The Scottish Budget has passed its first parliamentary hurdle at Holyrood, as the Green Party and the nationalists voted together to shuffle it on its way.
Scottish Liberal Democrat MSPs opposed the budget because it fails to deliver for the people of Scotland.
In our budget discussions with the SNP, we set out clear priorities to help the Scottish economy by investing in people through education and mental health, with a fair settlement for teachers and local government.
We were clear that the only way this could be accomplished is if the nationalists took independence off the table for the rest of this parliamentary session.
Scottish Liberal Democrats were not asking for the world. We want to deliver a progressive budget that delivers on those priorities.
So why were we asking for independence to be off the table?
The last two and a half years have shown that breaking up political unions is costly and damaging.
We want the nationalists to recognise that the lessons of Brexit are the lessons for independence.
Just as Brexit poses a huge risk to the UK economy, so too does independence pose a huge risk to the Scottish economy and it means less money for public services. The SNP’s own panel of experts admits there will be less money for public services.
We want stability to help Scotland grow. That’s why independence needs to be taken off the table for the remainder of this parliament.
So how do we start to get Scotland back on track?
In Scotland, our mental health services have been going from bad to worse, with thousands of children waiting up to a year for treatment. We have won the argument to invest in mental health through sheer persistence. But the SNP Government are just not following up with the cash to pay for the extra staff we need.
On education, teachers are contemplating the first national strikes since Mrs Thatcher in protest at SNP handling of pay and conditions.
And on local government, Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP have passed down cut after cut to local communities and expected councils to deal with it. And they are doing it again this year.
In areas like my own seat of North East Fife we are seeing steep cuts to school budgets and communities having to go without services they rely on.
We sincerely want to work to solve these issues.
If the SNP parked the issue of independence for the rest of this Parliament then we could reach a comprehensive and progressive deal on the budget.
We have repeatedly and consistently made that constructive offer so that Scotland can have a stable Scottish Government that focuses on the big challenges rather than getting bogged down with yet another massive and disruptive constitutional debate.
Unfortunately, the SNP declined our offer because they have a one-track mind. Despite telling everyone that education is their guiding mission, independence always comes first before anything else.
In the end the Greens have accepted a budget that ignores their main red line to scrap the council tax, and delivers a cut of £50 million for social care.
That’s not good enough. That’s why Scottish Liberal Democrats will continue to demand better.