As-it-happened: First Minister's Questions, Thursday, 17 January, 2013

Key Points

  • First Minister Alex Salmond answered questions from opposition leaders and backbench MSPs during his weekly Holyrood Q&A.
  • NHS waiting times, the funding of big build projects and the new police force were topics tackled by the first minister.
  • During FMQs this week, Mr Salmond announced that a number of Scots were involved in the Algerian hostage crisis.

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    Hello and welcome to our weekly video and text coverage of FMQs. Alex Salmond is due to being his Q&A at 12 noon. In the meantime his Cabinet ministers are answering general questions from backbenchers.


    To follow the debate on twitter use FMQ#

    Brian Taylor Political editor, Scotland

    "Alex Salmond was in London today - but not, of course, in the House of Lords where peers were debating whether to grant Holyrood the legal power to hold an independence referendum. The SNP has a policy which prevents Nationalists, however distinguished, from donning ermine..... Read more from my blog"

    Alex Salmond

    Want to know what Alex Salmond said about a written constitution for an independent Scotland? Watch what he said to BBC political editor Brian Taylor.


    Labour's Johann Lamont asks the FM about his engagements.

    1201: Breaking News

    The FM says he spoke to PM about the Algeria crisis. A number of Scots among those hostages.


    He says this is a hugely serious situation. The chamber is united in condemnation and there are hopes for early release of the hostages.


    Ms Lamont agrees with the FM. She then turns to domestic issues. Ms Lamont details former health secretary Nicola Sturgeon's changing story on hidden waiting lists. Was Ms sturgeon misleading parliament or incompetent in her job, she asks?

    Alex Salmond

    Mr Salmond says that hidden waiting lists were endemic, Labour is in non position to attack the government on this. He turns to NHS Grampian and says that the 18 week time guarantee has not been breached. he adds that they had serious difficulty with a flooded scanner. The backlog consists of 500 patients, he adds. The Jubilee Hospital is helping to clear the backlog and the scanner has now been fixed.

    Johann Lamont

    "The answer is astonishingly complacent," Ms Lamont says. The FM should understand what real life is like for people in this country. How does the Fm explain how paitients are now available for appointments they weren't available for before, she asks?


    Mr Salmond goes back to hidden waiting lists under Labour. He adds that he and his family and constituents use health services in Grampian. He then turns to the performance of NHS Grampian, saying that overall waiting times are good in Grampian.


    Ms Lamont talks of the real world being different from the SNP world. She said she asked the FM about the whole of the country, not just Grampian. Ms Lamont renews her attack on Ms Sturgeon.


    Mr Salmond said it was Ms Sturgeon as health secretary who launched the investigation into waiting lists. He goes on to quote Labour MSP Jackie Baillie's praise of Ms Sturgeon.


    @_mozza_ Tweets: Lamont contiuing with Sturgeon attacks. Trying to discredit the 'Yes Minister'...? #fmq


    Ms Lamont says she is asking the FM about a very serious issue. Ms Sturgeon did not ask beyond NHS Lothian, adds the Labour leader. It is about time the FM took responsibility for what his government does. She then refers to Mr Salmond's insistence that an independent scotland should have a written constitution. She said Scots "deserve the right" to be told the truth.


    Mr Salmond says that Nicola Sturgeon ordered a full investigation. He then refers to a report by BBC Scotland's Eleanor Bradford on health inequalities. He quotes the reporter saying she found out that poor health inequality stats were found when Labour was in office.

    Ruth Davidson

    The Tory's Ruth Davidson begins her questioning.


    She turns to big building projects. Are delays on Aberdeen bypass the problem, she asks? FM says the project needs to come forward before the money can be released. He adds that the bypass is part of the MPD programme on big builds.


    @HJSprungfeld tweets: First time in a while @RuthDavidsonMSP doesn't follow Johann Lamont in same area of q's. Learned to use that backup question perhaps #fmq


    Ms Davidson says he [FM] is sticking to the story on the issue of the bypass spend. But she says that is simply untrue. The construction industry was promised £500m in MPD big spend money yet it has not been given it, she claims. The FM says "we are spenidng the MPD money".


    Mr Salmond says the MPD programme is a fantastic improvement on a private finance initiative. All of the distribution programme is being spent, he adds.


    Mr Salmond speaks about the oil spill which closed the Brent line, following a question from Dennis Robertson. It was right to close the platform and the matter was dealt with quickly. He said the production was now back up and running.

    Willie Rennie

    The Lib Dems Willie Rennie turns to the new police service. What will happen with the dispute on who controls what in the service? Mr Salmond said he takes the matter very seriously. He said he wanted to see how the new police authority and the new police service was dealing with the issue at a meeting tomorrow.


    @AJHUTCHY1 tweets: What is it with the LD and the police??? #fmq


    Mr Rennie says he worries that the new police chief, Stephen House, would not have the control he needed. He asks whether Mr Salmond believes the new legislation is fit for purpose. The FM said he could not agree that the legislation was unfit for purpose. "Let us wait and see what happens," adds Mr Salmond.


    Jim Eadie asks Mr Salmond what assessment the Scottish government has made of the impact of UK pension reforms in Scotland.


    Most people will not be better off, says Mr Salmond.


    The FM says his government can only take limited action when powers rest elsewhere. Without the power and authority in these areas there is a limited ability to make change, Mr Salmond adds.


    Lewis Macdonald asks the FM whether the Scottish government allows convicted criminals to post online material purporting to cast doubt on their conviction. Mr Salmond says no convict can post items online. (This is a reference to the Luke Mitchell lie-detector interview)


    Mr Salmond says the Mitchell matter has been investigated, the rules were followed and the test was carried out with filiming allowed. At no stage has the SPS allowed the video to be uploaded onto YouTube. However, given the issue, a review of the rules will now take place.


    Liz Smith asks Mr Salmond what recent discussions the Scottish government has had with NHS boards about appointment procedures for senior health managers. Mr Salmond says that individual senior managers are appointed at a local level.


    Ms Smith focuses on an NHS Tayside appointment. Mr Salmond said there was no change in salary regarding this appointment. He added that the health secretary fulfilled his function in making sure the proper procedures were followed by NHS Tayside.


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