Today marks the close of nominations for the Scottish Parliament elections. With the SNP campaign across the country stepping up a gear I am immensely proud of the team of candidates who will represent our party.
The SNP is putting forward a team of candidates who reflect Scotland. Our candidates have experience working in education, nursing, mental health, business and the third sector. And while there is still more to do, we have made real and welcome progress on gender balance – with more women than ever before standing for the party on both the constituency and regional list.
Labour’s election campaign has collapsed in complete disarray as their plans for a tax hike on one million low-paid workers exposes their betrayal of traditional Labour values. The Tories threaten hard working families with taxes on ill health and education. But the SNP team is resolutely focused on taking our positive, ambitious vision for Scotland to people across the country.
From Shetland to the Borders, SNP candidates have a strong track record to stand on – with the NHS budget and staff numbers at a record high, crime at a 41-year low with 1,000 extra police on the streets, our target of delivering 30,000 affordable homes exceeded, and higher employment rates than the rest of the UK. But we will never rest on our laurels – and an SNP Government re-elected for a historic third term will use each and every new power at our disposal to go even further.
That’s why we’ve set out ambitious plans to use the new powers coming to the Scottish Parliament to build on the progress made, by protecting healthcare with increases in the NHS budget each and every year, doubling the number of free hours of early learning and childcare, and increasing funding to tackle the attainment gap in our schools.
While every SNP candidate is aware that the polls currently make good reading – there is not a single one of us who will take even one vote for granted. We will be working harder than ever between now and polling day to make the case for casting both votes for the SNP, to ensure the re-election of a government with a strong track record of delivering for Scotland.
This is a team I will be proud to lead into the election in a few weeks’ time as I seek re-election as our First Minister – a team I am confident will build on the progress we have made in office since 2007 and keep Scotland moving forward.