As both a member of staff with over ten years service and a party member even longer, the last eight months or so have often been difficult with the media developing an acid tongue against us many times.
But yesterday in Scotland we had some exciting news.
Yesterday was the day when the Scottish Parliament approved the budget.
It is a better budget because of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, after securing concessions to the budget on college bursaries and places, modern apprenticeships and support for Post Offices across Scotland.
This is a better budget. It’s better for young people wanting the skills they and we need for our economy. It’s better for our colleges that will be able to provide more opportunities. And it’s better for businesses that will have more opportunities to take on apprentices.
This is a better Scottish budget because of Liberal Democrat involvement.
Students now have additional places at college and bursary support. We have also secured funding for additional modern apprentices and funding for a second year of our Post Office Diversification Fund.
The Scottish Liberal Democrat Budget wins are:
- Additional funding for Further Education bursaries of £15 million, spread across 2010-2011-12 to provide additional student support for current student numbers.
- Additional funding of £8 million in 2011-12 that would support an additional 1,200 college places and associated student support.
- 1,500 additional Modern Apprenticeships, including 500 places for the renewables sector, at a cost of £2 million (an issue Tavish Scott raised at First Minister’s Questions on 9 September 2010).
- 2,000 additional flexible training opportunities.
- Funding of £1 million for the operation of a further Post Office Diversification Scheme in 2011-12.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats have been fighting hard for students and even NUS Scotland are pleased with what we have achieved.
Commenting on the student support package, Liam Burns, President of NUS Scotland, said:
“This is great news and testament to the hard work of thousands of college students across Scotland and the Scottish Liberal Democrats. Students across colleges and universities have mobilised fantastically well, with over 32,000 letters and emails sent to MSP’s on this issue. To win £15m college bursaries, and £8m for college places, in a budget which is being cut is a fantastic result. We hope this will now end the yearly ritual of college bursaries running out and end the threat of cuts to 40,000 of our poorest students.”We also know that Post Offices are often the hub of local communities across Scotland, which is why we are also very pleased that we have secured funding for a second year for our idea of a Post Office Diversification Fund. This benefited fifty Post Offices in the last year and can now benefit more this year. The fund helps post offices introduce new types of business (such as hot food or drinks). It will help them stay open, serving their communities.
Of course, this budget and the changes Tavish and the team have secured will not solve all of the problems that Scotland faces. Our colleges and communities still face enormous challenges. Much will have to wait until after May. Our plans for government envisage a spending review and budget revisions very quickly after the election.
The steps we have secured mean a better budget for Scotland than would have been the case without the Scottish Liberal Democrats.
However, because of their hard work – students gain, the economy gains, employers gain and most importantly Scotland gains.
So, today all in all is a great day to be a Liberal Democrat in Scotland.
This article was written for and appears on Liberal Democrat Voice.