Cabinet (Meetings)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 30th May 2013.

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Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

3. To ask the First Minister what issues will be discussed at the next meeting of the Cabinet. (S4F-01416)

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

Scottish National Party MSPs say that they are prepared to back the closure of their local court in return for a new justice centre for their area. The courts at Cupar, Peebles, Dingwall, Arbroath, Stonehaven and Rothesay have histories that stretch back 500 years. With only 12 days before the Parliament decides those courts’ future, will the First Minister tell those back benchers when and where the new justice centres will be built?

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

SNP MSPs, including constituency representatives, are making strong representations on behalf of their constituents, as we would expect them to. If the Liberal Democrats had employed that approach, perhaps they would have more constituency members than they have.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

I expected some sort of explanation about the new justice centres, but nothing was forthcoming. It is ridiculous that the First Minister does not have worked-out plans for the justice centres. He cannot give us even one single date and one location for those justice centres, which his back benchers say will come. He already has a justice centre in Cupar, but he plans to shut it down. He already has one, but that is what he will do.

Last week, we heard from the Scottish Court Service that more courts could close before any justice centres are built. This week, the Law Society of Scotland spoke out.

The clock is ticking. There are 12 days for SNP members of the Justice Committee to make a big decision on whether to back their Government or back their community—whether to back 500 years of local service against the Government’s cavalier and chaotic approach. Would it not be safer for SNP members to stand up for their communities and reject the First Minister’s court closures?

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

Or alternatively, should they represent their constituents and look for the most effective way to ensure justice across Scotland?

I know that Willie Rennie lives in a world in which the public expenditure restrictions imposed by his colleagues at Westminster in conjunction with the Tories do not exist and that he likes to believe that public services in Scotland should somehow be immune from Westminster cutbacks, but there is nobody in Scotland who does not understand the position. That is exactly why the Liberal Democrats used to have a football team in the Parliament and now have a subs bench.