The Future of Scotland

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 9:49 am on 29th March 2007.

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Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat 9:49 am, 29th March 2007

I am happy to confirm that the Liberal Democrats support the abolition of the unfair council tax and that we support a genuine local income tax, which is not like the national tax that the nationalists have announced. We will fund local services properly.

The first session of Parliament showed that we can invest in higher education without tuition fees and without higher and higher top-up fees, which we see in the rest of the United Kingdom. The Parliament also gave dignity and security to our pensioners in their old age. In our second session, we helped to lead the world with a smoking ban, which celebrated its anniversary on Monday. We provided free eye and dental checks for all, as well as major new railway projects that were delivered on time, preceding a successful switch to greater investment in public transport.

My aim is to have a nation and economy that every talented, creative, innovative person, and every young person in the world, wants to be part of. We are already starting to see people being attracted to Scotland, and that gives our people in Scotland the drive, ambition and dynamism to create world-class and world-beating ideas. They need the support to turn those ideas into business reality, so I hope that the Parliament will soon endorse plans to create a new innovation agency based on an idea that I saw in Finland, where business investment is many times greater than in Scotland. Finland, I was pleased to note, already has a liberal Prime Minister, who was re-elected last week. An innovation agency will ensure that the brightest and best ideas in Scotland can have the biggest impact on business and the economy.

We are not short of great ideas in Scotland. A few weeks ago, I was pleased to announce that Ocean Power Delivery and Scottish Power, with the support of the Executive, will use their Pelamis wave machines in Scottish waters this year as part of the biggest wave power project in the world. It is great news that we have already met our 2010 renewable energy target years ahead of time, but I believe that we need to push on with bold plans. That is why the Liberal Democrats support 100 per cent renewable electricity in Scotland by 2050.

Renewable energy industries are not the only industries of the future in Scotland. We also have life sciences industries in the new Royal infirmary of Edinburgh development and the nearby school of medicine, centre for biomedical research and science park development. All of that adds up to £1 billion of investment that will create one of the top five life sciences centres in the entire world.