First Minister

Part of Contract Research Staff – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:47 pm on 22nd November 2001.

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Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative 2:47 pm, 22nd November 2001

Some people do not like home truths being told.

The big question is whether Mr McConnell is capable of delivering the reform that is necessary to win back respect for the Parliament. So far, the signals are rather confused. As the Minister for Education, Europe and External Affairs, he has shown himself to be admirably pragmatic in his attitude towards testing and discipline in our schools: he has taken on board sensible Conservative policies. But when he was confronted with the decision on whether to bring St Mary's Episcopal Primary School in Dunblane back under local authority control, he reverted to Labour dogma and his roots in municipal socialism. Despite overwhelming evidence that the school is a success and the parents support its present status, he signed the order.

The Scottish Conservatives want to see that kind of real devolution, which will lead to a genuine partnership between parents and teachers and drive up standards in our schools. We also want to see a genuine partnership with the independent sector in our health service. A concordat with that sector should be signed so that, as a matter of urgency, the relationship can be developed and fostered in the interests of patients and staff. We want a triumph of substance over style in Scottish politics. We want the Parliament to focus on the issues that are of everyday concern to people, rather than the politically correct agenda with which other parties are obsessed.

Today is the third time that I have stood for the office of First Minister. It will not be third time lucky for me, nor will it be third time lucky for Scotland, because Mr McConnell cannot and will not deliver on those issues. He will not dare to do anything that undermines Labour's power base in Scotland. In the run-up to an election, he will not antagonise the trade unions, who are his paymasters, by introducing the necessary reforms in our public services. Although he may talk about ditching spin, he will carry on much as before, because such an approach permeates every fibre of his being.

The SNP is not capable of delivering in those areas either. Although it may want to change our citizenship, it does not want to change Labour's policies in essence, because both parties are cut from the same left-of-centre political cloth.

The Scottish Conservatives are the only party putting forward a genuine alternative to the approach of the Executive. That is why we will continue to be the only real and effective Opposition in this Parliament for the overwhelming majority of Scots who want Scotland to remain within the union.

We intend to be a party of government in Scotland again. It is as a symbol of that intent that it gives me great pride to submit my candidacy for this office today.