I have been immensely heartened by listening to this debate, and especially the speeches from the new members who took part in it. By and large—apart from the odd political point—there were extremely positive speeches from members who were making either their first or perhaps their second speech in the chamber, including Jamie Greene, Rachael Hamilton, Ruth Maguire, Colin Smyth, Tom Arthur, Ivan McKee, Mr Lockhart and Mr Leonard. There was a hugely positive approach to the debate, which is immensely encouraging.
Rachael Hamilton mentioned that people in tourism work at antisocial hours. Mr Lockhart mentioned artificial intelligence. That might seem slightly risible in the context of this heated debate, but he is absolutely right—it is an extremely important topic and a huge opportunity.
Many members from the new Conservative ranks made lots of positive contributions. I wonder whether there is a new tendency in the Conservative Party among its new members—as opposed to those who have been around the block a bit, such as myself and, if I may say so, Private Fraser. We know that the Labour Party had the militant tendency; perhaps the new Conservative entrants are the positive tendency of the Conservative Party. If that is so, it will be warmly welcomed by those on the SNP benches.
We have had a series of interesting revelations in the debate—none more so than that from John Mason, who opined that the provision of the baby box will lead to a rise in the population. I never realised that the baby box was so potent.
We have also heard a lot about the Scottish Government dismissing the problems of the economy. That is far from being the case. As the economy secretary set out quite clearly, we know that there are huge challenges facing particular sectors in the economy—of course there are. Towards the end of the debate, there was a realisation that the difficulties are, in part, because of the difficulties in the oil and gas sector.
We must not lose sight of the fact that our economy is built on very strong foundations. Scotland’s economy grew by nearly 2 per cent last year and, during 2015, we recorded a record level of employment. Over the longer term—perhaps this puts things in a better context—an extra 141,000 people have moved into employment over the past six years. That is a better way to reflect the SNP Government’s performance.
We have had a record year for inward investment, attracting the greatest levels of investment of any part of the UK outside London. Much reference has been made to the fact that there was a poor performance in 2014, but I encourage Private Fraser to study the facts. He will find that 2014 was the fourth-best year since records began in 1999, so his assertion is complete rubbish—it is contrary to the facts. In 2014, we had the referendum and the fourth highest level of FDI.
If Private Fraser will not listen to me—I am not sure that he particularly enjoys listening to me, and I suppose that I understand that; it is because I like to correct his misstatements—he should listen to Ian McConnell of
. I have no idea whether Mr McConnell has any political views, but I have always thought that he is an unbiased, intelligent commentator. [
.] If Private Fraser would listen, he would learn.
Last Friday, Ian McConnell wrote:
“To deliver a 51 per cent rise in inward investment project numbers,”— that is, to 119 projects—
“against a soft global economic backdrop and amid a downturn in a key oil and gas sector that has in the past for Scotland been the source of so many overseas projects, is really quite something.”