First Minister opens with a social pledge to the people

First Minister opens with a social pledge to the people

Robbie Dinwood, Herald Scotland


IN the first debate under a full majority Government at Holyrood, First Minister Alex Salmond pledged a social pact with the Scottish people, and warned opponents the SNP was not backtracking on independence.


Of his “social wage” he told MSPs: “This is the pact, the promise, between politicians, public services and people.


“We shall deliver the social and economic circumstances that allow for people to dream, to aspire and to be ambitious – but it is for the individual to realise their dreams, to reach for their hopes, to meet their ambitions.


“For the sacrifices we must all make, there is a reward in the form of a society geared to our values. We do things differently here – not because we can, but because we want to.”


He added: “We should aspire to be different. In Scotland the poor won’t be made to pick up the bill for the rich. When we control our natural assets as a sovereign power, the profit from the land shall go to all.


Too many have been ill-served by the Union. There is a better way. Scotland should have control of her destiny
“Too many have been ill-served by the Union. There is a better way. Scotland should have control of her destiny. What we choose to do with that control – the alliances we may forge, the bonds we make, the interests shared – are ours and ours alone to determine. That is what independence means.”


He warned opponents hoping to see the SNP backtrack from independence: “We are not rushing this journey, but don’t let our steady pace fool anyone into thinking we are not determined – we shall keep travelling.”


Spelling out what his Government’s policies would mean, he said: “For Scotland’s patients, our commitment to protecting the health budget is all about delivering the better and faster treatment we know they seek.


“For victims in society, we will take forward the necessary reforms to improve their rights and give them a proper place at the heart of our justice system.


“For job-seekers, students, pupils and their parents, our commitment is clear. We will create opportunity. We will work to build the conditions where you and yours can flourish.”


He claimed part of the social wage meant working towards a safer society: “In the age of twitter and texts, the dreams of a free-speaking world are contaminated by strains of bitterness. Technology has given fresh energy to old hatreds and viral sectarianism again seeps across our land. It will be stopped.


“Sectarianism travels at least in part hand in hand with another scourge of our safety and happiness – the booze culture. Thus the first legislation this Parliament will see shall address bigotry and booze.”


Labour leader Iain Gray said: “We agree with the First Minister sometimes – for example on the need for capital borrowing powers more quickly. But we will not move Scotland forward if the Government turns every challenge to them into a challenge to the constitutional settlement. We will not move Scotland forward at all by talking about the powers we do not have, while failing to use the powers we do have.”


For the Tories, Annabel Goldie said: “Let’s just nail this so-called independence lite argument once and for all. You can no more be independent lite than you can be pregnant lite.”