Ministers and Junior Ministers

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 10:02 am on 21st May 2003.

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Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative 10:02 am, 21st May 2003

I rise to oppose the motion on the appointment of junior ministers.

Today, the First Minister has achieved something quite remarkable, even by his standards. In the face of a damning verdict by the voters that devolution under his governance is synonymous with apathy, atrophy, impotence and waste, does he offer radical reform, innovation, good use of public money, or even a bit of spice? If only. Instead, on the table is a dreary dish entitled the "partnership agreement", by comparison with which cold suet pudding would look appetising. The agreement bears all the scars of compromise, fudge, horse-trading and barter and is to be delivered by the good old bloated coalition Executive. I say to the First Minister that that is not a good start. Is this the same First Minister who recently told the people of Scotland, "I have listened"? If this is an example of the First Minister listening, a hearing aid is urgently required.

My sympathy goes out to the hapless souls who are charged with delivering on this uninspiring and dreich programme. It will take more than the aquiline elegance of Tavish Scott or the Paisley pugnacity of Hugh Henry, or even that likeable cross between a Lanarkshire weasel and a ferret, Tom McCabe, to bring life to this downbeat political prospectus. And what about the mongrels? I know not what other title to ascribe to Nicol Stephen and Frank McAveety, who are apparently not senior enough to be paid the full whack but not junior enough to join their colleagues on the junior benches. Indeed, even Mr McAveety's disconcerting similarity to a mature Harry Potter offers little hope. All the magic in Hogwarts Academy could not transform this turgid political dish, which is beyond miracles.

I offer advice to Tavish Scott, Hugh Henry, Euan Robson, Tom McCabe, Mary Mulligan, Allan Wilson and their mongrel associates. If not even decking them out with white-and-green hooped shirts or festooning them with Seville oranges will attract the public's attention, I say to the junior ministers, "Carpe diem"—I hold to the view that classics and culture are not dead in this Parliament—"get a life and resign. Return to the back benches. Be yourselves. Bring some zest into the Parliament. Challenge rather than acquiesce. Save the taxpayer money and be the sacrifice to deliver leaner, more focused government. Take a significant step to dispel apathy, atrophy and impotence." Such a step would be something for which those junior ministers really would be recognised and remembered by the public.

I oppose the motion on the appointment of junior ministers.