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.