John Swinney tackles austerity, engagement and infrastructure investment in #SNP15 address

Deputy first minister addresses #SNP15 party conference ahead of 2016 elections

JOHN SWINNEY MSP focused on Tory welfare reforms, voter engagement and infrastructure investment in his address to conference.

The speech began with an overview of Nicola Sturgeon's role in May's General Election. Swinney stated: "Our FM didn't win that first debate, she changed the terms of that entire debate. She led this party, you and me to the greatest election victory in our history."

"It's little wonder that the Tory press has branded her the most dangerous women in Britain."

On the possibility of a second Scottish independence referendum, the deputy first minister briefly reiterated Sturgeon's sentiment, stating: "I don't know when another referendum will happen... But I know we can win the argument for Scottish independence."

The speech then moved on to look forward to the upcoming Holyrood elections. Swinney avowed: "The question will not be yes or no, independence or the union. The question will be, who stands for Scotland? Who has the record, the vision, the team, to take this country forward to create a fairer, more prosperous Scotland."

He said that the SNP would win the 2016 election race by knocking on doors and connecting with communities.

He spoke of "tales of constituencies where Labour had not knocked a door in decades. Stories of MPs who had forgotten how to connect with their communities - if indeed they ever connected in the first place."

Highlighting the party's previous successes, he noted free university tuition fees, bus passes for pensioners, free prescriptions, ending the bedroom tax and the protection of household incomes by freezing council tax.

On the economy, Swinney stated: "Output and employment are back above their pre-recession peak but challenges remain in our labour market including underemployment, low productivity, stagnant real wages and the recent rise in unemployment demonstrates the importance of sustaining public investment."

On challenges of the future, Swinney noted increasingly unemployment, low productivity, low skilled jobs, low wages, the aging population, and the transition to a low carbon market.

Among other announcements was the SNP's deal to oversee the building of two new CalMac ferries, and a new contract to upgrade the rail link between Aberdeen and Inverness.

Picture: CommonSpace