Mark McDonald, MSP for Aberdeen Donside, addresses the Scottish Parliament on 24 February.Watch the video below and click "read more" to view the text of the speech.
- Mark McDonald (Aberdeen Donside) (SNP): It was very interesting to watch some of the colour drain from faces on the Labour benches as they realised that their pre-prepared line about the SNP budget being backed by the Tories had just been torpedoed by Murdo Fraser. In fact, it will be the Labour Party once again joining forces to vote with the Conservative Party in this chamber.
- Lewis Macdonald (North East Scotland) (Lab): Will the member take an intervention?
- Mark McDonald: Not just now. I want to move on. Mr Macdonald might want to listen a bit further.
I would have thought that Kezia Dugdale might have learned her lesson about using Aberdeen City Council as an example in this chamber, but she has not. She stood up and said that libraries are closing in Aberdeen, which will come as news to people in Aberdeen, because the council budget does not get set until tomorrow. Furthermore, it will come as news to the administration in Aberdeen, because when I read in the Evening Express of officers proposing that libraries could close, I read very clearly in that article that the finance convener of Aberdeen City Council, Willie Young, had said that he would fight against that proposal when it came into the council chamber. Either Willie Young will lose the fight within his own group and the administration will press ahead with the proposal, or Kezia Dugdale has come to the chamber to put forward a proposal that officers have suggested to councillors, but that the administration will not accept, and has used it as a means to imply yet again something that is not going to happen. [Interruption.]
- The Deputy Presiding Officer: Order. A little bit of calm, please.
- Mark McDonald: It is little wonder that on television yesterday Kezia Dugdale gave up on winning the election and said that she was going to settle for second place in May.
During the recent recess, I visited Stoneywood school in my constituency. In 2008, I campaigned as a local councillor alongside the parent council and the local community to keep the school open. I argued at the time that the school roll would increase as housing development took place and that there would be a need for a new school building. The reason for my recent visit was that instead of the school being closed, plans are now in place for a new school building. That has been facilitated by the use of Scottish Government money from the building schools for the future programme.
That is welcome investment in my constituency and a welcome investment for the people and community of Stoneywood. The school stands alongside others in my constituency that have benefited significantly from new buildings being put in place.
There is a reason why that is important beyond simply the fabric of the building. A new school that is built through capital has a revenue impact, as it is more cost effective to heat, light and maintain, and that frees up revenue spending. Often, money is spent on lighting, heating and maintaining buildings that are no longer fit for purpose. The revenue saved with a new school can instead be put towards front-line services. That is another reason why the schools for the future programme is important, beyond the fact that it is creating fit-for-purpose, first-class accommodation for our education system.
The money that the Scottish Government is putting towards the integration of health and social care is also important. Over the past few weeks, I have spoken to a number of health care and social care workers in my constituency, and they said that they believe that bringing the two services closer together and removing some of the gaps that have existed in the system is fundamental if we are to improve the care that is provided to our vulnerable citizens.
That is exceptionally important in relation to bed blocking or delayed discharge. Many members are dealing with constituents who are unable to exit hospital because of an inability to get appropriate care packages put in place. Increasing the integration of health and social care, removing some of the silo mentality that exists, paying care workers a living wage and making it a more attractive opportunity for individuals to go into that line of work are all key steps in removing some of those barriers.
The delayed discharge rate in Aberdeen was zero when I was a member of the council administration, but it has crept upwards since then. I believe that some policy changes that have taken place at a local level have stymied some of the progress that was made, but I believe that the approach that is now being taken will assist in reversing that unwelcome trend.
- Patrick Harvie: I am sure that we could all identify specific elements of any budget that are welcome, but surely the member is not asking the Parliament to believe that everything in the garden is rosy and that there will be no cuts to local services as a result of the budget.
- Mark McDonald: I am not entirely sure from where in my speech Patrick Harvie drew that inference. As I said, the leader of my local authority has said that the savings that Aberdeen City Council is expected to make could be absorbed without an impact on front-line services and jobs. If the council can make those savings, I can only quote what the leader of the council is saying publicly on the issue.
- Lesley Brennan (North East Scotland) (Lab): Will the member take an intervention?
- Mark McDonald: I have taken an intervention and I have only 40 seconds left.
In North East Scotland, we also see a drive towards improved infrastructure, with the Aberdeen western peripheral route and rail improvements being pushed forward and the new schools being delivered.
Something that is fundamental is the doubling of funding for the attainment fund, which will benefit schools in my constituency and across Scotland by reducing the gap that too often exists between deprived communities and better-off ones. That funding is exceptionally welcome and it is why I will be happy to support the budget this evening.
- The Deputy Presiding Officer: Many thanks, and thanks for your brevity. I call on Ken Macintosh, to be followed by Willie Rennie. You have up to six minutes.
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