By Derek Mackay, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy & Fair Work

THIS has been a monumental year in global, European and Scottish politics. The political landscape has continued to change dramatically. And we have not been immune to that change in Scotland.

As Scotland’s Finance and Economy Secretary I have tried to provide businesses, investors and our public sector with as much certainty and stability as possible to enable them to plan ahead and invest.

As we look ahead to 2019, my first priority will be to strengthen the fundamentals of our economy and public services as the reality of Brexit unfolds. That work will begin by passing the 2019-20 Scottish Budget.

Our spending plans for the year ahead will deliver an increase of almost £730 million for our health and care services, invest more than £180m to raise attainment in our schools, give a vital boost to our economy through a £5 billion infrastructure programme and provide local government with a real terms increase in overall support through a £11.1bn settlement.

But as well as providing certainty amidst Brexit, my budget prepares our economy for the opportunities of the future, enables the transformation of essential public services, and builds a more inclusive and just society.

My priority for 2019 will be to continue to make that vision a reality. I want to see a country that is globally competitive with innovation, sustainability and fairness at its heart. And the Scottish economy is the power house that fuels that ambition. That work starts with investment in the skills and wellbeing of our people.

Enabling the skills for the future is a priority for this Government. And I know it is a priority for businesses too. That is why we will bring forward measures in 2019 to enhance the skills of our workforce and work in partnership with business and unions to tackle the challenge of retraining and upskilling our people.

While Scotland’s labour market is performing well for many people, those who face complex and challenging circumstances – including disability – still find it harder to access and stay in work. Our devolved employment support service, Fair Start Scotland launched earlier this year and is already helping almost 5,000 people who want to find and stay in work. Between now and 2023, Fair Start Scotland will seek to support a minimum of 38,000 people across Scotland find and stay in work, and help businesses find the skilled and committed employees they need to thrive.

We will increase investment in capital infrastructure by £1.56m per year by the end of the next parliament. This investment will improve quality of life, boost productivity and make our country a more attractive place to live, work and invest.

We will legislate for the establishment of a Scottish National Investment Bank, which will deliver £2bn investment over 10 years.

We are strategically investing in advanced manufacturing, boosting Scottish business exports, and support our towns and cities to maximise their economic opportunities. We will ensure that our investment benefits all of Scotland, creating thousands of jobs and up-skilling local labour markets to build on our economic strengths.

These measures, combined with our commitment to working in partnership with local authorities, business, the third sector and others will help strengthen our economy and ensure we have the necessary conditions in place to safeguard our prosperity from the uncertainty and economic impacts of the Brexit process.

The Scottish Government is ambitious for Scotland’s future and as Economy and Finance Secretary, I know just how important economic stability is to delivering the type of Scotland we want to see.