When I met the Prime Minister on Friday, the Libyan situation was obviously uppermost in our minds. I know that the Prime Minister’s decisions reflect the overwhelming sentiment of political parties and politicians here in Scotland. I am sure that the thoughts of everyone in the chamber are with our brave men and women in our armed services. [Applause.]
In the past four years I have asked the First Minister almost 300 questions. Occasionally, he has found the right page in his big book of notes, and occasionally he has listened to the sweet nothings of Ms Sturgeon in one ear and the murmurings of Mr Swinney in the other, but rarely has he found the right answer. Let me give him one last chance.
I remember that, at one point, the Scottish National Party was going to give us only 500 more police officers. Then it saw sense and increased the figure to 1,000. What changed the First Minister’s mind?
We determined to have 1,000 more officers on the streets and in the communities of Scotland to reduce recorded crime in this country to a 30-year low. I freely acknowledge that Annabel Goldie’s party voted for and supported that measure in the chamber. There have been other proposals that Annabel Goldie’s party voted for—for example, on the council tax freeze. I was grateful for that, particularly because the council tax freeze did not appear in the Conservative party’s manifesto in 2007. I was therefore slightly surprised to see Annabel Goldie at her conference at the weekend seeming to claim it as a Conservative party policy. One wonders at what point she decided that a council tax freeze was a good thing for the Scottish people.
The bottom line is that facts are facts. In addition to voting for the measures on the police, the Scottish Conservatives did indeed vote for a council tax freeze; we also voted for help for small business, for a town centre regeneration fund, for a new national drugs strategy and for a £26 million boost to business, construction and housing. Those were all delivered by Scottish Conservative votes—we have made the difference. All those commonsense policies—and more—have been delivered by the Scottish Conservatives and were credible and costed. Does the First Minister agree that “credible” and “costed” should be the watchwords of all politicians in the weeks ahead, and that all politicians need to be straight with the voters and tell it like it is?
Mr Swinney is the finance minister who has delivered a balanced budget over the past four years, and I am quite certain that, as finance minister, he will be prepared to do that for the next five years.
Annabel Goldie should not underrate her persuasive powers. It is true that, in order to deliver the council tax freeze, the votes of Conservative members were very important. Now, of course, we have the votes of Labour Party members as well. That joint articulation of the benefits to families in Scotland has finally got home to the Labour Party, just a few weeks afore we go to the polls.
I do not wish to say that Annabel Goldie’s support is redundant or superfluous in any sense but, as the next Government, we in the SNP can confidently look forward to the Labour Party’s support in opposition in implementing our policies.