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A fairer, prosperous, and compassionate Scotland is the vision that First Minister Humza Yousaf MSP set out in his speech to delegates at last week’s SNP Conference in Aberdeen.

He focused on key issues, including the cost-of-living crisis, our NHS and the economy.

The First Minister reaffirmed that Scotland’s future is brimming with hope not only because of our ambition, but because of what’s already been delivered, highlighting measures to help families cope with rising costs, such as 1,140 hours of free childcare provision and the Scottish Child Payment which provides eligible families with a £25 a week for each child; increased disability payments and a rent freeze which helped so many Scots avoid homelessness. The SNP Government also awards £70,000 per house to enable North Ayrshire Council to build 1,625 new council homes, grants to build new homes under the Affordable New Build Scheme and grants for housing association new build.

To help households, Council Tax will be frozen next year, thereby ensuring households have one rising bill fewer to worry about.

This will be the 10th in 17 years under the SNP that the Council Tax householders have to pay has been frozen. It’s already £648 less in Scotland per household on average than under the Tories in England and £463 less than under Labour in Wales.

That Council Tax will not rise by a single penny next year will come as a relief to many people in North Ayrshire and Arran and across Scotland.

Unfortunately, powers to address another worry, domestic heating bills, are reserved to the UK Parliament.

As well as the cost-of-living crisis, too many Scots are impacted by the challenges facing our NHS. Steps have already been taken to improve the service. The SNP abolished prescription charges, massively reduced hospital acquired infections, 97% of hospitalised patients return home without a delayed discharge and two new National Treatment Centres opened this year. Scotland has the UK’s best performing Accident and Emergency units and work to reduce long waiting times has already led to a significant reduction. To cut them by a further 100,000, the First Minister announced additional investment of £300 million.

A commitment to protecting Scotland’s culture and arts sector, which supports 20,000 jobs, will be backed by an additional £100 million and £500 million more will be invested in increasing our wind power supply chain to create sustainable jobs, cut emissions and attract overseas investment.

The First Minister’s £500,000 “Fund to Leave” scheme will better support domestic abuse victims and be delivered in collaboration with Women’s Aid to provide women with up to £1,000 to help pay for essentials they and their children need after leaving their home.

Ultimately, strengthening the NHS, supporting households and growing our economy sustainably without Westminster interference add to an already compelling argument for Independence. The First Minister said Independence is not for its own sake, rather, “It’s about raising living standards. It’s about protecting our NHS. Above all, it’s about a stronger economy; an economy that works for everyone who lives here.”



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