Thursday, 25 February 2010

FMQs 25 February 2010

With Alex Salmond publishing the Independence Referendum Bill consultation document this morning, I was anticipating three opposition parties having great delight in using this forum for a tri-pronged verbal attack but perhaps they had enough say during the morning's business .

However, knife crime, Alex Salmond's arrogance, Nicola Sturgeon's apology, bonuses in the public sector, the Bervie Braes and the ongoing troubles of the SPT all featured in today's 'Who can outwit the First Minister' - more commonly known as First Minister's Questions.

The labour leader's desired the FM to support the labour amendment to knife crime.  It states '... if anyone is caught carrying a knife they go to jail'.  The FM wasn't having any of it and, along with stating that Scotland now had the lowest level for homicide for 10 years, sentences for knife crime had increased and therefore he couldn't support the labour proposal. Iain Gray (who I should have mentioned was the leader of labour MSPs in the Scottish Parliament) didn't give up though, (he never does because he insists upon sticking rigidly to his script) so, in response to Mr Gray's further questions we were provided with more statistics from the FM. The FM couldn't resist correcting Mr Gray on his inaccuracies regarding changes in the law then told the chamber 83% of those accused of knife crime were jailed, the Violence Reduction Unit's funding had been doubled since the SNP took office and the way to tackle crime is to have more police on the streets.  Today Scotland has more police on the streets than any other time in its history.

Annabel Goldie (tory) does deserve credit for effort I must say.  Her desire was to attempt to push the FM into saying sorry for the failings of the SNP not meeting many of their manifesto promises and she failed, although she was particularly complimentary in her praise of Nicola Sturgeon's apology to Parliament yesterday.  Then she changed tack to suggest that the government had employed 1000 more civil servants since they came to power when they promised cutbacks in government.  Alex Salmond speedily quoted the Audit Scotland report, published today, which congratulated the Scottish government and other departments for their efficiency savings and their reinvestment in front line services.

The best question of the day came from Tavish Scott (libdems). After his preamble, he accused the PM of permitting £912m to be paid to Scottish Enterprise employees.  Alex Salmond swept aside his query reiterating the present government were not responsible for many of the salary contracts of employees.  Mr Scott wasn't to be sidelined and brought to the FM's attention that he had reorganised SE, reducing it to half its size, and yet he paid the same £200,000 given to the previous CE.  Unable to defend the detail the FM deftly leapt onto the word 'cut' which Mr Scott and mentioned in his question, describing Nick Clegg's adjectives regarding cuts at the libdem conference last year.

Mike Rumbles (libdem) wanted urgent help with the problem of the Bervie Braes and although the council had recently spent a further £500,000 on the problem it was not resolved. The FM updated the chamber about the landslide at 6.06am today and said John Swinney had been in meetings with Aberdeenshire council about the matter last week.  The source of the problem with the Bervie Braes, the FM mentioned, was the Braes were private land and the houses involved were privately owned, but he did say the government said they would do all they could to help.

Sandra White (SNP) pressed for the FM to order a wider review of Strathclyde Partnership for Transports giving theirrecent serious difficulties.  The FM outlined the structure of this organisation and said it didn't look like a broadly based cross- party organisation with  structure of 12 labour, 4 SNP, 2 tory, 1 libdem and 1 independent.  He was considering a wider review but is currently pressing for SPT to reform themselves.  If they don't do this with immediate effect he implied it will be done for them.

Best question:  Tavish Scott

You can watch this week's episode at HolyroodTV and it will also shortly be available on the BBC iPlayer.


Oldrightie said...

It is a very expensive business, this politics!

Jeanne Tomlin said...

"today's 'Who can outwit the First Minister' - more commonly known as First Minister's Questions...."

Haha! Chances of outwitting the First Minister... slim to none.

I would like to see him actually given good opposition and have to work at it. This lot doesn't even make him break a sweat and his expected (some day or if he's run over by a bus) heir-apparent Ms. Sturgeon is made of the same stuff.

What a pitiful lot the others are.

(And this from someone, let me remind you who doesn't vote for ANY of them. We have our own pitiful lot to contend with)

MekQuarrie said...

Nice summary. I'm a bit sceptical about letting SPT reform itself. Turkeys and Christmas. (Who would trust Westminster to reform itself nowadays..?)

subrosa said...

It certainly is OR, so many people making so much from so few - us.

subrosa said...

Alex Salmond looked a bit peaky today Jeanne and I didn't feel he quite got into his stride, although he improved slightly after the first half.

Yes it would be good for everyone if we had skilled politicians in opposition.

subrosa said...

Don't you think he's playing politics with them Mek and really has the intention of reforming it himself?

Jeanne Tomlin said...

At his peakiest with a hand tied behind him and eating a pie, he'd still wipe the floor with that bunch. ;)

I thought perhaps the lack of an attack on the referendum had him a bit startled at first, but if there is one thing Mr. Salmond can do it's adjust to what they fling at him.

I do wish the Labour bench would stop yapping like rabid chihuahuas. I know that's accepted behavior in your part of the world. Westminster is actually worse, but I do find it less than dignified.

It would be nice if Holyrood would be better than Westminster instead of going down the same road.

subrosa said...

Jeanne I didn't think of that and you may well be right. He'd perhaps geared himself up to support his own policy only for labour to, again, return to knife crime.

In the post I was going to make reference to Iain Gray's 4 nodding dogs at his back but I refrained. Actually they all looked rather well turned out today for a change.

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