SUPPORT FOR STUDENTS
I am delighted that with another year of exceptional school exam results, record numbers of Scots have been accepted to universities in the North-east and throughout Scotland.
Despite this fantastic achievement, it is vital that students are aware of the funding available to them and make sure to receive this support in time for the start of term.
With the end of summer looming, around 25,000 students have yet to contact SAAS and I would encourage them to do so as soon as possible.
Whilst Westminster is punishing students south of the border for their aspirations by trebling tuition fees, the SNP Government has abolished fees for Scots and with further assistance from student loans and bursaries, represents the best package of support available in the UK.
Since last year, the Scottish Government has invested a further £2 million to help SAAS process applications quicker.
Nevertheless, I urge all those who are eligible for financial support to apply sooner rather than later in order to secure this.
COUNCIL TAX FREEZE CONTINUES TO PROTECT HOUSEHOLDS
New figures released this week show that household bills have risen by as much as 61% since 2007, with the price of petrol increasing by 44.7% and average food costs by 37.5%.
Median weekly pay has risen by only 9% in the same period with the UK’s performance in this respect amongst the very worst of the EU’s 27 member states.
Despite the reality of rising household costs and drastic cuts to services from Westminster, Council Tax has remained frozen in Scotland and will not increase for the duration of this Parliament.
By contrast, dozens of local authorities across England and Wales have increased Council Tax rates annually, piling additional stress upon already stretched family budgets.
The SNP’s Council Tax freeze is a policy which receives overwhelming support across the country and, as a universal approach, has guaranteed protection and a degree of stability to all households in Scotland.
Similarly, employment statistics continue to show that the approach of the Scottish Government towards economic recover is paying off.
This last quarter saw an increase in the rate of employment to 0.3% to 72.1% compared to an increase of 0.1% for the UK as a whole. Unemployment in Scotland fell to 7.2% compared to the UK figure which remained unchanged on the previous quarter at 7.8%.
Figures likes these continue to prove by comparison that the SNP are the only party with credible policies, made in Scotland with Scotland’s best interests at their heart.
We have the wealth to become a fairer nation, but still lack the powers to comprehensively address some of the more deeply rooted problems. With next year’s referendum comes the opportunity to change this.