Putting country, not party, first

Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, will speak at the official launch of CodeClan �' Scotland�"s first industry-led digital skills academy �' during EU Code Week.'Industry-led CodeClan has been created to help meet the immediate and short term need for skilled software developers in Scotland and to play a part in the growth of both the digital/ICT sector and the wider economy. CodeClan is part of the implementation of the ICT and Digital Technologies Skills Investment Plan (SIP).
Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, will speak at the official launch of CodeClan �' Scotland�"s first industry-led digital skills academy �' during EU Code Week.'Industry-led CodeClan has been created to help meet the immediate and short term need for skilled software developers in Scotland and to play a part in the growth of both the digital/ICT sector and the wider economy. CodeClan is part of the implementation of the ICT and Digital Technologies Skills Investment Plan (SIP).

Since I was re-elected in May, the main focus of my attention in parliament has been the Scotland Bill.

It might sound like a cliché, but I sincerely believe that its passage through the House of Commons was a truly historic event.

It will create the strongest possible Scottish Parliament within a strong and secure United Kingdom – exactly what the people of Scotland said they wanted in the independence referendum last year.

This bill has changed from its original incarnation, and I believe it has changed for the better.

We have taken steps to clarify how these powers can be used and we have been explicit in producing a bill that honours the Smith Agreement in spirit and in letter.

It may not always have been obvious, but, as with the Smith Agreement itself, there has been real consensus and co-operation throughout this process. Smith was the product of all five of Scotland’s main political parties sitting down around a table and agreeing the set of recommendations we are now turning into hard and fast reality.

Remember also, those recommendations were agreed and signed off by the SNP. They too are part-authors of this bill and their role, especially that of Deputy First Minister John Swinney, must be acknowledged and cannot be denied.

It is also worth saying that discussions about this legislation between the UK and Scottish governments – in which Mr Swinney has played an active and constructive role – have, in the main, been friendly and collaborative.

Of course we have had our differences, but I would like to place on record my gratitude for the way in which we have worked together.

This gives me hope for the future.

Now all of us who care about Scotland have to pull together and put our country, not our parties, first. That is why it is now time to move on from the constitutional wrangling and embark upon a new debate.

We now need to set out clearly how the new powers in the Scotland Bill should be used.

The next Scottish Government, which you will elect next May, will have the power to determine how much tax comes out of your pay packet, what proportion of that cash is spent on welfare and how it uses new levers to grow our economy.

That means all of Scotland’s political parties need to do the right thing, look voters in the eye and tell them precisely how they intend to spend their hard-earned money.