Derek Mackay has enjoyed a sparkling career at Holyrood. Elected in 2011 aged just 34, he quickly became a minister.
Now he holds the nation’s purse strings as Cabinet Secretary for Finance, presenting his first budget this week.
He’s popular, capable and thoroughly deserves his success. But I wouldn’t want his job for the world.
Derek holds the strings to a purse that has shrunk.
This isn’t a mere debating point. A recent report by Strathclyde University’s economics research unit, The Fraser of Allander Institute, said Scotland’s budget is now five per cent lower “in real terms” than 2010.
And the same report warned of worse to come, saying: “The Scottish Government should prepare for possible further real-terms cuts of six per cent – or up to £1.6billion – in their resource budget by 2020-21 … more than the entire Finance and Economy, Fair Work, Skills and Training, Culture and External Affairs, and Rural Affairs, Food and Environment portfolios combined.”
The SNP have managed to deliver despite these cuts, through the talent of hands-on ministers.
Tuition fees were abolished for students, apprenticeships more than doubled to 30,000-plus a year.
There are more staff in the NHS than under Labour, while the tax on ill health, prescription charges, was abolished and the bedroom tax effectively wiped out.
On top of that, a nine-year council tax freeze benefited pensioners and working families most, while free bus travel for the elderly was maintained.
The SNP Government also introduced a no compulsory redundancies policy for staff in their control, including the NHS, and were the first government in the UK to pay all their workers the living wage.
Read the rest of my column here.