Scottish Government’s programme Scottish Parliament speech 8 September 2010

In his statement, the First Minister said:
"The people, when they voted for this Parliament, voted for a legislature that would be bold and would act to protect their values."
No one would disagree with that.
We recognise that Labour's legacy to Scotland has been a Scottish Parliament that can protect and work for people in these difficult times.
I was struck by the contrast between—if I may say so—the overblown and rather self-regarding language of the First Minister and the thinness of the programme itself.
The statement was, as usual, full of expressions such as "lead the world" and "being in the vanguard".
It also referred specifically to the exceptional, laudable qualities of the Scottish character, and how compassionate and innovative we are at a time like this—peculiarly so and unlike others, I presume.
I think and suspect that, like all previous statements, this one is not to be taken seriously, because, on the past record, they have never been delivered.
It is ever more evident to me that Mr Salmond lives in the moment.
That is an interesting way to be as a leader, but it creates problems for those who need the Government to act in their interests, because being bold is not only about shouting; it is about taking tough and serious action.
Here we have Mr Salmond's problem: he may wish to govern, but he is also always alive to a choice.
He can choose to make the Scottish Parliament work for the people of Scotland in these tough times and show how it can make a difference, but his problem is that it is his party's interest ever and always to talk about what cannot be done.
Alex Salmond will never make the Parliament work, because his wish for independence relies on showing that it cannot .
I was fascinated by Mr Salmond quoting Edwin Morgan and what that might suggest about his lack of self-awareness.
Was there not a civil servant bold enough to say that perhaps it was not the best idea to quote Edwin Morgan disdaining the "it wizny me" mentality?
Does he not know that his Government is the very embodiment of the "it wizny me" mentality.
We regard as shameless his constant response that he is blameless. I say to Mr Salmond,
"O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!"
It is a serious point because, when the issue was raised earlier, examples of people to blame came from many SNP members.
Times are too serious for us to have government by alibi.
We need people to take the circumstances seriously.
As has been indicated, there are a number of bills that Labour can support.
We recognise certain measures that we can support in the Alcohol etc (Scotland) Bill and I trust that, in turn, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing will confirm that she will look seriously at the recommendations of Labour's commission in the way that her colleague the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning took seriously our commission on education. I urge her not to make minimum pricing the whole picture.
The reality is that, given the parliamentary arithmetic, the proposals on minimum pricing will not get through.
It demeans the debate to say that minimum pricing is the only test of people's commitment to tackling alcohol.
Is it not a curiosity that the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing will persist, knowing full well that it will come to defeat?
I am sure that some of her fundamentalist colleagues, such as Sandra White and Bob Doris, must wonder why the same persistence does not apply to the referendum bill.
We were all surprised by the ditching of the bill, but I understand that we were not as stunned as the Government back benchers who have cheered to the echo over the past three years every turn and shift of their front benchers. They defended the action when the Government ripped off Glasgow.
Did they not, at any point in the last week, finally say to Mr Salmond, "Stop acting the goat and get on with governing this country"?
We are told that they are lukewarm on the proposals, but it took Margo MacDonald to say what they have all been thinking and to argue a case that they did not have the courage to come into the chamber and argue themselves. There is a case for arguing that, as others have suggested, Mr Salmond is like the grand old Duke of York.
That is all right for a kids' party, but that silliness is not what these times deserve.
On the budget, there are pages of defensive lines in the statement about why it is not possible to share with the Parliament the information that would allow us to come together and have a serious understanding of the issues that face us.
On the housing bill, I welcome the proposals on private landlords and ask the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing whether she would consider supporting Mary Mulligan in bringing those elements of the bill forward into the current Housing (Scotland) Bill, where some elements of the private sector are being addressed.
On the justice system, I ask the Cabinet Secretary for Justice to perhaps look at the continuing problem of the rape conviction levels.
He would get great support from the Labour Party if he addressed some of the ways in which the legislation we passed to protect victims is now being used against them.
On child poverty, the Government is boldly publishing a strategy, but publishing a strategy is not enough: it is necessary to deliver.
A difficulty for the Government is that it has delegated entirely any responsibility for delivery.
One might say that the whole point of the concordat was to be able to say, "it wizny me".
We need to address that issue with local government.
How will we ensure that we tackle the needs of the most vulnerable?
A simple example of something that has been missed out altogether is action for kinship carers.
The Government committed itself to equality and parity between kinship carers and foster carers.
That was signed up to in the concordat, but Mr Russell airily signed it away in order to get a deal on class sizes.
That is unworthy of a Government that wishes to tackle child poverty.
There were grand words in the statement about community benefit, but if we ask the Scottish Government what it is doing now to deliver community benefit clauses in its contracts, or indeed whether it is reserving any work to sheltered workplaces, there is an absolute silence, and in that silence there is an indication of the Government's attitude—"We make the grand statement, but don't ask us to do the hard, deliberate work of making it happen."

Margo MacDonald: Will the member give way?

Johann Lamont: I will continue.
The statement says that the Government's priorities are economic recovery, protecting front-line services and developing a low-carbon Scotland.
We wish that that were true.
The problem is that it is not.
We know that the Government is squandering money on the Scottish Futures Trust rather than finding ways of creating a stimulus for construction.
It is talking about schools instead of building them.
It is talking about jobs rather than making a difference in our local communities and expecting Scottish Enterprise and others to work in communities to find jobs and opportunities for our young people.
We are in serious times and we need a First Minister who takes his job seriously and not just himself seriously.
Mr Salmond says that he will appeal to the people because he cannot win the vote in the Parliament, but a dialogue with the people works both ways.
Perhaps Mr Salmond should start listening too.
If he had listened to young people, he would not have prioritised independence over acting on jobs.
If he had listened to the victims of knife crime and their families, he would have supported Labour's demand for action on knife crime and supported minimum custodial sentences for those who carry knives.
If he had listened to women's organisations, he would not have put victims of domestic abuse at further risk by opposing short-term sentences.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: You should be finishing now, Ms Lamont.

Johann Lamont: Mr Salmond says that he will appeal to the people.
He could have dumped the referendum bill two years ago on the basis that he could not get it through and got on with serious business.
Instead, he has taken the disturbing attitude that it is the purpose of the Parliament to deliver him lines for his election campaign.
The people of this country need more from the Parliament.
They need serious business.
The sooner we get people in here who will do that, the better.