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Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 5th October 2017.

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The First Minister:

There were a few points in Alex Rowley’s question—I think that there was a question in there somewhere.

I absolutely agree with

Alex Rowley’s characterisation of the shambolic Tory Government at Westminster. Watching the letters literally fall off the stage set yesterday was like watching an episode of “Fawlty Towers”—it was awful. But there is a serious point here: the shambolic and chaotic Tory Westminster Government is doing real damage day in, day out to people right across Scotland and the UK. That is why I am so disappointed when I hear both the candidates for the Labour leadership say that they would not work with the Scottish National Party in any circumstances, ever. In other words, Labour seems still to be in a position where it would actually prefer to see the continuation of a Tory Government than ever to work with the SNP. That beggars belief and leaves people across this country utterly astonished.

On the specific issue of mitigating cuts, yes, we will look at all the ways in which we can mitigate Tory welfare cuts. Alex Rowley said that Labour would lodge amendments to the Social Security (Scotland) Bill. May I make another suggestion? I suggest that Labour brings forward proposals in the budget process, because that process sets out how we will pay for all these policies. Labour should agree to do that today.

Finally, Alex Rowley seemed to suggest at the outset of his question that Labour’s position on the devolution of welfare is changing. If that is the case, I warmly welcome that. As he said, we will publish a paper setting out again the case for 100 per cent devolution of welfare to this Parliament. I hope that, when that happens, Labour will take a position unlike the one that it took on the Smith commission and stand with the SNP Scottish Government in favour of welfare powers lying with this Parliament rather than in the hands of a Tory Government at Westminster.