As-it-happened: First Minister's Questions on Thursday, 27 September, 2012

Key Points

  • Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was in the hot seat at FMQs as Alex Salmond is in America for golf's Ryder Cup tournament.
  • She faced questions from Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont and Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, as well as backbenchers.
  • In political news this week, Ms Lamont delivered a speech in which she called for an "honest debate" on free-for-all public services.

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    Hello and welcome to our live page coverage of First Minister's Questions. Today Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will be in the hot seat as Alex Salmond is away on business in the US.


    General questions are being answered by a number of cabinet ministers, ahead of FMQs.


    @littlegrumpyG Lovely to show Higher Modern Studies pupils from @Stirling_High round @ScotParl - I hope they enjoy their #fmq experience

    Information Brian Taylor Political editor, Scotland

    "Much talk both at Holyrood and on the fringe of the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton anent the emerging deal on an independence referendum. Follow more from my blog......."


    Minister Fergus Ewing is speaking about his concerns about redundancies at under-threat Remploy.


    Mr Ewing said the workers will be supported "however they can".


    Ms Lamont talks of the Christie Commission. She quotes his words on universal entitlement to benefits. (Ms Lamont spoke about the issues in Edinburgh yesterday) She said spending choices needed to be fair for people in Scotland before the referendum.

    Nicola Sturgeon at FMQs Ms Sturgeon said her party would be proud to protect the council tax freeze, free personal care and bus travel

    Ms Sturgeon questions why Ms Lamont has set up a commission to report after an independence referendum. "I agree with Campbell Christie," Nicola Sturgeon tells the chamber. "We will be proud to protect the council tax freeze, free personal care and bus travel," she adds.


    "What I said was, we need an open and honest debate, just like John Swinney said," Ms Lamont goes on. She then quotes the Beveridge report which says key benefits may not be affordable. She adds that that report called for a debate on looking at those who could afford to pay.


    @HolyroodPatter #fmq Johann Lamont walked into that "before/after referendum" line


    Nicola Sturgeon said she relished the debate, "make no mistake", she told Ms Lamont. The deputy first minister adds that spin doctors for the Labour leader were quick to say what she didn't mean after her Edinburgh speech. She goes on to say that it is not easy to deliver balanced budgets when they are being cut by the Tories.


    @Deemail76 Universal services are fine but the problem is the SNP want the poor to pay for them instead of the wealthy #fmq


    "If Labour thinks the council tax freeze is so damaging why in the local government election, did Labour say they would protect the council tax freeze?" asks Ms Sturgeon.

    Johann Lamont

    "This sounds like a lot of nonsense," says Ms Lamont. If there are cuts, why does she [Nicola Sturgeon] set out the same policies as in 2007, the Labour leader adds. Ms Lamont gets personal and says that the £200,000-a-year Sturgeon household gets free benefits.


    @HolyroodDaily Lamont says she agrees block grant has been cut - debate is over priorities in tough times #fmq


    "We know your council tax freeze is under-funded," say Ms Lamont. She goes on to list the examples of those struggling in her community. Ms Lamont adds: "Let the people of Scotland choose, because if she [Ms Sturgeon] shuts the debate then she had better explain to the carer who can only care for the elderly person 15 minutes in the day."


    @thomsondoug How will Labour unravel this stance on service provision at conference? Do Labour really support the findings of Campbell Commission? #fmq


    Nicola Sturgeon said the people of Scotland "did choose", at the May 2011 election. She then goes on to quote Labour members who said they doubted Ms Lamont's speech. "Johann Lamont - poster girl for the Tories", says Ms Sturgeon.

    Ruth Davidson

    Ruth Davidson begins her questioning. She thanks the two women [Ms Lamont and Ms Sturgeon] for bringing to the fore issues which the Tories want to debate. She then turns to the "budget for growth". Ms Davidson says that budget has fallen apart within 24 hours - it has been decried. "What is the big game changer in 2014 which will give the boost promised?" asks Ms Davidson.


    Ms Sturgeon says Mr Swinney's budget was indeed a "growth for the economy". She goes on to list some of the details of that budget. She quotes experts saying that the UK government needed to do more.


    Malcolm Chisholm asks about homecare provision for his late constituent, John Gibson, and others. He asks if the government will review the homecare policy.


    Ms Sturgeon speaks on the response to this week's challenging autumn weather. It worked well, she says. She thanked those who worked well in the situation faced by them.


    @scotlibdems .@Willie_Rennie, on his birthday, gets to his feet for #fmq


    Ms Sturgeon says that Ms Davidson has got "spectacularly wrong". She adds that the SNP has always said it would take its fair share of the debt.


    Willie Rennie receives birthday congratulations from Ms Sturgeon. The Lib Dem leader says it is good news that the SNP is increasing nursery care for two, three and four-years-olds. But is the 1% for two-year-old's good enough?


    @scott_eff Pretty solid criticism from Davidson about the budget. Fair play. #fmq


    Ms Sturgeon asks the chamber to wait for an outcome of the investigation into the Gibson case.


    @GlennBBC Is that really former Scottish Green Party leader Robin Harper on Bargain Hunt?

    Willie Rennie

    Mr Rennie says that a generation will miss out. He said: "Can I ask again can the plans be reviewed so that disadvantaged children do not miss out?" Ms Sturgeon says that the package of measures is better in Scotland. But she again agrees that more must be done to held those in need and the more disadvantaged children in society.


    Ms Sturgeon believes the package of support outlined "is sound". But we will always do more to improve things, she says.


    Sandra White asks about the the treatment of drug users. Ms Sturgeon says there is evidence of improvements in frontline drug services and support. Ms White comes back and asks what is the next step? Nicola Sturgeon says the next phase will be sustaining the progress already made.

    Robing Harper Former MSP and Green Party convenor Robin Harper making an appearance on the BBC's Bargain Hunt

    Neil Findlay on college mergers. Ms Sturgeon says there was a £17m increase on college funding. "Our college transformation fund gives help to those colleges that want to merge," says Ms Sturgeon. Mr Findlay says that unions and college staff don't believe the Scottish government's actions. Ms Sturgeon insists protection is being given.


    Heart disease services are discussed, with a question raised by Tory Murdo Fraser. Ms Sturgeon says there is significant progress on tackling heart disease. But Mr Fraser fears Scotland is lagging behind. He asks if Ms Sturgeon will increase funding for cardiac rehabilitation? Ms Sturgeon sees the benefit of cardiac rehabilitation and she is certain that Alex Neil, new health secretary, will continue to deliver on the service.


    @thistledo78 #fmq can we have Nicola every Thursday please?


    That's it for our live page coverage of First Minister's Questions. We'll be back next week, along with Alex Salmond who will take up position and answer questions from Ms Lamont, Ms Davidson and Holyrood backbenchers.


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