A version of this column appeared in the Helensburgh Advertiser and the Dumbarton and Vale of Leven Reporter on 5 and 7 April 2016.
The elections on Thursday 5 May are the most important since the creation of the Scottish Parliament. Politics in Scotland has changed dramatically with the arrival of new powers. Instead of pretending that we cannot change things, and blaming someone else if things go wrong, we now have the power to do things differently.
I believe that education is one of the most important interventions any government can make to grow our economy. There is no future for our economy in low skills and low wages and we cannot keep cutting education and skills if we want to be competitive in the future. Across Scotland, there are now 4000 fewer teachers since the SNP took office, 152,000 fewer college places and 6000 children leave our primary schools unable to read or write properly. That is just not good enough.
Faced with the choice between using the powers we have or cutting the future of our economy, I will choose to use the powers and protect the education budget. We will create a Fair Start Fund to invest £1 million in primary schools in our area. This money would be used to help close the attainment gap so every local child can reach their full potential.
Local businesses also need more support to generate the wealth Scotland needs to make our country a fairer place to live. If we want to compete in the economy of the future then we need to remove barriers to business for small and medium-sized companies. That’s why I am backing plans to make universal superfast broadband a national infrastructure priority, investing £100 million to ensure that every community in Dumbarton, Vale of Leven, Helensburgh and Lomond can finally access the top broadband speeds. We would also lead a fundamental review of non-domestic rates to make the system fairer, less complex and more transparent for local firms.
After years of hard work, we are now seeing the much needed regeneration of our town centres, with exciting investment planned for both Alexandria and Dumbarton. This is attracting new businesses to the area; will give our existing businesses a boost; create jobs and give our town centres a new lease of life.
And finally I would continue to argue for and support the 11,000 workers that depend directly or indirectly on Faslane for employment. The base is the single biggest site for employment in Scotland and we know its value to our local economy. I will always stand up for this area and put jobs fi