15 December 2005


Well, I don't know about you, but I need a stiff drink after this week's instalment. Nicola Sturgeon led with financing for local councils, citing a Finance Committee report that suggests that councils will have to increase Council Tax by up to 6.6% if they aren't allowed to keep any efficiency savings that they make. Jack McConnell denied that the Finance Committee said this (they didn't say it exactly, but the figure 6.6% is used in Paragraph 86 of the Report as the rise if no furhter savings are made, and it points out that the savings that are going to be made won't be efficiency savings as they'll lead to a cut in services, so McConnell wasn't on sure ground here), then said that even if they did, they're wrong. More Nat-bashing ensued. Wendy Alexander (Lab, Paisley North and a member of the Finance Committee) stepped in, but forgot that as this was First Minister's Questions, you have to ask a question, thus incurring the wrath of George Reid.

Annabel Goldie asked why people are killing each other more under Labour. McConnell looked like he wanted to add another figure to that statistic at that moment, but decided instead to point out that when the Tories tried to end automatic early release for prisoners, it was cack-handed electioneering, whereas when his Executive gets around to it, it won't be. The facts that this was a promise in the Labour 2003 Manifesto, there's less than 18 months to the next election and it hasn't been done yet were clearly lost on him.

Colin Fox decided to ask an urgent question to gloat about the decision of Edinburgh Council's tenants not to have their housing stock transferred to a Housing Association. McConnell said that the decision was tragic (i.e. the people of Edinburgh are wrong - way to endear yourself to them before an election, Jack!), and blamed Fox for lying to them about the consequences of stock transfer (i.e. the people of Edinburgh are mugs - fantastic, Jack!). He then claimed he was a Socialist. Personally, I'm not sure that Jack would recognise Socialism if it came up and nutted him, but the First Minister never lets pesky things like the facts get in the way of a good rant.

Then it was Robin Harper's turn. Harper is more easy to listen to then his colleague Shiona Baird, but he does have a tendency to stumble his way thorugh a question. This week he stumbled his way through rendition, with a rather halting question about whether or not the First Minister would co-operate with the Council of Europe's call for an investigation into it. McConnell gave an equally halting answer about how he can't order the police or the Lord Advocate to issue the necessary search warrant.

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