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.