"I’d like to start by wishing constituents a Happy New Year and all the best for 2019. 2018 was a year of significant change and one that history will look back on. We had the conclusion of Brexit negotiations, the inevitable fall out and more theatre than panto season.
In 2019, I would like to see politics return to normal. To debating the issues that really matter and affect, the day-to-day lives of constituents. I want education, justice and our NHS to take the front seat with constitutional gripe and grievance taking a backseat for a change.
Before Christmas, the Scottish Government announced its budget for the year ahead. This document sets out how public services will be funded in 2019. It’s not just the fate of our schools, hospitals and public service workers at stake, but it’s also about creating an environment that allows businesses and workers to thrive.
The Scottish Government budget is funded through both taxation in Scotland and Barnett formula consequentials from London. This year, thanks to the UK Conservative Government, Ministers in Edinburgh will have an additional half billion pounds to spend in real terms. This is a significant sum and one that should ensure that pay packets are protected.
Despite this, the Scottish Government has allowed the personal tax differential between Scotland and the rest of the UK to grow. Middle earners and line-managers in our public services will all pay more than those south of the border. In fact, anyone earning over £27,000 will pay more thanks to this Government.
The impact of this cannot be underestimated. Attracting skilled workers and maintaining a solid base of higher-rate payers becomes altogether more difficult as a result of this approach. I hope the SNP changes tact and I will press them to do so in 2019.
However, one area of the economy that continues to grow is tourism and 2018 was a big year for the wider Tayside area in this regard. In Perth, we looked on enviously as the V and A opened in Dundee. However, at the end of the year, funding was secured through the Tay Cities Deal to refurbish Perth City Hall in order to create our own cultural attraction. I look forward to watching this project develop in 2019.
Locally, it was also the first full year of the Conservative administration at Perth and Kinross Council. A number of goals were met but there is still much to do if we are to improve public services, education and the local enterprise environment but I am confident we have the right team to do so.
I look forward to hearing from constituents throughout 2019 and I would encourage anyone with issues they wish to raise to contact my office."