As-it-happened: First Minister's Questions on Thursday, 13 December

Key Points

  • First Minister Alex Salmond answered questions from opposition party leaders and backbenchers during his weekly Q&A at the Scottish Parliament.
  • Following FMQs, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is to make a statement to MSPs later on an independent Scotland's membership of the EU
  • In other news this week, the Scottish government published its proposed legislation to introduce gay marriage and announced a public consultation.

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    Hello and welcome to our weekly coverage of First Minister's Questions. Follow all the action from 12 noon onwards.

    Analysis Brian Taylor Political editor, Scotland

    "Given the sensitivity, it is understandable that the draft Bill to introduce same sex marriage in Scotland is hedged round by vigorously worded and repeatedly stated reassurance. Assurance to churches - although the Church of Scotland, for example, says it remains to be convinced that the statements will prove sufficiently robust in practice..... read more from my blog"


    General questions are taking place in the Holyrood chamber, ahead of Mr Salmond answering questions from opposition party leaders and backbench MSPs.


    There are a couple of topical issues which could well come up today, including news of Christmas Eve rail strike and concerns from the public spending watchdog that Scotland's various devolved governments have failed to tackle health inequality


    And, of course, there's the on-going row over the status of an independent Scotland in Europe


    Gavin Brown asks the Scottish government when it will next meet Scottish Enterprise. John Swinney, Finance Secretary, said he met with the body yesterday.


    Graeme Pearson asks the Scottish government what action is being taken to replace substandard road markings on the A75 and A76 trunk roads. Keith Brown, transport Secretary, said further works are expected before the end of the year and more work will take place next year.


    Johann Lamont takes centre stage - FMQs begins.


    First Minister Alex Salmond outlines details of a funding deal on new tidal energy technology for Orkney.


    The Labour leader says the Scotsman newspaper had been accused of getting its EC story wrong. The paper turned out to be right, she adds. Will the FM be apologising to the paper as it is now clear they were not wrong, she asks.


    FM says he's sure the Scotsman corrected its story because it said a letter had been sent on the issue when it had not. Mr Salmond says it's good to publish corrections when mistakes are made and urges Ms Lamont to do likewise.


    Ms Lamont says the FM doesn't intend answering questions, hardly at all. To keep on saying something doesn't make it true, she says. The letter has been sent and he needs to deal with what that letter said, says Ms Lamont. She goes on to quote Ms Sturgeon from 2007 saying that an independent Scotland would be in the EU. Ms Lamont says it is now clear that the legal advice had never been asked. She goes on to highlight Mr Swinney's statement that the government was having a healthy dialogue with the Bank of England on monetary policy. The Bank of England deny that dialogue. Who do we believe, she asks?


    FM says the EU letter wasn't sent last week. He say's there's "ample" legal opinion which supports the SNP's position on European membership. Mr Salmond also says the Scottish government is engaging with the Bank of England.


    @cowrin tweets: "I'll admit we're making it up as we go along, if you admit the same thing" #fmq


    Ms Lamont says his problems that he [FM] claims to have dialogue, but asserts "we would be in Europe, part of a sterling zone", without having this dialogue. The man in charge of the EC has told the BBC that a new state would have to apply for EU membership. What part of that statement doe he not understand?


    @RossMcCaff tweets: Someone on Labour benches hearty laugh given Mike Russell a run for his money #fmq


    Mr Salmond says that the government has never argued "we don't need to negotiate our position in a European Union". He added that he had replied to Patricia Ferguson saying that negotiations would take place from within the EU. That is the context, he adds.

    alex salmond

    FM also says it is in the interests of Europe to have an independent Scotland as a member.


    Does the FM not realise he has a credibility problem, Ms Lamont asks? When he says he has sought legal advice when he hasn't, people do not trust the next thing that comes out of his mouth. "Alex Salmond, John Swinney and Nicola Sturgeon are not leading Scotland, they are misleading Scotland," she says.


    @davidjhgardiner tweets: Currently arguing whether "not leading Scotland, but misleading Scotland" was cheesy or not. #fmq


    FM says the bank will be impartial, taking no position in the debate. But he says it's "entirely reasonable" for the Scottish government to engage with organisations like the Bank of England to get information as the ground is prepared for the 2014 independence referendum.

    ruth davidson

    Tory leader Ruth Davidson homes in on Mr Swinney's appearance at the House of Lords economic affairs committee. Can the FM say what talks Mr Swinney was referring to regarding discussions with European commissioners?


    Ms Davidson said Mr Salmond should give straight answers to straight questions. She adds: "Mr Salmond and Mr swinney were spanked and sent to bed this week for not doing their homework, but head girl Ms Sturgeon is now off to Brussels to sort things out." Who will she meet and what questions will be asked?


    FM says it's not been unknown for politicians in the UK to disagree with European figures. Does Ms Davidson not understand, the first minister asks, that the Conservatives have been disagreeing with the president for the last two years.


    @newsdirect tweets: And now @RuthDavidsonMSP takes up the same topic (for the umpteenth week in a row) #fmq


    FM says Scottish government ministers meet European commissioners regularly and a range of issues are discussed. He also says Scotland is the subject of "great interest" because of the current independence debate.

    willie rennie

    Lib Dem Willie Rennie says the government has finally admitted it will have to negotiate to get into the EU, so what will the people of Scotland lose in those negotiations?


    @Knottinho tweets: Is it just me or once again have we had exactly no discussion of devolved issues??? No wonder people turn off #FMQ #EducationHealthTransport


    Mr Salmond seems to think all 27 members of the EU will sign up to what he wants, says Mr Rennie. When does the FM meet with the 27 members of the union to establish the terms and what they want in return?


    FM says "what voters in Scotland lose is Liberal Democrats propping up a Conservative government".


    FM says Mr Rennie has previously stated that an independent Scotland could be forced to adopt the Euro. Mr Salmond says this doesn't follow and tells him to go and read an article on the subject in the Scotsman newspaper. He says that for a Liberal Democrat to "scaremonger" over the Euro is reducing the debate to the level of a party with five members.


    Kenneth Gibson asks the First Minister what impact the Scottish government expects the additional capital resources announced in the Autumn Statement to have on Scottish employment.


    FM says the UK government has heeded the calls of Scottish ministers, but there's only been a partial return to previous spending levels.


    Mr Gibson asks: does FM believe that this should have come much sooner, making the news on unemployment yesterday come much sooner?


    FM suggests that, if the Conservatives and their Lib Dem allies in London agree with the Scottish government, they should be doing more.


    Ken Macintosh asks the First Minister, in light of reported comments by the chair of the independent Fiscal Commission, Sir Crawford Beveridge, what the Scottish government's position is on fiscal control and financial regulation in the event of Scotland separating from the rest of the UK.


    FM says its clear the Scottish government should not make mistakes of the previous Labour UK government, including its promise of ending "boom and bust".


    Mr Macintosh asks could he [FM] clarify if a fiscal stability pact would be created in an independent Scotland?


    Christine Grahame asks the First Minister what the Scottish Government's position is on the legalisation of drugs, given the potential impact on its justice and health policies?


    FM says looking at issues like the lack of growth in Scotland, people should be wondering why it shouldn't have control over its own financial levers


    FM says drug-taking among young people is at its lowest since 2002 and says the government's drug strategy focuses on treatment, prevention and recovery.


    Ms Grahame says she welcomes the fall in addiction. In terms of the issue could there be benefits in researching decriminality of drugs?


    In response to calls for decriminalising drugs, the FM says he believes the current strategy is the right one. (So that's a no).


    @loveandgarbage tweets: Who is the man wearing a black and white deckchair behind Salmond? #fmq #toppoliticalpunditry


    Ken Macintosh has a point of order. He says the FM "disputes my quote". The Labour MSP goes on to read the quote in full. Did the FM make such a statement? Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick says that is not a point of order and not a matter for the chamber to address.


    The chamber is now being evacuated! (it's OK, Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick says its a planned exercise.)


    That's it for FMQs. Just one more question and answer session before the Christmas break. Do join us again next Thursday at 12 noon.


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