The Future of Scotland

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 10:26 am on 29th March 2007.

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Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative 10:26 am, 29th March 2007

In the brief time that is available to me this morning I want to hark back to something that I said in a debate last week. I am disappointed that the First Minister chose at the outset to tie the record of the Labour Party in Government to the union and to suggest that somehow the future of the union will be decided on the basis of the Labour Party's record. I can never accept that because, as a Conservative and therefore—no doubt members will dispute this—as a member of the pre-eminent unionist party in the Parliament, I think that it is a disgrace that we are not able to have a real discussion about policy. The First Minister should understand the need to separate those issues.

I am sad that the Labour Party has chosen to open the debate on a platform of defending its record, when unfortunately the public sector has been the main driver for growth over the past eight years, while the private sector, which could contribute so much to the Scottish economy, has been the poor relation under Labour's control. I am careful to refer to the Labour Party, because it seems that we have forgotten that the coalition ever existed.

The axes of the debate are interesting, especially when we discuss the Scottish National Party's contribution to it. Nicola Sturgeon came out with the same old story. In opposition, it is easy to say that we should be taxing a lot less and spending a lot more, as the SNP always likes to do. Unfortunately, the sums do not add up—if they started to add up, people might take the SNP a bit more seriously. Nicola Sturgeon quickly moved on to a list of undevolved issues that she hopes will stir up enough public opinion to panic people on to the streets to vote SNP on 3 May. However, I do not believe that that will happen.

The other point that I took from Nicola Sturgeon's speech is the fact that the enemy is the Labour Party. The Liberal Democrats have been absolved from any responsibility for what has happened. It seems to me that the overtures have started. The SNP is willing to work with the Liberal Democrats, and the Liberal Democrats appear willing to work with anybody.