As-it-happened: First Minister's Questions on Thursday 20 March

Key Points

  • Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond answered questions from opposition party leaders and backbenchers in his weekly chamber appearance.
  • Party leader Johann Lamont was in the hot seat for Scottish Labour while Ruth Davidson led for the Scottish Conservatives.
  • Questions came the day after UK Chancellor George Osborne unveiled his Budget, which included a duty freeze for Scotch whisky and a downgraded estimate of North Sea oil revenues.
  1.  
    11:39:

    Welcome to our live coverage of questions to Scotland's first minister. Alex Salmond will face MSPs from noon, after general questions to ministers.

     
  2.  
    11:49:

    Yesterday the chancellor froze duty on Scotch whisky and scrapped the alcohol duty escalator which has increased duty annually by inflation plus 2% since 2008.

     
  3.  
    11:50:

    Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said Mr Osborne had "given the whisky industry a break" by freezing duty but Finance Secretary John Swinney said sticking with the Westminster system would "leave Scotland with a severe hangover".

     
  4.  
    11:59:

    And we're off. First question to Labour leader Johann Lamont.

     
  5.  
    12:00:

    Ms Lamont asks why the SNP voted down Labour's plan guaranteeing a living wage to people on government contracts.

     
  6.  
    12:01:

    Alex Salmond says Labour never introduced a living wage when in office. "This government did it and we're proud of it," he says.

     
  7.  
    Scott McDonald

    Tweets: She's bang on about the Living Wage. #fmq

     
  8.  
    12:03:

    "Even an old Etonian like Boris Johnson" can ensure a living wage in London, Ms Lamont retorts. She adds that Mr Salmond "denies working people across Scotland a living wage".

     
  9.  
    Barry Jarvis

    Tweets: #fmqs is ruined with no Brian Taylor presenting, on the plus JoLa seems to be asking a decent question this week to start with

     
  10.  
    12:04:

    There would be "no benefit to workers in Scotland if we were to introduce something that would be immediately shot down by the European Commission", the first minister argues.

     
  11.  
    John Nichol

    Tweets: A 5 minute statement isn't a question. A 5 minute statement isn't an answer. Sort it, PO #fmq

     
  12.  
    12:04:

    Mr Salmond says the Scottish government introduced a living wage "across the public sector in Scotland."

     
  13.  
    Paul Gillen

    Tweets: @JohannLamont's way out of an answer she doesn't like? 'He didn'y answer my question'. Weak! #fmqs

     
  14.  
    12:05:

    "He cannot name a single policy that redistributes wealth from the rich to the poor," Ms Lamont alleges.

     
  15.  
    12:07:

    Mr Salmond rounds on Labour: "It's only a few weeks since the Labour party voted against the extension of free school meals."

     
  16.  
    12:08:

    The first minister adds that Ms Lamont has refused to confirm if she would raise the top rate of tax, an option under Labour's devolution proposals.

     
  17.  
    ShredderIsAlive

    Tweets: Oh dear. Johann will be regretting that interview with Brewer for the next 4 #FMQs at least.

     
  18.  
    David Linden

    Tweets: How many of Labour-led Glasgow City Council's ALEOs pay a living wage? Yeah, go look that up. #FMQ

     
  19.  
    Ross Greer

    Tweets: Agree with Johann today, AFAIK their proposal on the Living Wage was entirely doable but still rejected by SNP #FMQ

     
  20.  
    12:10:

    Next question to Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, on oil revenue projections. She said the OBR has estimated revenues of "less than half" that predicted in the Scottish government's White Paper on independence.

     
  21.  
    Duncan McKay

    Tweets: Wouldn't it be nice to have a Presiding Officer that would reign the leaders in? So much havering #fmqs

     
  22.  
    12:11:

    "The OBR has changed its oil forecast up and down every six months," Mr Salmond says, challenging Ms Davidson's figures. He adds: "The figures we have outlined are robust."

     
  23.  
    Barry Jarvis

    Tweets: aaand we are back to #indyref #fmqs cheers Ruth thought we might have been having a relevant discussion there

     
  24.  
    Jim Slaven

    Tweets: Salmond's (very long) answer here seems to amount to 'I'm an idiot but there's another idiot in London'. #FMQs

     
  25.  
    12:13:

    Ms Davidson claims Scottish ministers were happy to quote the OBR a year ago, "when the referendum wasn't six months away".

     
  26.  
    Halcro Johnston

    Tweets: No one finds the First Minster's jokes as amusing as the First Minister. #fmqs

     
  27.  
    12:14:

    "When will the first minister update his figures and when will he accept that he has to revise them down?" Ms Davidson asks.

     
  28.  
    Euan McColm

    Tweets: this is fine, forensic stuff from ruth davidson. #fmqs

     
  29.  
    12:15:

    Mr Salmond says the Scottish government's estimates are "reasonable" given recent estimates by the UK government, and one by the OECD that is higher.

     
  30.  
    David Gardiner

    Tweets: "Not an unreasonable estimate". Whether or not its unreasonable is neither here nor there when it's inaccurate. #FMQs

     
  31.  
    12:16:

    The first minister says people would trust the Scottish government "rather than a Tory party that have pocketed" Scottish resources over the last 40 years.

     
  32.  
    12:17:

    A question from the SNP's Aileen McLeod on free prescriptions. Mr Salmond confirms they will continue.

     
  33.  
    John Morgan

    Tweets: Ruth's doing a smashing job. As usual. So methodical, and calmly destructive. #fmqs

     
  34.  
    Jennie Kermode

    Tweets: The plan to end free prescriptions is also flat out stupid because means testing costs more than it would save. #FMQs

     
  35.  
    12:18:

    Ms McLeod and Mr Salmond attack a proposal from the Scottish Conservatives to introduce prescriptions charges. The first minister calls it "a tax on ill health".

     
  36.  
    12:19:

    Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said the resources from prescription charges could be used to recruit more nurses.

     
  37.  
    Stephen Leary

    Tweets: The Scottish Parliament is an absolute joke The presiding officer allows @AlexSalmond to make speeches rather than answer q"s #Fmqs #indyref

     
  38.  
    12:20:

    "I do hope no other party in this chamber is going to go down the road of imposing a tax on the sick," Mr Salmond says.

     
  39.  
    Suzanne Kimm

    Tweets: Free prescriptions is a 'targeted' benefit. The wealthy are more likely to have private health insurance therefore do not use NHS. #fmqs

     
  40.  
    12:22:

    A question from Jamie Hepburn of the SNP on the Scottish government's response to the UK Budget. A statement will come after the Easter recess, the first minister says.

     
  41.  
    Elliott Adams

    Tweets: Nice to see the FM attacking the Tory health spokesman for daring to ask a health question. Bastion of reason him. #FMQs

     
  42.  
    Barry Jarvis

    Tweets: Very clever bingo references from the big man there! #creditwhereitsdue #fmqs

     
  43.  
    12:24:

    Referring to changes to tax on bingo announced in the Budget, Alex Salmond describes George Osborne's overall plans as "the only game of bingo where everyone's a loser".

     
  44.  
    Wings Over Scotland

    Tweets: Did the FM just call Grant Shapps "Graham Snapps"? #fmq

     
  45.  
    12:25:

    Conservative MSP Gavin Brown asks if Mr Salmond supports the savings and pension measures outlined in the Budget.

     
  46.  
    Anne

    Tweets: the Presiding officer is taking no prisoners today ! #fmqs

     
  47.  
    12:26:

    "For many families in Scotland, the right to save £15,000 in an ISA is something of a theoretical right," Mr Salmond says.

     
  48.  
    12:27:

    A question from Labour's Jenny Marra on human trafficking. Ministers will work to make Scotland "a hostile place" for traffickers and are bringing forward a bill.

     
  49.  
    Dave

    Tweets: a rare #fmq event: PO stops Salmond in midflow because (as usual) he is not even remotely answering the question he was asked #fmqs

     
  50.  
    Derek Scott

    Tweets: Scotland might be able to stop human trafficking if it had control of immigration. Instead, London controls immigration. #fmqs #indyref

     
  51.  
    12:28:

    Conservative Alex Johnstone asks what assessment the Scottish government has made of the cost of an independent Scotland's welfare system.

     
  52.  
    12:29:

    The first minister says the proportional cost of welfare in Scotland is lower than for the UK as a whole.

     
  53.  
    12:30:

    "Scotland will be in a stronger fiscal position than the rest of the UK," Mr Salmond insists, when Alex Johnstone questions his figures.

     
  54.  
    David Gardiner

    Tweets: Alex Johnstone asks the cost of setting up a new welfare system. His answers take no account of transitional costs. #FMQs

     
  55.  
    12:31:

    The SNP's John Mason calls for Scottish government control over the whole welfare and tax system with independence. Unsurprisingly, Mr Salmond agrees.

     
  56.  
    Matthew Clark

    Tweets: White Paper does not propose to add £2.5bn to social security spending despite promises from SNP #indyref #fmqs

     
  57.  
    12:32:

    "We absolutely must have tax and benefits under the control of this parliament," Mr Salmond says.

     
  58.  
    12:33:

    And that's it for another week. You can watch the rest of today's business in the Scottish Parliament on the BBC's Democracy Live website.

     

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