Scotland politics

Alex Salmond hails SNP's record at final First Minister's Questions

Alex Salmond Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Alex Salmond took part in his final Q&A in the chamber of the Scottish Parliament

Alex Salmond has used his final appearance at First Minister's Questions to praise his government's "substantial achievements" in office.

Mr Salmond, who is handing over power to Nicola Sturgeon, made his comments as opposition leaders accused him of having a record of failure in office.

The politician, who has been first minister for more than seven years, is also stepping down as SNP leader.

He will stay on as MSP for Aberdeenshire East.

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie, who led questions for her currently leaderless party in the Scottish Parliament, asked Mr Salmond if he could sum himself up in a single word.

There was laughter in the chamber when Mr Salmond responded: "No" and said one word was not enough to suffice.

Ms Baillie said: "There are many words I could have used to describe the first minister."

She joked: "Humble, sensitive, modest, meek - perhaps even bashful.

"It's interesting that he didn't use the word 'proud', because if I were him, I wouldn't be entirely proud of this government's record either."

Image caption Jackie Baillie questioned Alex Salmond during his final FMQs
Image caption Alex Salmond was taking his final Q&A as first minister of Scotland
Image caption Alex Salmond took part in his final FMQs with SNP colleagues by his side

Ms Bailie said nobody could deny Mr Salmond's love of Scotland, but added: "The real tragedy is that he was so blinkered by his passion for independence that powers he already had - powers to tackle poverty, to reduce inequality to deliver social justice - were pushed into second place.

"For the last seven years, the first minister has used his age-old excuse that somehow, it was Westminster's fault."

Ms Baillie said teacher numbers, college places and NHS bed numbers were down, adding: "Given their record of failure, can I ask the first minister which members of his cabinet would he recommend keep their jobs when his deputy takes over?"

Mr Salmond, making his 215th appearance at first minister's questions, said Labour over the years had called for the resignation of every SNP cabinet minister.

'Miss the target'

He added: "The only person they haven't called on to resign is me - and I'm the one who's resigning.

"Does this not represent the Labour Party's unerring ability to miss the target on each and every occasion?"

Mr Salmond, who decided to stand down in the wake of September's referendum vote against independence, told MSPs: "I think the administration has had a substantial record of achievement over these last seven years.

He added: "This government was re-elected with an overall majority in a proportional parliament and, if we believe the more recent indications, that support seems to be growing, not diminishing."

However, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said Mr Salmond's record "fell well short of his own claims", with his government making progress on only two of 11 targets it had set itself.

She went on: "On the other hand - raising economic growth to the UK level: performance worsening. Matching GDP growth rates of small EU countries: performance worsening. Productivity: performance worsening. Healthy life expectancy: performance worsening."

Image caption Conservative leader Ruth Davidson also hit out at Mr Salmond's record

Ms Davidson told parliament: "For seven years, he has stood there and said 'only with the powers of independence' - but the people of Scotland looked at that plan too and they said that his performance wasn't up to much either."

But Mr Salmond said educational attainment and faith in the NHS was rising.

He also told parliament that Ms Davidson had failed to revive the fortunes of her party, while achieving the "monumental political triumph" of destroying the fortunes of the other opposition parties through the Tory coalition with the Liberal Democrats at Westminster and its alliance with Labour in the Better Together campaign to save the Union.

Mr Salmond said: "On the criteria of destroying other opposition political parties - Ruth Davidson is undoubtedly the most brilliant political leader in the history of the Scottish Parliament."

Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, paid tribute to Mr Salmond's personal achievements, saying he had been on a "long journey" since initially declining in 2004 to make a return as SNP leader.

Mr Rennie, asked: "Can I just check that he definitely is going?"

Thanking the Lib Dem MSP for his comments, Mr Salmond - who has not ruled out a return to Westminster - responded: "Nicola Sturgeon wants to know what the answer to your question is, adding: "This is the first time I've been heckled by the SNP."

Ms Sturgeon will officially become SNP leader at the party's annual conference this weekend, before she is expected to be voted in as first minister in parliament next week.

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