Politicians are constantly being accused of failing to live up to the promises they make in their campaigns. And it has to be said, governments do often fail to deliver.
One of the most memorable failures in Westminster in recent years was when the Lib Dems campaigned in the General Election saying they would never, ever accept university tuition fees. As soon as party leader Nick Clegg joined David Cameron's coalition government as Deputy Prime Minister, the policy was dumped and tuition fees of £9,000 a year became the norm for students in the rest of the UK.
That didn't happen in Scotland. http://tinyurl.com/kegmxm4
We live up to our commitments and the statement that students living and going to university or college in Scotland would not be paying any fees has stayed good. Education should be based on ability, not on the depth of your pocket.
Edinburgh University: Scots don't pay fees
Helping elderly folk enjoy life
Free personal care for older and disabled people has been a touchstone of the Scottish Government's commitments and now people have very clear proof that we are delivering. Another commitment that we're delivering on.
Thanks to this SNP-led Government, instead of just 57 per cent of people needing free personal care at home actually getting it as in 2003-2004, the figure is now 95 per cent. http://tinyurl.com/lwahey3
South Lanarkshire has seen a near doubling in the number of hours since 2006-07, rising from a figure of 14,000 hours then to the 2012-13 figure of 25,800 hours.
For me, it's simple. I want to see every older person treated as I would treat my own parents. People live longer these days and may, in later life, suffer from several medical conditions that require ongoing help and support.
Westminster seems to have little interest in the quality of life for our older and disabled folk. We have already seen that time and again in the way they cut back benefits to the most vulnerable in society.
For us in Scotland, that won't do. We are absolutely determined to protect those vulnerable people and to respect their needs and values. They have paid their taxes, have contributed to the economy and society, and some politicians would have us now ignore them.
Not for us. In 2003-04, average hours for personal care were 6.9 a week. Now it's 8.44 hours. In 2003-04, the total number of hours a week in Scotland was 226,00. Now it's 398,400. That's an increase of 76 per cent.
And of course that matters to people and they see it in their daily lives, even while Westminster eats away at the weekly income. Free personal care allows people to remain at home, with support, rather than having to go into residential care. It means that they can enjoy the quality of life they deserve for much longer than they could without this service.
As well as that, there is a knock-on effect for the hard-pressed families who cannot always cope with the needs of family members who have complex medical needs. Instead, they are freed up to go back to work, take care of young families and still look after the relatives they love.
While older people form a larger percentage of our population – and will continue to do so – the public sector needs to be able to respond appropriately to their needs. Current projections suggest that our population will rise to 5.78 million by 2037 and that the number of people aged 65 and will increase by 59 per cent from 0.93 million to 1.47 million.
Scotland is not alone. Every country in Europe will have to manage an aging population over the next generations. There is no easy or cheap way out. We either care for our old people or we don't.
This government knows its priorities and the priorities of the people here. We will not tolerate poor or inadequate care for people in later life. Our commitment to free personal care is a very clear statement of our recognition that people deserve to be able to live in their own homes for as long as they can.
We're busy on Europe. There's the European elections coming up on 22 May when we're hoping we'll manage to land a third seat over and above the two MEPs we already have.
We in Scotland know very well that Europe is good for us – but it would be so much better if we had representation of, say, 11 or 12 MEPs rather than 6 on the coat tails of Westminster. That demands a Yes vote. Without that, we could find ourselves dragged kicking and screaming out of Europe because that's what voters in the rest of the UK seem to want.
Nigel Farage, the leader of the anti-European and anti-immigration Ukip party, made a tentative visit to Edinburgh on Friday, declaring that Scots were about to back his policies. Since his supporters were well outnumbered by protesters, I don't think the Scots are daft enough to fall for his imperialist policies.
The European Parliament in Brussels
As regular readers will know, I am Convener of the Scottish Parliament's European and External Affairs Committee, so I'm closely involved with both the theory and the practice of how Europe works for and in Scotland. We also bring a lot to the European table – huge resources of wind and wave power, oil and gas, renewable energy skills, life sciences, for example – so I thin we have the making of a very happy marriage!
We celebrated Europe Day on 9 March, commemorating the Schuman Declaration which recognised the start of the modern European Union. That declaration outlined Schuman's vision for maintaining peace and unity in Europe, making war between member states something to never again be contemplated. http://tinyurl.com/mqnrd8b
What the Schuman Declaration also did was prepare the soil for planting seeds that would develop enlargement, draw in new members and spread the word on how important it is for nations to work together without conflict.
Scotland has benefited from EU membership not only on economic grounds but also on cultural and social grounds. We see our place at the heart of Europe and we know continued membership is vital to the economic wellbeing of Scotland.
Community gardening project
More on planting seeds! Gardening is good for all of us, but there are some folk who especially benefit from the opportunity to share something creative and develop their own sense of fulfillment.
So I was delighted to hear that Larkhall Community Growers has been awarded £39,017 under the Young Start funding scheme.
The project has two distinctive strands: to be creative in music and radio on the one hand and to be creative in the garden on the other. Participants are young people with a range of abilities and some additional support needs.
Some 80 children will benefit from the award, 40 of them under 11 years old. The grant comes from the Big Lottery Fund New Start scheme wich aims to distribute money from dorman bank accounts in order to develop opportunities for eight to 24 year olds and to help them realise their potential.
The project is a non-profit making enterprise that aims to positively impact upon the lives of its members and the wider Larkhall community. The first project proposal is to create a community garden with raised beds to grow fresh produce on a formerly vacant site.
The Growers also promote health lifestyles and seek to enhance education and environmental awareness with a mind to community development. That process, in turn, helps young people to develop a greater sense of how their own actions impact on others and how accepting responsibility and enjoying shared citizenship makes life a lot better.