20 November 2003

S2M-625 Poverty in Scotland

The Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid): Good morning. The first item of business is a debate on S2M-625, in the name of Carolyn Leckie, on poverty in Scotland, and three amendments to the motion.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): There is a shared belief in the Parliament—perhaps with the exception of the Conservatives—about the importance of tackling poverty, and I congratulate the SSP on using its first debate in the parliamentary session to raise that important subject. However, although the SNP shares an analysis with the SSP, we share little in our solutions. My colleagues will develop the SNP's approach to solving poverty; I will focus on the SSP.

I will quote from Tommy's Trots' manifesto for the election in May this year:

"The election of a group of Scottish Socialist MSPs would electrify Scottish politics. It would ignite a bonfire of debate about the future of Scotland and the feasibility of socialism."

We got the group, we are 203 days on, and we have our first SSP debates, but Guy Fawkes night has been the only bonfire. The SSP's participation record has been woeful. Rosie Kane promised us mayhem and madness, but she has been at just over half the meetings of Parliament and at only one of the eight meetings of the Local Government and Transport Committee. She has spoken fewer than 5,000 words since becoming an MSP, and the cost of those words is £5.59 per word.

Carolyn Leckie: I do not know which disgraceful remark I will address first. Stewart Stevenson ought to check with members before he makes personal remarks about them. That is all that I will say on that, but I have a question about "Tommy's Trots": will Stewart Stevenson explain to me what a "Trot" is, because I do not know?

Stewart Stevenson: I think that it was Corporal Jones who said:

"They don't like it up 'em".

The cost of every word that Rosie Kane has spoken in Parliament is £5.59, and here are some of the subjects that she does not think are important: police pensions, bus services and taxis for disabled people.

Carolyn Leckie: On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Rule 7.3 of the standing orders is about treating members with a bit of dignity and respect, but the personal remarks in Mr Stevenson's speech were outrageous.

The Presiding Officer: No—they are part of the normal rough and tumble of the debate.

Stewart Stevenson: I have in my hand the list of subjects that the committee has discussed and the attendance record. Rosie Kane does not think that local railway stations or taxis for disabled people are important.

Rosie Kane (Glasgow) (SSP): Will Stewart Stevenson give way?

Stewart Stevenson: She did not even turn up to debate the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Bill—Tommy Sheridan had to turn up even though he is not a member of the committee.

Rosie Kane: Will Stewart Stevenson give way?

Stewart Stevenson: The debate is not about Rosie—

Rosie Kane: Will Stewart Stevenson give way?

The Presiding Officer: It is clear that Stewart Stevenson is not giving way.

Stewart Stevenson: I will give way.

Rosie Kane: Would Stewart Stevenson speak to me about a matter outside the chamber, please? [Interruption.]

The Presiding Officer: Order.

Rosie Kane: What Stewart Stevenson has said is extremely personal, and I resent very much such personal attacks on me in what is supposed to be a debate about poverty. He clearly has a poverty of decency.

Stewart Stevenson: What I am saying is about the poverty of ambition and ideas in the SSP. Tommy Sheridan claimed that his policies were popular, practical, radical and deliverable, so I will talk about some of them. He would nationalise trains, buses and ferries. How much would that cost? We could have a free public transport system tomorrow for the money that nationalisation would cost. Constituents of mine would love to have public transport—they do not care about its ownership. What about rural areas? Would the introduction of £100 million of special road tolls for heavy goods vehicles help the poor in our rural areas?

Miss Leckie's motion proposes a minimum public sector wage of £7.50 and a working-week ceiling of 35 hours. She tells me that the 24,000 jobs that would thereby be created would be paid for by abolishing Scottish Enterprise and would cost £350 million, but page 11 of the SSP's manifesto says that it has already spent that £350 million in raising the public sector minimum wage. The actual cost would be £328 million, plus £120 million for additional costs, plus offices to accommodate 24,000 people, which would cost £750 million.

We have already spent £1 billion but have considered only two of the 200 commitments in Tommy Sheridan's manifesto. By the time we get to the bottom of it, we will find that we have doubled the spending in the Scottish budget and have hardly touched poverty.

A high-cost economy is an unfair economy. The evidence from high-cost economies everywhere is that they cause impoverishment of the masses. My colleagues and I will develop that subject. It is abundantly clear that Tommy Sheridan's people have yet to step up to the bar in the Parliament to make a meaningful contribution that will help the people of Scotland. Tommy's plans would damage our economy and would do nothing to ensure that more resources reached those who are in greatest need.

I move amendment S2M-625.2, to leave out from first "recognises" to end and insert:

"believes that the implementation of many of the proposals in the Scottish Socialist Party manifesto would only ensure that the unacceptable poverty of the poorest in our society would come to be shared by more of our citizens than at present."


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