Meeting of the Parliament 15 September 2011
Social Care Services (Procurement)
Scottish Executive Question Time
First Minister’s Question Time
Prime Minister (Meetings)
Annabel Goldie (West Scotland) (Con):
2. Can the First Minister contain himself? It is absolutely extraordinary to watch such self-satisfaction.
To ask the First Minister when he will next meet the Prime Minister. (S4F-00113)
Annabel Goldie: Last week, I asked the First Minister twice what would—if he got his way—be his personal preference for our currency: the British pound or the euro. Twice he ducked it, and would not tell us—no doubt too embarrassed to say what his personal preference is. All we got was an endless stream of words on process.
Let me try again. Does he believe, given what is happening at the moment, that an independent Scotland should join the euro zone?
The First Minister: The position is as I set out last week. I am sorry that I have to keep reading it out—I assumed that Annabel Goldie would, over the course of the past seven days, take the opportunity to read the document that Iain Gray did not read. The Scottish Government’s position this week is exactly the same as the position that I read out last week.
Annabel Goldie: When he talks about himself, you cannot shut him up. [Laughter.] When he is asked a serious, substantive question, a quite uncharacteristic coyness overwhelms him.
Everybody who is watching and listening knows that the First Minister is not answering the question because he is squirming with embarrassment. He is too scared to admit his personal preference. It is pathetic, and what a contrast to his colleague, the member of the European Parliament Alyn Smith, who was asked the very same question—whether he believed that an independent Scotland should join the euro—on Radio Scotland this morning. He replied:
“I do. And the euro will emerge stronger from this. The SNP’s position on the euro has been robust and intellectually sound throughout.”
If the First Minister’s MEP colleague can come clean, why can Alex Salmond not come clean? Why does he not just admit that Alex Salmond wants the euro?
The First Minister: I heard the interview this morning, and the MEP concerned said exactly what is in the “Your Scotland, Your Voice” document, which is that
“Scotland would continue to operate within the sterling system until a decision to join the Euro by the people of Scotland in a referendum when the economic conditions were right.”
That is a robust position and it is remarkably similar to another political party’s position. I quote page 67 of last year’s Liberal Democrat manifesto:
“We believe that it is in Britain’s long-term interest to be part of the euro. But Britain should only join when the economic conditions are right, and”
when the decision is
“supported by the people of Britain in a referendum.”
It is extraordinary that, when Annabel Goldie—or at least her party—is in alliance with the Liberal Democrats at Westminster, she should attack a policy that seems extraordinarily similar to that party’s policy. I would have said that the Scottish Government is a model of consistency on the issue in comparison with the Conservative and Liberal parties’ deep divisions on a policy that is part of a single Government’s platform. I do not know whether Annabel Goldie supports her party’s part of the coalition or the Liberal Democrats’ part of the coalition but, until those parties resolve their difficulty, it is difficult to attack the consistency of the SNP’s position.
I note that the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government proposed legislation on sell-by dates today. I do not think that that was a specific reference to the Scottish Conservative Party’s sell-by date.
Christine Grahame (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP): Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale is part of the south of Scotland. Does the First Minister share my concern that the south of Scotland—notwithstanding the fact that it does not even receive STV—is not on the eligibility list for consideration in Jeremy Hunt’s consultation on local TV? Is the Government in communication with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport at Westminster about that omission?
The First Minister: I will ensure that the Government is in touch with Jeremy Hunt. I thank Christine Grahame for her information and I will write to her. She raises a serious issue that I know is deeply felt in her constituency.
European Free Trade Association (Membership)
Scottish Executive Question Time
Scotland Bill (Corporation Tax)