First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:00 pm on 21st June 2007.
To ask the First Minister what engagements he has planned for the rest of the day. (S3F-74)
I have a number of engagements, including a visit to the Royal Highland show at Ingliston, that great showcase for the Scottish food and farming industry.
Earlier this month, at the first First Minister's question time in the new session, the First Minister rather shamefully misquoted Donald Dewar and threatened to ignore the Parliament when it expressed its will. I remind the First Minister that never once in five and a half years as First Minister did I ignore the will of the Parliament. Has he reflected on his statement earlier this month? Will he guarantee that when the Parliament votes for legislation or budgets for a proposal, he will not to delay it or defy the will of Parliament?
I quoted exactly Donald Dewar from 4 October 1999. I remind Jack McConnell that Donald Dewar said:
"As part of" the
"perfectly normal constitutional arrangements, except in certain circumstances, the Scottish Executive is not necessarily bound by resolutions or motions passed by the Scottish Parliament."
Does the former First Minister now agree with Donald Dewar, or has he changed his mind?
Mr Salmond is going to have to learn that it is First Minister's questions, not leader of the Opposition's questions. That was yet another answer from the First Minister that does not really address the question, in a week when we have seen more and more broken promises from the Scottish National Party. A promise to Northern Ireland about tuition fees was broken within 24 hours; a promise on class sizes was torn apart by Fiona Hyslop; and a promise on school discipline was completely ignored. The First Minister even confirmed this morning what we have all suspected: that he is indeed the emperor without any clothes.
The First Minister said that he would listen to the Auditor General for Scotland about the Edinburgh trams. The Auditor General has said that the cost and time targets for the Edinburgh trams project have been developed using robust systems and that the highest cost risk is the general delay in the
I answered Mr McConnell's point specifically. It is not my fault if he cannot think of the right questions. [ Interruption. ]
In terms of the achievements of this Administration in implementing our manifesto, I see Labour members progressively taken aback by the speed at which we have implemented our manifesto over the past five weeks.
I give Jack McConnell this assurance: I will always appear before the Parliament properly dressed. [Interruption.]
I will never wear a pin-striped kilt.
We have no guarantee from the First Minister that he will respect the will of Parliament, even on legislation or budgets, and no answer on, or even a vague reference to, the Edinburgh trams.
I will ask the First Minister a question that he might find a little easier. What do Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Greece, Austria and Switzerland all have in common?
They are all independent countries and they all come above Scotland in the index of success that was compiled by the Labour Party's former economist, or, as Jack McConnell is calling it, the index of deferred success.
I remind Jack McConnell of the importance of parliamentary votes. Members asked us to bring to the chamber information about infrastructure projects. I direct him to the substance of the Auditor General's report. On the Edinburgh airport rail link, the report states:
"The EARL project is unlikely to be delivered by the target date of the end of 2011 ... There is no clear governance framework ... There is no procurement strategy in place" and there is a high degree of uncertainty. It states that the
"project board did not meet between April 2006 and February 2007" and that it has yet to secure any contribution from BAA or indeed ownership from Network Rail. Under those circumstances, even Jack McConnell could not possibly vote for the EARL project.
Each of the small countries that I mentioned has a rail link from the airport to its capital city, and there should be such a link in
"is expensive, but what you get in return is more than just a rail link."
The Parliament resolved that the rail link would be more than just a rail link for Edinburgh—it would be a rail link to the rest of Scotland. Does the First Minister have ambition for Scotland? Will he take personal responsibility for ensuring that the rail link from Edinburgh airport to the rest of Scotland is delivered on time and within budget, in the same way that he claimed over and over that Donald Dewar should take responsibility for the Parliament building?
The Holyrood project is not a particularly auspicious example from the former Minister for Finance. However, he has given me an opportunity to reflect on what the Auditor General said in his report about the trams project. He stated:
"The highest cost risks are currently utilities diversion work".
Utilities will be diverted if the tram project goes ahead and we start to dig up Edinburgh. The Auditor General said that there is
"sufficient funding in place to proceed with Phase 1a", but there is
"a current shortfall of £48.8 million" for the completion of phase 1. In other words, the sub-phase can be completed, but not the whole of phase 1. I remind Jack McConnell that if we start to dig up Edinburgh's roads for the project—which I will vote against—it will be a bit like "Mastermind": if we start, we have to finish.