Daily roundup: SNP, 7 April

snp1In a major new campaign initiative, First Minister Alex Salmond yesterday launched the Scottish Futures Fund – a £250 million fund, paid for by savings secured by the SNP Government from the Forth Replacement Crossing project.

The Scottish Government had included in its budget planning £1.87 billion of spending on the Forth Replacement Crossing between now and 2016, but thanks to negotiation and procurement, and the work of the Scottish Futures Trust, the cost of the bridge has been reduced to £1.54 billion.

If re-elected, an SNP Government intends to invest savings from the Forth Replacement in a £250 million Scottish Futures Fund initiative. The Futures Fund will support five key projects of £50 million each in order to strengthen Scotland’s society and economy and prepare the nation for the challenges of the future. The five futures projects will be:

• Young Scots Fund
• Next Generation Digital Fund
• Sure Start Fund
• Warm Homes Fund
• Future Transport Fund

Publishing the Scottish Futures Fund initiative – and setting out the Sure Start Fund – Mr Salmond said:

“The new Forth Crossing is our bridge to better times. The largest construction project in Scotland’s history, it will support 3,000 jobs and ensure connectivity between north and south.

“The bridge will also help deliver a Scotland that is fairer, stronger and greener. Thanks to skillful negotiation and procurement, and the work of the Scottish Futures Trust, the SNP government has achieved substantial savings on the cost of the crossing. We intend to invest these savings in a £250 million Scottish Futures Fund.”

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Mr Salmond also welcomed news that Alexander Dennis Limited – the Falkirk-based bus manufacturer – is to build over 160 vehicles for FirstGroup which means that in recent weeks the company has secured orders for over 500 buses, worth in the region of £100 million.

Visiting the company yesterday, the First Minister said:

“This is great news for Falkirk and Scotland. The success of Alexander Dennis shows what can be achieved with a positive and confident attitude about the future.

“The jobs they have secured show that will mean increased investment which can mean the strengthening of Falkirk’s and Scotland’s economic position. It is companies like Alexander Dennis which can help Scotland’s economic recovery. Protecting and delivering jobs as the Scottish economy recovered is a key part of the SNP’s economic strategy and this contract does just that.

“The work force at Alexander Dennis are very dedicated and I have no doubt they will be delighted at this announcement.”

The SNP has also yesterday signed up to NUS Scotland’s Reclaim Your Voice campaign, committing to:

1. Improve student support
2. Protect graduate numbers and college places
3. Rule out tuition fees.

The campaign is calling on every candidate standing for election to go beyond election promises to make cast-iron commitments to students.

Commenting after he signed up to the commitments Education Secretary and SNP Candidate for Argyll & Bute, Michael Russell, said:

“At this election, I am proud to stand on the SNP’s record of restoring free education in Scotland and proud to sign the NUS pledge to keep it that way.”