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As deputy leader of my party, I congratulate the new front-bench spokesmen on the Labour side who were appointed to their positions during the summer and commiserate—if only a very little—with those whose services are, it seems, no longer required.
It is not so difficult to remember the SNP front-bench members bouncing down to their seats in 2007. In those days, they were luxuriously coiffed. They had full heads of hair with hardly a grey one in sight. I ask members to look today at the greying men on the front bench opposite. It is a tired Administration.
As James Kelly, Gavin Brown, Ken Macintosh and Malcolm Chisholm all said, we have the most lacklustre Government programme presented to the Scottish Parliament since its creation in 1999. The best that could be said of it is that it is inoffensive. It is not a programme for government; it is a programme for a quango.
It took some 20 minutes yesterday for even the most feeble applause to be mustered from the normally Politburo-enthused ranks who sit behind the First Minister. That was after a summer in which the First Minister heroically went around the country with kerfuffle, bilge and balderdash seeking to talk up the independence campaign. How many members saw speeches, tweets or anything from SNP back benchers saying, “We’re rushing back to Holyrood to pass the conclusion of contracts bill, the Historic Scotland merger bill or the damages bill”? There was none: all they talked about all summer was independence.
At least last year, the First Minister reshuffled his team between the first and second day of the debate on the Government programme. There was no such excitement for us this year.
Where the programme is not inoffensive, it is a conceit. I will talk first about justice. On pages 64 to 66 of “Empowering Scotland: the Government’s Programme for Scotland 2013-2014”, there are some justified claims for success on the justice front.
I must deal with Annabelle Ewing, who told us during her speech that in all her experience as a Westminster MP, Westminster did not discuss Scottish justice issues. I looked it up. She was an MP between 2001 and 2005. Westminster did not discuss those issues because a Scottish Parliament had been established to which they had been devolved. Let us not dwell on the hapless Annabelle Ewing.