Thursday 5th May is the date when all of Scotland decides who we want to lead our country for the next five years in Government and who we want as our First Minister.
Monday marks 100 days of campaigning in which the Scottish National Party will make clear that we stand proud on our record, and clear on our commitment.
The political bubble can perhaps obsess a little over the landmark dates as we count down the days to another important election for Scotland.
In the real world though, people care more about what we’ve done in the last 1,727 days since we formed the first majority government in the Scottish Parliament in 2011. And they care about what we’ve achieved in the 432 days since Nicola Sturgeon became Scotland’s First Minister.
The latest tranche of opinion polls have made for encouraging reading in my role as campaign director for the SNP, but we are not a party in the business of taking people’s support for granted.
Crucial for the election debate though, the polls show that on key public concerns on health, education, justice and in creating a fairer Scotland where everyone has the opportunity to flourish, people continue to back the action we’re taking and continue to put their trust in the SNP.
Since Monday marks the birth of our national bard, I’ll borrow some advice from the man himself – “there is no such uncertainty as a sure thing”.
That’s why over the next 100 days we will set out – in clear, positive and ambitious terms – how we will build on our achievements to keep Scotland moving forward and unlock even more of our country’s vast potential.
The SNP is literally building for the future. We have not only met, but exceeded our five year target to deliver 30,000 affordable homes in government. Nicola Sturgeon has set out our commitment to go even further with 50,000 more affordable homes over the next parliament – backed by investment of £3 billion.
The SNP has bolstered our health service budget to record levels, with record numbers of staff providing the best care to be found anywhere in the UK.
We have taken the necessary action to reform our police service – with crime rates showing a 41 year low.
We have sought to build a country where strong public services are underpinned by a successful economy – a nation which is prosperous, but fair.
We have got on with the job of boosting Scotland’s economy and getting people into work. And figures published this week show employment in Scotland at a record high, outperforming the rest of the UK, with youth unemployment at its lowest level since 2006.
On Mondaywe will publish figures showing how far the SNP is outperforming the UK government in supporting business, and growing the economy – in spite of Tory austerity.
There has never been a bigger, more ambitious programme of improvements across Scotland – with billions earmarked for further upgrades to road and rail.
But the most transformational investment in the next parliament will be in education. From early years – where we will almost double current provision of government funded early learning and childcare – right through to college and university level we are determined to deliver further achievement for Scotland. Under the SNP, Scotland’s world class universities support a higher proportion of students from deprived backgrounds and more pupils than ever stay on until 6th year at school.
School pupils the length and breadth of the country are now learning in better quality buildings – with 607 schools built or refurbished with the SNP in government. Nicola Sturgeon will on Monday announce further investment to benefit thousands more young people.
We’ll continue to set out these ambitious plans over the coming weeks – giving the people of Scotland a clear choice on our prospectus for progress.
Crucially, our plans are affordable – despite the pressures imposed by further cuts to Scotland’s budget by George Osborne.
The Labour party is yet to start behaving like a serious political party ahead of this election and our challenge to them is this: stop the political games and let’s see sensible, costed plans. Until then, nobody will take them seriously as a party of opposition, never mind a potential party of government.
While the Tories at Westminster continue to cut hard and deep we continue to feel the effect on Scotland’s budget. In Scotland, they’re proposing a triple tax whammy – charging students to learn, scrapping free prescriptions and proposing an eye watering council tax hike of 18%.
These are policies the SNP will stand firmly against.
We will spend the next 100 days leading an ambitious, national debate about how to keep Scotland moving forward through progressive policies.
Our mission could not be clearer – to earn the right on our record and our commitment to serve an unprecedented third term as Scotland’s government.
John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister of Scotland