LAST week, the Scottish Budget – my first as Finance Secretary – was passed by the Scottish Parliament.

It is a budget that will see Renfrewshire receive additional resource and capital funding of just over £5 million, on top of the additional resources for local services already set out.

Renfrewshire will also receive more than £4m, which will go directly to local headteachers to spend as they best see fit to improve educational attainment in their school.

The Budget will also see the Small Business Bonus Scheme extended, meaning all businesses with a rateable value of below £15,000 will pay no rates at all.

In Renfrewshire, 73 per cent of premises are expected to pay the same or less in rates next year, with more than half of all premises paying no rates.

Recently, I have visited a few local businesses in the area who have told me the scheme is the difference between them employing additional staff or not.

I have also heard the concerns of businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector, and it has become clear that those areas were seeing increases in rateable values that are out of kilter with the wider picture of the revaluation and local economic circumstances. Therefore, I took action. A 12.5 per cent cap on bill increases for this sector will see 73 local businesses receive additional relief worth £1.2m.

While the SNP has delivered for small local businesses, Labour MSPs voted against extending the scheme and the additional relief.

This was a budget which will deliver for all of Scotland and I was incredibly proud to see it being passed by Parliament.

A strong line-up

On Saturday, the SNP candidates for the forthcoming Renfrewshire Council elections were unveiled to the public.

And I am very proud to see we have a gender-balanced team here in Renfrewshire.

Last year, the SNP took action to address the inequality of women being under-represented in politics.

The mechanisms that we introduced have helped to ensure more women came forward for selection this time around. The council chambers should represent their communities – and women, under-represented in the past, should see their representation now enhanced.

We have a very talented team of candidates in the SNP, offering a great mixture of youth and experience.

I also want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the current SNP councillors who are retiring.

Some of them have served Renfrewshire for more than 20 years and deserve the highest of praise for the work they have done in their local community.

Labour have let Renfrewshire down for too long. They have run out of ideas and energy.

The decision to effectively close and then reopen the amenity sites last year, at a cost of £300,000, is just one example of how they have wasted the resources at their disposal and lacked leadership.

It is time for a change and, over the coming weeks, the SNP will be listening to the views of residents across the local area to hear what matters most to you.

This will allow us to put forward a manifesto for Renfrewshire.

It is a manifesto for change.

This is the end