Scots Labour leader: Alex Salmond “in office but not in power”

Alex Salmond has pledged to put his Government’s budget at the heart of the SNP’s programme leading up to next May’s elections to the Scottish Parliament.

Alex Salmond has pledged to put his Government’s budget at the heart of the SNP’s programme leading up to next May’s elections to the Scottish Parliament. In warning MSPs that the financial outlook facing Scotland was the worst since the second world war, he said:

“Everything we do in this session of Parliament and every legislative programme for many years to come will be set against that context.”

The first minister was presenting his final programme for government of the current Parliamentary session, a programme that includes 10 bills, including:

• The Forced Marriage etc. (Protection and Jurisdiction) Bill to “protect people from being forced to enter into marriage without their free and full consent and protect those who have been forced to enter into marriage without such consent”.

• A  Double Jeopardy Bill, providing that in certain circumstances, for the first time, those convicted of serious offences and released could face trial for the same offence should new evidence be found.

• The Private Rented Housing Bill “to strengthen the regulation of the private rented sector and give local authorities more powers to tackle rogue landlords”.

Legislation bringing changes to Scottish Water. Last month, Ministers were forced to deny rumours that they were about to privatise the body.

• The most anticipated measure however will be the Government’s Budget Bill, with all eyes looking to the Government over how it will address what finance secretary John Swinney has warned will be £3.7 billion of cuts over the next four years.

In alluding to his decision to abandon plans to legislate for a referendum on independence in the current Parliament, Salmond continued:

“And we will take our case for greater powers to the people. Now that we face an economic hurricane, never was the case for independence and financial responsibility more obvious and true.

“What Scotland truly needs is not a funding formula whether Barnett or Calman. Scotland needs control of its own resources and the ability to grow revenue rather than just expenditure. We need control over both sides of the Scottish balance sheet.”

Responding, Labour’s leader, Iain Gray, who on Tuesday told Newsnight Scotland why he was ready to be first minister, dubbed the programme a “failure”, adding:

“Right enough – an Executive does things. This government undoes things. It undid the capital programme of schools and hospitals and transport projects. It is undoing ten years of economic progress. And it has undone every single promise it ever made.

“Increasingly, the First Minister gives the impression of being in office but not in power. As Scotland faces perhaps its most difficult years in a generation, this is neither a programme nor a government worthy of the name.”

Annabel Goldie, the Conservative leader with questions over her own future, said of the programme:

“It reeks of inertia, exhaustion, escapism and atrophy. To cover his failures, this is a First Minister who will spend the next nine months whining about the powers he doesn’t have, rather than using the ones he does.”

Meanwhile, in picking up on Alex Salmond’s suggestion that only independence could protect the Scottish economy, Scottish Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott declared:

“To say that Scotland would be in the land of milk and honey if only we were independent is typically bombastic in a way that only Mr Salmond can be.”

Whatever the substance of the legislative programme might be, the reality is clear – Scotland now faces an 8 month election campaign.

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