First Minister

Part of Contract Research Staff – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:56 pm on 22nd November 2001.

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Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party 2:56 pm, 22nd November 2001

Those talks are going absolutely nowhere. How many times do the Liberals have to be taught that lesson?

I warn the Liberals that they need a long spoon to sup with the new Labour party. They are in for a disappointing journey to PR for local government—a long and tortuous journey on which meetings to arrange timetables to arrange meetings will be the order of the day.

We need reform of our public servants and with that we need reform of our public services. My priorities are delivering public services and building public trust. A society shorn of cronyism will be a society that can focus on the real needs of Scotland. It will be a society in which we can prioritise public investment in our health and education services. We shall do so by using not-for-profit trusts—we reject the discredited and expensive Tory-inspired private finance initiative, which puts money from our classrooms and hospitals into the pockets of private financiers. We shall do so by a radical reform programme in education, reducing class sizes and freeing up our teachers to allow them to teach. We shall do so by investing in health so that our cancer services are the best in the world, not the worst in Europe as they are today. We shall do so by protecting our environment and by never, ever allowing a London Government to foist power stations on Scotland. We shall do so by giving the Scottish Parliament the financial independence it needs to deliver the quality public services that the people have a right to expect.

We cannot allow free personal care for Scotland's elderly people to be held up because of a backroom rammy over cash between Labour ministers in London and Labour ministers in Edinburgh. If the chamber selects the Labour nominee for the post of First Minister, those who vote for him will be condoning a massive abuse of power for generations. They will be wiping from their memories the images of Monklands, Glasgow City Council, Govan, Paisley, Renfrew and scandal after scandal and deceit after deceit. They will be accepting that the leadership of our nation is something to be traded behind closed doors within a party, bloated with arrogance of power, that is forgetful of where it has come from.

It is time for the Parliament to assert itself. It is time for Scotland to assert itself and to look to its future. That future demands a Government and a First Minister that stand up for Scotland, not fight for themselves. I ask members to support my nomination. More important, I ask Scotland to support a vision of bright dreams for the future, not the old nightmares of the past.