The future depends on the plans we make today. That is why this year’s Programme for Government builds on our commitment to improving equality, opportunity, and our communities for generations to come.

The cost-of-living crisis, which the UK Government has failed to address, is hurting the most vulnerable in our society and many people in Ayr. During these times, the people of Scotland need a government that is on their side.

This year’s programme shows that Scotland’s Government is making progress towards a fairer, wealthier, and greener Scotland.

The only way we can achieve this is by creating a well-being economy focused on growth and well-paid jobs. This will benefit the people of Ayr and everyone in Scotland.

That is why I am so pleased to hear that the First Minister is placing businesses at the heart of his plans. A £15 million support package will harness entrepreneurial talent and create new opportunities to start, scale and sustain businesses. I look forward to seeing this being utilised in our area.

When we grow our economy, we are able to invest in our vital public services. I strongly welcome a pay rise for the social sector which will see staff paid a minimum of £12 an hour from April.

This will mean an increase of more than £2,000 a year for some staff. Up to 100,000 workers will benefit from this policy which I also trust will play a role in addressing recruitment issues the sector is currently facing.

Our children will also benefit from the Scottish Government’s plans with the expansion of free school meals.

Works are currently being undertaken with COSLA to prepare for the universal expansion to P6 and 7s, starting with those receiving our ground-breaking Scottish Child Payment.

Finally, one of the announcements I welcome most is the commitment to tackle vaping amongst young people and non-smokers. Those who follow me will know this is an issue I care passionately about.

For some smokers, vaping can be a useful tool to eventually get off nicotine. But it is deeply worrying that adults and young people who have never touched a cigarette are using vapes and becoming addicted.

I eagerly await updates from Ministers and for the revised Tobacco Action plan which will be announced later this year.

While all of these commitments show our determination to build a better Scotland, the unfortunate reality is that we are currently operating with one hand tied behind our back.

In the last five years, the Scottish Government has spent more than £700 million on mitigating Conservative welfare cuts.

That’s why we will never stop believing that decisions about Scotland should be made by the people who live here.

(Editor's note: This column was submitted prior to the fire at the Station Hotel on September 25.)