SNP's 'Radical' Public Services Plans 'In Country's Interests'

14 October 2016, 09:30 | Updated: 14 October 2016, 09:33

The SNP's "radical'' plans for public services are in the country's interests, Scotland's Deputy First Minister will insist today.

John Swinney will stress it is in the "national interest'' for power to to be transferred to local communities - adding that the principle behind this is why he believes in independence.

He is to address the SNP conference in Glasgow on the party's record in government, nearly a decade after it first came to power in 2007.

He will tell activists: "Make no mistake, we are the national party and we will always put the national interest first.

"We believe in our nation's ability to govern itself and we believe in our communities' ability to take power into their own hands.''

The speech comes at a time when the Scottish Government has angered councils with plans to use extra money raised by council tax reforms to pay for improvements in education, with the money going to head teachers rather than local authorities.

But Mr Swinney will say the SNP wants to "reinvigorate local government by reconnecting it with communities''.

He will add: "The principle of local control, not on behalf of a community but by a community, is key. That is at the heart of our programme.

"We have already launched the review of how the school education system is governed, setting ourselves the task of making parents and teachers the key decision makers in the life of our schools.

"Over the coming parliament we will go further.

"We will review the roles and responsibilities of local authorities. And we will look again at the relationships between local authorities and health boards.

"We aim to achieve nothing less than to transform our democratic landscape, protect and renew public services and refresh the relationship between citizens, communities and councils.''

He will say: ``We do this not because it is radical - and it is - but because we believe it is right.

"We do it not because it is easy - it's not - but because it is in the national interest.

"We believe that national interest lies in placing power in the people of this country's hands. It's why I believe in independence.

"Just as we believe the best people to decide the future of our country are the people who live in our country, so we believe the best people to decide the future of our communities are the people who live in those communities.

"We will trust the people to make the big decisions about their future. That is our creed. And that is the truly radical path.''

With First Minister Nicola Sturgeon having announced an Independence Referendum Bill will be published for consultation next week, Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: "The SNP is always happy for democracy to take its course, except when voters don't provide the answer nationalists want.

"If John Swinney means what he says, he'd listen to the two million people who voted No by a decisive majority in 2014.''