First Minister’s Questions started with Alex Salmond paying tribute to the memory of Donald Dewar on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of his death.
And so to business:
Well, after the drubbing that Iain Gray took after last week’s performance, a concoction of confusion and mixed up facts that caused disquiet in Eire, you might have expected him to have done some double checking for this week’s session. But no, in typical Elmer Fudd style he started, and continued for the entire time to insist that nurses in Grampian have been asked to work for nothing. This despite the First Minister pointing out on four occasions that this simply was not true. However, it gave the First Minister the chance to point out that patient satisfaction was at an all time high, and waiting times at an all time low. The English government has guaranteed that health spending will be maintained and the SNP has said that the “consequential” will be protected in the same way. The FM was able to point out that Iain Gray had not been able to make the same commitment.
Annabel Goldie’s questions focussed on the serious drugs problems in the country and in particular the number of methadone scripts being issued. Alex replied that that he was pleased that politicians had achieved a cross party co-operation on drugs strategy which was centred on recovery. £26.8 million was being spent on frontline recovery programmes. He was, however, happy to look at any proposals to increase effectiveness of translating the strategy into successful practice.
Tavish’s question about Cabinet meetings prompted the First Minister to pay tribute to Eilish Angolini, Scotland’s Lord Advocate, who has been in post for 10 years. The Liberal leader went on to question the FM on the possibility of a single police force for Scotland, which he said would be unpopular in the North, South and East of the country. This gave Alex a chance to point out that current statistics show a 36% reduction in crime and a record clear-up rate. He refused to rule in or out changes to the structure of policing, but he pointed out that 25% of the total police budget is spent on head office functions, over eight forces, and that that was far too much.
Backbench questions included a discussion (based on various questions across the chamber) on the problems of children of alcoholic parents, which give the first minister the opportunity to demand support from the chamber on minimum pricing, a policy which, he said was widely supported by health professionals, and to point out to a Conservative member that it was rather inconsistent to call for more heath visitors whist calling for less public spending. Business rates’ appeals was another question which gave Alex the opportunity to show the improvements in the situation which had occurred since the SNP took power.
Once again sensible questions were dealt with in a serious manner, but where the questioner attempted to make political points the FM demolished their arguments.
A rather dull question time all in all.....