The Future of Scotland

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:29 am on 29th March 2007.

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Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour 11:29 am, 29th March 2007

It is indeed appropriate that, in the final debate of this session, we look ahead to the future of Scotland. What kind of Scotland do we want to live in? More important, what kind of Scotland will our children live in? I want to live in a Scotland in which our imagination is not limited; an ambitious and dynamic Scotland that gives everyone an opportunity; and a caring Scotland in which every child and old person matters and our most vulnerable are cared for. I want to live in a Scotland that is based on equality and fairness, builds tolerance and respect, and changes lives for the better.

I want to live in a country that is truly international in its outlook, welcomes people from around the world and is not characterised by narrow nationalism. We live in difficult global times and we should be breaking down boundaries and borders rather than putting them up. We should be embracing other cultures. There is more to unite than to divide people across different nations. We should strengthen those bonds, not isolate our people.

When we leave the Parliament, we will set out our respective programmes for the people of Scotland and I am sure that there will be a robust debate. Labour's vision is about building up Scotland and building on our record. More people are in work than ever before, unemployment has been more than halved and a generation is working in the local economy, and average earnings are rising. Crime is falling. Our health is improving, too. Waiting times are down, free eye tests and dental checks are in place and we have introduced the smoking ban, which in the longer term will reduce the daily deaths from smoking-related illnesses.

We will build on our record on education, too, because we want to give young people the best start and the best opportunities in life, by providing a nursery place for every three and four-year-old, reducing class sizes and improving the school estate. When the Tories were in power, they built four schools a year, which is quite impressive. However, Labour is building a new school every week, and soon a new school will be built every five days. That is the difference that Labour makes.