As-it-happened: First Minister's Questions on Thursday, 20 September, 2012

Key Points

  • First Minister Alex Salmond was at Holyrood to answer questions from opposition party leaders, Labour's Johann Lamont and the Tory's Ruth Davidson.
  • Mr Salmond was back in Scotland after holding talks with Prime Minister David Cameron and other devolved government leaders at Downing Street.
  • Later, Scotland's Finance Secretary John Swinney will be presenting his spending plans for 2013/14 to MSPs inside the chamber of the Scottish Parliament.

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    Hello and welcome to our live page coverage of First Minister's Questions, which will begin at 12noon.


    Currently, ministers are answering general questions from backbench MSPs on a variety of subjects.

    EU flags A row has erupted over the EU status of an independent Scotland

    A judge at the Court of Session has said he would deal with "as a matter of urgency" a case which will decide whether the Scottish government must reveal if it has advice on an independent Scotland's EU status. The matter dominated First Minister's Questions last week.


    Remember, Finance Secretary John Swinney presents his 2013/14 budget later today. You can follow it live with us online and on TV.

    * A special edition of the Politics Scotland will begin at 14:30 on BBC 2 Scotland.

    * We will be covering the budget through our live page format from 14:30 onwards.


    Labour leader Johann Lamont asks about Scottish budget. Asks about inward investment by Doosan... when did the first minister learn they had decided against? (The South Korea firm withdrew plans for a scheme to design and manufacture wind turbines. However, it added that it would consider future investment opportunities in Scotland.)


    FM Alex Salmond lists recent acheivements on inward investments... doing better than the rest of the UK, he says.

    Rosemary Agnew, Information Commissioner, published her annual report this week Rosemary Agnew, Information Commissioner, published her annual report this week

    Johann Lamont says that isn't an answer to the question. Claims this is increasingly the character of the Scottish government to withhold information... and says that is why Freedom of Information requests are on the rise. (Rosemary Agnew raised her concerns of the erosion of rights to freedom of information in her annual report)


    FM says requests are on the rise... but so is the volume of information being released by his government.


    @Darkknight2410 She hit nail in the head about foi #fmq


    Ms Lamont says the FM is always interesting - and creative - but how can he explain comments from the Information Commissioner that the position on freedom of information is worse than it was in the past. Why is he now challenging her in the courts to avoid releasing information to the public?


    Mr Salmond wonders aloud why Johann Lamont never asks about important things such as the economy. Says the commissioner's comments were specifically about local authorities setting up arms-length bodies... and claims Labour-controlled Glasgow is the worst offender. He adds that 14% of FOI requests come from a Labour researcher... who can't be named because of a request for anonymity.


    @scott_eff Blimey. FM comes well-briefed about FOI. Good counter-attack. #fmq


    Ms Lamont asks why FM cannot be straight with the Scottish people?


    @cowrin Salmond having a go at Lamont for not asking the questions he's expecting. Ironic, since his answers never reflect the question anyway #fmq


    Mr Salmond draws attention to recent in-fighting involving Labour Party officials.

    Alex Salmond at Downing Street Alex Salmond met with the PM at Downing Street

    Alex Salmond tells the chamber he had a productive meeting with the PM at Downing Street yesterday. They discussed economic issues alongside other leaders of the devolved nations.


    Conservative leader Ruth Davidson says she finds it extraordinary that the Scottish government should be trying to block information being released to the public. Outlines the cost of fighting these cases... asks the FM what the total cost is?


    @dr_enid Watching live coverage from Holyrood. Everyone sounds ten times angrier than they probably are.


    Mr Salmond says only a minority of contentious cases involve his government - as opposed to other public bodies. Claims the trend is for the Scottish government to win more of the cases taken to the commissioner. Accuses the Tories of only coming late to the cause of freedom of information.


    Ms Davidson says even trivial matters - such as who the FM has been to the theatre with - are being blocked. Asks specifically about whether the government has received advice about the consequences of Scotland leaving NATO.


    @cath426 Why would anyone want to know who Salmond had been to the theatre with? #fmq


    Liam McArther asks about the cost of connecting renewable energy projects to the grid. FM says he is looking at the problem and is supportive of the idea of involving Northern isles councils in considering how to make progress. (Warnings were made this week that wave and tidal energy projects in waters around Orkney are being threatened by increases in grid connection costs)


    David Stewart asks about fuel shortages in the Western Isles. FM says the government will meet Scottish Fuels (the supplier) to discuss the problem.


    The issue of infrastructure support services company May Gurney announcing plans to shed up to 250 jobs in Scotland is raised in FMQs.


    Annabel Goldie asks about the misuse of taxpayer funds by public bodies. Asks about Scottish Enterprise employees allegedly misusing corporate credit cards. FM says Scotland's record is good on compliance. On Scottish Enterprise, the individuals were personally responsible for settling bills.


    Jim Eadie asks about establishing a national tennis centre. FM talks about meeting Andy Murray and his mum, and says there will be further exploration of establishing such a centre and an announcement made in the near future.


    @HolyroodDaily Jim Eadie asks about proposed Murray tennis academy - FM says proposals will be seriously considered #fmq

    Richard Simpson Richard Simpson is Labour's health spokesman

    Richard Simpson asks about the status of nurses. FM puts on record his admiration for nurses, which is shared by his ministerial colleagues. Mr Simpson follows up by saying nursing posts are being axed. FM replies that there are more qualified nurses per head of population in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK.


    Nanette Milne asks about low levels of staffing in hospitals at night. FM says that in times of economic stringency there will be pressure on the NHS. Even more reason to celebrate how well Scotland is doing, he adds.


    Mark McDonald asks about mackerel fishing. Mr Salmond says Scottish fishermen are catching this stock sustainably and he is hoping Faroe and Iceland will join in conservation measures. Mr McDonald claims efforts on fishing conservation would be more effective if Scotland had its own seat in international negotiations. FM, of course, agrees.


    Claudia Beamish asks about the supply of mackerel to supermarkets. FM says conservation and security of supply are linked, which is why efforts to bring Faroe and Iceland on board are so important.


    That's it for our live page coverage of First Minister's Questions. Do join us at 14:30 when we will back to Holyrood for Finance Secretary John Swinney's budget statement.


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