The Future of Scotland

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 10:31 am on 29th March 2007.

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Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour 10:31 am, 29th March 2007

Presiding Officer, you should ask Sandra White to sit down, because I am not taking an intervention.

The SNP criticises us on our record on child poverty. That is fair enough, but this Labour Government has made child poverty a priority and has set radical targets in which we believe. We have made significant progress, but it is never enough. The SNP has no targets. It attempts to knock down our success, but it will not say how it will achieve anything. The real risks to the progress of devolution are apparent for people to see.

What will child benefit rates be without Gordon Brown? What will tax credits be? What will the system be? The SNP has to start answering those questions.

The SNP accuses us of negative campaigning, but it is not considered negative when Shona Robison attacks the Chancellor of the Exchequer for helping hard-working families. We have extended child care, invested in sport, new hospitals and schools, reduced waiting times, provided the best cancer care centre at the Beatson, delivered a house-building programme and tackled health inequalities. That is not negative campaigning.

It is our job to spell out to the Scottish public the consequences of electing an SNP Administration that would be committed to separation, because we believe that separation is wrong. Should we not point out to the general public that the SNP plan lacks detail? The SNP should think on and take a reality check.

The Labour Party will fight on its record and plans for the future. Land reform was a bold, radical step of social progress. Modernising family law was not an easy subject for any of the parties in the Parliament, but we led on that. We will prioritise investment in public services, the health of our children, strong industry, a strong economy, strong leadership and a full employment agency. We will fight on our record.

We have shown our ability to work with other political parties in the Parliament. We have listened to ideas from others in and beyond the coalition. We have embraced devolution, but can the SNP do that? The next session of the Parliament must be about making more progress for the people who are directly affected by the decisions that we take. Any time that is spent fighting London on the constitution will be a distraction from the real focus of what the Scottish people expect. If the SNP presents such a fight as what it will do with the next four years under the union in the devolution settlement, we can be sure the Scottish public will not thank it.