As Parliament meets for the first time in 2016, Nicola Sturgeon has led a debate reviewing the progress made by the SNP in Government since 2007, and looking ahead to the future.
In the debate, Nicola outlined the SNP Government’s strong record and the firm foundations we have to build on. Scotland’s NHS has a record budget, and our universities are world class and are accessible to more students from deprived backgrounds than in 2007. We have built new colleges, schools, hospitals and health centres in every part of our country, and exceeded our five year target to deliver 30,000 affordable homes.
These achievements have benefited Scotland as a whole, but they have also benefited individuals. The SNP in government has made a positive impact on real people in a number of ways:
- Before the SNP abolished prescription charges, 600,000 families earning as little as £16,000 per year had to pay for their medicines for conditions like asthma. Now, people receive essential medication without financial worries.
- In 2007, just 85% of hospital inpatients and day case patients were seen within a waiting time that was then 18 weeks. Last year, 95% were seen within 12 weeks.
- In 2007, just 45% of school students stayed on until 6th year. Now 62% stay on. We are helping school students stay on by protecting and increasing the Educational Maintenance Allowance at the same time that the UK Government abolished it.
- At the start of 2014, just 4% of households in the Highlands and Islands had access to superfast broadband. By the end of this year, it will be 84%, which will make a major difference to the economic opportunities and quality of life for our rural communities.
In the run up to May’s election, the SNP will set out a range of ambitious plans that will, over the next five years, have the potential to transform our country.
Our most transformational infrastructure investment in the next parliament will not be in a bridge or a road. It will be our investment to transform early years education and childcare.
We will provide parents with 30 hours a week of government funded childcare, enabling them to return to work, to pursue their careers and to know that their children are being well cared for, well-educated and given the best start of life.
We will work to ensure that parents can opt to take their available hours of childcare to better suit their working patterns, for example by taking their childcare hours as full day sessions as well as half days. They will also have the right to spread these hours over the summer holidays as well as term time.
We will also focus on the quality of childcare provided. The SNP Government intends that by 2018, every nursery in Scotland’s most deprived areas would have an additional qualified teacher or childcare practice graduate. We will also create a new standard for child-minders, which will include a training and induction programme to deliver best practice in the profession.
Other measures include:
- Putting education at the front and centre of our plans for the next Parliament, building on the work we are already doing through the Scottish Attainment Challenge.
- Focusing on the needs of older people by continuing the integration of health and social care.
- Making proposals for a fairer and more progressive system of local taxation and setting out plans to use new powers on welfare to create a distinctively Scottish approach to social security.
- Reviewing business rates to ensure that Scotland continues to have a competitive business tax environment, and setting out how we will fairly and progressively use new powers over tax.
- Continuing to boost housebuilding with a commitment to building 50,000 affordable homes by the end of the Parliament, backed by investment of more than £3 billion.