Legislative Programme

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:14 am on 16th June 1999.

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Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour 11:14 am, 16th June 1999

Nicola should bear with me; the problem with all these interventions is that members sometimes cannot follow the logic of a speech. I made it clear that we do not need a raft of legislation, and I will go on to talk about the committees. We need to consider the Government's overall strategy. This is the first time that I have spoken in this debate and I am here to speak on those issues; that is what I will do.

The Tory years, thankfully, have gone. During those years, there was no such thing as society and if a family faced problems, the Government's response was, "On your bike." Poverty, drugs and crime spread relentlessly, with little or no constructive intervention by the Government. We must be clear, as we attempt to deal with such problems in this Parliament, that progress will not be easy. Our job is to ensure that we put some meaning behind the buzz words.

Within the committee structure, as has already been suggested, we need to consider measurements and targets across a range of services. We need to be proactive rather than reactive. We need to ensure that economic stability is linked to programmes of social advancement. The challenge of the 21st century is to ensure that everyone who can contributes to, and shares in, economic progress. We must recognise that ability, enterprise and energy are not respecters of class and geography; everyone, irrespective of background, gender, race, disability or sexuality, should have the means to contribute and to realise their potential.

Exclusion is at its most absolute when people's lives and those of their children are governed by abuse, fear and terror. John Orr, the chief constable of Strathclyde police, found in research that a woman is hit 35 times before she makes her first report to the police. If there is one thing that the Parliament can do-and I hope very much that it will, despite the misogyny that we have seen recently-it is to put funding for women's aid on a secure and appropriate footing.

We must intervene at the earliest possible stage to alter the life chances of children and young people. To Mr Hamilton in particular, I say that members of Mothers Against Drugs, in my constituency, may not have the slickest of university debating skills, but they speak with a passion and a precision about drugs that anyone can understand.

We must liberate the communities that are trapped in a vicious circle of despair and crime. Nicola Sturgeon should note that programmes that the Executive will deliver, such as new community schools, early intervention schemes, expanded child care provision, family centres and alternatives to exclusion are the key steps in rebuilding and regenerating our communities.

I particularly welcome the signal that was given by the Executive in creating a Minister for Communities. Too often, communities such as Easterhouse are seen as the problem; in my experience, they are the solution. Let us work hand in hand with those communities to bring about change. Through consultation and dialogue, we can create solutions and legitimise answers-not with the arrogance of the privileged elite in the SNP, but as partners in a new and radical Scotland. Above all, if we have the will, we can create a new form of government. We can listen to the voices of the excluded and focus this Parliament not on immature semantics but on tackling poverty, which, in the words of George Bernard Shaw, is "the greatest of evils and the worst of crimes".