continue to use every power we have to boost our economy, which last week was confirmed as growing four times as much as the UK as a whole in the first few months of this year – on top of the record low jobless figures we now have.

All of these things – and much more besides – are about getting on with the day job.

Over the summer I’ll be working hard with my team on the next big challenges we need to solve, the opportunities we can and should seize and the vision that will ensure Scotland continues to not just make progress but to be the best country to live, work and raise a family in.

This article originally appeared in the Daily Record.