5 April 2011

Looking back on the Parliamentary term

The memories of the 2007 election that saw the historic result of a first ever SNP Government elected are likely to always remain fresh for many people. Yet four years have passed and once again elections to the Scottish Parliament are underway.

The Scottish Parliament has gone into dissolution and politicians the length and breadth of the country have hit the campaign trail. It has been an honour to serve as an MSP over the course of the last parliament and there are a number of important achievements over that time which I believe we can be proud of.

The Scottish Government brought an end to the constant rises in council tax which we saw under the previous administration, with a freeze that has lasted for four years now. It has made a real difference to households that lived in fear of the annual rise in council tax they used to see, and has put money back into the pockets of people across the country at a time it was needed most.

We introduced the Small Business Bonus, which abolished or substantially reduced local business rates for 80,000 businesses across Scotland and allowed them to employ 40,000 members of staff. In these difficult times, that support worth thousands of pounds to businesses made the difference between survival and going under. It has been a key part of the Scottish Government’s economic recovery strategy and I strongly believe that the scheme must continue in the next parliament.

In the North East, we approved the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route and an upgrade to the A90 between Balmedie and Tipperty. It is a disappointment that only the selfish legal action of a few protesters has stood in the way of work commencing on the project, but funding for the project was approved in the recently passed budget and I am confident that people in the North East will soon be seeing the benefit of improved journey times in the region.

Funding is also in place to deliver a replacement prison in Peterhead, with planning for the project having been approved. The prison is an important employer in the region and securing its future has been a vital step forward for Banff & Buchan.

The Scottish Government has also renovated or rebuilt 330 schools across Scotland, reducing the number of pupils being taught in schools classified as ‘poor’ or ‘bad’ by 130,000. There is still more to do to reduce that figure further, but there can be no doubt that substantial progress has been made.

The last four years have also seen the delivery of an additional 1,036 police officers across Scotland compared to the time of the last election. They have made a real difference in local communities, helping to drive crime in Scotland to a 32 year low.

Perhaps one of the most significant achievements of all, however, was the abolition of the Graduate Endowment, the back door tuition fee that was introduced by the previous administration. That move re-established the principle of free education in Scotland and the recognition that we all benefit from having a well educated population. Access to education should be based on the ability to learn not the ability to pay and despite these difficult economic times, that is a principle I will always support.

I have been privileged to represent Banff & Buchan for the past four years and I hope that I will again be able to represent people in the redrawn Banffshire & Buchan Coast constituency during the next parliamentary term.

Stewart Stevenson
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