Stage 3 (final stage) of the Scottish Budget 2019-20

I would like to begin my saying how very pleased I was that consensus was found between the SNP Scottish Government and the Green Party.


With a Minority Government consensus was essential to ensure the passing of a budget with £42.5 billion of investment into Scotland’s economy and public services.


In contrast, the approach of the other Parties would have ensured no budget agreement and would have left us picking through the ruins of Scotland’s vital public services.


But more on that later.


Meanwhile this Budget commits the Scottish Government’s £50 million share of a £90 million Stirling/Clacks City Region Deal.


In addition, local people will benefit to the tune of £20.2 million more spending by NHS Forth Valley.


Stirling Council will also see a real terms increase of £6.6 million in funding from the Scottish Government.


Across the country, funding for education will reach £3.5 billion, and many of my Constituents from disadvantaged backgrounds will continue to benefit from targeted funding to close the attainment gap.


I am also pleased that this SNP Government continues to mitigate against the worst of Tory cuts to welfare, with £435 million allocated in this budget to social security.


Our welfare agency, Social Security Scotland, has begun making payments of Best Start Grants and Carer Supplements.


This is a Scottish Social Security system that, unlike Westminster, has dignity, fairness and respect at its very heart.


This Budget also funds the continuation of the Small Business Bonus, which has benefited over 2,600 small businesses in my constituency. Saving businesses in the Stirling area an estimated £39 million.


The Small Business Bonus Scheme in Scotland is the most generous of its kind of any UK nation. And, 90 percent of business premises will pay a lower poundage rate than they would elsewhere in the UK.


This budget package therefore strikes the right balance between supporting local businesses and investing in vital public services.


In terms of taxation: this Budget continues the fairest and most progressive system of income tax anywhere in these islands.


I welcome the fact that 55% of people will pay less income tax in Scotland than they would elsewhere in the UK.


While it is the case that some pretty robust discussions took place between the SNP Government and the Green Party, can I applaud the fact that they were at least constructive.


In contrast, we have the Tory Party whose MSP’s have consistently been calling for even more spending on Local Government and in a whole plethora of other areas.


This shows a consistent trend hypocritical trend from the Tories.


Consistently calling for more funding into almost every part of the public service but to this very day – absolutely no explanation about how it to pay for it.


A hypocrisy made even starker by the fact that Scotland’s budget has been slashed by about £2 billion since the Tories took office.


To add insult to injury, the tax plans favoured by the Tories would see a devastating half-a-billion pounds ripped out of Scottish public finances to pay for unnecessary tax cuts.


Rank hypocrisy and political opportunism of the worst kind.


But, what of Labour – a big question this week of all weeks.


Labour demonstrated throughout this whole budget process – that there is absolutely nothing the SNP Government could offer that would persuade them to vote for the budget.


Rather than offering a viable alternative Budget, and returning to their Constituents with real and tangible benefits.


Instead, they botched any attempt whatsoever at a constructive approach and will return with their Constituencies with their heads in their hands.


Finally, the Liberal Democrats.


There was time when the Liberal Democrats made real headway on matters of substance in this Parliament through campaigning on important issues such as mental health.


I really respected them for that – but what changed with their approach.


Well Lib Dem Leader Willie Rennie gave the game away when he declared that he was refusing to speak to the Scottish Government about funding Scotland’s public services. Unless of course the SNP dropped its support for independence.


The truth of course is Mr Rennie is simply been looking out for his own very narrow selfish local interests.


He knows he is under real pressure in his Constituency from the SNP and indeed the Tories. However, we see through his tactic.


Jettison any pretence of supporting vital public services and instead play the ultra-unionist card to save his own political skin.


Mr Rennie has blown his credibility, no one will ever take him seriously again when he talks about Scotland public services.


I urge colleagues across the Chamber, to stop playing fast and loose with Scotland’s vital public services, support the budget at decision time this evening.


It is a Budget for increased investment in services, fair taxation and economic growth.


It is a Budget for compassion and dignity towards vulnerable people in our communities.


It is Budget for getting on with the job ensuring stability, despite the Brexit chaos that is all consuming at Westminster.

BLOG: Opposition MSPs must back proposed Budget for Scotland

As the Convener of the Finance and Constitution Committee in the Scottish Parliament, it has been my job to lead the scrutiny of the Scottish Government’s Draft Budget for this coming year on a cross party basis. It is important that I share how this Budget can benefit people in the Stirling Constituency.


During a time of unbelievable chaos at Westminster as a result of the fiasco that is Brexit, it is more important than ever to ensure stability and take a common sense approach to the Scottish Budget. If the Budget is voted down by opposition parties, later in February it would bring with it the potential for huge disruption in our vital public services and even the extraordinary prospect of an unwanted and unnecessary Scottish Parliament Election.


That being said it is important that I share how the very reasonable budget proposals, if agreed, can benefit people in the Stirling Constituency. For instance, the SNP Government has ensured that in Scotland, we have the fairest and most progressive system of income taxation in the UK. This Budget will continue to ensure that around 55% of people in the Scotland will pay less in income tax here than they would elsewhere in the UK.  This does mean that those with the broadest shoulders will have to pay a bit more to fund public services, however, 99% of people in Scotland will still not see their income tax increase.


These income tax proposals have allowed the Scottish Government to set out a series of spending plans for the next year that will help support public services. However, if we were to follow the Tories tax plans there would £500 million less available to spend on vital public services despite them continually asking for more spending.  


NHS Forth Valley will see an above-inflation rise in funding of £20.2 million. Scotland’s NHS is the best-performing in the UK, and the SNP Government has consistently committed more in funding to our health service than any other political party has pledged to do. This boost in funding for NHS Forth Valley will go a long way to help ensure efficient and effective health care in the Stirling area. 


This Draft Budget will also see a £13 million increase in funding for the Education and Skills budget, bringing it to £3.5 billion. This will mean more funding into local schools, as well as £600 million for further education and £1 billion for higher education, which will benefit Forth Valley College and the University of Stirling.


In terms of supporting the local Stirling economy, I am pleased that the Draft Budget fully funds the Small Business Bonus Scheme, which means that 2,670 small businesses in the Stirling area do not have to pay any business rates whatsoever. 


The Budget also includes plans to introduce a new £50 million Town Centre Fund that could help transform towns across the Stirling area.  The fund will go through Local Authorities so it will be up Stirling Council to make sure our town centres see the benefit of this substantial investment through community improvement projects. All high streets across Scotland face challenges as online retail changes the way we shop. This fund has the potential to stimulate real development in our town centres and to help communities thrive. 


Given what this Draft Budget will deliver, it is time for opposition parties at Holyrood to engage constructively and commit to supporting a fairer system of tax and better funding for public services. To do otherwise is a recipe for further disruption and chaos – the last thing we need at this time.

St Modans pupils welcomed to Holyrood

Stirling MSP Bruce Crawford has welcomed pupils to the Scottish Parliament. The S4 pupils visited Parliament on Thursday to watch First Minister’s Questions, following an official tour in the morning.

Pupils were then invited to join Mr Crawford in one of the committee rooms, where thy had the opportunity to put questions to their MSP.


Commenting, Bruce Crawford said:


“It is always a pleasure to welcome young people from a local school in the constituency to Parliament. Young people understand this place and what it means for their future, and they are interested in how to all works.


“As well as watching the First Minister take questions from MSPs on the big issues of the day, the class also gave me a grilling in one of the Parliament’s committee rooms – and I have to say, these are some impressive and well informed young people.”

Hands off our Parliament: local MSP joins protest

Stirling MSP Bruce Crawford joined a protest outside Holyrood last week, following the decision of Westminster MPs to proceed with the UK Government’s Brexit Bill, which takes powers from the Scottish Parliament.


In a series of votes on Tuesday, MPs overturned a number of amendments made by the House of Lords to the UK Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill.


The Scottish Parliament voted to reject legislative consent to the Bill for the first time in its history, on the basis that it threatened the devolution settlement.


The EU Withdrawal Bill takes powers over agriculture, fishing, environmental matters and food standards – that are devolved to Holyrood – and places them in the hands of Westminster.


Stirling MSP Bruce Crawford convenes the Finance and Constitution Committee in the Scottish Parliament, which recommended that MSPs do not grant consent to the UK Government Bill on the basis that it “is not compatible with the devolution settlement”.


Mr Crawford joined a number of MSPs can campaigners at the front entrance to the Scottish Parliament to protest the move.


Commenting, he said:


“This is the first time since devolution that Westminster has moved to take powers off of Holyrood, without the consent of the Scottish Parliament. It is an affront to our democracy and fundamentally changes the nature of the devolved settlement – which people in Scotland voted for in 1997.


“Every MSP of every party – except the Tories – voted to reject this legislation from the UK Government on the basis that it takes powers away from our devolved Parliament. Ignoring the will of Scotland’s democratically elected Parliament will carry severe political consequences for the Tories – who have put their Party first, regardless of the consequences for Scotland.


“I was proud to stand alongside MSP colleagues and campaigners in demonstrating against this naked power grab of devolved responsibilities.”

Stirling High go to Holyrood

Pupils and staff from Stirling High School has a tour of the Scottish Parliament recently, meeting their local MSP Bruce Crawford.


Pupils, Igor Majewdki, Aaron Simpson, Shannon McKechnie, Courtney Healy, Amy Letford, Sophie Henny, Pauline Evans and Aaron Higgins, with teaching staff Pauline Evans and Aaron Higgins, met Mr Crawford and were given a tour of the Parliament.


Commenting, Bruce Crawford said:


“It was fantastic to host Stirling High at Holyrood, both the pupils and the staff had a range of interesting questions for me about how the Parliament works and about politics in general.


“School visits to Parliament are important in terms of demonstrating how our democracy works. Many pupils who visit are either of voting age already or are future voters – or even MSPs themselves!


“I’d encourage local schools in the Stirling Constituency to contact my office if they’d like to discuss a parliamentary visit.”

Award-winning fish and chips meets First Minister

Staff from the Real Food Café in Tyndrum met with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during a visit to the Scottish Parliament last week.

Bruce presents SVQ certificates to Real Food team members

Following recent successes, including Magda Ganea winning 2nd in Young Fish Fryer of the Year in the National Fish and Chip Awards earlier this year, the Real Food Café are also celebrating two team members, Alex and Cat Dima, who have just completed their SVQ Level 3 in Hospitality Supervision and Leadership.

Thumbs up! Bruce enjoys a fish supper at the Real Food Cafe

Stirling MSP Bruce Crawford presented the staff members with their certificates at the Scottish Parliament, and gave the team a tour of Holyrood – where they had a chance to meet with the First Minister.


Commenting, Bruce Crawford said:


“I’m thrilled for these remarkable young people, who are the future of this industry, for having demonstrated what can be achieved through hard work and dedication.


“The Real Food Café is an excellent local restaurant and offers great opportunities for people too.


“The stellar team had a great opportunity to speak to the First Minister about their recent achievements and share some of their experiences working in this important industry to the Stirling Constituency.”