NEW YEAR MESSAGE FROM JOHN SWINNEY

NORTH Tayside MSP John Swinney, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth in the Scottish Government, has used his new year message to thank all his Angus constituents for their support - for the last time.

Boundary changes for the forthcoming elections to the Scottish Parliament means the MSP will be contesting a revised North Perthshire seat which has made it impossible for him to stand again in Angus.

He said: "It has been a huge privilege to represent Forfar, Brechin, Kirriemuir, Edzell, Newtyle, Cortachy, Glamis and all the surrounding areas for the last 13 years.

"I thank all of my constituents for their support and pledge to work on their behalf until the election in May. When the SNP Government was elected as a minority administration in May 2007, many commentators said we would not last three months.

"We have now been in office for over three and a half years delivering a freeze in the Council tax, cuts to small business rates, investment in our schools, low waiting times for hospital treatment and the lowest crime rate for 32 years.

"I look forward to promoting this record to the people of Scotland in the next few months."

Looking back over 2010, Mr Swinney said the last year had been a contrast of the personal and the political.

He continued: "Personally, the year for Elizabeth and I was blessed by the arrival of our son, Matthew on October 22. Over the space of a number of weeks we received excellent support and care from health professionals locally and at Ninewells and PRI and it gave me a taste, at first hand, of how lucky we are to have public services of such quality.

"Matthew is doing well and bringing great joy to our family. I have to say it has been a challenging few weeks dealing with a new baby in the house and a political agenda that has been very demanding. Matthew's presence does, however, put some of the nonsense of politics into its proper context!

"Politically the year has also had its challenges. I was delighted that my colleague Mike Weir was returned to Westminster with a greatly increased majority after a strongly fought election campaign.

"I enjoyed another tour of the constituency with my annual mobile surgery programme in the summer. It was a further excellent opportunity to meet constituents and address their concerns.

"Local events have continued to occupy a significant part of my programme locally and I congratulate all of the local volunteer groups who do so much to create the strong community spirit we enjoy in this area.

"The Scottish Government has continued its work to improve public services.

"I secured support for my Budget for a third successive year, delivering a freeze in the Council Tax and cuts to small business rates.

"The year has ended with a very demanding period of winter weather that has required a strong response from government at local and national level.

"We will never have winter weather of this severity without disruption; the challenge for government is to minimise that disruption.

"At national and local level our winter resilience staff – gritters, care workers, school staff, emergency service personnel and many others – have battled against very difficult circumstances to keep the country functioning. I pay warm tribute to all of them for ensuring we were all able to continue to do as much as we have done during very bad conditions."

Mr Swinney wished all of his constituents "a very happy and prosperous new year" and hoped 2011 was "a year of great fulfilment for individuals and communities."