The First Minister announced that he would be having meetings about the *dualling of the A9 during the afternoon. He knew that the whole chamber would be delighted! He was wrong. No one much, except the SNP members, even smiled.
Elmer, aptly nicknamed “the snarl” by blogger James Kelly at Scot Goes Pop, was suddenly very worried about redundancies in Aberdeen Council: 900 of them, including teachers, who, even in Thatcher’s day, snarled Elmer, had been safe from cuts (something to do with fewer children, you half wit?). He was, apparently, concerned that Aberdeen had been let down by the SNP.
Of course as usual he had only half the facts. Eck pointed out that under a local government funding formula initiated by the Labour/Liberal “Executive” Aberdeen had received only an average of 84% of the funding per capita of Glasgow. When the SNP had tried to correct this, one Glasgow politician (a certain Steven Purnell), had publically called it a bribe! Seems you can’t please Labour.
The encounter took 11 minutes, and somewhat unfairly I thought, before the last answer, the Presiding Officer asked the FM to be brief, although he had neglected to ask Snarly Fudd to be brief in his question.
And so to Annabel, and although I may disagree with her politics I have to say she is a professional politician. She asked about the lack of availability of cancer drugs in Scotland, which are available in England. The issue, as Alex pointed out, is incredibly sensitive. Decisions are made independently by the SMC... doctors, who have to balance effectiveness against limited resources, despite the NHS budget being maintained. You could see that she listened carefully while Alex gave the answer, and then asked if he would meet with her to discuss the matter further. Alex agreed.
That’s the way to handle FMQs Gray, you idiot.
Poor wee Tavish asked about bonuses in the public sector and got an answer to his last week’s question about salary increases... It seems that the Liberals thought they had found a £50 million saving that could be made, but Alex was able to point out that to achieve this they would have to sack 450 consultants. It was a bit weird if you hadn’t seen last week’s questions. The FM pointed out that on bonuses, they were obliged to honour contracts which had been instigated by the Lib/Lab Executive, but that teh Health Secretary had asked for voluntary restraint from bosses.
Joe Fitzpatrick asked the FM about the Digital Network report, and whether it brought a “Scottish Six” closer. (A question close to my own heart as I tire of seeing English regional news on the BBC’s main news, and then a magazine programme of insultingly puerile nonsense which is offered as the BBC’s best efforts on Scottish news.
Alex agreed with Joe that it indeed did bring a Scottish 6 closer, and pointed out that it was a cross party desire to see a proper news programme on a channel funded by the licence fee in Scotland. He also paid tribute to Ted Brocklebank, the Tory Broadcasting spokesman (who used to be a tv presenter), for his assistance and expertise. In response to concern from Labour’s Pauline McNeill that money for existing BBC Scotland could be reduced, Alex suggested that BBC’s spend on Scotland ran short of the per capita equivalent in the UK.
Richard Baker (Labour), Robert Brown, who the FM acknowledged had been helpful in assisting the government to pass laws helping reduce crime to a 30 year low, and Sandra White, asked about domestic violence. The FM told them that it was totally unacceptable and that there had been a 40% increase in the budget to tackle it, with more help going to a wide range of agencies.
And so to lunch.
Pics:Alex, who agreed to meet Annabel behind the bike sheds. Snarky Elmer, who nobody wants to meet. Annabel, who could show him how to make friends and influence people. Joe, who represents Dundee West as a superb constituency MSP. Richard who doesn’t know the difference between the EU and the Council of Europe...
* Greatful thanks to my proof reader (on minumum wage) for pointing out the difference between dualling and duelling... Touché!!