Social Justice

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:31 pm on 24th November 1999.

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Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament 2:31 pm, 24th November 1999

The first item of business is a debate on motion S1M-314, in the name of Ms Wendy Alexander, on social justice.

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour 2:37 pm, 24th November 1999

Today we debate the document "Social Justice ...a Scotland where everyone matters", which was published with a parliamentary question more than 48 hours ago to give everyone the chance to read and prepare for the debate. We were not going to sneak it in by a statement. It is sad that some people's horizons appear to extend no further than the next headline.

This document reaches out to all those Scots who, in May, voted for a fairer nation. This is quite simply the most comprehensive anti-poverty programme ever in Scotland. It is about measuring what matters: abolishing child poverty, restoring full employment and giving security in old age. As our nation has been worn down by 20 years of broken promises, I want to address the cynics, the faint hearts and sceptical Scot himself. The first challenge posed this week by sceptical Scot was that this document is nothing more than motherhood and apple pie. Where is the beef?

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

I am not going to take interventions. If Mr Neil lets me finish my opening remarks, he will be able to speak in the ensuing debate.

What does ending child poverty mean precisely? It means fewer Scottish children in households with absolute low incomes, which is about £217 for families with three children. Furthermore, it means fewer Scottish children with persistently low incomes, in households with relatively low incomes or in homes where no one works.

However, ending child poverty is about more than income. We need to raise the number who achieve reading, writing and maths competence in P2 and P7. All children must have quality pre-school learning. There must be fewer low birth-weight babies and fewer homeless children in temporary accommodation.

Who does the Opposition think it is kidding when it calls the document too vague?

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

This is the most tightly drawn contract ever between the governed and the government in Scotland, with its commitments on unemployment, income, education, early years, health and housing.

Sceptical Scot's second charge is that the document is too visionary. The charge is that we cannot set long-term objectives beyond one session, as we do not know how the world will change.

We make no apology for having vision.

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

Nobody in this chamber was elected to keep their eyes glued on the ground. With 50 days to go to the new millennium, let us remember that, 100 years ago, radicals of this nation dreamed of free health care, public housing, the right to strike and the right for women to vote. Those radicals were called utopian progressives, socialists, and dreamers. We should be no less ambitious. If the nation contributes 40 per cent of its income in taxes to the state, does anyone here think that that is not enough to wipe out child poverty in 20 years? I am proud that our Prime Minister's fourth child will grow up in the years in which its parents' generation is determined to end child poverty.

The third charge from sceptical Scot is that 20 years is too slow—what about here and now? I say to all those self-appointed and well-meaning guardians of the flame of Scottish socialism who fear they might not be here in 20 years—the Bob Holmans, Jimmy Reids, Alasdair Grays and the thousands like them who feel that they have grown tired wanting—that the battle has already been joined. The previous two budgets alone were enough to take 60,000 Scottish children—one in five—out of poverty. That is before the new deal cuts youth unemployment by 60 per cent over two years and long-term unemployment by 40 per cent.

Finally, we have the sceptical Scot who asks where the money is coming from. Let me spell out that, by the end of this session, we will be spending £6 billion more on families and children each year across the UK. That works out at more than £5 per day for every child in poverty in Scotland. That is just the contribution of tax and benefits; if we add to that what we are spending in Scotland—another £2—it can be seen that there will be £7 extra per day for every child in poverty. That new wave of spending is just beginning to have an impact on the ground, so it is hardly surprising that people feel that there has not been enough progress yet. This session is only one eighth of the way through its life, and only one sixth of the extra money that we have committed has been spent, but its impact will grow and grow.

Having dealt with sceptical Scot, I turn to the Opposition amendments. On Monday, Bill Aitken of the Tories said that this report was motherhood and apple pie and that no one could disagree with it. Let that sink in. It was said by a Tory. The Tories were in power from 1979 to 1997, during which time the number of people living in relative poverty in Scotland doubled, and the number of children living in poverty and the number of children in homes where no one was in work more than doubled.

The Tories say that no one could disagree. Bill Aitken, David McLetchie and Lord James Douglas-Hamilton represent a party that gloried in the widening of divisions and in the myth that the strong could prosper only by trampling on the weak. We do not quarrel with their commitment to enterprise, but we dispute their dogmatic determination that it must be bought at the price of social justice. The Tories denied social justice for 20 years. It is a rather hegemonic victory for the third way in the battle of ideas if they are now committed to social justice, but I wonder whether William Hague knows.

The SNP is an altogether more chameleon-like species. Yesterday, Fiona Hyslop wrote five main criticisms in The Herald. The first was that we are tracking the economic cycle rather than actual poverty. That is nonsense. If low absolute, persistent and relative levels of poverty are not measures of poverty, I do not know what are.

The second was that the use of UK measures meant that

"a truly Scottish perspective has been lost."

Low absolute, relative and persistent poverty is the same in Newcastle as it is in Nitshill, and the same in Liverpool as it is in Lesmahagow.

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

The member will have 10 minutes immediately following this speech.

Let us push the SNP logic a bit further. If we used lower average incomes in Scotland, we would be suggesting that there are fewer people in poverty in Scotland than there actually are. We will use the more ambitious UK targets.

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

Thirdly, Fiona Hyslop said that the 20-year child poverty target is not broken down in a way that makes sense to parents. That is nonsense. To take one measure, 50 per cent of average income is £2,223 in today's prices for a family with two children.

Photo of Lloyd Quinan Lloyd Quinan Scottish National Party

On a point of order. Is it acceptable for the minister to speak to us about— [Interruption.]

Photo of Lloyd Quinan Lloyd Quinan Scottish National Party

Is it not essential that the minister addresses the debate and the motion, not an article in The Herald ?

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

Fourthly, the SNP suggests that no indication is given of how many people will be taken out of poverty. Let me confirm that the figure is 60,000 children in the two budgets that we have had so far.

The fifth criticism is that fuel poverty was missed out. Let us plead guilty, but not because we are not going to tackle it. I ask members to remember that, according to the programme for government, 100,000 Scottish homes are to benefit from the warm deal. That was backed last week by the largest ever energy efficiency programme and a £100 individual winter fuel allowance.

What lies behind the SNP's sniping? The question that Fiona Hyslop and her colleagues are terrified of is, "What would they do?"

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

That is the crux of this debate. I ask SNP members to cast their minds back six months to April, those last days of the countdown to this Parliament. Where is the economic strategy? Where are the numbers? They should face the music. Eventually we got out the calculator and came up with the black hole. That black hole was £1.1 billion—I apologise to Andrew Wilson, it was £1.3 billion. Let us be generous and assume that it was only £1 billion: £1,000 million.

How is that black hole to be filled? The 36 per cent rise in child benefit—gone. Child care tax credit—gone. Allowance of £100 a week, to help with child care—gone. The working families tax credit—gone.

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

Two thirds of the black hole would then be filled. If we wanted to fill the rest, we would need another £400 million. Perhaps we should try Scottish pensioners—no free eye tests; no free television licences; no minimum income guarantee; no earnings link; no £100 fuel bonus.

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

That is the price of the SNP. If SNP members find that hard, they could look to the Scottish budget. No new futures fund. The university for industry—gone. An extra 42,000 university and college places—gone. The national child care strategy—gone. Early intervention—gone. So it goes on.

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

The sums have never added up. Perhaps the SNP will tell us today how much it will cost, once that hole has been filled, to establish a separate social security system, and whether there would be a welfare reform strategy. One of the reasons the SNP is a party going nowhere is that what Scotland wants is leadership from this Parliament, not whining from the wings. The SNP is bellyaching and is not building a better Scotland. That is the task of this Parliament.

I turn now to Glasgow, as there was a request to speak on that city today. Glasgow, the city where I was born and where I spent much of my adult life, is in the spotlight today. The Daily Record says today that it is time to stop the rot. Indeed it is. In true Glasgow style, let us tell it like it is. I invite other members to comment on this.

Several Members:

rose—

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

Decisions such as last week's on homelessness—

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

Tricia Marwick will have two hours, and should let me finish.

We need to make decisions that recognise that Glasgow has one in eight households in Scotland, but that as only one in three of the homeless come from there, a special solution is needed, which Jackie Baillie is sorting out. We need decisions such as mine—to put together a revolutionary package for Glasgow housing and to sign up leading financiers to sort it out. Yesterday, I received a letter from Fiona Hyslop and Tommy Sheridan telling the Executive that we should stand back. What hypocrisy.

Under Frank McAveety's leadership, then Charlie Gordon's stewardship, education in Glasgow will benefit through 10 new schools that are paid for by a private finance initiative—which has been condemned by Tommy Sheridan and Fiona Hyslop.

Unemployment is falling again—delivered by the new deal, paid for by a windfall tax, opposed by the SNP. We are tackling poverty wages, and there are more beneficiaries in Glasgow than anywhere else. The SNP did not even vote for that.

Several Members:

Time.

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

In terms of poor pensioners, Glasgow will have the largest number of beneficiaries from the national minimum income guarantee.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

On a point of order. The minister has named individuals, but has not allowed a response from those individuals. Is that considered the normal course of debate in this Parliament?

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

Both individuals whom I heard the minister name are on my list of speakers to enter the debate.

I ask the minister to wind up, as she is over time.

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

Yes. I am coming to the end.

The delivery of a freeze in the council tax was opposed by the SNP and was pilloried by Tommy Sheridan for forcing people to pay their council tax, so only new Labour can turn around the fortunes of Glasgow. We are doing so. This Parliament is here to deliver social justice for all. We carry with us the ambitions of men and women who want to live in a country governed for the many, not the few.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

I believe that the minister's allocated time was 10 minutes. She is now more than three minutes over that. She has refused to take any interventions, but has been allowed more than three minutes over her allocation.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

Yes, but there have been three points of order. I ask the minister to wind up now.

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

My final point is this: we were elected with the ambitions of those men and women who want, as I was saying, to live in a Scotland that is governed in the interests of the many, not the few.

We are delivering on those promises. Ending child poverty is the historic calling of the parties in the coalition. I commend that commitment not just to the parties of the coalition but to everyone in the chamber.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees that social justice should be the hallmark of Scottish society; welcomes the publication by the Scottish Executive of the groundbreaking report Social Justice ...a Scotland where everyone matters and the targets, milestones and developments in budgetary mechanisms that it contains, and commends this as an example of the success of the Partnership Agreement and as an appropriate opportunity to work with the UK Government for the betterment of Scotland.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party 2:51 pm, 24th November 1999

At long last, we are having a debate in the chamber on poverty and the social justice targets. I welcome it and am pleased to note that the Minister for Communities has come round to the SNP way of thinking, using the term social justice as opposed to social inclusion. I have often thought that social inclusion is an inadequate way to describe a campaign against poverty and inequality. As shadow social justice minister, I am glad that the Minister for Communities has changed her use of language. Unfortunately, she has not yet changed her policies.

I want to mention at this point the pensioners who have come to hear this debate, in particular those from the Strathclyde Elderly Forum. The timing of the debate sits uncomfortably with the announcement that the improvement in pensions will be only 75p a week. How does that square with one of the minister's commitments to

"Make sure older people are financially secure", which is one of the targets in "Social Justice"?

We should listen closely to the people who have come to speak to us about the plight of pensioners in Scotland. I want to make a strong objection on behalf of my party—and, I think, other members—about how the Executive has approached this debate. It is an indication of contempt that this issue, which the First Minister has said is at the heart of his Government, merits only a 70 minute debate this afternoon.

I am sure that I am not the only person who thinks that Monday's media circus was objectionable. People would have expected a reasonable amount of time to question ministers on the range of areas they addressed in their announcement. It is a measure of how seriously the Executive treats the subject that it crams a debate on poverty and land reform into one afternoon, whereas a debate on the millennium bug, on which there is unanimity in the chamber, merits a three-hour debate.

The Executive was elected on an expectation that it would start to deal with the backlog of poverty and despair that was built up by Conservative members in this chamber and left to fester by their former Scottish Office ministerial colleagues. When those ministers commissioned an action team to examine how poverty was evaluated, it must have been with some trepidation. There must have been a lingering fear, a recognition of the size of the task and a realisation that they lacked the required will and resources.

When the incoming Minister for Communities read that action team's report, those fears must have been realised. The evaluation framework team was lead by Scottish Executive officials, incorporating a wide range of experience from Government departments, the voluntary sector and trade unions. They came up with a set of 50 indicators to evaluate poverty in Scotland. Their draft progress report was issued to the social inclusion network, which the Minister for Communities chairs, and thereafter it disappeared from sight.

A final report has yet to be published. What we see now is a watered down, weaker, less vigorous, vaguer, more selective approach to the social justice targets launched by the Executive on Monday. In fact, of the 50 indicators that the action team recommended, 22 were ignored and the remainder have been weakened considerably.

Where the action team laid down specific measurements, the Executive uses broad statements. The purpose of the action team report was to develop

"a robust evaluation framework to monitor success in promoting a more inclusive society".

The minister is waving the blue document at me—I have read the document on milestones and definitions too. The purpose of the "Social Justice" report seems to be to announce easily achievable targets, vague commitments, wish lists and promises to care more.

The tone of the document is set from the beginning by the failure to adopt the European definition of poverty, which would allow international comparisons. The headline figure that should be used is the percentage of total Scottish population living on an income below 50 per cent of median Scottish income. The Executive has shied away from that.

There is nothing robust about the task that the Executive has set itself. It has concocted a series of indicators designed to suit Executive and UK Government policy initiatives rather than to measure poverty in Scotland.

The action team recommended that the measurements of child poverty should include the measurements of workless households and income levels. It also recommended that the Executive publish its success or failure in the other areas that give a true indication of poverty—free school meals and overcrowded housing. Those indicators have been dumped because they make for uncomfortable reading for ministers—today, next year and the year after that; not just in five, 10 or 20 years' time.

At least 400,000 children live in poverty in Scotland. If, as the minister says, she aims to lift 60,000 children out of poverty in the next three years, what does she intend to do with the remaining 340,000? Will she simply ignore them? Twenty-year wish lists mean nothing if under the minister's proposals, today's three-year-old toddler would bring up her children in poverty. Where is the hope and vision in that?

Where is the joined-up thinking and real evidence? The targets aim at

"Increasing the proportion of people with learning disabilities able to live at home or in a 'homely' environment".

Only last week, the general manager of Lothian Health told MSPs that the Arbuthnott formula means that the board faces a 22 per cent cut, which could mean people being returned to institutions in order to cut costs.

Perhaps the greatest omission in the "Social Justice" report is housing. It is interesting that the minister's own responsibilities may be the easiest to meet. We must ask whether that is a coincidence. While the action team recommended that we measure, assess and publish levels of homelessness, overcrowding, severe dampness and people experiencing fuel poverty, the Executive has put forward the blandest of statements. Instead of a robust approach, we are left with a target of

"Increasing the quality and variety of homes in our most disadvantaged communities".

Instead of being assessed on eradicating dampness, ending overcrowding, acting on homelessness and ending fuel poverty, the Executive is assessing itself on having increased the

"quality and variety of homes in the most disadvantaged areas".

That is a target so vague as to be meaningless. The Executive plans to award itself brownie points on its regular annual report.

There are concerns. This morning, in the Social Inclusion, Housing and Voluntary Sector Committee, we heard from tenants about their concerns about modern-day urban clearances for the millennium. We must address that issue.

I would like to conclude by mentioning fuel poverty. This is Warm Homes Week. If there is one measure that should have been at the heart of the "Social Justice" report, it is the target to end fuel poverty. If the minister is so confident in the measures that she has announced, surely she should have included that target. The Executive has come a long way, by recognising the issue and setting targets. It has proposed something that is welcome—we say that in our amendment—but what it proposes is not robust enough.

We regard the "Social Justice" report as a betrayal of the Executive's promises to the poor and we will not allow that to be forgotten. The Executive is in danger of overloading on managerial, new Britain-speak, of mission statements and milestones without substance.

Harold Wilson once said that the Labour party

"is a moral crusade or it is nothing."

On the strength of the report, Labour is betraying its heritage by providing people in poverty in Scotland with nothing at all.

I move amendment S1M-314.2, to leave out from "welcomes" to end and insert:

"recognises the appalling poverty we have in Scotland and the need for immediate action to tackle this poverty; welcomes the publication by the Scottish Executive of the report Social Justice ...a Scotland where everyone matters; believes however that the report lacks definition, range, focus and clear achievable targets and agrees that the Executive should re-evaluate the report brought forward by the Evaluation Framework action team and bring forward revised targets and indicators to the Parliament."

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative 2:59 pm, 24th November 1999

As I watched the events of the weekend, I wondered what would come out on Monday. I wondered whether it would be the statement of the millennium—sadly, it was nothing. The documents contain a welter of words—some not even spelt correctly—which is indicative of the careless attitude and outlook that Wendy Alexander has demonstrated today.

Let us be clear about what is before the Parliament: basically, it is a wish list. I have absolutely no doubt as to the minister's sincerity, but what she is putting forward is absolutely meaningless. Let us be blunt about it. I do not wish to introduce management-speak, but, for targets to be achieved, they must be specific, measurable and realistic. Most important, they must have time scales. There is nothing in the documents—

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

I do not have time. I have only five minutes.

There is nothing in the documents to indicate when the Executive will be able to measure the progress of its proposals, and nothing to indicate how it intends to phase in its improvements. In other words, there is no way in which we can measure the Executive's achievement—or lack of it. What we have is a wish list that is minimalist in many respects.

Quite properly, Fiona Hyslop raised the question of why today's debate is so short. However, she has got it slightly wrong: I believe that having a short debate is a tactic, and an obvious one. The Executive does not want a lengthy debate, because it is saying absolutely nothing at any length.

The targets are no more than a wish list. There are no proposals for action and no details of funding. Nor do the documents set out in any meaningful way how progress on any of the issues involved can be measured.

Wendy Alexander resembles a latter-day Eva Peron. In the words of the musical:

"The best show in town was the crowd . . . She didn't say much but she said it loud."

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

Not today—I have a sore throat.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

In one of the press releases, the minister states that she found the preparation of the documents "intellectually challenging." The documents are hardly intellectually challenging—they are as challenging as a premature letter to Santa Claus, which is what, in effect, they are.

Many will find the reference to a 20-year period highly intriguing. Most members of the present Executive will have left office by then—indeed, some of them may have left the face of the earth. But of course, a moving target cannot be hit, and no one will be personally responsible if even these vaguest of targets are not met. The message to Scotland's poor is quite simple: "Live on, old horse, and you'll get corn." A 20-year plan is reminiscent of the Soviet Union's much-vaunted five-year plans. Donald Dewar takes four times as long as Joe Stalin, but who would bet against him getting the same result? It is disappointing in the extreme that these are the documents that have been put before us today.

I must respond to the minister's attack on the Conservative Government. Let us deal in some facts, for a change, rather than rhetoric. The Conservative Government was good. Spending on the national health service in Scotland increased by 57 per cent in real terms between 1979 and 1997, which is 22 per cent higher, I remind our friends in the Scottish National party, than the figure in England.

Until 1997, crime fell for five successive years. Spending per pupil in secondary schools rose by 37 per cent in real terms during the periods in office of the Conservative Government. More than £8 billion was invested in council housing between 1979 and 1997. Those are facts which cannot be denied.

The minister gave herself away in one of her opening statements when she complained about the lack of investment and interest over the past 20 years. Is she saying that, during the past two and a half years of Labour government in Westminster, interest and funding have been lacking? It would be interesting to hear what she has to say about that.

The Executive cannot attack past Conservative Governments. It should be looking within its own ranks to see where the failures lie. Many of the problems have been the fault of local government. Glasgow is a city with diabolical problems—problems which all of us, from all parties, recognise.

Let us look at those problems. Look at the failures of the education system in Glasgow. Who ran it? Labour-controlled Strathclyde Regional Council and Labour-controlled Glasgow City Council.

Look at the health service. It has been in the remit of the Westminster Labour Government for the past two and a half years. In that period, we have seen a deterioration—an accepted deterioration—in health service provision. There again, the blame lies elsewhere, and not with Conservative Governments.

Try telling the old-age pensioners from Glasgow who are outside the chamber today that they are being looked after by the caring, sharing Labour Government. They are bewailing the fact that a 75p increase is not likely to go far in this day and age.

Labour's appalling record is what should be on trial today, rather than that of history. The fact of the matter is that what is being announced today is just another public relations stunt, another exercise in hype and a totally meaningless demonstration of media control.

I move amendment S1M-314.1, to leave out "agrees" and insert:

"notes the Scottish Executive's publication of 'Social Justice ...a Scotland where everyone matters' which sets out statements not targets; does not provide any proposals for action or details of funding; does not set out any meaningful way in which progress on the issues highlighted can be measured; and completely fails to address the needs of Scotland's people."

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat 3:05 pm, 24th November 1999

The Scottish Liberal Democrats support the motion, and we support the social inclusion targets that the Executive has set. I am sure that Wendy Alexander will agree that it is important to distinguish between what the Scottish Executive hopes and plans to do and what the United Kingdom Government—a separate Government—has done or is doing. I hope that Jackie Baillie will make that clear in her summing up, as I am sure that Ms Alexander would want to clarify any confusion that might have emerged as a result of her interesting opening speech. She may also want to clarify what is meant by references in the "Social Justice" documents that were issued this week to the record since 1997. That refers to the UK Government's record. The record of the Scottish Executive, in which the Liberal Democrats are glad to play an active part, has existed only since May this year.

We support the motion. The pursuit of social justice is at the heart of my party's philosophy and beliefs. The Executive's targets are ambitious in many ways and span nearly every department. They must mark a real attempt not to alleviate symptoms, but to tackle the roots of problems. There are many parts to the jigsaw and, if the targets are to be reached and social justice is to be delivered, we must ensure that best practice is disseminated across a broad range of areas.

I would like to introduce a constructive note into the debate. Best practice is at the core of a social justice strategy. Let me give two or three examples. For the first, I am indebted to my colleague Dr Richard Simpson, whose constituency is in my region of Mid Scotland and Fife. Dr Simpson has stressed the fact that early intervention in exclusion of pupils from school is crucial. A high percentage of truants go on to be young offenders or drug addicts or both and end up in prison. The pupil support unit that has been developed as part of the social inclusion project at Alloa Academy is a prime example of how exclusion from school can be tackled.

That unit has exceeded the Executive's targets, halving exclusion. Dr Simpson told me that one pupil, excluded from primary school no fewer than 27 times, has not been excluded at all now that he is at the academy. That is the best practice which needs to be disseminated widely throughout Scotland if we are to have not just a different future, as the book launched today put it, but a profoundly better future.

We all know that the drugs action teams have had a mixed record. That is probably the diplomatic understatement of the day. The Glasgow drugs action team has been, if not an unqualified success, at least a qualified success. I spoke to Iona Colvin, who is highly respected in that field, earlier this week. I asked her why that drugs action team has been successful and the others have not. The Glasgow team has been successful because it has an inspiring chairman, implementation working groups that are highly effective, and a close relationship between the local authority and health board. We must ensure that that best practice is disseminated to the other 22 drugs action teams.

Ayrshire and Arran Health Board's drug project, under the driving inspiration of Dr Charles Linn, offers a model of dealing with addiction. The area is demographically similar to Fife, yet the difference between the drug services is like the difference between night and day. We must ensure that those excellent services and the way in which the Ayrshire and Arran model has been developed are fed to other health board areas in Scotland.

It is not just a question of best practice; it is a question of resources. The Liberal Democrats strongly support the commitment to social justice.

We particularly support the Executive's commitment to tackling pensioner poverty, but that commitment can be delivered only if the Chancellor of the Exchequer releases extra resources. In that, a distinction must be drawn between the two Governments—the Scottish Executive, of which the Liberal Democrats are glad to be a part, and the UK Government, which we oppose. There is no doubt that we differ from the chancellor in our view that resources need to be released early.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

I will not give way, as I have limited time.

How can we tackle pensioner poverty effectively, when the chancellor promises to increase pensions next April by only 75p? That increase will be more than wiped out by the rises in council tax and water rates. Ministers of both parties must intervene directly to make that point forcefully to the chancellor. An increase of 75p in pensions is so negligible as to be insulting.

Throughout Scotland, single pensioners will be worse off next year. In Aberdeen, they will be worse off by £43.45; in Dundee, by £50.47; in Highland, by £42.63; and in Perth and Kinross, by £41.27. Pensioners will be better off—if that phrase means anything—only in the Scottish Borders, and even then, by a mere 67p.

The lowest estimate for the chancellor's treasure chest is £10 billion. If the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Executive are to tackle social injustice and social exclusion effectively, he must release some of those resources now, so that we can have an effective programme for tackling poverty and can achieve the admirable targets that the Executive has set.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

A large number of members want to speak in the debate, and we have only a relatively short time. For that reason, I will apply the four-minute rule strictly.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour 3:12 pm, 24th November 1999

I strongly welcome the debate, not only because I am convener of the Social Inclusion, Housing and Voluntary Sector Committee, but because social justice is at the centre of my political philosophy. It is appropriate that it should also be at the foundation of the Government's programme.

The strategy shows some appreciation of past failures: we attempted to tackle the born-to-fail generation only to have our efforts ruthlessly and tragically abandoned by the Thatcher disaster.

However, the central ethos and values have not been lost. They date further back, to the words of John Ruskin, who said:

"The first duty of a State is to see that every child born therein shall be well housed, clothed, fed and educated".

Even in those early days, we recognised the connections between social ills. We know only too well that action on one front cannot be sustained. Multiple problems require multiple responses. We need to ensure that schools, health services, social work services and the police all work to an inclusion agenda. The entrenched power of professionals must be addressed.

The Executive programme is ambitious. I welcome the First Minister's statement that the programme will be the key benchmark against which the Executive will be judged. Some members of the Labour party will be judging Labour members of the partnership on the same basis.

The strategy is a fitting one for the first Scottish Parliament. Expectations are high and results must be delivered. Within the field of anti-poverty and social inclusion there has been a decided push in recent years to move away from high aspirations and empty empathy towards clear intervention, whereby outcomes are measured and politicians and agencies are held to account. It is proper that the Executive strategy falls firmly within that approach. To say that it is a betrayal or a stunt is not to understand the debate of the past years. We must deliver.

As we have heard, the strategy has been criticised. Labour has been accused of outlining a programme that has warm words, but which has no plans for immediate action and which, essentially, is not Scottish enough. We have heard that before. Too often in the Parliament we hear the single transferable speech, to the extent that we even hear the same sentences in different speeches. The same points are adapted to fit each debate. We hear that much of what the Executive is doing is to be welcomed and that it is moving in the right direction, but that there is not enough funding and that the measures are not Scottish enough.

How many times will the SNP—and Keith Raffan—spend Gordon Brown's war chest, whose policies would never have delivered it in the first place? Must we return to the devolution referendum in every debate? The SNP cannot keep claiming that it is determined to make the Parliament work and then at every opportunity point out the Parliament's inadequacies and focus on what the Parliament cannot do. If our strategy is so wrong, the Opposition should come up with more detailed criticisms, particularly in relation to the responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament.

I will now deal with the Tories. I could not believe my ears when I heard Annabel Goldie dismiss the programme as not being enough to tackle poverty in the immediate future. Perhaps the Tories should ask themselves why their party has such severe problems in Scotland and why it was wiped out in the most recent British general election.

I will take no lessons from the people who cheered Peter Lilley's disgraceful remarks about single parents. Portillo can try to reinvent himself as a compassionate Conservative in Kensington, but that will not wash in Easterhouse. The Tories should not wait for Jeffrey Archer's name to be said before hanging their heads in shame.

There is criticism of the programme from another section of the Parliament, the Scottish Socialist party. I think that that is the right name, but to clarify the matter, I will call it Tommy Sheridan's party, as his cult of personality knows no bounds. Tommy has a slogan for every occasion. He will promise the earth and call for spending without worrying about the implications for other budgets. He would spend twice the budget of the national health service to buy back houses for Glasgow City Council's housing department. This fact might force Tommy to rethink his economic strategy, but I have to tell him that money does not grow on trees.

Socialists have a responsibility not to mislead people or propose simplistic solutions to profound and deep-seated problems. Rather, we must focus on what can be achieved. In two years, we have moved from the assertion that there is no such thing as society to having a Minister for Communities. Social justice is at the centre of every radical movement in the world. I say to my Government that there is no room for complacency, as back-bench members will hold it to account.

Photo of Adam Ingram Adam Ingram Scottish National Party 3:16 pm, 24th November 1999

I would like to focus on the Executive's commitment to full employment in Scotland by 2020. I welcome the Executive's recognition that full employment in Scotland is an achievable objective. For the past 20 years, we have been lectured by unionist politicians of all shades that a reserve army of the unemployed was an inevitable consequence of post-industrial society. More recently, we have been told that it is a price worth paying for low inflation south of the border.

The turnround is welcome, but I fear that the commitment carries less weight than the overblown presentation packs published by the minister. With the change in objectives, I assumed that there would be a change in the prevailing approach of the past 20 years, during which time it was assumed that people were unemployed not because there were no jobs but because they did not have the skills to do those jobs. Billions have been spent on training schemes, on the expansion of further and higher education, on adult learning and on retraining to free up the supply side of the labour market. On the demand side, however, laissez faire has been the order of the day.

Following the hype of the press announcements, I read the document. I was disappointed but not surprised to find no indication of a change of approach by the Executive. It seems that we can look forward to more of the same old policies, supported by the right-wing gurus of supply-side economics who blame the unemployed for being unemployed.

I agree with what Wendy Alexander says in the document:

"Achieving our targets will also be about more than what we spend. It will be about how we spend, whom we work with and how we organise for change."

The hundreds of millions of pounds that are being spent on schemes designed to cut unemployment statistics rather than to get people into real jobs should be pumped into public works and major infrastructure projects and should be used to support small businesses that will create jobs and the conditions for economic expansion.

On Monday, while the Executive was polishing its press skills, I visited a jobcentre in Cumnock. If the minister had been with me, she would have found that the number of job vacancies did not tally with the number of people who were out of work. The International Labour Organisation figure for the unemployment rate in the area is 14.6 per cent.

The jobs that are available in the area tend to be part-time, temporary or not highly skilled. The brightest prospect for employment in the area is the opening of a Tesco supermarket. The jobcentre has already been inundated with applications and inquiries for jobs that have not even been advertised. At the same time, full-time, skilled jobs, especially in the agricultural and textile industries, are leaking away. That is what is happening in the real world. There is nothing in the documents that will effectively address unemployment in Cumnock.

Let us consider the Executive's milestones, to illustrate the point. Milestone 1 is:

"Reducing the percentage of our children living in workless households."

That is obviously dependent on the achievement of milestone 13:

"Reducing the proportion of unemployed working age people."

That is to be measured by the ILO rate of unemployment derived from the labour force survey.

The Executive has made its aim clear. It wants to reduce a proportion—a statistic calculated by dividing the number of people who are employed by the number of people of working age who are economically inactive. It does not have to create a single job to achieve that objective. By its own definition, it requires only a shift in the number of people to the economically active category from the economically inactive category.

The mechanisms for doing that have been pioneered by UK Governments over the past 20 years. Between 1981 and 1995, the number of people in Britain claiming sickness benefits over six months rose by 1.23 million. Those people consequently vanished from the unemployment statistics.

The latest labour force survey shows that 216,000 of the 698,000 people of working age classified by the Government as economically inactive wanted a job.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Bring your speech to a close, please.

Photo of Adam Ingram Adam Ingram Scottish National Party

I will finish on this point.

If those people were counted as unemployed, the real unemployment rate would be more than doubled. Some scepticism is called for when we consider claims that unemployment is being reduced because one statistic moves in a certain direction.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP 3:22 pm, 24th November 1999

I thank the minister and other members for mentioning me in the course of the debate. I suppose that it ensured that I was called to speak.

I suggest that the minister's speech would be better termed the "Let them eat cake" speech. Wendy Alexander is fast becoming the Marie-Antoinette of the Parliament.

I will oppose the minister's motion today because it reeks of arrogance and of a misunderstanding of the reality of life after two and a half years of a Labour Government. It is worth reminding Wendy and the rest of the Labour members that life did not start for new Labour in May this year—it started two and a half years ago.

That is why, when Wendy tells me about the targets for tackling child poverty, I must raise with her the report of Glasgow City Council social strategy committee in April. It showed that in May 1997, a disgraceful 38 per cent of the children in Glasgow were in receipt of free school meals because they lived in poor families. Two years later—two years into the Blair Government—the number of kids receiving free school meals in Glasgow had risen to 43 per cent. That is an increase in poverty after two years of the new Labour Government.

The minister talks about dignity in old age—dignity in old age, for pensioners in communities throughout Scotland who feel betrayed?

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

Wendy did not take any interventions, but I will take one from her.

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

Does Tommy support the Scottish National party position that on pensions we should have jam for all? Does he agree that there should be a flat-rate rise that will benefit Edinburgh pensioners such as Sean Connery, rather than a minimum income guarantee for the 1 million poorest pensioners, which will mean that their incomes will go up to 75 quid and then 78 quid in April? For the first time in 20 years, their incomes will be linked to earnings as well as prices. What is Tommy's position on that?

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

When the minister suggests that the minimum income guarantee that the Executive offers should be applauded, it is difficult to tell whether she has any grasp on reality. Does she know that the minimum income guarantee is even less than the disgusting minimum wage that this Government has introduced? She is asking pensioners—and only pensioners who are in receipt of income support can claim this—to live on the minimum income that the Government has set. My question to her is: could she or any of the other ministers live on that income? The answer is that they could not.

My reply to the question that the minister asked is yes. There should be an increase across the board in basic state pensions, because that is the way to target poverty. As soon as means testing is introduced—as the Government is now doing, at the drop of a hat, in every area of social welfare policy—millions of ordinary poor people who deserve to be given some assistance are missed. All that the pensioners want is a decent pension, so that they can live with some dignity. They do not want to be insulted by a 75p-a-week increase, when the Government is sitting on a treasure chest of at least £12 billion.

The existence of that treasure chest testifies not to the skill of Gordon Brown, but to the fact that this Government is a poor parent; it is the sign of a poor guardian of family income. If any parent in Scotland were to build up a family surplus by refusing their kids new clothes and new shoes when they needed them, or refusing to give their grandparents a decent income, they would not be applauded, but condemned.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

The Government is starving our public services through underfunding.

The Trades Union Congress is not yet a friend of the Scottish Socialist party, but in a report issued three weeks ago—

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

Mr McAveety will get his chance—he does not need to jump in, as he is in a different place now.

Photo of Frank McAveety Frank McAveety Labour

Perhaps, but it is the same speech—although it is a good speech.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

I am sorry, Presiding Officer—I am trying to sum up, but people keep interrupting me. Will you intervene?

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Mr Sheridan, I must ask you to wind up quickly.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

As you have noticed, I am trying.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

The politeness that we are getting from the Labour benches is marvellous.

I know that the Executive does not want to hear this message, but the TUC report showed that by 2001-02 the Government will be spending 25 per cent less in general expenditure on public services than the Tories spent in 1993-94. Labour is now out-Torying the Tories, and it should be ashamed of itself.

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat 3:28 pm, 24th November 1999

I do not know whether I am alone in this chamber in noticing a connection between the importance of the subject and the level of rant. Unfortunately, rant has characterised many of the speeches that have been made today.

The social inclusion targets that the minister set out are worthy and well motivated, although I am bound to say that the tone in which she opened the debate left something to be desired. The targets are a tribute to the emphasis on outputs rather than inputs—on results rather than programmes—that the Parliament and our partnership Executive have required. There can be no more meaningful goal than to help individuals and communities realise their full potential in our demanding society.

It is a tremendous shame that, at the same time as the minister is making her statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer—motivated either by an excess of financial prudence or the need for a pre-election war chest—is sitting on a kitty of many billions of pounds. It is also a pity that Labour ministers in London are cutting benefit for the disabled and threatening housing benefit—in effect, smashing down the bricks that the Scottish Executive is so painstakingly building up. The minister might usefully have a quiet word in the ear of her brother or others who are alleged to be close to the Prime Minister or the chancellor.

However, the Scottish Executive is entirely right to target specific areas of social inclusion that will both make a difference to people's everyday lives and make our deprived communities more inclusive. I suggest that much of the programme hinges on what happens in Glasgow, as, indeed, does the extent to which we collectively make a difference.

Glasgow may or may not be in line to welcome the Parliament when we make our sojourn away from this building during the Kirk's general assembly next year. However, Glasgow is the real capital of Scotland in many ways—not all of which are good. We have the largest population, but the greatest concentration of deprived areas. We have world-renowned medical specialists, but the worst health record in Scotland. It is the only city in the United Kingdom in which no new hospitals have been built this century. We have the highest unemployment figures and the greatest proportion of citizens dependent on benefits.

As a report published yesterday by researchers at two universities showed, despite Glasgow's commercial success and shopping facilities, which are second only to London's, the city has an economic problem that, when compared with what is happening in Edinburgh, reminds one of the difference between East and West Germany following the fall of the Berlin wall. A Glaswegian earns, on average, fully a third less than the average citizen of Edinburgh does.

Glasgow is the rock and the hard place for the Scottish Executive. A considerable share of resources will be required to make a difference, to overcome disadvantage, to give people opportunity and hope and to help them make the best use of their abilities.

Glasgow has many things going for it, however. For example, the new housing partnership is not just a housing regeneration opportunity—one that is likely to be botched if our comrades in George Square with their centralist notions have their way. It could be a major economic spur to the city, creating jobs, adding to income and giving communities a leg up. However, the partnership must be more than a short-term fix; it must be linked to long-term development of individuals, communities and local economies.

Our universities and colleges also make a contribution, as does the voluntary sector, which—this is important—is mentioned in the social inclusion strategy. The voluntary sector can be led, but it cannot be driven. It can multiply many times over the investment that the Executive makes in social inclusion policies.

Two words—people count—sum up one of the oldest and best Liberal themes. I whole-heartedly welcome the commitment of my Parliament and my Executive to these social inclusion targets.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative 3:32 pm, 24th November 1999

It was good to see our First Minister, Donald Dewar, on television the other day saying that the Executive intends to eradicate poverty in Scotland within the next 20 years. However, his appearance was followed by a programme that showed people in the more deprived areas of Glasgow who were unable to walk to the shops to buy their food, because the local supermarkets had shut down and the enormous new supermarkets were miles away. I wonder how included those people felt, especially if they did not have access to a car, were wheelchair-bound or disabled in some other way.

I represent the Highlands and Islands—everything from Campbeltown to Shetland. In that area, a strong sense is building up among the people that, far from being included, they are being forgotten. Gordon Brown tells us that the country is awash with money and so it should be easy for every UK citizen to share in this wave of new prosperity. The truth is rather different.

The appalling agricultural situation, which runs throughout the social network of the Highlands and Islands, is reducing people's incomes to pennies. People with greatly reduced incomes are having to pay over the odds for almost everything they buy, mainly as a result, of course, of the price of petrol and diesel, which affects the cost of everything. In some of the islands, petrol and diesel can be as much as 90p a litre—the VAT content means that the people who live there are paying even more tax. Is that inclusive? The elderly and disabled find it even more difficult to get out and about—they cannot afford to.

In new Labour's thriving United Kingdom, does the Government intend to include any people north of Loch Lomond? Fishing and every sector of agriculture—sheep, beef, dairy, pigs and grain—is at a low. One has only to look at the number of hotels that are for sale or at Caledonian MacBrayne's latest passenger and vehicle figures to see that tourism—an industry that is of enormous importance to the north—is also in decline.

People will feel included only if they experience a standard of living similar to that enjoyed in the more prosperous areas. A good health service, quality education and care for the elderly are seen as a right.

I give members a local example. Lorn and Islands district general hospital, which cares for the needs of a large mainland area and many of the islands, was recently offered a brand new scanner—worth millions—by the North British Hotels Trust for nothing. However, our health service has so far been unable to come up with the £50,000 a year necessary to run it. That means that ailing patients, often in pain, are faced with long journeys to the central belt, when they should be treated at the new hospital in Oban. The Conservatives believe that we should devolve power locally to health care professionals and the communities that they serve. Those professionals and communities know the problems; they have the answers.

"Social Justice" states that the Executive intends to reduce the gap between the employment rate in the worst areas and the average employment rate for Scotland. Why, then, is the Executive permitting policies to be pursued that are increasing unemployment, decreasing incomes and discouraging investment? Rural communities are being bombarded on all sides. The proposed legislation on land reform, feudal tenure and banning hunting will not increase income by a penny, but it will strike at the heart of communities—however they are defined—and simply add more bureaucracy and red tape. All people want is a simple, level playing field that includes all the players.

In the Highlands and Islands, as in the rest of Scotland, people are concerned about their jobs, families, communities and having a stable future. This document addresses those issues with platitudes that—although they may be touching—are driven by ineffective idealism.

The Executive may be good at producing glossy documents at great expense, but it never consults or includes the people who matter. If it did, it would discover that it should be working hand in hand with local communities to find the solutions that are relevant to the problems of specific communities in specific areas. That is what inclusion is about.

Photo of Lloyd Quinan Lloyd Quinan Scottish National Party 3:37 pm, 24th November 1999

I would like to be standing here welcoming an initiative that will eradicate poverty. Unfortunately, I cannot. Instead, I have the somewhat onerous task of summing up a debate that is on the agenda as an apology for Monday's media circus.

These documents are devoid of content. Indeed, they state that it will be spring before any proposals to tackle poverty come into the public domain. It is to add insult to injury to proclaim initiatives targeted at the poorest and most marginalised sections of our society and to give a suggestion of hope when all that we have discussed today is another flashy booklet, crammed full of good intentions but little else.

The documents contain no mechanism for tackling the curse of poverty, which affects a third of the population of this country. There is no scheme to rescue the young, the old or the vulnerable from damp housing. There is nothing to add even a penny to the income of the poorest family in Scotland. Perhaps the reason the Executive was so keen that this debate should be kept short was that it hoped that we would not see what is not in the document.

The Executive's documents state boldly that the action plan, the means, the mechanism and the structure by which we will eradicate the evil that is poverty in this, the seventh richest country in the world, will not be discussed until the spring. It is arrogant at best—hurtful at worst—to build up in the press the hopes of a third of this country's people and then to deliver nothing more than a glossy document as a panacea for the nation's ills.

The sentiment is laudable; the content is negligible. Having read the documents and listened to what passed for a ministerial speech, I have no doubt that many in the chamber were overcome with warm feelings of expectation, only to have them dashed when they asked difficult questions such as "Who?", "By what amount?" or "By what means?" Let us be specific—about fuel poverty, for example. Some 2,000 deaths in Scotland each winter are totally preventable. There is no requirement for modern medicines—our pensioners die each winter simply because they cannot heat their homes. The document says nothing about that.

On benefit sanctions, I give the example of a pensioner who, with an income a mere 20p over the threshold, was deprived of benefit assistance following Government intervention. Will the minister confirm whether the Government has finally abandoned the universal state pension, which everyone has already paid for under the contract made between a Labour Government and the people of this country? How many pensioners will be above the means-test level in 20 years? Will a group of pensioners who fail the means test be left to live on £64.70? Will the Executive monitor any of those injustices? It seems not.

It is unacceptable for the minister to hide behind schedule 5 of the Scotland Act 1998. She knows, I know and everyone here knows that, without reference to the Benefits Agency, the Executive's pretend assault on poverty is doomed to failure. The inadequacy of the devolution settlement is starkly highlighted in the area of social security and benefits. It is a delusion to believe that the third of people in Scotland who are in receipt of benefit, the third of people who suffer poverty, can have their circumstances altered for the better without the responsibility for social security, housing benefit and pensions resting in this chamber.

Poverty is caused by an unequal distribution of power, resources and opportunities in society. This afternoon, we have seen no greater illustration of poverty than the minister's statement—not the poverty that afflicts a third of the people of this country, but a poverty of ideas. The Executive is intellectually bankrupt.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour 3:42 pm, 24th November 1999

Wendy Alexander has been described as Eva Peron and as Marie Antoinette. The descriptions that I would apply to today's debate are Francie and Josie or Hinge and Brackett—slapstick, knockabout stuff with no substance. We have heard a lot of carping, harping and whingeing, which is disappointing. Was any alternative offered? Where was the substance? I did not hear—

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

No thank you.

I did not hear even one positive action proposed. Lloyd Quinan should stop scaremongering. This is one of the most significant debates that this Parliament has had. It marks the beginning of a new era and a new agenda for social equality and justice in Scotland. In this report, we have set out our vision, our targets and our milestones. The report represents the most comprehensive framework ever for tackling poverty in Scotland. Social justice will be our hallmark and ending child poverty in Scotland our principal goal. That is the commitment that the partnership of Labour and Liberal Democrat makes to the people of Scotland. It is a commitment based on three pillars—education, housing and social justice. All are key values that are shared by the partnership and that have fed directly into the report.

To keep our focus firmly on the people of Scotland, we have chosen the life cycle as the framework for our targets and milestones—how we grow up, how we live and work, how we raise families and how we grow old. Because we believe that every community matters, we also have targets and milestones for our work with communities.

Too often in the past, strategies to tackle poverty and injustice have been more about places than about people. If we are to tackle the root causes of poverty and make a real difference to people's lives, we need to focus on people and places. Both matter, and that dual emphasis is reflected in our report.

I agree with Keith Raffan—early intervention is crucial. Preventing poverty from occurring is what we are about. We will address the exchange of information on best practice and disseminate that across Scotland.

Let us also remember that some groups in our society suffer persistent injustice, which is often exacerbated by discrimination and prejudice. We are working to ensure that equal opportunities are included in all the Executive's programmes. To make good our commitment to equality in "Social Justice", we intend to segregate all the milestones on age, gender, ethnicity and disability.

Our commitment that every community matters applies not only to the social inclusion partnership areas, but to other disadvantaged communities throughout Scotland, including isolated, rural areas. We intend our milestones on unemployment rates, drugs misuse, crime rates, the quality and variety of homes, participation in voluntary activities and access to the internet to relate to rural and urban disadvantaged communities throughout Scotland.

The SNP amendment was lodged in Mr Salmond's name—it is a shame that he is not here. I point out to the Tories that, in the past 20 years, the proportion of children being brought up in workless households doubled. People from the poorest areas in Scotland are now nearly three times as likely to die early as people from the richest areas. Qualifications are still skewed; more than 4,000 pupils left school in 1997 with no standard grades. I could go on. Do the Tories recognise that picture? They created it; their legacy for Scotland was one of poverty, neglect and decline.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

How dare the Tories lecture us today on failing to address the needs of Scotland's people?

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

I have to interrupt you, Ms Baillie. I ask members to have the courtesy to listen to the minister's response and not to shout from the sidelines. If members want to intervene, they should indicate that that is what they want to do. That is not happening.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

As you know, Mr McLetchie, that is entirely up to her. Please continue, minister.

Photo of Frank McAveety Frank McAveety Labour

On a point of order. Is it in order for members to shout "Lies" across the chamber?

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

I remind all members that it is not appropriate for them to address one another across the chamber. That is the point that I was making.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

In deference to the chamber, I always bring facts before members, not lies.

I welcome the SNP's support for our publication.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

No. Incidentally, perhaps Lloyd Quinan should read Mr Salmond's amendment; it welcomes our document. I am not surprised by that, because the document is similar to what the SNP proposed in its manifesto, which borrowed ideas from us. We thank the SNP for that flattery. I will quote from that manifesto, because it is evident that it has been a while since SNP members read it. It mentions a "co-ordinated approach"—that is precisely the approach that we are taking. It also mentions the

"publication of poverty indicators, to show that poverty is being tackled and eradicated".

That, too, is precisely what we are doing. Yet I found no mention in the manifesto of—

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

I will give way in a second. Perhaps Fiona could answer my question. I could find no mention in the SNP manifesto of full employment or ending child poverty. Are not those policies important to the SNP?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

I am grateful that the minister has finally given way. Although we recognise that producing targets is the right thing to do, we are concerned that the Executive's targets are vague and meaningless. Some 800,000 people in Scotland live at or below income support level. How many of them will have been brought out of poverty after the first session of the Parliament?

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

I repeat: ours is the most comprehensive framework of targets that has ever been produced in Scotland to tackle poverty. It has range, focus and clarity. It provides a set of challenging and measurable targets. It drew directly—this is at the crux of the SNP's argument—from the valuable work done by the evaluation framework action team. Virtually all the indicators that the team suggested are incorporated. If Fiona Hyslop had bothered to read the technical document, she would see it all there.

[Interruption.]

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Members will keep order while this debate continues. Things are getting out of hand and it is impossible for members to speak. Carry on, please, minister.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

Thank you.

The action team produced a set of static measures. Our targets are about action, movement and change—change for the better. Fiona Hyslop said that the housing targets that we had set were easy to deliver. Is ending rough sleeping easy? Is reducing the number of families in temporary accommodation who have children easy? Clearly, it is not. The complaints of the SNP ring hollow, but they are consistent with its record of opposing whatever the Government partnership proposes in this Parliament.

There comes a time when the new Executive must say, "This is what we stand for and this is what we will achieve. No more revisions and no more delay—the people of Scotland want action." In the spring, the Executive will publish its action plan, in which it will set out how we will deliver our objectives for social justice and defeating child poverty in Scotland. We will set out our programmes alongside those of other departments and agencies. That will show how actions will come together to achieve common aims. The first annual Scottish social justice report will follow. That report will allow the Executive to measure its successes and to face up to any failures. We will monitor progress every year to see whether we are living up to our aspirations, because the people of Scotland deserve nothing less.

Those who demanded change and social justice at the start of this century were not deterred by the non-believers and the doubters—neither will we be. They fought long and hard to achieve their goals and so, if necessary, will we. Delivery of social justice is not a short-term fix; it is the priority of the partnership between the Liberal Democrats and Labour. We have the opportunity to deliver a better future for all our children, all our families and all our neighbourhoods. We have the opportunity to deliver a better future for Scotland—a Scotland where everybody matters.