Salmond sets out 15-Bill legislative programme
By Keith Aitken in Edinburgh | 4 September 2012
First Minister Alex Salmond today announced a 15-strong legislative programme for Holyrood in the coming year, dominated by the Bill to hold a referendum on Scottish independence in autumn 2014.
Other measures include proposals to legalise same-sex marriages and to ensure greater social, economic and environmental benefit from public procurement. Legislation is also proposed to restructure the college sector, prepare for the devolution of landfill tax and stamp duties, and reform criminal justice.
Merging adult health and social care is also planned, with a Bill requiring NHS health boards and councils to integrate budgets though health and social care partnerships.
Salmond told MSPs: ‘It is an historic package of measures. The record of this Parliament is the clearest possible message that the best people to make decisions about the future of Scotland are the people who choose to live and work in this country.’
He said Scotland was faring better than the wider UK on major economic indicators such as unemployment, job creation and output, while investment in sectors such as renewable energy was kick-starting the ‘re-industrialisation of Scotland’.
But the country was hampered by its constitutional constraints, he claimed. Its capital budget was down by 30% in real terms since 2009, and he had repeatedly asked the prime minister to release funds for ‘shovel-ready’ Scottish infrastructure projects.
He also defended distinctive Scottish policies such as free university tuition. He said this was vindicated by the record numbers of Scottish students at Scottish universities, and growing numbers of English and foreign students choosing to study in Scotland. Meanwhile, student numbers in England, where fees of up to £9,000 can now be charged, had fallen by 25,000, he said.
But opposition leaders dismissed Salmond’s claims. Labour’s Johann Lamont said Scottish students were being turned away from Scots universities for fee-paying students from elsewhere. She also highlighted that the government’s biggest infrastructure project, the new Forth crossing, had spent £700m with Chinese, Spanish and Polish contractors.
Lamont accused Salmond’s Scottish National Party of being interested only in breaking up the UK, calling the legislative programme ‘a tired, jaded set of priorities’. The Conservatives’ Ruth Davidson said the proposal was dominated by an ‘obsession with tearing apart the United Kingdom’ and was less than the sum of its parts.
For the Liberal Democrats, Willie Rennie accused the SNP of repeatedly redefining independence to embrace ever more of the British state that they had demonised. Scottish Greens MSP Patrick Harvie pledged support on the referendum and on same-sex marriage, but said the government must re-locate its clarity of purpose on climate change.
The full list of Bills is:
Better Regulation Bill
Children & Young People Bill
Criminal Justice Bill
Forth Estuary Transport Authority Bill
Integration of Adult Health etc Bill
Land & Building Transaction Tax Bill
Landfill Tax Bill
Marriage & Civil Partnership Bill
Post-16 Education Reform Bill
Procurement Reform Bill
Victims & Witnesses Bill