Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:18 pm on 3rd June 1999.

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Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish Labour 3:18 pm, 3rd June 1999

Alex Salmond makes a reasonable point, because what is important in the orders that I outlined yesterday and in today's orders is that this is an evolving process. He is right to say that there has been a debate on racial equality. It is a very important and sensitive issue, and more debate will ensue. However, that matter is not covered in this order; but I should like to think that the Parliament would investigate it. That should be done with MPs at Westminster and with Westminster. However, I want to put it on record that racial equality is a very important issue, and I do not want to detract from Alex Salmond's constructive comments.

Michael Russell also made the point about how we define the new politics. Perhaps a common definition would be a constructive tone in the chamber; concentration on some of the big policy issues on which we campaigned in the election; and a mutual respect for comments made on every side of the chamber. If we achieve that in the first few weeks, people here and the wider public will respect that. That comment is aimed at everyone-I am not singling out any one party-but if we could meet that definition of the new politics, we would be paying tribute to the fact that we have a Parliament. The Scottish people would want us to act in such a way.

Phil Gallie identified a number of schedules. The schedules go into detail on how the responsibilities are split up and who takes decisions. He should read the schedules in detail, but if any of his specific concerns are still unanswered, he should not hesitate to ask me. I should be happy to fill him in on points that are germane to all of them.

Phil Gallie referred to the police. In a sense, none of the orders that we are discussing today affects the debate in Scotland about the future of the police forces. We have established a review to consider the police force structure, but no decisions have been made on that matter and there is no hidden agenda as to what the outcome might be. We are involving all the parties, and the guiding principle is that we are committed to the best policing. That will be the guiding criterion and not whether there are two, three, four, five, six, seven or eight forces. We gave a cast-iron reassurance that it will be a proper debate, and this Parliament, as well as the new Executive, can engage in it. I hope that Mr Gallie accepts that assurance, which is unaltered by anything that is being discussed today.