Legislative Programme

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 9:35 am on 16th June 1999.

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Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar Labour 9:35 am, 16th June 1999

I sympathise with Mr Sheridan's difficulties. If he counts again, he will find that there are eight bills. No doubt, that is something that he can do with the aid of his fingers later on. I am sometimes reduced to that, and so I say it in no spirit of hardness.

I give a high priority to the social justice agenda. I represent a constituency where there are such problems. Within the city of Glasgow, I represent real extremes in terms of prosperity, opportunity and life chances, and I am always conscious of that. I do not think that simplistic targets can be set in these matters. What must be done-and I use the same phrase as I used about drugs-is to attack on all fronts. The minister who deals with social inclusion has specific responsibility for co-ordinating that attack. I assure Mr Sheridan that action will be taken on the social justice front, but I want to involve this Parliament in that action and I hope that the social inclusion committee and the affected communities will be part of that dialogue.

Fortunately, standards of living in Scotland are rising although, sadly, we have yet to crack the business of the distribution of that wealth or, more important, the distribution of opportunity, so that everyone has a chance to realise their potential and to have an appropriate quality of life. That obvious and important theme will run through all of this Government's activities. I hope that Mr Sheridan, like me, will be prepared to engage in constructive dialogue on this matter, within the context of practical, achievable politics. If so, I welcome him as a suitable ally.