Legislative Programme

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 10:14 am on 16th June 1999.

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Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party 10:14 am, 16th June 1999

I hoped that the departure of Helen Liddell from the post of education minister would herald a new era in the relationship between the Scottish Administration and the teaching profession, so I was concerned to read on 28 May that Mr Galbraith said that teachers must not be allowed to "wreck the project" of schools reform.

Why should it be assumed that the teaching profession in Scotland would want to wreck the reform of Scottish education? The task for a new education minister is surely to motivate, mobilise and inspire the teaching profession, taking it with him in pursuit of his objectives, rather than to belittle and demobilise the profession, as took place first under Michael Forsyth, was abandoned for a time under James Douglas-Hamilton and resumed under the tenure of Helen Liddell. I think that teachers in Scotland want to feel that they are part of the process and are regarded as one of the great assets of Scottish education, rather than as one of its liabilities, as this Administration has done, thereby continuing the work of the Conservative party.

Lastly, I want to turn to what I feel is the lack of ambition in the First Minister's proposals. I find myself in the interesting position of being a more solid defender of some aspects of the Liberal Democrat party's manifesto than some Liberal Democrat members.

I have brought along a comparison of the Liberal Democrat party's position on various issues in its manifesto with what was said in the partnership document. On tuition fees, the Liberal Democrat manifesto said clearly that it would "Abolish tuition fees for all Scottish students at UK universities."

The partnership document said:

"The Liberal Democrat members of the Executive will play a full part in collective discussion of its response to the Committee of Inquiry."

On tax powers, the manifesto said that the party would, "If necessary, use 1 penny of the permitted tax varying powers in the spring 2000 budget".

The partnership document said:

"We will not use the tax-varying power in the course of the first Parliament."

The Deputy First Minister must have done a very rapid examination of the Scottish Office accounts. On privatisation, the manifesto said:

"We will seek to invest in capital projects for better hospitals, school, and house building programmes; water supply infrastructure, and public transport schemes by seeking to establish Community Partnership Trusts to replace the expensive and inefficient Private Finance Initiative agreements."

The partnership document said:

"We will . . . seek opportunities for new types of partnership and flexible contracts which will allow assets, when appropriate, to revert to public ownership."

On Skye bridge tolls, the manifesto said that the Liberal Democrats would "Abolish the tolls on the Skye Bridge."

The partnership document said:

"In the meantime we have decided to freeze tolls at their current levels in cash terms".

On the beef-on-the-bone ban, the manifesto said that the Liberal Democrats would "End the ban on beef-on-the-bone."

The partnership document said:

"We look forward to ending the beef-on-the-bone ban as soon as medical advice indicated that it would be safe to do so."