Scottish Government (Policy Direction)

First Minister’s Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at on 9 May 2024.

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Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

The Scottish Greens have been clear that we acknowledge the Scottish National Party’s right to form a minority Government, but we have been equally clear that the First Minister must quickly signal the direction that his Government will take.

That signal came pretty clearly yesterday. Progressive ministers were sacked and the second-most powerful job in Government was given to someone who has opposed legal equality for LGBT people, who has expressed judgmental attitudes against abortion and who has even expressed the view that people who have families without being married are doing something wrong. Is the Scottish Government’s vision for the future of Scotland taking us back to the repressive values of the 1950s?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

No, it is not, and that is not the Scottish Government’s direction. The Government will be led from the moderate left-of-centre position that I have always occupied and which is the policy position of my party and is supported by all our members.

A week ago today, when I announced my candidacy for the leadership of my party, I set out that I wanted to build on the work of the SNP Government to create a modern, diverse and dynamic Scotland that will ensure opportunity for all our citizens. On Tuesday, in the closing words of my acceptance speech, I made it clear to the people of Scotland that I offer myself to be the First Minister for everyone in Scotland. That is precisely what I will do.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I am not yet sure that the First Minister acknowledges or understands just how worried many LGBT people—and others—in Scotland are at the moment. It is not only equality and human rights that are at stake here, because the new Deputy First Minister has also explicitly criticised the role of fairer, progressive taxation. Ensuring that people who are on high incomes pay their fair share is the only way that the Scottish Government has been able to afford investment in climate and nature, cheaper public transport and the Scottish child payment. Without fairer tax policies, which the Greens repeatedly had to push the SNP into supporting, those things simply could not have happened.

We know that, next year, whether it is a Tory or a Labour one, the United Kingdom Government will continue with austerity, imposing deeper cuts than ever on Scotland. Does the First Minister accept that continuing on the path towards progressive taxation will be more important than ever? Will that progress continue or will the First Minister give in to the right wing of his party?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

It is a matter of history and of record that the Deputy First Minister was responsible for introducing progressive taxes in Scotland. Kate Forbes took those budget decisions and sought the agreement of the Cabinet, and the measures were then put to Parliament. I welcome the fact that our colleagues in the Green Party supported the measures that the Government brought forward.

It is pretty clear that Kate Forbes has delivered progressive taxation. By delivering the approach to progressive taxation, she has also delivered measures such as the Scottish child payment, which is taking 100,000 children out of poverty today. To me, that is something to be warmly welcomed across our country, which supports the mission of my Government to eradicate child poverty.

I take very seriously the challenge that Mr Harvie puts to me, because I want people in this country to be reassured by my leadership. When I say that I want to be the First Minister for everyone in Scotland, I deeply mean that. I want to lead a modern, dynamic and diverse Scotland—a place for everybody, where everybody feels at home, at peace, that they have a place, and that their place in our society is protected by my leadership of this country.