Steel Commission

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:03 pm on 9th March 2006.

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Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party 12:03 pm, 9th March 2006

To ask the First Minister whether the Scottish Executive supports the recommendations made in the Steel commission report. (S2F-2172)

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

The Executive does not have a formal view on the report, which is an interesting contribution to the debate.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

The First Minister will be aware of the growing consensus that the Scottish Parliament requires significant additional powers. Is he part of that consensus?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

Actually, what we have is a growing consensus that the SNP has "lost its way", to quote the comment that its former leader Gordon Wilson made this week. We know that, despite the occasional clever question from the nationalists, they do not support further powers for the Scottish Parliament; they support the replacement of the Parliament with an independent Scotland. I welcome the interesting debate about the Parliament's powers, but we must have an honest debate, with each party stating its position honestly and clearly. It is dishonest of the SNP to come to the debate claiming that it wants more devolved powers for Scotland when what it really wants is a separate, independent Scotland. It should stop doing that.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

As a member of the Steel commission, I ask the First Minister whether he accepts its conclusion that we should explicitly reject independence and full fiscal autonomy, which the commission said would be a Trojan horse to independence. However, does the First Minister agree that there is a case for more devolution of both legislative and fiscal powers to the Scottish Parliament? Further devolution has taken place since 1999—for example, in relation to rail—and would be consistent with the view that was expressed when the Scottish Parliament was set up, that devolution is a process and not an event.

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

Like Jeremy Purvis, I welcome the growing consensus in the Parliament and in Scotland that independence is not the right solution for Scotland. I hope that that will be demonstrated again in next year's elections, as it was last year and in the two previous years. It is important that we use our powers effectively for the benefit of the people of Scotland, but the Parliament should also be a place for debate about the future of Scotland. I welcome the debate on that and other matters, but I want it to be an open and honest debate. I respect the Liberal Democrats' position of support for a federal United Kingdom as part of that debate and I will be happy to contribute to a debate on that position. As soon as we get a little more honesty from the SNP, I will be happy to take part in its debate too.