First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:00 pm on 21st June 2007.
The Cabinet will, in the interests of the Scottish people, discuss a range of vital matters.
I have been considering the First Minister's honeymoon period and will give praise where praise is due. Mr Salmond is mastering the arts of his office—oratory, eloquence, intellectual stimulus—but there is one first ministerial trait at which he excels: the U-turn. Student grants and loans were going, but now they will not go. School assault statistics were going to be released, but now they will not be. Class sizes were going to be cut immediately, but now they will not be. Tuition fees for Northern Irish
We support a local income tax; we will therefore introduce legislation to repeal the unfair and oppressive council tax. I am not confident of Annabel Goldie's support in these matters, but I am ever hopeful of it. We have an absolute commitment to a local income tax. To paraphrase somebody from a few years ago: you turn if you want to; this Administration is not for turning.
In this Parliament, what the First Minister wants and what he gets might be two very different matters. All the indications are that he will find it extremely difficult to win support in the Parliament for a local income tax. I ask him again whether, given that the council tax—whatever he thinks of it—is currently the burden that bears most oppressively on our older citizens, he will support some kind of council tax discount system for our pensioners.
As Annabel Goldie knows, we are working to freeze the council tax. I am sure that it will be greeted with great joy throughout Scotland that at last, someone is acting to try to limit that oppressive burden on the Scottish people. Annabel Goldie rightly declares the council tax, which was introduced by the Conservative Party and increased vastly by the Labour Party, to be oppressive. What I cannot understand about her question is why on earth, if she believes as I do that the tax is oppressive, she does not vote with us to abolish it.