It is with regret that I speak against the business motion. In particular, I regret the contempt that the new Scottish National Party Administration is showing toward Parliament by allowing only one hour 25 minutes to debate its entire programme for Government. The SNP either has no confidence that its programme will stand up to scrutiny, or there is so little in it that it does not need much time—or, indeed, both.
Members should contrast that with the record of the previous Administrations, which allowed extensive debates on their programmes for government and legislative programmes. The debate on the programme for government in 1999 was more than four and a half hours long and, after the 2003 election, the debate extended over two days. Separate annual statements and debates on the legislative programme were held each year, all of which exceeded the time that the present Administration has allocated for both the legislative programme and the programme for government.
This week, we are being offered two hours and five minutes tomorrow to allow the Administration to pat itself on the back over the Crichton campus funding that has already been announced, but we are allowed only one hour 25 minutes to debate everything else that the Government is going to do.
Next week, 55 minutes are allocated for a statement on the Scottish broadcasting commission which can, to be frank, be fairly described as having been extensively leaked in advance, yet only 85 minutes are allocated today to debate the legislative programme that nobody has yet had a chance to see. There is virtually no time for back benchers from any party to participate in the debate.
It is clear that this Administration intends to govern by press release rather than by bringing its proposals before the democratically elected Scottish Parliament. That is unacceptable and I urge Parliament to reject the business motion. Instead, there should be a full and extended debate on the First Minister's statement to allow a proper opportunity for all members of this Parliament properly to scrutinise the legislative programme and hold the Administration to account.