By Bob Duncan 
Scotland’s First Minister has unveiled a “historic package” of legislation for the forthcoming term, including a Bill to allow a referendum on independence.
Alex Salmond addressed MSPs in Holyrood today as he outlined the Scottish Government’s plans for 2012/13 which will include 15 new bills in the current parliamentary session.

In addition to the flagship Referendum Bill, his legislative programme will include a controversial Bill to legalise same-sex marriage and one which the First Minister said would give families in Scotland the best level of free childcare in the UK.
Two Bills set out the Scottish Government’s proposed replacements for stamp duty and landfill tax as a consequence of new powers being passed to Holyrood from 2015 under the Scotland Act.

Other bills aim to provide better support for victims of crime and witnesses, reform post-16 education and modernise bankruptcy law.

Merging adult health and social care is also planned, with a Bill requiring NHS health boards and councils to integrate budgets though health and social care partnerships.

Mr Salmond also announced £18m will be spent on “high-quality, co-ordinated and accessible” support for families.

The First Minister told MSPs: “It is an historic package of measures.  The record of this Parliament is the clearest possible message that the best people to make decisions about the future of Scotland are the people who choose to live and work in this country.”

He said Scotland was faring better than the wider UK on major economic indicators such as unemployment, job creation and output, while investment in sectors such as renewable energy was kick-starting the “re-industrialisation of Scotland”.

However, the First Minister warned the country was hampered by its constitutional constraints.  Its capital budget was down by 30% in real terms since 2009, and he had repeatedly asked the Prime Minister David cameron to release funds for ‘shovel-ready’ Scottish infrastructure projects.

He also defended distinctive Scottish policies such as free university tuition.  He said this was vindicated by the record numbers of Scottish students at Scottish universities, and growing numbers of English and foreign students choosing to study in Scotland.  Meanwhile, student numbers in England, where fees of up to £9,000 can now be charged, had fallen by 25,000, he said.

Labour’s Scottish leader Johann Lamont described the programme as “an uninspired mix of re-announcements and technical Bills which show a government out of ideas”, while accusing the SNP of being interested only in breaking up the UK, the called the legislative programme “a tired, jaded set of priorities”.

For the Conservatives’ Ruth Davidson said the proposal was dominated by an “obsession with tearing apart the United Kingdom” and was less than the sum of its parts.

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie accused the SNP of repeatedly redefining independence to embrace ever more of the British state they had demonised, while applauding the Deputy First Minister for her courage in bringing in the bill on equal marriage.

Scottish Greens MSP Patrick Harvie pledged support on the referendum and on same-sex marriage, but said the government must re-locate its clarity of purpose on climate change.
However, Mr Salmond insisted that “it is a historic package of measures. The new parliamentary session promises to be a pivotal one in the history of this country.
“Work will get under way in earnest on the Referendum Bill, laying the groundwork for Scotland’s most important decision in 300 years.”

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J Wil
2012-09-04 23:42

I wonder if Lamont’s dismal response to the package of bills reflects the idea that some of this legislatlon would be an embarrassment and a hindrance to the activities of the Labour Party if they ever got back into power. Apart from the Independence Bill, which is an obvious one, the Procurement Bill could also be one of these, especially with the shenanegans of some Labour Councils in the recent past, eg their Arms Length Companies.

Also I think an awful lot of the general public are going to get sick hearing Lamont’s unremitting lament every week.
2012-09-04 23:59

Can you name many cross-party cooperative pieces of legislative business that have been concluded by the Scottish Parliament?

Not many happily done deals is patently the answer to that. Is it then reasonable to postulate that serial wrecking tactics have been indulged in, and to what end it was done?

Are these wreckers representing the Scottish people – in their own Scottish Parliament, or do they see Holyrood as no more than the Parish Council so described by Blair, that paragon of socialist values? Seemingly, that is the level they aspire to.

With what’s been going on, it’s difficult to believe the governing of Scotland can be working out so well with this constant whining in the background.

But, then it is what would be expected from political nonentities, who clearly have neither, inspiration, ambition, nor hope in their own parliament.

If it is not their aim to continuously improve the lives of all who live and work here, their politicking bedlam makes some kind of upside-down sense and can there be
any future useful role for these personalities following independence?

Do they indeed have anything of substance to them? Why should we be paying for such buffoonery, masquerading as grown-up politics?
2012-09-05 00:02

What Lamont meant to say:
An uninspired mix of re-announcements and technical Bills which Labour are already set to oppose with no major new bills so that Labour could get to work opposing them too and to avoid thinking of policies of their own.

Ruth Davidson: With no bills directly benefiting London or Heathrow there is little she can support.

Liberal dems. Obviously the idea of ‘equal marriage’ appeals to them after their 1st hand and disastrous experience of unequal marriage with the Tories.

Scottish Greens: Agreement on some key bills but Patrick still ‘bealin’ about his missed opportunity on home insulation when he had the chance during the SNPs 1st term.
2012-09-05 01:34

Alex Salmond is correct, This the most important decision in 300 years, but this time the scottish people will decide and not a few corrupt polititions, as for lamont and the rest of them, not fit for purpose.
2012-09-05 07:40

All parties not in power at Holyrood who have proven ineffectual, corrupt, incompetent or some mixture of all three, don’t like the party in power whose actions have highlighted their deficiencies. The only exception being Mr Harvie and the Greens.

Marga B
2012-09-05 07:49

Severin Carrell’s damning article on the programme of yesterday in the Guardian has now disappeared and a new article appears basically putting Salmond against the cords in a review of current progress.

OT, re. the shooting at the victory speech of the Canadian “separatist” leader (“the English-speakers are waking up”) and unreported (in the UK) threats published by a serving lieutenant colonel in the Spanish army (to silence from the authorities) that Catalan independence would take place “over his dead body” Scots are lucky to have such a placid political life.
2012-09-05 08:03

Salmond is a strident, confident, and gifted with foresight consumate politician. His personal standing leaves the rest of the pack standing.
What worth these unionist politicians and their uber-negative view of Scotland.
Just look at Salmond’s majority in the Scots Parliament, what does that tell you ?.
Blessed with sufficient resources to carry forward his programs, where would we be one year plus into this new administration ?.
Last figures I held showed that Scotland remitted in all taxes to the UK Treasury some 54.680 billion in 2006/7 (Source – UK Treasury), Scotland got back in grant some 38.6 Billion. What we could have done with the 16.08 Billion way back then.
No reason to think that the net difference is much different today. So, if we are a net contributer to the UK Treasury surely our budget should under no circumstances be ‘cut’ but should be growing by at least the rate of inflation each year.
The current bind we are in is throughly un-accpetable. Then if you add to this the fact that Scotland is a net comtributer to the EU also, we are heamoraging funds out of our country at a time when our economy is on its knees, we have pensioner and fuel poverty in a country one of the most energy rich in the whole world.
Any criticism on our Parliament and parties of all persuasions are these facts.
2012-09-05 08:12

OT but hear on radio this morning that a quarter of Scottish families on benefits are being forced to miss out on at least one meal per day as they just can’t afford to buy food. This in the country with the sixth largest GDP per capita in the world. Olympics, Trident, bankers bonuses paid on the backs of hungry children.

Better Together
2012-09-05 09:51

Anyone read this piece of ordure from the bearded wonders pal at the DT?…/…
2012-09-05 10:04

Yes i did read it, how they get away with this is beyond belief, the s.n.p have done what they said they would do, i think this must annoy them a government doing what it said it would do.
2012-09-05 20:53

Thanks for that. How I laughed a this though, although Mr Cochrane didn’t mean it to be funny ……/…
2012-09-06 09:42

I saw the article about the new Type26 frigates in your link. Just a few months ago Francis Tusa told Ian Davidson’s Select Committee that there were no plans to build ANY of the Type26’s in Glasgow shipyards.
I think that was the same session that saw ID asking if a ‘Scottish Air Force’ would have the capability to intercept ‘fast jets from the Soviet Union’.
He also asked ‘ … would the Highland Artillery Regiment survive Independence…’ only to be told that that regiment had already been disbanded by the MOD !
I still think he confused ‘Newsnight Scotland’ with ‘Newsnet Scotland’, and ended up with ‘Newsnat Scotland’.
He’s more than capable of that.

2012-09-05 10:23

The S.N.P are the only political party in Scotland competent to run the country. They have the best interests of the Scottish people at heart, unlike the “wreckers” from the other parties who are completely devoid of any constructive ideas, and can only belatedly copy S.N.P policies claiming them as their own. I have written to the MSM asking how so-called socialists in Scotland, can stand on a platform with the dysfunctional ConDems from Westminster who, with their policies are destroying England and Wales. Thank goodness in our country we have a measure of control over our own affairs, but what we need is to be free forever of Westminster control. Roll on independence.
2012-09-05 10:39

I was watching Newsnight Scotland last night and was appalled at the way Gordon Brewer conducted the “talk”, he constantly spoke over John Swinney who kept his cool throughout, somehow.

What was the most interesting part for me was that Swinney blew a hole in the labour and cons case against the bills being introduced by the SG.

While they were happy to lambaste the SG on the bills, when Swinney ask the labour rep, what exactly were the bills that they would take out or alter.

THEY COULD NOT ANSWER! Despite being asked several times!

This shows that labour in particular have no clue of there own on just how to run Scotland successfully for the people.
This shows their Achilles heel rather well.

Their only message was as always ” if it is from the SG, we must oppose it”!

This, regardless of it’s impact on the life of Scots. The Tory rep, mumbled ” that not all in the bills were bad, and went to pains to reiterate it, but nothing from labour.

Treacherous labour though, maintained their SG stance just for the sake of it.
They could not actually say, what bills needed changing, did they even listen to A/S speech?

Labour are a waste of space for Scotland, no principles, no vision, no clue at all for what the real needs of Scots are.

Their voters must be in dismay to listen to this constant rubbish.

Scottish labour is no more, hand in hand with the others in the anti Independence Referendum conspiracy, they are mearly Westminster proxies.

A disgrace to their voters and a disgrace to Scotland.
2012-09-05 12:49

I very much like the bill on same sex marriage, I applaud the governments strength of courage in righting this obvious wrong in the face of opposition from the religious brigade.

However the programme spectacularly misses out the main event, the main problem which is reducing unemployment and tackling the areas of structural unemployment across Scotland.

That is the key to unlocking potential in Scotland, the key to delivering success is by tackling the difficult problems.

Successive governments of all persuasions have ducked the issue again and again. This is another wasted opportunity.

Much could be done to target education and training and match these with employers needs. That is still done very poorly in Scotland.

I welcome the re-jig of student support, but why focus exclusively on the best of our youth and leave those requiring vocational training on the scrap heap? The new Southern general project is flooded with immigrant tradesmen while our own are unemployed, the token 20 % rule suggested at the start not enforced by government.

These are the real issues that affect peoples lives, the issues our MSP’s should be focussed on. Can’t believe the legislative programme has so little to tackle these issues.
2012-09-05 14:02

I see the Labour party leader in Westminster has been critisising the cabinet “reshuffle”:

Ed Miliband says reshuffled cabinet ‘same old faces’…/…

I must write a note to Mr Gove about the decline in English education. Millibund’s spelling is questionable, surely he has omitted an “e” in faces!
J Wil
2012-09-05 16:00

Now that you have mentioned Gove, it was interesting to see three Scots on a Newsnight discussion last night, representing the three Unionist parties of course. Then there was Paxo the conductor, also with Scottish ancestry. It seems that the Scottish Mafia at London Central are still in the ascendency. It’s a pity that it has no direct benefit for Scotland. In fact, the very opposite.

Jim Johnston
2012-09-05 14:19

For anyone who hasn’t seen it you must see Alex Neil’s contribution to the debate on the SNP Governments programme yesterday !!.

It was blistering, very funny, and far too many home truths for the Unionist “leaders”. At the same time he recognised the sense and quality of some of the other speakers. I believe, along with the other Alex, Alex will be a real vote winner come the referendum.
2012-09-05 18:34

I watched Alex Neil on Question time the last time they did it from Scotland and he was very good , he answered all of the unionist lies and halftruths with a smile, a laugh and then the truth and they did not know how to deal with him.
I agree a total vote winner.
2012-09-05 21:24

Quoting Jim Johnston:

For anyone who hasn’t seen it you must see Alex Neil’s contribution to the debate on the SNP Governments programme yesterday !!.

It was blistering, very funny, and far too many home truths for the Unionist “leaders”. At the same time he recognised the sense and quality of some of the other speakers. I believe, along with the other Alex, Alex will be a real vote winner come the referendum.

Do you have a link at all? I haven’t had any luck finding anything similar audio or video.

2012-09-06 00:10…/9748404.stm

Watch the whole debate there.
Mr Neil speaks at the end 2 hrs 9 mins in.

call me dave
2012-09-05 14:36

watched the ‘leaders’ speeches and a few of the opening MSP’s contributions but had to go before the session ended.

Any link to this?

Democracy live only has what I had already seen.

Meanwhile a few moves on the chess board have been made re: referendum.

Scottish cabinet reshuffle: Nicola Sturgeon given new independence role.…/…
2012-09-05 15:58

Alan Laing who is the press officer for the Scottish Labour Party (sic) has had a twitter exchange with Torcuil Crichton about Nicola Sturgeon.

He says

But there won’t be any good news on NHS over next three years. Will only get worse for her trying to manage the SNP cuts

Yes that’s right, their press officer says she’s trying to manage the SNP cuts.

Why is Mr. Laing trying to save the blushes of his Tory “Better Together” pals by blaming their cuts on the SNP?


Adrian B
2012-09-05 15:48

I would just like to wish Bruce Crawford in particular a special thanks for his hard work. He is a man who up until recently I had barely noticed, however what I have seen of him more recently in his role of Cabinet Secretary for Parliamentary Business and Government and Strategy left me feeling very impressed by the man with his professional manner and approach to his work.

Good luck to him in what ever he wishes to do in his life outside politics.
call me dave
2012-09-05 18:45

Hear! Hear!

Always working hard for Scotland.

Met him on the campaign trail a few times in Fife. A man with much experience and I’m sure he’ll be about as sounding board.

Like you I wish him a long and pleasant retirement.

2012-09-05 20:45

Can’t wait for Neil v Baillie on the NHS. He’ll demolish her !
Adrian B
2012-09-05 21:21

Alex Neil was a former Labour Party member back in the ’70s. The is not liked by Labour party members today.

Alex has come on a long way during his time in the SNP. He has done well as the Cabinet Secretary in Infrastructure and Capital Investment.

As the New Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Cities Strategy he will not stand for any nonsense. Good Luck Neil in your new role, hope to see you fully occupying your new role within Government.
2012-09-06 23:28

Off topic but just watched BBC Scotland interview three Englishmen starting with the Chancellor inviting them to tell us that the Scottish government is either wrong on the economy or for over legislating!
Fortunately one of the Englishmen was balanced but the BBC are not in the least embarrassed, it would seem, that no Scot especially from our government should be asked for a view.They have no shame!!!!!

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