>It probably shouldn’t take me two posts to write about one leader’s speech to conference, but I thought that this part was so important that it deserved its own star billing.
1. Reform to the support we give to enterprise, to set up the development banks, to get money to thousands of small businesses who have been let down by their banks.
2. A stronger role for local colleges to deliver skills, training and investment shaped around the needs of the area.
3. A reform bill to allow local companies access to a fair share of government contracts;
4. Change to regulation to free up business to grow and create jobs. That’s worth ten thousand new jobs. So that’s what we’ll do.
5. Build the digital, transport and language links we need for a new target on exports;
6. A renewed commitment to renewable energy to capture the prize for Scotland and the jobs that come with it.
7. We will give local communities and councils a real incentive to support business in their areas by letting them keep the extra rates that come from growth.
8. We will examine the potential for business rate holidays for the tourism industry aimed at keeping Scotland open all year round. We’ll keep the small business bonus and look to extend it to help other businesses too.
9. And we will guarantee that all businesses get rates relief whenever the national government signs off a tax hike. Never again will a hotel in Argyll or a restaurant in Peebles face a rates increase of 120 per cent – as they had to under the SNP.
Whatever happens on the fifth of May, Scotland needs action on jobs. So I will work with others on our 30-day plan. I ask that the other parties commit to action with us on Scottish jobs. Scotland needs the best of what we can all offer.
To put party politics before the needs of our people in these times isn’t right and we just won’t do it.
If we are going to create jobs, we need to make sure that we can have a suitably skilled workforce to do them. Tavish spoke at length about education. Giving kids high quality education that challenges and inspires them and squeezes every ounce of potential out of them is something he’s always wanted to achieve. He talked about freeing up teachers from bureaucracy and interference from the centre, and giving them the chance to be inventive and innovative. And he was also prepared to look beyond the traditional school model to ensure that kids had other options which may suit them better:
Jim McColl has asked ten schools on Glasgow’s south side to offer 14 year old boys and girls a new beginning in a new college. A whole new kind of education. It will be very practical, inspirationally led, focused on vocational and technical skills. With the motivation of a job at the end for those who stick it.
Clyde Blowers, BAE and other major companies will invest. It’s a win win. It gives kids with little to look forward to, hope. And it gives employers needing people ready for work, people who can. That’s an approach of innovation and initiative all of Scotland could do with, and with the Liberal Democrats it will happen.
It seems to me that it’s about providing an education that suits the child rather than a suffocating bureaucracy. It’s about recognising that kids are individuals and not an amorphous blob. A one size fits all approach fails too many of our kids.
I feel the Scottish Liberal Democrats are approaching this election with a much stronger, value driven programme than we did four years ago. Tavish and the team have developed a thoughtful, innovative, honest programme that’s rooted in our cherished values. It’s a programme that gives power away from the Scottish Government and towards local people, that champions quality education and looks to the long term. I’m bound to find something to grumble about somewhere – and if equal marriage isn’t in our manifesto, I’ll be grumbling loud – but I was impressed not just with the ideas that came out of Tavish’s speech and the Conference but with the narrative that linked them together.