First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:00 pm on 7th June 2007.
To ask the First Minister when he will next meet the Chancellor of the Exchequer and what issues they will discuss. (S3F-29)
There is no meeting arranged as yet, but I had a friendly and encouraging phone call from the Chancellor of the Exchequer only last Friday. I wish to make it clear that the previous crack about reverse charges was a joke.
That is good, although I still think that it will be a great pity if Gordon Brown is the first Prime Minister to speak to the new Scottish First Minister.
The First Minister recently spoke passionately about consensus. Three parties in the Parliament agree on Edinburgh trams. Last week, the First Minister quoted Donald Dewar. What is the First Minister's view on respect for Parliament's will? Previously, it was expressed by motion S1M-1745, in the first session, which said:
"in keeping with Scotland's democratic tradition ... the Scottish Executive" should
"implement ... decisions of the Parliament".
Thirty-four SNP MSPs signed that motion. Alex Salmond signed it on the first day of lodging. All the present Cabinet signed it, as did five other ministers. Even one of the First Minister's special advisers signed it. In fairness, I should say that three of the other signatories were expelled from the SNP before the end of that session. Where does the First Minister now stand on respect for Parliament's will on the Edinburgh trams project?
I do not know whether Nicol Stephen was in the chamber to hear the debate that covered the trams project, when David McLetchie summed up the position in the immortal words of Kenny Dalglish—"mibbes aye, mibbes no." Nicol Stephen will find that many people in the Parliament are more concerned with the project's
I remember well the motion to which Nicol Stephen refers. It was about the Scottish fishing community and a tie-up scheme.
Well, the motion is before me. It asks for all parliamentary resolutions to be implemented and for the will of Parliament to prevail. It is unfortunate that neither the Scottish Liberal Democrats nor the Scottish Labour Party, which were in government, shared that position.
What does the First Minister make of the stark contrast at the heart of his Government's transport policies? To the undoubted horror of his partners in the Green party, in a 15-word written answer last Friday, his SNP Government confirmed that the M74 extension will
"be complete and open to traffic in 2011."—[Official Report, Written Answers, 1 June 2007; S3W-63.]
My point is that the SNP now treats differently two projects that the previous Scottish Executive agreed. For the SNP on roads, there are no ifs, buts or maybes—the M74 was agreed in 15 words on a wet Friday afternoon—but public transport is different: it faces every impediment, barrier and block. Every organ of government is instructed to backfill a political fix. How does the First Minister explain the difference between how he treats roads and how he treats trams?
I answer as the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change did when he was asked that question in the earlier debate. We will bring to the Parliament as soon as possible as much financial information and as many projects as possible.
I have reached a conclusion in the past few weeks. I now understand why Tavish Scott was anxious not to be in coalition: he did not want to be the transport minister when all the projects come home to roost. I heard—I do not know whether Nicol Stephen did—the appeal for consensus that Tavish Scott made earlier. I would settle for consensus between Tavish Scott and Nicol Stephen.