07/04/2017: First Minister's Questions Politics Scotland

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07/04/2017: First Minister's Questions

Coverage of First Minister's Questions in the Scottish Parliament.

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election and was challenged to commit to the promise made in the


manifesto and wouldn't do it. She was challenged to save the Tories


would have a commitment to the triple lock on pensions in the


manifesto and she wouldn't do that either. I think we should look very


closely at the commitments the Tories make and also the commitments


the Tories do not make at this election. Let me just say this is


secondly, I support the work that DFID does around the world, helping


many to get contraception, but I find it abhorrent that as DFID does


things like that overseas, this government is forcing women to prove


they have been raped before they get access to benefits for their


children. So I will give... I will give Ruth Davidson a chance today -


do not pass the buck, tells Scotland straight, do you support the rape


clause in principle or do you, like me, think it is utterly abhorrent?


Answer the question. Ruth Davidson. I will answer the question, if the


First Minister doesn't like the two child tax policy, she can change it.


But the truth is this First Minister is always happier, always happier


complaining about the UK Government than she is about doing anything


herself. The fact is that the way the SNP is readying itself to poor


negativity on this country is shameful. She might not like it but


Scotland is part of this United Kingdom, and if the First Minister


really wants to set out her stall at this election, isn't practical


vision of how she is governing Scotland the very least that we


should all expect? Or given away education and the economy is going,


is she just banking the fact Scots will buy it? Shame on Ruth Davidson.


And shame on the Conservatives. We have just seen in this chamber the


true colours of Ruth Davidson and the Conservatives. Given the


opportunity to stand up clearly and join others in this chamber and say


that the rape clause, a clause that forces a woman to prove she has been


raped before claiming benefits for her children is morally and in


principle wrong, Ruth Davidson refuses to do so. That is utterly


shameful. And I think it brings into sharp focus, presiding officer, it


brings into sharp focus the key issue at the heart of this general


election. I ask people to think about this. The rape clause has been


introduced by a Tory government at Westminster with a tiny majority. If


that is what the Tory government can do with a tiny majority, let's just


think of the damage a Tory government can do, and unfettered,


out-of-control Tory government can do with it -- can do with a bigger


majority. If the people want a strong opposition to a Tory


government, they won't get it from Labour, they won't get it from the


Lib Dems who still say they would support a Tory government, they will


only get it from the SNP and Scotland needs protection from the


Tories. Presiding officer, in the weeks ahead these benches will set


out our vision of the United Kingdom which is a force for good in the


world and we will stand up for Scotland's decision to stay in the


United Kingdom. We will say no to a second referendum so that Scotland


can get on with building better schools and better public services.


But what about the SNP's plans? The First Minister's first intervention


in this election is to say she would put Jeremy Corbyn in number ten. Is


it because uniquely the First Minister sees in Mr Corbyn the


wisdom and foresight and leadership skills that are needed in a Prime


Minister? Or could it be because in his own words Jeremy Corbyn is


absolutely fine with another referendum on independence? Is that


the alliance she was really seeking down in London? This is pretty tired


stuff from the Tories. You only have to take one look at the polls to


know that Jeremy Corbyn ain't going anywhere near number ten. That


brings us back to the core issue, presiding Officer, because of the on


electability of Labour. Scotland faces the prospect of an unfettered


out-of-control Tory government and we know the damage that can do to


Scotland, to our budget, to the vulnerable, to the pensions, to our


economy, so that's the choice for Scotland. Vote SNP to make sure


Scotland's voice is heard and Scotland has protection against the


Tories because the problem for Ruth Davidson, as she has so clearly set


out today, Scotland knows the Tory vision for Scotland, the rape


clause, penalising the government, taking motor ability vehicles away


from disabled people. People across Scotland no provision and the


programme of the Tories and that's why people in Scotland know that if


they want protection against that Tory vision, they must vote SNP.


Kezia Dugdale. To ask the First Minister what engagements she has


planned for the rest of the week. In recent weeks the First Minister has


joined me in calling out the horrific rape clause, has accused


Theresa May of undermining devolution. She has just told us


that we have seen what damage a Tory government can do. So why did the


SNP abstain yesterday instead of voting with Labour to get rid of


this Tory government? I hate to be the one that has to point it out,


Kezia Dugdale. It wasn't the SNP that voted with the Tories yesterday


in the House of Commons, it was Labour who trooped through the


lobbies with the Tories yesterday. You know the lobby I mean, it's that


one that had turkeys in Christmas written above it. The idea in this


election that Labour is going to replace the Tories is frankly tie in


the sky. The issue and the threat at this election is that due to


Labour's unelectability, we face an unfettered, out-of-control Tory


government. We know the Prime Minister wants to silence opposition


so the question for Scotland is, if you want a strong opposition to the


Tories, if you want MPs who will be a voice for Scotland, the only party


to support at this election is the SNP.


Labour MPs voted yesterday to get rid of this miserable Tory


government. And imagine my surprise that the SNP MPs did not do the


same. The First Minister has said that she want an honest debate, so


let's have it. It suits the SNP for the Tories to stay in power. That is


why they refused to vote Theresa May out of office yesterday. Everyday


Tories remain in power, 430,000 Scots go without a real living wage.


Women do without the pension they have worked their whole lives for.


Young people have their housing benefit stripped away from them. It


suits the SNP for the Tories to stay in power. The only thing the SNP


have ever cared about its independence. So, tell us First


Minister, on the 8th of June, what is more important? Kicking the


Tories out of office or having another divisive referendum?


Presiding officer, Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable and will leave Labour


carping from the sidelines. How do we know that? Because that is what


Casilla Dugdale said about Jeremy Corbyn. I agree with her about how


awful and how damaging this Tory government is. That is why I think


it is so utterly shameful and disgraceful that Labour have allowed


themselves to get in the position that this lot are 20 points ahead of


them in opinion bowls UK wide and are even ahead of them in Scotland


as well. That is Labour's failure and it is an utter disgrace. It


brings us back to the core point at stake in this election. The only


thing in this election standing between an out of control,


unfettered Tory government and Scotland is the SNP. If people want


to make sure that the Tory government can be held to account,


if they want to make sure there is a strong voice for Scotland and if


they want to make sure Scotland is protected against the kind of


policies that Casilla Dugdale talks about, they have to make sure they


sent SNP MPs back to Westminster. It was the First Minister in 2015 who


told Scotland food SNP to keep the Tories out. How is that going? Can I


say to her, in all seriousness if Jeremy Corbyn was Prime Minister,


there would be no great cause, that would be no more housing benefit


cuts and there would be no more austerity and I will proudly


campaign for that over the next six weeks as she campaigns for


independence. Can I say, the last time we voted in a general election,


Nicola Sturgeon said this, I have made it very clear that if you vote


SNP in this election, that is not a vote for independence, nor is it a


vote for another referendum. Time and time again we were told that a


vote for the SNP is not a vote for another referendum. With the First


Minister have the decency to tell the voters before the food that she


will use this election as another excuse for a divisive referendum


were once again when she went on to the day after? Demanded for another


referendum was sought and won at the Scottish Parliament elections last


year. This election is about who will stand up for Scotland against


the Tories. It is about who will stop the Tories silencing and


crushing the opposition. She has got the nerve to stand up and somehow


blame the SNP for the fact that the Tories didn't lose the election


in... I am almost speechless. But the SNP is to blame for the fact the


Tories won the election in 2015. It was Labour's fault. If Labour had


won every seat in Scotland they would still have lost to the Tories


across the UK. Labour or unelectable and utterly useless. That is the


tragedy of UK politics right now. It brings us back to the central point.


The only thing in this election, and I would ask every voter out there to


think about this seriously, the Tories want everyone to think there


is a safe tactical Tory vote they can cast in this election, but every


single Tory vote cast in Scotland will help Theresa May made sure that


she has the ability to do what ever she wants. If you do not want an


out-of-control Tory government, if you want protection, if you want a


strong opposition and a strong voice against the Tories then you have to


make sure you vote SNP in Scotland. To ask the First Minister what


issues will be discussed at the next meeting of the Cabinet. Issues of


importance to the people of Scotland. The SNP deputy leader


struggled to explain his party's Europe policy on the radio


yesterday. Five times he was asked what policy would be in the


manifesto for the general election. Five times asked, five times he was


not able to answer. He became so desperate he even asked all the


listeners to write in with suggestions. It was answers on a


postcard. The First Minister has a chance to influence this. Does she


wandered through membership of the European Union in the SNP manifesto?


The policy of the SNP on Europe is absolutely clear. We want Scotland


to remain members of the European Union. I don't think there is


anybody who could have missed that over the past few months. It is


interesting, because Willie Rennie somehow tries to criticise me when I


have said and what Scotland and the UK to remain in the EU, but I think


what is really important is that we prioritise membership of the single


market. It is interesting that he criticises me for that because it is


what Tim Farren, his own leader says. He wants the UK to stay in the


single market, the priority is staying in the single market. There


is no doubt about my policy. I want to remain in the EU. The dove is


what on earth the EU -- S -- Liberal Democrat policy is. Why can't she


said it will be in the manifesto then? She is dodging, just like


Angus yesterday. The Liberal Democrats are crystal clear. We want


Scotland in the heart of the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom in


the heart of Europe. The general election is a chance to change the


course of the whole of the United Kingdom. The more liberal Democrat


MPs elected, the greater chance we have of changing the direction of


the country. Just like the moment she joined the SNP all those years


ago, the First Minister has only ever cared about independence. We


know what she and her government property. She is trying to get


Brexit supporters back on side so she is going soft on Europe. It is


fair to ask if EU membership will be in the manifesto. So, what is the


answer? Is she going to tell us? Let me try it in simple words. I support


membership of the European Union. Surely even Willie Rennie can


understand that. There was another politician dodging questions


yesterday, wasn't there? I saw Tim Farren challenged in the House of


Commons by Stewart McDonald, one of my excellent colleagues in


Westminster and Tim Farren was challenging, was challenged, to rule


out supporting a Tory government and he refused to do so. There we have


it, presiding officer. Labour is unelectable. The Liberal Democrat


propped the Tories up for five years and will not rule out doing it


again. If you want to have Scottish interests heard against the Tories,


if you want Scotland protected against the Tories come if you want


a party who stand up against the Tories then there is only one party


who will do SNP. -- do that. The SNP. How is the Scottish Government


standing up for human rights in the face of Tory attempt to scrap the


Human Rights Act? We will oppose vigorously any attempt to scrap the


Human Rights Act and we know if the Tories get their way that is what


they want to do, which makes it all the more ironic that with Davidson


is talking about work overseas, one of the worst thing is the Tories


could do and the message we could send internationally is to row back


on the human rights and we will always oppose that and stand up for


human rights. Will the First Minister confirm that airport


expansion, new flight route and the scrapping of air passenger duty are


all government policy? Does she agree with me that it is hypocrisy


for MSP is, MPs and government ministers to pretender to their


constituents that they oppose these policies when all the while they


compliantly folded through in Cabinet? I want Scotland to have the


best connections with the rest of the world because that is good for


people in Scotland, it is also good for our businesses seeking to expand


and exported overseas. I make no apology for what they are aviation


connections, as well as our other transport connections to be as good


as they possibly can be. I am clear about our responsibilities to tackle


climate change and this government and parliament should be proud for


the world leading action it is taking to tackle climate change. To


ask the First Minister whether she will provide an update on her visit


to the United States? Yes. I visited the United States between the second


and 7th of April, attending events and meetings in California and New


York. I was promoting Scottish innovation, entrepreneurship and


culture. The relationship between Scotland and America is an important


point with a deep ties reflected by the strong economic and personal


links of our citizens. This visit was an important opportunity to


ensure businesses and visitors from the US that Scotland is an outward


looking, welcoming country remains very open for business. I think the


First Minister for that answer. I was particularly pleased to see


climate action high on the agenda with the First Minister signing a


conflicted with the governor of California. In the Highlands and


Islands, renewables are transforming communities, creating a climate and


help us meet our targets. When the Tories at Westminster trash


subsidies for green energy, how can we continue to meet our global


obligations to tackling climate change in partnership with allies


around the world? It is important to stress that Scotland is making huge


progress in delivering our climate change emissions but we still have


much to achieve the stuff I did meet with the governor of California in


the years to discuss how our two administrations could work together


to achieve our shared ambition of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


We have pledged to cut emissions by 20% 2015 and we have discussed the


importance of offshore wind in tackling climate change and agreed


to share knowledge and best practice in developing this technology. We


have also offered to help the under two coalition representing 2 billion


people to prepare for a summit in 2018 in the Chris Grayling national


governments to increase efforts to tackle climate change. There is no


doubt that many of the policies of this current UK Government fly in


the face of our efforts to tackle climate change. One of the other


reasons it is so important we have voices in Westminster are looking


for the policies that will support us, not hinder us in meeting these


ambitions. I was amused to see the First Minister under a banner


describing herself as the Queen of Scots. It is not quite how I here


described nearer to home. The Speaker of the United States, Paul


Ryan, is currently in London and has made clear the United States


government wishes to come to an expedited trade arrangement with the


United Kingdom when we leave the European Union. Can I ask the First


Minister when she was in the United States, what formal discussions with


the government of the United States but future trade relationships and


what assurances she given to them that the Scottish Government would


do everything they could to ensure the early trading is arrived at? I


am glad Jackson Carlo watched the women in the world Summit that he


mentions, because I hope he also heard during that some of horror


from the audience, the very large audience that were there listening,


when I outlined the real cause policy that had come into effect. He


says I misrepresented it. Let me set out very clear for the chamber. The


rear doors policy puts an obligation on a woman to prove that she has


been raped if she wanted to claim tax credits for more than two


children. If Jackson Carlo thinks that is a misrepresentation by


infighting to come to this chamber and tell us exactly what the root


cause policy den entails and to do it as Ruth Davison failed to do and


have the courage to say it is morally reprehensible to have such a


policy on the statute book. On the issue, I met with a number of


businesses and other economic interests in the United States. I


did not have meetings with the US government, this was a trade and


investment focused desert. In every conversation I had the message was


clear that Scotland remains open for business and it is all the more


important, given the practical sessions of the Tories, that we get


that message out to the United States and every country across the


world. To ask the First Minister what the Scottish Government


response is to the reports of... Found in school buildings. The


health and safety of students in schools is of paramount importance.


Following the publication of the independent enquiry into Edinburgh


school construction Minister for local government wrote to all local


authorities had it in the issues and recommendations the report raised us


of the importance of adhering to building regulations, technical


standards and the inspection processes which are in place to


protect the public. The minister wrote to and let the leaders in the


construction industry to ensure the construction industry to ensure they


are aware of the findings and recommendations in the report and


ensure we can rely on quality workmanship and control processes. I


think the First Minister for that answer. I accept it is local


authorities who have the statutory responsibility for school buildings.


The Scottish Government surely feel has a duty to ensure that those


responsibilities are deployed following the publication of the


Edinburgh schools report. That is indeed what I red this safety issues


regarding with campus with the First Minister on the 26th of January this


year which she chose the sideline. Can the First Minister about explain


why it has taken problems in 72 schools across Scotland for the


Scottish Government to take this matter seriously? Will she now


provide unequivocal guarantee that all work is being done with local


authorities to ensure that all buildings, school buildings, are


safe across Scotland? A number of points. I know later on Logan


Tomkins is going to ask a question challenging me to leave


responsibilities that are not those of the Scottish Government


specifically to local authorities and not interfere in local authority


responsibilities. There is a bit of a constituency issue. I accept the


Scottish Government has responsibilities, that is what I set


out the action the Scottish Government has taken and I would say


could remember, we did that with the independent report. We want to local


authorities in the way I described shortly after the school situation


arose last year. We acted promptly as the public would have expected us


to do. It is also important to note that none of the schools requiring


remedial work was built under our schools programme. These are


historic school building projects, but nevertheless, here we have got


to make sure that all school buildings are safe and that lessons


from previous PFI programmes are properly learned and implemented in


the future and the government is absolutely determined that we will


discharge our responsibility to do so. Of course, these clues in


question were built by Labour and the Liberal Democrats under PFI. The


First Minister will know that perish the Lieberman Council, schools with


the construction cost of 81 million. 401 million will have to be paid in


charges to the companies who built them, including 2.7 million this


year. That is the equivalent of buying and ?81,000 flat, and a


mortgage for 30 years and then not even going to get at the end of the


30 years. Does the First Minister agreed that the reckless handling of


the public finances were never in office continues to rob us of funds


which could be used to predict would building on Google services and it


is high time they've apologised for the legacy of incontinence. The left


for schools and local authorities across Scotland. Yes, yes I do. When


I think it is fair to point out that the enquiry said the financing


method was not in itself responsible for defective construction, it does


state that the implementation of the contract for the partners involved


could have been stronger. Questions must be asked and in due course


answered about all PFI contract that many at the time period put profits


before quality. The cost of the disastrous Labour PFI deals are


still taking significant sums of money away from vital public


services. This government is determined to secure maximum value


for money in existing PFI contracts. The Scottish futures trust work on


behalf of ministers and have done so for some time with public bodies to


identify the scope to improve the efficiency and performance of these


contracts and this work will continue. I do think this whole


episode raises serious questions for previous Labour administrations and


perhaps one day they will have to answer and apologise. This is an


issue which has had a distinct impact on my constituency. One year


ago Saint Peter 's premises had to send its pupils elsewhere. The body


has good had to close. Dozens of families had to send their children


to other schools. The underlying issue was the failure of contractors


to install it was properly. A failure that was not picked up by


building control and indeed we now learn that there are scores of


school buildings across Scotland which similarly have structural


faults, begin which would feel it to be picked up by building control.


Clearly there are issues about the science of procedure, he went


building control box and the safety checks. Can the First Minister tell


Parliament what changes and reviews will the middle of the building


control processing machine? That is a very fair question. I want to


respond to two aspects. Firstly, to recognise the disruption this caused


for pupils across Edinburgh last year. The independent report does


say the educational impact on children is likely to have been


limited, but I don't think that takes away from the disruption and


the concern pupils and parents had last year, especially for older


pupils who would have needed exams. I think everybody deeply regrets


that. Secondly the issue about scrutiny of work and building


control processes is also one calf to reflect very carefully on. We


have got to make sure there is an appropriate level of independent


scrutiny of building work. The government is reviewing all existing


guidance on appropriate supervision and contract management so we can be


assured that best practice is available as a matter of course


construction projects. These are schools that were not under our


government, but that does not change the fact that as the incumbent


government now we have the nature of the regular lessons are learned and


those lessons are applied in future and we are determined that we will


do that. To ask the First Minister what the Scottish Government


response is to reports of sexually exploitative behaviour in the


private rented housing sector? I was extremely concerned, horrified


actually, to red the reports the number refers to the Minister for


Housing has already written to the website concerned that hosted these


adverts asking them to take action. As a government was already taking


action to tackle issues like this to the implementation of equally safe,


our strategy to tackle any violence against women and girls and we are


also taking action to prove the availability of housing for everyone


and action to tackle poverty and inequality which can so often the


people vulnerable to being exploited in this kind of way. Any person


always has the right to refuse to consent to sexual activity and


forcing someone in any way to participate in sexual activity is a


crime. We continue to keep those laws under review the nature of they


are fit for purpose in tackling what I think are unacceptable behaviours.


I think the First Minister for response. We know these sacks for


rent adverts have been posted on line for properties in Scotland but


we have no way of how many tenants are in these arrangements. As the


First Minister says, the practice opens the door to fondle tenants who


are facing homelessness and poverty and find themselves in exploitative


arrangements. I welcome the report of the action taken by the Housing


Minister, but can I ask what action the government will take to ensure


that any landlords who are found to be offering such arrangements are


properly dealt with? More specifically, what action is being


taken to the equally safe project and also, have they had time to have


discussions with groups supporting vulnerable women who are seeking


accommodation, to raise awareness of these exploited of practices? We


will look carefully at what action we can take further to what we are


already doing across these areas. The Minister would be happy to meet


ministers discuss this in more detail if that would be of interest.


She raises the situation of landlords and where landlords are


behaving unacceptably then clearly there are provisions to seek a deal


with that. I suspect in cases like the one she is highlighting often


the problem will be there is no formal tenancy agreement. These


informal arrangements which doesn't make them any more acceptable, much


less so in fact. Sometimes that would be one of the challenges.


These are not formal arrangements with is a recognised landlord.


Nevertheless, these are serious issues. There are wider issues


involved around this kind of thing. I will undertake to ensure that the


minister considers all suggestions made by the member and the offer of


a meeting stands. I recognise the First Minister acknowledges that not


all of these circumstances will involve the registered landlord, but


in order to register and return to comply with the fit and proper


person test. Isn't it clear that any such excluded arrangements should


lead to an automatic feel of the fit and proper person test and


verification of any existing landlord registration? I think my


answer that would be yes. I struggle to see how anyone in this as an


advocate of this description would pass the fit and proper person test.


Jakati and other members will be aware that there is a proper


statutory legal process that local authorities had to go through before


they can take landlord status with somebody and I couldn't in any


situation pre-empt that, but I think we all agreed about the


acceptability of the examples brought to's attention. Just as I


did with the previous member, I will undertake to discuss this with the


Member two nature that it take ever action are able to take. To ask the


First Minister what the position is of the Scottish Government on the


view that local authorities should be responsible for all matters not


specifically reserved to the Scottish Parliament which might be


the Tories should practice what they preach but occasionally on these


issues. Local authority responsibilities are very clearly


set out and the focus of the Scottish Government is on


encouraging councils to empower communities across the country,


because it is important that we do not just consider what our local


authorities should have, but also how local authorities can transfer


more of their power to local communities. That is why our


community empowerment act puts additional powers into the hands of


communities and local authorities to account and we are discussing how to


achieve our aim of having at least 1% of council budgets decided in


this way, building on the work of over ?2 million community choices


fund. He argued in our manifesto yesterday


the council should focus on growing. Citizen are being given


opportunities to do that from the northern powerhouse. Can you


identify a single power that would allow the city is here to do the


same? Local authorities have the power of general competence. There


is nothing standing in the way of local authorities getting on with


the job they should be doing and many are doing well in terms of


growing their local economy. As members are aware, we have


delivered, sometimes in partnership with the UK city deals, so were not


only making sure there is devolved power in the hands of authorities


but there is substantial initial investment to do the things that


will support economic growth. We will continue to do that and I look


forward to seeing many more city deals in the year ahead, not least


the city of Edinburgh and the surrounding areas. I am a great


believer in giving local authorities the powers and resources they need


to do the job in local communities but I don't want to see Powers


stopped at local authorities, real community empowerment is important


which is why the community Parliament act is so important. I


welcome the reform Scotland paper which contains a lot with which the


Green party agrees. We believe local government should have a greater


fiscal autonomously than it does do and some weeks ago we published


proposals for the fiscal framework between Scottish Government and


local government. Does the First Minister agree that as the Scottish


Parliament gets more fiscal autonomy, so too should the


relationships be mirrored with local government? I think there is merit


in that and ahead of the Scottish elections last year we did indicate


a to talk to local authorities about what additional tax powers would


live better with them rather than the Scottish Government. Local


authorities have already got autonomy in terms of the ability to


lower business rates if they think that is one of the things that would


help grow the economy so this is a discussion that the government is


very willing to have and obviously we have local government elections


in a couple of weeks' time and after those elections with new


administrations, hopefully, in some parts of the country that is a


discussion we can take forward with new administrations with councils


the length and breadth of the country. Back in 2007 the First


Minister said the council tax was unfair and no amount of the council


tax could make it fair. Does she believe today that the council tax


is still unfair or has the time coding and the bands made it fairer?


Rebranding has made council tax fairer but I would say two things.


During the first term of the SNP administration labour blocked the


abolition of the council tax so it ill behoves them now to stand here


and argue for it. But the second point I would make about this


position underlines the hypocrisy. Labour punished the manufacture last


week, and in page six it says this, the SNP council -- council tax


freeze has crippled local government. As well as being


complete nonsense, that statement is utter hypocrisy. And I'll tell you


why it is hypocrisy. Right now in Scotland there are only eight


council administration is proposing a continuation of the council tax


freeze. Guess what, every single one of those is a labour lead counsel.


There you have it. Labour might say one thing in the chamber about the


council tax but across the country the administrations do the opposite.


That concludes First Minister's Questions. There we have it.


Elections, indeed but closing with a discussion about local elections and


we will talk about other contests later. Let me chat to my colleagues.


We can talk about the local elections first. Quite an effective


attack by the First Minister on the business of the council tax in


response to Alex Riley. It is a weakness because the SNP can always


come back to saying the Labour Party opposed us when we tried to abolish


the council tax so you can't ask any questions. There is the question of


eight Labour councils deciding not to raise the council tax. It is easy


for the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon to rebut the criticisms with that even


though there are legitimate criticisms. Do these council


elections have stops tonnes in their own right in terms of the way the


party is treating them or are they proxies for the general election --


proxies. What was interesting about the response was that the fault line


for the council elections is very much the SNP against Labour. Labour


are still hanging on to a number of authorities in western and central


Scotland. The SNP have labour in their sights


when they come to the council elections but the rhetoric for the


big election say it is a two horse race between the SNP and


conservatives. The SNP are putting their guns on Labour in one


conservatives in the other and keeping them distinct. Let's remind


ourselves what was going on in this remarkable week. We have council


elections on the 4th of May but also the prospect of a general election


on the June the 8th. Here is the key figures setting out their stall. I


have just chaired a meeting of the Cabinet where we agree that the


government should call a general election to be held on the 8th of


June. I want to explain the reasons for that decision. Britain is


leaving the European Union. And there can be no turning back. And as


we look to the future, the government has the right plan for


negotiating our new relationship with Europe. We want a deep and


special partnership between a strong and successful European Union and


the United Kingdom that is free to chart its own way in the world. That


means we will regain control of our own money, our own laws and that own


borders. And we will be free to strike trade deals with old friends


and new partners all around the world. This is the right approach.


And it is in the national interest. But the other political parties


oppose it. At this moment of enormous national significance there


should be unity here in Westminster but instead there is division the


country is coming together, but Westminster is not. In recent weeks


Labour have threatened to vote against the final agreement we reach


with the European Union. The Liberal Democrats have said that they want


to grind of government to a standstill. The Scottish National


Party say they will vote against the legislation that formally repeals


membership of the European Union. An unelected members of the House of


Lords have vowed to fight us every step of the way. Our opponents


believe because the government majority is so small that our


resolve will weaken and they can force us to change course. They are


wrong. They underestimate our determination to get the job done.


And I am not prepared to let them endanger the security of millions of


working people across the country because what they are doing


jeopardises the work we must do to prepare for Brexit at home. And it


weakens the government negotiating position in Europe. If we do not


hold a general election now, their political gameplaying will continue.


And the negotiations with the European Union will reach their most


difficult stage in the run-up to the next scheduled election. Division in


Westminster will risk the ability to make a success of Brexit and it will


cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country, so we


need a general election and we need one now. This is the biggest U-turn


in recent political history but it's clear that the announcement from the


Prime Minister is all about a narrow interests of our own party and not


the interests of the country overall. She clearly sees the


opportunity given the total disarray in the ranks of the Labour Party to


cross opposition to her and get rid of people who disagree and give


herself a free hand to take the country in an increasingly


right-wing direction that she wants, and that would not mean just the


hardest possible Brexit but more austerity. Now is the time for the


Scottish voice to be heard and for Scottish people to stand up for the


Scotland we want, and that is a campaign I look forward to leading


in the weeks ahead. There we have had from the Prime Minister and


First Minister. Today we have the parties challenging the First


Minister and it was all about the general election from the leaders.


Let's go through them one by one. Let's start with the exchanges with


Ruth Davidson. She wanted to talk about age to foreign countries in


the context of the UK and the First Minister turned it very quickly into


an attack on what is known as the right clause. It was a confusing


contribution from Ruth Davison. I was struggling to get the analogy


which went between foreign aid and then John McAlpine's column on


calling the UK Hell on Earth. There was a link made, but it wasn't


obvious. It is very easy, the rate clause is going on, and there have


been cause for Ruth Davison to make a statement, and she has said she


supports it, but Nicola Sturgeon can probably go on for weeks bringing up


that clause because it is so controversial. And all Ruth Davison


would say in response was that it Nicola Sturgeon dislikes the


proposals in the approach she can turn it around using those powers.


She is in an uncomfortable situation. You have a UK Government


which introduced something which looks pretty bad and I think Ruth


Davidson knows that but she has to back the UK Government. She said at


the Scottish Government don't like it they have the power is now to


change it here but that does not get her off the hook. What was


interesting today was that she allowed Nicola Sturgeon to throw


that question back, what are you going to do about the rate clause,


and she came back with an answer that allowed Nicola Sturgeon to go


at it. We have then seen one of the main SNP lines of argument that we


will see over the next seven weeks, to try and exploit that go on and


say, if the Tory government with a small majority can do this, what


more can it do if you give it unfettered majority? This brings me


to the almost philosophical point, the presumption on all sides, except


perhaps the Labour Party, that Theresa May is heading to be


returned to Downing Street and it was about who could stand up for


Scotland. It's almost as if that part of the election has already


been held. Not a single candidate has stood and no one has put in any


votes, but the assumption is with a 20 point plus lead in the polls,


Theresa May will be unbeatable. Then it comes down to, what will you do


in terms of standing up to it or in Scottish terms and that is where the


argument is? Was Nicola Sturgeon and wives? She said Jeremy Corbyn would


not win, -- unwise. She said she might be willing to work with him in


a Progressive Alliance. That has muddied the waters a little. She is


probably safe to say that it's unlikely Jeremy Corbyn will win but


it's unfortunate it's already been put out there. That was one of the


first thing said in the election campaign by the Tories, raising this


perceived danger. They did that in 2015 and it worked. It is a genuine


fear in England of this kind of alliance between Labour and the SNP.


It really works as a tactic, so it's not something Nicola Sturgeon is


wise to play up. There's Nicola Sturgeon need to refine the talking?


It's either an alliance or being tough opposition to the Tories?


Today the message was top opposition to the Tories. She was goaded into


saying something along the Progressive Alliance line that she


pushed in 2015. Her statements are all about standing up against the


Tories, hard Brexit. If you see the way the Tories reacted, within an


hour they had a mock-up of a poster saying coalition of chaos. Theresa


May used a speech to hammer this, and Nicola Sturgeon gave away in and


I think we will see no more talk of Progressive alliances from the SNP


because it gives their opponents a way to go at them. Kezia Dugdale


asked why you abstained in the vote on holding an election and it


allowed Nicola Sturgeon a sharp comeback. It was a pretty weak


question. It was going to go through yesterday and the SNP was not saying


they would abstain. They are not saying the Tory government is great


and we would support them. The converse thing would be the Tory


government voting against themselves, saying they want to get


rid of ourselves. It is a weak point. What about the argument Kezia


Dugdale made that she said, Nicola Sturgeon said, that she once the


Tories in power. Presumably to aggravate Scottish opinion and push


towards a referendum on independence? There might be a


little truth in it. I don't think that probably is true that if Labour


wants to attack the SNP, that might be one way to do it that the fact is


the SNP are not stopping Labour winning a general election. That was


the comeback. Don't blame me, Nicola Sturgeon, because your party is


useless. There were so many ways in which Nicola Sturgeon can and could


attack Kezia Dugdale and she threw one back by saying, this is what you


said about Jeremy Corbyn. Carping from the sidelines. This is one of


the great weaknesses the Scottish Labour Party has. Iain Murray is no


great fan of Jeremy Corbyn. Would not serve in his Shadow Cabinet. I


Kezia Dugdale has been critical in the past. This will haunt them every


day and every week at the campaign and opponents will say you don't


think much of your leader, so why should anyone else vote for him? It


was striking with Willie Rennie that most of the conversation was about


strategic politics. He was talking about strategy as well but got it


into waste of -- substantive point about European Union policy. He was


one of the only leaders who found a weak spot in the SNP and went for


it. It's a question about whether the SNP want us to go straight into


the EU after independence or whether they are happy to have a Norway


style model of being in the economic area. Nicola Sturgeon said the


policy was clear. But she still not did answer the question about


whether it was in the manifesto. Nicola Sturgeon is squirming a bit


on this and it will only become clear when we get the SNP manifesto.


So until that point, they will keep going at that. Jenny, the talk was


that by the time the next UK general election came around, which was


meant to be Twenty20, after Brexit negotiations, by then Britain was


out or in the European Union and you had to have some modified way back


in the European single market. Right now, Britain is in the European


Union. Perhaps more straightforward, perhaps more complex. The timing


would be difficult. It's difficult to foresee a way that Scotland could


now stay in. You would have to have an independent referendum in time to


not leave, but with a general election that has put back the


Brexit negotiations a bit. That's properly another three months before


things can get going. Either way it looks like the timeline, we would be


out and the question would be, what would be -- we be applying to do?


The SNP would be unwise to be too clear about that in the manifesto.


One other thing that might be put on hold, the First Minister was talking


about a statement to the Scottish Parliament regarding the next steps


to a referendum. It had been mandated by the parliament here.


Presumably that is on hold? I understand she wants to go ahead


with the statement when she can, but the steps themselves as far as the


UK Government is concerned, that will be pushed out well beyond the


summer. Thanks both very much for joining us here to analyse the


questions to the First Minister, dominated by elections, local


elections and the small matter of the UK general elections. From me,


Brian Taylor, goodbye. So, Suzanne, what's


the correct answer? Brian Cox is discovering


the Scots who made