Ministers and Junior Ministers

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 9:44 am on 21st May 2003.

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Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party 9:44 am, 21st May 2003

I preface my remarks by saying that they relate to the nature of the office of Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport and to the structure of the Cabinet, not to the ability or competence of the minister involved. Frank McAveety is one of the most convivial members; he served ably and competently as a deputy minister and I am sure that he is perfectly capable of doing the job.

My objections are twofold. First, I object to the creation of a hybrid—ministers who attend the full Cabinet, but who receive the pay of a deputy minister. Secondly, I object to the nature of the post—the absence of key powers means that the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport will be unable to do the job properly.

On my first objection, Mr McAveety has been elevated to the Cabinet from his position as a deputy, but is he a senior junior minister because he is in the Cabinet, or a junior senior minister because he is not on full pay? He is not a junior junior as he is politically within, but he is not a senior senior as he is financially without. What powers do the new breed of ministers possess? Is voting salary weighted? Are the new ministers politically as well as financially worth less around the Cabinet table? Are they on trial? If they deliver, will they be promoted and receive full pay and status? The corollary is that if a current senior senior minister fails to deliver, they could face being reduced to a senior junior, which might cause a ripple of fear round the Cabinet table.

My second objection is about the powers of the new minister. The full list and job description are clear. The position moved from being a deputy post in the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Department at the commencement of the previous parliamentary session to being a full Cabinet position and has now been reduced to a hybrid post. Does the position have the powers to deliver what is necessary for the tourism industry, which, after all, is our biggest industry? Does the position have the powers and financial levers to deal with marketing, training and accessibility?

Reserved matters are fundamentally important, but let us leave them aside and address some generalities. Do business rates fall within the domain of the new minister? No. Does training fall within his domain? No—it appears to remain with Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the enterprise network, which are within the responsibility of the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Department. However, everyone accepts that training is important if we are to improve the quality of service.

Accessibility is fundamental for our island nation because we require visitors to come and we cannot simply move visitors about. However, the responsibility for transport is elsewhere. Let us consider some specifics. One of the most important accessibility issues for tourism in the north is that of landing charges and the disincentive for low-cost carriers or other operators to operate reasonably priced flights in and out of Inverness airport, never mind other airports. However, Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd does not appear to fall within the new minister's remit, but remains elsewhere.

The Scottish National Party supported the route development fund, which was initiated in the previous session. However, that fund was announced by Lewis Macdonald, as Deputy Minister for Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning. Who is in charge now? Is it with Mr Macdonald and enterprise, with Mr Stephen and transport or with Mr McAveety and tourism? Who is in charge of the route development fund and its impact on tourism?

The proposals seem to have been fixed by the master fixer to reduce the Cabinet, but it is a short-term fix that will unravel. To describe the proposals using a Scottish term from the fishing domain, they are a typical guddle.

I move amendment S2M-52.3, to leave out "Mr Frank McAveety".