Cabinet (Meetings)

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:00 pm on 25th October 2007.

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Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat 12:00 pm, 25th October 2007

To ask the First Minister what issues will be discussed at the next meeting of the Cabinet. (S3F-213)

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

The next meeting of the Cabinet will discuss issues of importance to the people of Scotland.

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

During the recess, we were told that the First Minister had written to the states that are party to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to ask for their help to get him observer status at their meetings. Did a shiver run up his spine as he signed letters to the Governments of some of the most despotic, repressive, undemocratic, villainous regimes in the world: Iran, Burma and Zimbabwe?

The First Minister often talks about an arc of prosperity, but he has just written letters to countries in an arc of repression. The situation in Zimbabwe gets worse and worse. Just as the whole world is moving to cast out President Mugabe as a pariah, Scotland's First Minister invites him back in. Dear Robert, he writes,

"I would hope we would be able to count on your government's support ... Please do not hesitate to contact me if you or your government wish to discuss these issues further."

Best wishes, Alex.

Is the First Minister so obsessed with getting a seat in the ante-room at the United Nations? Did he write to Iran, Zimbabwe and Burma? Is there any regime, dictatorship or one-party state to which he will not beg to help the cause of Scottish independence?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

Nicol Stephen has just destroyed any pretension of the Liberal party to moderation. The many people throughout Scottish society, the Scottish Trades Union Congress and the churches who oppose Trident and its replacement will look at Nicol Stephen's question and wonder whether the Liberal party's commitment remains or whether it has joined the Trident bandwagon. [ Interruption. ] Finally, yes: I wrote to all countries in the non-proliferation agreement. I remind Nicol Stephen that it is held under the auspices of the United Nations. Is he seriously suggesting that that is not a legitimate organisation to write to?

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

The First Minister rightly complained in June that the United Kingdom Government had broken the concordat as it had failed to consult him on its discussions with Colonel Gaddafi involving the Lockerbie bomber. Now, without consultation, he has sent a letter to more than 100 Governments. His letter opens up discussions with some of the most vilified and dangerous regimes in the world. It is a clear breach of the agreement. Constantly picking fights with London is bad enough, but this goes way beyond that.

Not just British interests are being put at risk: the European Union is conducting delicate negotiations with many of those countries. The whole world is moving to cast out President Mugabe and to condemn General Than Shwe in Burma, yet Scotland's First Minister asks for their support. I again ask the First Minister whether there is any regime, however wicked, that he will not call on to help the cause of Scottish independence?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

The letter was looking for support from Governments and organisations, under the auspices of the United Nations, to help what I think is a majority opinion in Scotland to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. I will make two points to Nicol Stephen. First, at the highly successful anti-Trident conference, a wide range of opinion, delegates and representative organisations in Scottish society applauded our initiative in looking to end the evil of nuclear weapons on Scottish soil and in Scottish waters. Secondly, that should not have come as a major surprise to anyone, given that it was one of the key commitments in the Scottish National Party manifesto—a manifesto that I intend to honour.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

The First Minister will no doubt be aware that P & O and Stena Line have cancelled their joint project to develop the port of Cairnryan. Given the potentially negative effect that that will have on the project to develop the waterfront at Stranraer—which is a vital project for the economy of the west of Wigtownshire—will the First Minister ask the appropriate cabinet secretary to liaise with Stena as a matter of urgency to see what alternative proposals can be brought forward for the development?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

I share the member's concern about that development and the implications it has for the planned developments in Stranraer. I undertake to ask the appropriate minister to contact the companies concerned to see how the best interests of the south-west of Scotland can be protected.

Photo of Elizabeth Smith Elizabeth Smith Conservative

Does the First Minister agree with me and with the local community that, in light of the fatal road accident that occurred two weeks ago at the Blackford junction of the A9, urgent action must be taken to upgrade the dangerous junctions? Will he now instruct his transport minister to bring forward the strategic transport projects review to implement major safety improvements at junctions on the A9?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

They are dangerous junctions, and it is a matter of serious concern. The member will be aware that safety improvements are currently taking place on the A9. The cabinet secretary will write to her about her specific concern.

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour

Is the First Minister aware of the anger of my constituents in Plains, who have been betrayed by his Government? Does he agree with the decision of his transport minister, who has overturned the previous Government's commitment to provide an additional station at Plains as part of the Airdrie to Bathgate rail link?

The additional station at Plains was the recommendation of a committee of the Parliament, which responded to the economic and social case that was made by the local community. Is it not a nonsense that my constituents will suffer all the inconvenience that comes with a major construction project but, at the end of it, will be able only to wave at the trains, not to step on board? Will he act today to reconsider the matter? Will he listen to my constituents? Will he—as the previous Parliament and Government did—overturn this ridiculous decision to deny the people of Plains a station?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

I remind the member that the previous Administration's commitment was to have a study undertaken, not to go ahead with the project. The study has been completed and—unfortunately for the member—has not demonstrated the economic benefit of the proposal. I am happy to make the study available to the member and to have further discussions with her, but she should remember that the previous commitment was to the study and that the implications and findings of that study must be addressed.