Ministers

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 1:00 pm on 28th November 2001.

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Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour 1:00 pm, 28th November 2001

We have discovered a few new things in the course of the afternoon's discussion, not least that Dorothy-Grace Elder was concerned about the day becoming a "nasty, horrible day". Those of us who remember her pleasant and caring descriptions of politicians in her newspaper columns will perhaps be surprised by her comment.

We have heard a degree of hypocrisy in the chamber this afternoon about the personalities who are taking up their new posts: people who are ready to serve Scotland in those positions. That hypocrisy knows no bounds and the chamber should reject it because the people who are being appointed to the Executive today will serve Scotland very well indeed.

Alex Johnstone gave a whole new meaning to the wind-up speech. He should perhaps think carefully about being in that position again. This team of ministers—not just the Cabinet ministers, but the deputies and the new Solicitor General for Scotland—will increase the number of women who will serve Scotland in ministerial positions. Members should get their facts right before they speak in the chamber on such matters.

Members should also address the issues. Almost every member who has spoken has focused on personalities and innuendo rather than dealt with the issues— [Interruption.] I have to say to Mr Russell, who regularly enjoys shouting out in the chamber when members from other parties are speaking, that he spoke for five minutes about the new Minister for Education and Young People without talking once about education or young people. When the new ministers get to work for Scotland, they will get to work on issues and not on personalities.

Fiona Hyslop, a business manager, criticised someone who has the respect of Parliament—as was admitted from her own side when Kenny Gibson said that Patricia Ferguson is one of the more respected members of the chamber. Fiona Hyslop demeans her position and the work of the Parliament when she condemns and criticises as she did the appointment of Patricia Ferguson as the new parliamentary business manager.

It is very wrong indeed for a party that uses the parliamentary committees as party political battering rams week after week, using its spokespersons on committees to push through party political positions, to criticise those, not least Andy Kerr and some of the deputies who will be appointed after the next debate, who have served the Parliament very well in committee positions. It also wrong to describe their experience as irrelevant to ministerial posts. If we in this Parliament are genuine about a partnership between the Executive and the parliamentary committees, we should not make the assumption that those who serve the Parliament well on parliamentary committees should not then use their experience to fill ministerial office.

I believe that this is an excellent team for Scotland. I believe that, when all the froth from the Opposition goes by the wayside, we will see that the members of this team are in the right positions—in the right jobs—for Scotland. I believe that it is right that we have a Cabinet minister who is clearly responsible for tourism, for culture and for sport; I believe that it is right that responsibility for transport should lie alongside responsibility for promoting enterprise and creating and defending jobs; I believe that it is absolutely right that the minister with responsibility for finance and local government should be responsible for the improved delivery of public services; and I believe that it will be absolutely right that health and community care should be given top priority and that we should have two deputy ministers rather than one.

This is setting the right priorities for Scotland. Over and above the others, the right priority for Scotland is to create new opportunities for our children and young people. For two and a half years, many have said that people in ministerial jobs should have real life experience. I said it in my opening statement and I will say it again: it is right to put someone with a lifetime's commitment into the job of defending the rights of children and young people in Scotland, of improving not just our education service but our social work services—about which many wrote to me to express concern over the past 12 months when I had ministerial responsibility for education—and of delivering improved and integrated children's services. That someone is Cathy Jamieson.

I believe that this team of ministers will deliver the improved public services, the respect for this Parliament and the new opportunities that Scotland badly wants. I hope that the debates that they will take part in over the coming months and years will be conducted in a better form and shape than this one.