Thursday 25 November 2010
FMQs 25 November 2010
No guesses as to the main topic today. The Scottish Variable Rate (SVR) took precedence. The three opposition party leaders continued their SVR attack on the First Minister, who also offered his apology for not informing the Parliament of the issues surrounding the SVR and admitted Parliament should have been informed that the HMRC were asking for millions of pounds to keep the system 'alive'. He also emphasised when the SNP took over as government in 2007 the SVR was not in a condition to be enabled within the 10 month timetable.
The First Minister, in reponse to preliminary questions told the Parliament that he had requested an urgent meeting with the Prime Minister and also the Scotland Office minister to discuss the forthcoming Calman legislation.
Iain Gray started well enough, but when he compared the SVR issue with the now defunct LIT, he started to dig a hole. It's most unfortunate he's unable to move from his script, because his third question had already been answered.
Ms Goldie's prodding produce the admission from the First Minister that he is Spartacus and he reiterated his defence of John Swinney's actions although he again apologised for not informing Parliament of the SVR process.
Tavish Scott wanted Spartacus to refer the matter to the independent advisers on the Ministerial Code, the former Presiding Officers. The response side-stepped an answer and the FM again stated the rate is not implementable unless the Parliament is prepared to pay many millions of pounds to the Inland Revenue.
I can understand the opposition parties anger at not being kept informed about issues in connection with SVR, but surely they don't think the Scottish public would approve of millions being spent on a system which was never going to be triggered by this government. Wailing that the Scots voted for the SVA and therefore their hard earned tax should be spent on keeping it 'live' shows just how out of touch they are with the electorate.
LibDem Iain Smith asked the FM if he supported his stance that RAF Leucheurs should not be played off against RAF Lossiemouth in the Westminster governments cutbacks. Alex Salmond said Scotland should not allow itself to be divided and ruled over the issue and it was not acceptable that either closed.
Labour's Richard Baker, is his usual foot-in-mouth pose, questioned the FM about a PWC report that predicts that the number of police officers in Scotland will fall by 2000. The FM gave a brief response citing, in part, the Scottish government's 2.6% cut agreed with COSLA.
A robust and interesting session today. Worth watching if you'd like a little entertainment and to see party leaders practicing for next May's campaign.