Postponed Thatcher debate takes place at Holyrood

From Democracy Live: Green MSP Patrick Harvie leads the debate on the legacy of Baroness Thatcher

MSPs at Holyrood discussed the legacy of Baroness Thatcher in a debate which was postponed by a day to avoid a clash with her funeral.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie opened the Holyrood session.

He said that despite long being out of power, the former Tory prime minister's ideas were "regrettably" still dominating public life.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson insisted that Lady Thatcher cared about communities.

The title for the Scottish Parliament debate was "There is still such a thing as society".

It alluded to the famous line, said by Lady Thatcher in 1987, that "There is no such thing as society".

Start Quote

She left office years before I was even eligible to vote - but she - more than any other politician or public figure - shaped the Scotland and the world that I grew up in and that we live in today”

End Quote Ruth Davidson Scottish Conservative Party leader

Lady Thatcher, who was Conservative Prime Minister from 1979 until 1990, died on 8 April, following a stroke, at the age of 87.

She was accorded a ceremonial funeral with military honours, one step down from a state funeral.

Ms Davidson told the chamber: "I never knew Margaret Thatcher. She left office years before I was even eligible to vote. But she - more than any other politician or public figure - shaped the Scotland and the world that I grew up in and that we live in today.

"The corruption of the quote on which today's debate is based is often used to try and portray Margaret Thatcher as an anti-society individualist who didn't care about communities.

"She didn't believe - as some did - that society was the same as the state, that it was government departments, faceless bureaucracy.

"She believed in people. And believed that the tapestry she talked of was woven house by house, street by street and town by town. And I believe that too.

"All our lives are improved by the contributions of men and women who decide to take responsibility for their community, and contribute towards the wellbeing of their fellow citizens."

Public assets

The Green-Independent group backed debate had been planned to take place on Wednesday, the day of Lady Thatcher's funeral.

However, the Scottish Conservatives and Lib Dems had criticised the timing.

The group agreed to change the day to Thursday following a meeting of the parliament's business bureau.

Mr Harvie said it was important to debate Lady Thatcher's legacy.

Margaret Thatcher funeral Margaret Thatcher's funeral took place on Wednesday in London

He told the chamber: "She has herself been out of office for more than 20 years but the ideas that she embodied remain regrettably so dominant in our politics."

The Green MSP highlighted the "relentless attention to individualism" under her government, resulting in the "exclusion of every collective solution to problems".

He also hit out at her privatisation of public assets and the "market fundamentalism".

Making reference to the title of the debate, Local Government Minister Derek Mackay stressed that the Holyrood administration believed there was such a thing as society.

Mr Mackay, who did not mention Lady Thatcher in his speech, used the debate to argue the case for independence.

He concluded: "With a Yes vote, there will be nothing to stop us building the society we seek."

Liberal Democrat MSP Alison McInnes said that "some" of the former prime minister's objectives were good.

Lady Thatcher was courageous, showed resolve, but was strident and self-righteous, she said.

'Class warrior'

She told MSPs: "She achieved a great deal but was any of it great? Well some of her objectives were good.

Baroness Thatcher Views on Lady Thatcher were mixed

"Britain needed a shake-up. We needed lower inflation, more competitive industry and a prospect of industrial growth. And let's not forget that her trade union reforms survive. New Labour left them unchallenged.

"But the way she went about it was so divisive, so corrosive, that many communities still bear the scars."

Labour's James Kelly branded the UK's only woman prime minister a "class warrior" whose policies resulted in some people having "died in an early grave".

He said her policies saw "the destruction of manufacturing industry".

Mr Kelly added: "Back in the 1980s the Conservative Party pursued policies which broke people's hearts and destroyed their dignity. As politicians, we must resolve that that must never be allowed to happen again."

More on This Story

More Scotland stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Arash AF8Naughty Brits

    From scrappy upstarts to legendary brands, six speed demons that hail from the UK

Programmes

  • A man holds a sign which reads Bring Back Our GirlsHARDtalk Watch

    Why there is still hope and optimism for the rescue of Nigeria’s kidnapped schoolgirls

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.