FMQs Live: 23 September
Sep 23, 2010 No Comments
Labour leader Iain Gray kicks off saying that when he was in St Andrew’s House for cross party talks on the Defence Review he saw a slogan on the wall that read: ‘Our one central purpose is to increase Scotland’s economic growth’ – if that is the FM’s one purpose has he not failed miserably, he asks.
The First Minister says he is still pleased that cross party consensus could be found on opposing defence cuts from Westminster and that Gray should be proud of that.
Gray points to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report this week which showed that Scotland’s economic performance was worse than England’s.
Salmond says Scotland actually went through the recession faster than the rest of the UK. Its problem is a fragile economic recovery. The best way to ensure economic growth would be for this parliament to have the powers over the country’s finances, he adds.
Unemployment is higher in Scotland than in the rest of the country, says Gray. There are now 50,000 more Scots sitting at home without a job since last year. When is the First Minister going to take responsibility, he asks.
Salmond lists achievements on local authority housing and renewable energy. He says what Scotland needs is the powers to grow its economy.
Scotland’s jobless are sick of hearing Salmond’s rhetoric, Gray says. The ‘Salmond slump’ has created 40,000 jobs losses – 3000 in the teaching profession and 4000 in the NHS. Is that not a legacy of miserable failure, he asks.
Salmond tells Gray he should look at the current figures. Construction jobs have risen by 9 per cent in the last quarter in Scotland and fallen by 5 per cent in the UK, he says.
Conservative leader Annabel Goldie goes on higher education funding. Glasgow University principal Anton Muscatelli has warned that by 2013 his institution could run out of money, she says. Consensus is growing that a graduate contribution is needed. Does the FM agree?
There are big changes coming to the HE sector the FM says. The Scottish Government must await the completion of a review south of the border, after which it will bring forward a Green Paper but that will not include a return to tuition fees, he adds.
Salmond’s response amounts to ‘I came, I saw, I haven’t a clue’ Goldie replies. The Tories have made their position clear she says – they favour deferred payment of fees over a graduate tax or up-front tuition fees. Will the FM lay his cards on the table?
The FM says every university principal has said that the SNP Government has made a positive contribution to the HE sector in Scotland. With Draconian cuts to HE planned in England let us find a Scottish solution, says Salmond, a view he claims has been echoed by Anton Muscatelli.
Lib Dem Leader Tavish Scott goes on the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. What officials does Scotland have in Delhi monitoring the situation, he asks.
The FM says the situation in Delhi is of concern and the Scottish Government has a duty of care to Scottish athletes. There will be an assessment tomorrow morning which Scottish officials will take part in he says.
Scott says the Scottish Government has a responsibility to restore confidence in the Commonwealth Games after this incident. He says world games often clash so that athletes cannot take part in one. Will the FM ensure that the Commonwealth Games do not clash with other world events, he asks.
The FM tells the chamber the government will do its best to avoid any clashes with other world events. He says he believes the Delhi games will be an amazing event and he hopes Glasgow will emulate and hopefully surpass it.
Stewart Maxwell MSP asks the FM about the Government’s position on prisoners having the right to vote.
The FM says the Government opposes the right of convicted criminals to vote.
Maxwell says he too opposes the right of murderers, rapists and drug pushers to vote, and even worse their ability to claim compensation on the matter. He says the Scottish Parliament should have control over running elections in Scotland to address this issue.
Labour MSP Richard Baker says the UK Government is reviewing this issue and asks the FM if he has had discussions with Westminster about it and what the cost could be to Scotland.
The previous UK Government held a consultation on this and then handed the problem over to the new coalition government the FM says. Labour’s strategy in dealing with this question was to wait until they were out of office.
Lib Dem MSP Robert Brown says that Scotland is signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights covering free and fair elections. Is the FM proposing Scotland being independent of the EU?
If Scotland was an independent country it would have the same powers as other countries to avoid compensation claims Salmond argues, and in this case those claims could potentially go back 10 years. For most people giving convicted prisoners the right to vote doesn’t seem like an important human right, he adds.
Labour MSP Des McNulty tackles the FM on the in teacher numbers drop of 3000.
The FM says this is a concern but the Scottish Government is not the only one responsible. Labour-led Glasgow City Council was responsible for 25 per cent of the drop in teacher numbers last year and the 12 councils with Labour in administration are to blame for two thirds of the drop.
McNulty asks the FM, if the teacher employment statistics in December show another significant fall in numbers will he demote his education secretary back to his old job?
The FM says PFI bills are part of the pressure on education budgets. Next time Labour praises PFI they should look at the impact it’s having on education in Scotland.
Lib Dem MSP Jeremy Purvis asks the FM how many people in the public sector are paid more than he is. He goes on to tell him that the number is 936. Does he agree that public sector pay is too high?
The FM says that pay for Scottish Government ministers and other senior management in the civil service has been frozen. He says the Scottish Government has been trying to restrain the Distinction Awards Scheme. He welcomes the fact that the new coalition government has – after five months in office – got around to publishing a consultation on the issue.