Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:51 pm on 28th November 2001.

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Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative 12:51 pm, 28th November 2001

I am content to accept that explanation.

The other amendments have targeted the other individuals who have been appointed to the Cabinet. At this point it would be appropriate for me, as a representative of rural interests, to raise the issue of the appointment of Mike Watson to the position of Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport. Mike Watson has spent a great deal of his time in the Scottish Parliament talking about issues that impact on people in certain areas and that those people consider to be pertinent to their culture and to the interests of sport and tourism. Will he make an early appointment to visit the constituency of his new deputy, Elaine Murray, to hear what people there have to say about the impact of his policies on culture, sport and tourism? I hope that he will also take the opportunity to visit the Borders, where the impact of his policies will be significantly greater.

It is interesting that the appointments have resulted in a change in the gender balance of the Cabinet. We are down to only two women on the front bench. [MEMBERS: "Three."] I am counting the ones that we can see. Had it not been for the deal that appears to have been struck with Wendy Alexander, we might have been down to even fewer.

Gender balance is not our greatest worry about the appointments. The motion to appoint new members to the Cabinet shows a distinct and sharp turn to the left, which will give the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Executive a different character. It makes the benches on the left so crowded that the competition on the right is becoming increasingly weak. We have been abandoned by those who ought to be defending the political neutrality of the Parliament and I am sure that we will be abandoned at decision time today when the Liberal Democrats, once again, sell their souls and support the Cabinet that has been proposed by the First Minister.