Irvine Times column, 18 December 2018
One of the cries levelled by politicians in Westminster to the Scottish Government is that it should ‘get on with the day job’.
Such a cry becomes hollower by the day, as we witness the existential crisis that is currently consuming the UK Government south of the border.
Indeed, so lost for words are many of us over the ongoing Brexit shenanigans that new words are having to emerge in the English language to help, from ‘omnishambles’ to the truly wonderful ‘clusterburach’.
Whilst the UK Government continues to attract diminishing confidence in its actions, the Scottish Government, by contrast, remains hard at work.
This week, for example, the Finance Secretary delivered a budget to the Scottish Parliament, which delivers increased funding for health, education and economic investment.
With health care, an additional £730 million has been allocated nationally, including money to mitigate the shortfall in NHS funding that had originally been promised by the UK Government.
From the budget allocation I was pleased to see that NHS North Ayrshire and Arran is to receive an increase in funding of £25.1 million.
Another key area to see a funding boost is Education, with £180 million allocated to help further raise attainment in our schools.
On taxation, it was also announced that 55% of income taxpayers in Scotland will pay less than those earning the same in the rest of the UK – and if you add that to the increased personal allowance, 99% of taxpayers will next year pay less income tax than on the same earnings south of the border.
Brexit, of course, continues to dominate everything, but here the Scottish Government has also been making preparations, with the Finance Secretary announcing that he has set aside funds to mitigate any potential financial risks.
This week, I was also delighted to learn from the Supreme Court of its support for the Scottish Parliament’s Continuity Bill, which was passed to protect many of its devolved powers after Brexit.
Although the UK Government challenged this bill, and subsequently thwarted many of its provisions by revising its own Continuity Bill midway through the legal proceedings, it demonstrates that the Scottish Parliament was perfectly within its competence to pass it.
As Convener of our Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee, one of my most serious concerns about Brexit is its potential to undermine human rights protections in Scotland.
This issue was addressed last week at the Human Rights Take Over event at the Scottish Parliament, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, which I was delighted to introduce.
Amongst those present were human rights activist Bianca Jagger, and the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
The First Minister announced that a taskforce is being established to help embed human rights in Scotland, to ensure that they will not be threatened by Brexit.
It was a wonderful event, and demonstrated international leadership from Scotland.
I hope you will agree that at least one of our governments is getting on with the day job!