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Politics by slogan

Brian Taylor | 16:03 UK time, Thursday, 18 March 2010

It was largely an exchange of insults; politics by slogan.

But, nonetheless, it was a sustained exchange on the topic which will dominate the coming UK General Election. The economy, that is.

The exchange, between Iain Gray and Alex Salmond, started rather tamely with each claiming the credit for new apprenticeships in Scotland.

That ended in a score draw.

Mr Gray then ambled through other aspects of the economy before arriving at his conclusion: that the jobless rate in Scotland was heading in the wrong direction and that Alex Salmond was to blame.

Enter the slogan: it was "Salmond's slump". Delivered with passion and verve.

Undeterred, the FM fought back with not one but two fervent slogans of his own.

The economic problems, apparently, could be traced to "Brown's bust" and "Darling's downturn".

Beneath it all, a substantive concern - with arguments to be advanced on both sides.

The FM noted, accurately, that in Scotland unemployment is lower and employment higher than in the UK as a whole.

He contrasted that with the situation some eight years earlier when Mr Gray had been Enterprise Minister.

Mr Gray noted, accurately, that the latest jobless figures in Scotland showed that advantage over the rest of the UK narrowing.

Why so, he queried, before offering his own answer. See above.

Mr Gray accused the FM of ditching job-creating projects such as GARL.

The FM accused the UK government of cutting the money available to Scotland and of lacking an economic stimulus package.

Later, Tavish Scott of the Liberal Democrats pursued broadly the same tack as Iain Gray - although he appeared to be allocating blame between Labour and the SNP.

As for the Tories, Annabel Goldie inquired whether the FM would be crossing the picket lines at Holyrood if civil servants strike, as planned, next Wednesday.

She plainly hoped to replicate the challenge laid down to Gordon Brown by David Cameron over the BA strike.

Mr Salmond declined to play. It was wise to be sensitive above such matters.

Still, he averred: "The business of government would continue".

Perhaps sensibly, he did not specify precisely where.


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