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Isles candidates limber up for Holyrood election

Labour's Shetland candidate Robina Barton (right) pictured with Scottish leader Kezia Dugdale.

LABOUR’S Shetland candidate in the forthcoming Scottish election Robina Barton has launched her campaign by backing the party’s pledge to help first time buyers. 

She backed the party’s first manifesto pledge ahead of May’s Holyrood election, which would effectively double the help first time buyers receive towards saving for a deposit, and criticised the SNP government’s housing record.

People saving money using a first-time buyer ISA account currently receive a government top-up of £3,000. Scottish Labour’s plan would see an additional £3,000 of public money going towards the deposit on buying a property – meaning the average couple saving £100 a month would be able to save a £15,000 deposit within just over three years.

Barton said that, under the SNP, the number of people in Scotland aged 34 and younger who had bought their own home with a mortgage had fallen by 15 per cent.

Twenty eight per cent of those in the 16-34 age group in Scotland now own their home with a mortgage – the lowest level since the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999.

“Too many young people are stuck paying high rentals or living with parents because they can’t afford a deposit for a home of their own,” Barton said.

“I have experience of that myself. The accommodation shortage in Shetland means that rental prices here are particularly high.

“This initiative from Scottish Labour will encourage and, more importantly, help people to save. It will also help to address Scotland’s housing crisis and boost the economy by targeting investment in much needed new houses and flats.”

Tories strive for ‘gold standard’ education

Meanwhile, the Conservatives’ Shetland candidate has endorsed a paper setting out his party’s plans to improve education in schools across Scotland.

Tory candidate for Shetland Cameron Smith.

Cameron Smith said he shared party leader Ruth Davidson’s desire to move from “‘average’ or just ‘satisfactory’ to an education system which can be described as the gold standard”.

He said local authorities including Shetland Islands Council were being forced to do the “dirty work” of the Scottish Government by making cuts to services.

Smith said the islands’ rural nature presented “particular challenges to overcome when providing the highest level of education for our young folk”.

“The Attainment Challenge funding announced to great fanfare by the Scottish Government in reality brings little new money to Shetland Islands Council,” he continued.

“This is another example of an eye-catching headline, while councils across Scotland and particularly here in Shetland are forced to do the dirty work and make the cuts of up to 4.5 per cent to service provision.

“I think Shetland is owed a better settlement than that, and if combined with our plan for a gold standard in education across Scotland, I believe we can make significant strides forward for our young people in education today.”

The Conservatives’ paper, entitled ‘The Gold Standard – a world class education for every child’, sets out a series of policies the party says are designed to put schools in charge, improve literacy and numeracy and deliver greater transparency.

  • Those include:
  • Handing control over budgets, recruitment and funding of the new Attainment Challenge directly to head teachers;
  • “Buddying” the best and worst-performing schools to help spread best practice;
  • Greater focus on literacy and numeracy, support for parents, and the creation of a new First Minister’s Reading Challenge;
  • New standardised tests for pupils in P1, P4 and P7;
  • Backing for a Save the Children campaign to ensure every child can read well by the age of 11;
  • A new independent inspectorate which is trusted by parents to set high standards.
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