19 Oct 2010

John Mason had a tremendous time at the SNP’s conference in Perth last weekend. He said, “I find it so encouraging to be with hundreds of other SNP activists from all over Scotland, as well as seeing the high quality of SNP government ministers on show.” Highlights were speeches by Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, although John Swinney and Kenny McAskill were not far behind. All four got rousing receptions from delegates, not just for the speeches themselves but also for the solid work they have all been doing in Government.

Alex & Nicola have been a great leadership team with their contrasting and complementing styles. But John Swinney has in many ways been the power behind the throne. So many decisions have a financial impact and it is John who has held that side together so well. Whereas Labour were too timid to spend their (inadequate) budget, John Swinney and the SNP have used it much more fully (even though we are having to subsidise the UK along the way). And Kenny McAskill with his completely different and more obviously robust style has delivered on the promised extra police… and he managed to combine justice and mercy in his superb handling of the Megrahi affair.

It was great to hear about what the SNP is delivering like:
• 1,190 police officers (more than the 1,000 promised);
• 1,000 more cleaners in hospitals;
• the Council Tax freeze (compared to Labour’s raising it by 60%);
• efficiency savings achieved of £1,470 million (better than target of £1,069 million);
• Airdrie-Bathgate rail link due to open in December; and
• the M74 completion early and on budget.

Then there were the key future commitments including:
• two more years Council Tax freeze;
• the abolition of prescription charges;
• protecting frontline police officers by cutting unnecessary duplication;
• protecting frontline health services while reducing senior management numbers; and
• NO privatisation of Scottish Water.

John Mason himself spoke in debates at the Conference on replacing Council Tax with Local Income Tax, and the need to improve private sector pension arrangements while protecting those in the public sector. He also took part in the prayer service on the Sunday morning organised by ‘Christians for Independence’.