New SNP leader will bring attributes required to unite the country - Angus Robertson

Angus Robertson, far left, at the launch of John Swinney's SNP leadership campaignAngus Robertson, far left, at the launch of John Swinney's SNP leadership campaign
Angus Robertson, far left, at the launch of John Swinney's SNP leadership campaign
To the role of SNP leader and first minister, John Swinney will bring experience, stability and the ability to unite people. These attributes are what is needed for the country as we navigate hugely difficult economic times.

John will be able to build on the Scottish Government’s successes to date – the Scottish Child Payment, free university tuition, the massive expansion of childcare with over 100,000 children expected to be lifted out of poverty.

As John said: “SNP policies change lives.” He has been at the forefront of these successes, serving in cabinet roles over three decades in finance, education, Covid recovery and, of course, in his capacity as deputy first minister.

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I have known John since signing up to the SNP in my teenage years. From the campaign trail to serving alongside him in cabinet, his commitment to working with others is unceasing, as is his dedication to the causes he cares about.

It was apt and a demonstration of John’s character that he chose the Grassmarket Community Project in my constituency to launch his bid for leadership. The project, which is headquartered on Candlemaker Row, is all about helping people in unique and effective ways. They offer opportunities to those who are facing tough situations such as homelessness, learning difficulties, poverty, substance misuse, physical abuse and more. By engaging in social entrepreneurship, mentorship, educational programs and supportive services in a caring environment, the project opens doors for those most distant from conventional education and job prospects. Participants gain skills and self-assurance, re-establish their ties with themselves and their community, and enhance their overall health and welfare.

As John Swinney said: “This place brings hope to some of the most vulnerable people in our society in the setting of a social enterprise. This place reflects my values.”

He also said he would focus efforts on “reaching out in Scotland, with respect and courtesy, to address the obstacles in the way of winning the case for independence. To persuade people that Scotland’s future is best served with the powers of independence”.

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I share this vision. The only way to win independence is to bring those yet not persuaded on side. Independence support continues to be higher than it was in 2014, and I have no doubt that this will grow.

But we must inspire this by demonstrating good governance. I thoroughly believe the SNP Government is demonstrating how we can better deliver for the people of Scotland. Indeed, in my own portfolio, and acknowledging the significant challenges the culture sector faces, we are delivering a funding increase of £15.8 million this year, aiming for a further £25m on the way to raising culture spending by £100m – a doubling of the current budget. This compares to a significant real-terms cut in culture funding from the Tory UK and Labour Welsh governments.

Our network of international offices and development agencies are delivering record foreign direct investment – second in the UK only to London and the South East – as well as bringing tourism and cultural benefits like never before. Our international culture and diaspora strategies are connecting the global Scottish network to each other and to Scotland like never before. I am hugely optimistic about the SNP and the country’s future with John Swinney in charge and look forward to working with him to achieve Scotland’s full potential.

Angus Robertson is SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary