The First Minister made a statement of two halves. The first three and a half pages pay excellent lip service to the laudable objectives of social inclusion, eradicating poverty and the like and include lines such as, "Our aim is social justice in a prosperous Scotland-a Scotland . . . in which all have the opportunity to fulfil their potential."
He also said that "we cannot accept a Scotland . . . where one third of Scottish households have below half the average UK income and where one quarter of our housing stock suffers from dampness or condensation."
I hope that few members-if any-would disagree with those laudable objectives or with the sentiments behind them. All members have to recognise the deep-rooted economic and social problems that beset the people of Scotland.
The tragedy of the First Minister's statement is that, although the first three and a half pages pay lip service to the aspirations of the Scottish Executive, the rest of the statement contains very little to achieve those objectives. Indeed, when we consider the major problems of poverty, unemployment and bad housing, the total impact of the legislative programme will be practically zero.
Let us consider unemployment. To be fair, for as long as the macro-economic policy that affects Scotland-and which is dictated not by the needs of Scotland but by those of the south-east of England-is set at Westminster, there is no way that the Scottish Executive in a devolved Parliament can overcome the problems created when the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer follows a policy of high interest rates, high exchange rates and massive job losses.