27/10/2011 Politics Scotland


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Welcome from the, Brian Taylor, to Holyrood. Issues under discussion,


education, spending and the economy. Let us cross to the chamber. We are


already underway, the First Minister giving MSPs news of his


engagement. Since 2009, an increase the uptake


and over 85,000 premises in Scotland are benefiting from that


scheme. A comment on the small business bonus scheme. I am looking


at a picture of the First Minister signing up to an election pledge


for NUS Scotland, to protect college places, will he keep that


promise? The Scottish Government intends to keep all its promises in


its manifesto. The manifesto says, we have agreement with universities


and colleges to maintain student numbers and will maintain this


throughout the next Parliament. The manifesto states this and we will


go forward with this. I welcome him saying he will stick to this pledge,


although all I am a little sceptical. Is the sea kind of


promise he would keep to his manifesto pledge to reduce


classroom sizes to 18 or the pledge to maintain teacher numbers? Those


were pledges signed up to and, yesterday, the Education Secretary


told the education committee that something has to give. This letter


from the principle of Angus College says that Alex Salmond has cut his


teaching budget by 40% and that 2000 places will be cut. This is


what has been given. Will he just be honest? College places are going


to be cut. I would have thought Iain Gray might have realised that


the funding council has not issued the plans for each college. I am


afraid that his suggestions are threadbare. He can debate it at


that time. What is remarkable about the spending plan, and these are


extraordinarily difficult Financial Times, Iain Gray would acknowledge


that, given a large part of that difficulty was the responsibility


of the Labour Government. I do not think there is much. Makin debating


what was said in the last term of the parliament. -- I do not think


Over the Spending Review period from 2012-2013, 2014-2015, looking


at universities, colleges, training and skills, it is rising from 1.9 2


billion to 1.99 bn. An increase of 3.2%. Against the context of cuts


that were promised by Alistair Darling to be tougher and deeper


than those of Margaret Thatcher, which have then been increased by


blue liberal conservative coalition. That is a remarkable investment in


the future of young people in Scotland. Frankly, I think for


those involved in the running of Angus College they will feel the


First Minister is in a parallel universe. This allowed lines cuts


of 40%. 2000 student opportunities will go. Yesterday the Education


Secretary says these were just hypothetical. But there are real


cuts in college places already. I spent Saturday at the hardest big


rally in Edinburgh. Disabled people fear for their future. Their


figures show that almost 1,000 college places for disabled


learners have already gone. That is getting on for 50% across Scotland.


Do the Scots have no place and Alex Salmond's brave new world? Why are


you not protecting these places? What about their future? Can I


remind Iain Gray of the manifesto commitment to maintain student


numbers and that is what we will do? I have set out, given we do not


have figures for individual colleges, I have set out the


overall pictures for post 16 education. As to your specific


question, the phrase, opportunities for all, is exactly what it means.


Every single 16-19-year-old from Scotland who is not in a job,


apprenticeship or full-time education will be offered an


educational or training opportunity. That is what opportunities for all


means. Instead of attacking bat, he should welcome that commitment in


the face of cutbacks which are the responsibility, jointly, all


successful -- of successive Westminster, Liberal and


Conservative governments. -- and Labour governments. That is a


promise from the Labour manifesto. I welcome it. But the Scottish


consortium for learning disability tell him that opportunities are


being removed right now for Scots with learning disabilities. Are


those people not included in that promise? Alex Salmond spent the


weekend rallying fatal troops and Inverness, rewarding them with


wristbands. -- rallying the troops. I knew some people would hold them


up. Perhaps he missed the news that applications for universities have


plummeted and that the education system is consistently failing our


poorest children and young people with disabilities. He must know


that one in four of young men cannot find work. He has led to


youth unemployment double in this country. When is he going to stop


banging on about a mythical independence generation and start


doing something for Scotland's lost generation? And I remark that there


are substantially more SNP troops and vaults than there are Labour


Party troops and bolts. -- votes. Youth employment in Scotland, youth


employment is almost 5% higher than it is across the UK. But youth


unemployment is far too high, it is a serious issue. That is why we


have introduced 25,000 modern apprenticeships. 60% more than were


offered by Iain Gray's party when last in Government. That is why we


have done as I have said in terms of keeping faith with the post 16


education sector. With a remarkable cuts to the Scottish budget, it is


extraordinarily -- it is extraordinary that that commitment


to education and student numbers is kept. That is why we have


opportunities for all. Iain Gray referred to what happened in the


last Parliament, then topped about the manifestos of the Labour Party


and the SNP. Can I suggest to him what actually happened in May? I


know he has difficulty coming to terms with it. People compare the


SNP record in Government with the record of the Labour Party in


Westminster and Scotland, compared the manifestos, and people came to


an overwhelming conclusion. Can I suggest to Iain Gray, just learnt


to live with that? Question number two. When will the First Minister


of next week the Prime Minister? have no plans in the near future.


realised this is my last opportunity of an exchange with the


First Minister at Question Time. Just let me reassure him, I will


not saying goodbye. I have a feeling that will not encapsulate


his sentiments about my going. But can I say I have enjoyed our


exchanges? I was proud to deliver a new drugs strategy focused on


recovery, but it means nothing if not rolled out on the ground. I was


on the forefront of Scotland having an extra 1,000 police officers, but


that is diminished if courts cannot prosecute cases. A Scottish


Conservative votes helped businesses with the business rates.


But by businesses will be hit with higher rates. How has the First


Minister undermined such good policies in such a short space of


time? Annabel Goldie understates the importance and long lasting


nature of these policies. We have made substantial progress and I


welcome her support for it in terms of drug rehabilitation. The 1,000


police are in operation in streets and communities around Scotland at


the moment. Others and this chamber said the commitment would never be


delivered. -- others in this chamber. We were proved right.


Extra police other substantial reason we have a 35 year low, a low


in recorded crime in Scotland. We now know that the Scottish business


bonus scheme is delivering for 85,000 properties in Scotland. That


seems to me a substantial achievement. I am very happy to


Credit Annabel Goldie with her support for these valuable


initiatives. And I hope she will realise that whatever may happen I


will just have to pursue these things alone, but I assure you, I


assure Annabel Goldie I shall protect her legacy. There is an


election fought a new Conservative leader in Scotland. One enjoyable


feature of this job is raining in the First Minister's beaks you


Princes. His priorities of independence and the Middle East


are not the priorities of people, students, victims. -- rain in his


exuberance. Mal the First Minister is but the Lord Advocate for a


crisis meeting for prosecutors to insure criminal cases are not


barred by time? Will you report of this Parliament on the burgeoning


and inescapable problem of caring for elderly in hospital? And what


you explain how a 25% increase over five years in the cost of methadone


is compatible with a drug strategy focusing on recovery? I will take


careful note and take forward all of these important issues as


instructed by Annabel Goldie. Can I say, in terms of our last question,


everything I said before the recess, when I got it was the last question,


it applies and stands. If I could offer this complement, which came


from one of the contenders in the Tory leadership election on


television the other night, the reality is that whoever wins this


leadership election will at least in the short term will be less well


known and less popular with the public as Annabel Goldie. I do not


think any of the four a buzz can turn things around in a short space


of time. It was from Murdo Fraser on television. I think he was


trying to say what I believe and I am sure this chamber believes that


Annabel Goldie, of whatever the electoral results, was an excellent


leader for the Scottish Conservative Party and I believe


she maximise the possible vote for the Conservatives, because she was


well thought of, well liked, respected by the Scottish


population, both for how she put forward ideas and, above all, for


the manner in which she put them forward, because I, too, enjoyed


our exchanges. Thank you, Annabel. APPLAUSE. You have a final


Supplemental question. I am indebted to the presiding officer


and an back the Prime Minister... LAUGHTER. The First Minister. --


and I thank the Prime Minister. LAUGHTER.


It is good to give him a taste of what will never be. I remember the


First Minister dolefully of surfing of a previous Prime Minister that


he never writes or calls. And the leave this seat and I may not be


invited for drinks, but he has not heard the last of me. I shall write


and I shall call. And I shall answer the telephone, reply to the


letters and invitations will be in the post. A constituency question


There was a brutal murder in my constituency last weekend and there


has been shock and horror in the community. Could he give the


parliament an update on the investigation. The constituency


member describes the murder as brittle, as indeed it was. It was a


shocking incident. The police are obviously responsible for the


inquiry but they have said publicly that they anticipate a positive


conclusion of their inquiries and I think it remains for the parliament


to offer condolences for the friends and family. The first


minister will be aware of recent press reports concerning radiation


levels at a particular beach and that radiation is 100 times greater


than another one. This is of concern to residents. Will he agree


with me it is imperative to stay all agencies including SEPA and the


MoD working together effectively to tackle this issue once and for all,


and there is no room for any further delay in getting to the


scale of the problem and solving it. As everyone knows, SEPA are


actively involved in this question at the present moment and are


pursuing the matter with great alacrity. I do hope they will get


full co-operation from the responsible Westminster department.


It is in all of our interests that the MoD approach this matter openly


and you can be certain that SEPA will pursue its responsibilities


with great diligence. To ask the First Minister what the Scottish


Government position is on the decision by the Westminster


Government to not proceed with the proposed carbon capture storage


project at Longannet power station? Carbon capture and storage, the


project at Longannet was a huge opportunity not just for Scotland


but for the rest of these islands and for Europe. It is now


unfortunately a lost opportunity. I recognise the strong case made by


the MSP on behalf of his constituents in this Parliament and


elsewhere and I know the chamber will be united in condemnation of


the Treasury decision that ends the prospects of this world leading


project and threatens the future of clean coal in Scotland. This is


more than about a single project. It tells us loud and clear that


this Parliament should be responsible for Scotland's energy


future and energy resources. APPLAUSE I thank the first minister


for his response. This is truly a missed opportunity for Fife and the


form of Scotland. The Treasury and the Westminster department dithered


and disagreed over the necessary funding despite the fact that the


whole project could have been covered in this costing by one


tenths of the yearly estimated North Sea oil and gas revenues.


you get to the question, please? Will the First Minister continue to


make the case to the Westminster Government that it is simply not


acceptable to mouth the words of support about carbon capture, but


what is needed is real action. This is needed so that Scotland can


capitalise on this massive economic opportunity. A Scottish experts


said, it has gone through three prime ministers, or half -- all of


Hume claimed to be enthusiastic about carbon capture and storage,


none of whom have been able to deliver it. It has been subject to


quite unfair Treasury rules and the Government has consistently refused


to take on board much of the risk. I think is. At a time when the


North Sea oil and gas revenues are up over �13 billion for this year


alone, it would not have been unreasonable to expect expenditure


of one-tenth of that to secure the long-term future of clean coal in


Scotland. It is perhaps unhelpful to suggest that... Does the first


minister agreed that there is every confidence that the project in


Peterhead is the one that others will have to beat, and can he


confirm that when a project Beacons in 50% over budget, it is his view


that ministers should proceed regardless? I really do think that


the members should have a look at the expert's full interview on


Newsnight, where he exposed the reality behind the Treasury


calculations, the application of risk and project factors work quite


-- in a quite unreasonable fashion. I sat behind the Liberal members in


the House of Commons when they condemned in the most strong


fashion the Labour Government turning its back on the Peterhead


project in 2007. Is it too much to expect that liberal people will see


the Longannet betrayal as a last opportunity for coal and he can be


sure that we will be pressing to the utmost to try and secure and


salvage a carbon Catcher project for Scotland. But he must, surely


must, recognise the huge disappointment, the use of lost


opportunity and the unfairness, of Cobham capture in Scotland have not


being funded while Scotland's Resources fund his Government in


Westminster. The first minister has a close


relationship with the parent company. Has he or anyone him his


Government taken the opportunity to speak to the trade unions represent


you of Scottish Power for two as if they have we any long-term concerns


about lung damage and energy policy more widely? Congress are on the


Energy Advisory Board for Scotland, which I chair, and we have


discussed this project Minis wrens. I would be pleased to meet the


trade unions at Longannet to discuss the future of clean coal in


Scotland that this subject was centred on this Coburn Catcher


project and I take it from the comments made by Labour members at


Westminster, which struck me as not as thorough going as I would have


expected given the significance of this announcement, I do not think I


am right. I am right in saying it was not actually mentioned in the


statement by Chris Huhne from the Labour front bench. This is an


extraordinarily important decision and one which casts a cloud over


the future of clean coal in Scotland. So I would be delighted


to meet the trade unions but I expect that at Longannet Bay will


recognise the element of betrayal in this UK Government decision.


ask the first minister what steps the Scottish Government is taking


to support Scotland's to be defence industry. A range of steps to


support the company's. In 2009 we invested �3 million in making to


Aberdeen University the UK's first ever centre of excellence for


computer games. There were major investments in Glasgow and in


Dundee. That commitment has borne a strong result. For example, in


February I was delighted to announce a plan to establish one


company's headquarters in Dundee, creating 150 jobs, relocating from


California. Earlier this week, the videos industry body Tiger and a


trade group recognise the positive difference that independence could


make to the industry and criticise the UK Government for failing to


invest in the Scottish games sector. Will be theirs Minister join with


me in urging the UK Government to offer specifically targeted tax


relief to support these vital industry? And can ask him if he


will continue the support the Scottish Government is giving to


the industry by considering the case for it content fund and meet


with myself and games industry representatives to explore this


proposal? These are very important proposals indeed. I recognise what


Tiger have been saying in terms of the computer games industry. Their


case for tax relief was based on the argument that revenues would


increase if the tax relief would be granted and cited international


examples because of the attraction of key investments into Dundee and


Scotland. Example of why you need control over a tax-based if you are


going to offer such incentives in a successful way. His last point, Joe


Fitzpatrick is aware that across the Scottish Government to examine


the establishment of creative content. I have asked officials to


meet with Tiger to discuss how this might go ahead. Given that not only


has the UK Government failed to introduce gains tax relief despite


reassurances by the last Government that they would and that the


present Government had shown a desire to do so, given that Ireland


are considering -- seems to be considering taxpayers in this area,


with the First Minister agreed that it is vital that the Government


acts now to ensure that the games industry continues in Scotland? Do


we need the powers ourselves? it is vital and yes, we need the


powers. The proposals put forward by Tiger, based on international


examples, illustrated how at this particular sector could operate in


an environment where relief from tax breaks would result in an


increase in the Revenue because of increased investment. To his


chamber, it is often need -- obvious that previous governments


have refused to do this. Would it not be better if we controlled the


tax incentives so that we could respond in the way these vital


industry wants from Dundee and for Scotland as a whole question of


Are a wonder if the first minister has considered a targeted tax


relief with the power that he actually has in the business rates?


Can I just point out we have considered a very well-targeted


business rate policy which has resulted in 85,000 businesses


across Scotland are enjoying the Small Business Bonus Scheme. And I


have to say, with some of the things I have been hearing in this


Tory leadership contest, I am not certain if future Conservative


leader will be as dedicated and support that SNP a mission live as


Annabel Goldie has been. To ask the First Minister what steps the


Scottish Government... Sorry, whether the Scottish Government


will investigate claims that patients are being offered


unrealistic surgery appointment in England in order to circumvent


waiting times targets. Government is committed to lower


waiting times and to complete transparency around the reporting


of waiting times. It was his Government who abolished hidden


waiting lists. Initial findings from the NHS Lothian is that they


did not make their patients a reasonable offer and offered only


one appointment date to patients. This does not comply with the new


waiting times guidance. The chief executive has initiated a full


investigation which will report in early November. A copy of the


report will be submitted to Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon. All


patients concerned are now being treated locally and are no longer


having to be offered treatment in England. I thank the first minister


for that helpful reply in resolving the situation but the new waiting


times initiative, which is actually an initiative from Rover, then


implemented fully by the SNP, a scheme to which both party are


joined up. It has resulted in 100,000 patients being removed from


the waiting lists every year. Many of these are for valid reasons but


my question is this, given the large numbers that are being


removed and the evidence that this case shows of new gaming, which led


to the problem with hidden waiting lists, will he asked the Cabinet


Secretary for Health to now undertake a review of the waiting


times to make sure there is no gaming taking place in other areas


in Scotland? PRESENTER: We will have to leave it there. We heard


the Prime Minister's substantive answer to that point. But there had


been a sick and be thick -- a situation in Lothian and that there


was reform there. A very intriguing set of discussions. Very warm with


Annabel Goldie, praising her on her last session of questions. But very


bitter and shop indeed with regard to Iain Gray. He said, live with


the result, with regard to the outcome of the Scottish elections.


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