12 January 2006


The first FMQs of 2006, and a relatively interesting session. Nicola Sturgeon led on the scandal in England, where registered sex offenders have been found working with children. She was anxious to know whether or not this was possible in Scotland. Her approach was sensible: it was consensual and constructive, asking why it was that the Sex Offenders' Register had some 3,000 names on it, but only 56 (it's now 63) people were expressly banned from working with children. Jack McConnell responded carefully and earnestly (so credit is due to him): he pointed out that it was theoretically possible (though it would depend on employers being lax) that sex offenders could end up working with children, and that the Executive would implement some of the Bichard Report's recommendations (the Report following the Soham murders in Cambridgeshire). He pointed out that the list of people who are expressly barred was only established recently and was not retrospective. He informed the Chamber that the law would have to be amended if it was felt that it needed to be made retrospective. Unfortunately, he didn't say he was going to do that.

Annabel Goldie led on the collapse of a murder case in Edinburgh: she wanted an inquiry. McConnell thought that the Lord Advocate should look into things, but stopped short of the inquiry wanted by the Tories.

Robin Harper, however, lobbed a hand grenade into proceedings, which was quite impressive considering how much he stuttered at the start. His opening gambit was to ask the First Minister what his contribution to sustainability was. McConnell was slightly stunned by this, but then announced that he shows leadership within the Executive on issues such as the environment, citing recycling as an example of where progress has been made. He went on to announce that he recycles his rubbish. (Well, actually he said, "I do my bit every week." This could be anything, really.)

At this point, McConnell must have been congratulating himself for getting out of what was a tight spot. What he didn't realise was that he'd walked right into Harper's trap, who used his last supplementary to refer to the Scottish Executive Environmental Performance Annual Report, which showed that Executive Business car mileage has increased by 65% in the past year, and a decision had been taken to drop quietly their target of car mileage reduction. The FM was completely thrown, and had to admit that he hadn't read the report. He also tried to make the Greens look like nerds for having read it themselves. It didn't work.

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