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Scottish Parliament opening Thursday, 1 July, 1999, 14:57 GMT 15:57 UK
Parliament must have full powers
By Scottish National Party Central Scotland MSP Michael Matheson

The first few day's of the parliament, with 129 new MSPs trying to come to terms with their new role, was like a cross between the first day at school and graduation day.

Although their was a real sense of making history, I was also mindful that this was a parliament which still only had limited powers.

We will remain dependent upon that "other house" (Westminster), for many issues which affect peoples' daily lives.

A classic example of this was the recent decision by the government to means test disability benefits, something which I'm sure the majority of MSP would oppose.

Full control

But our new parliament in Scotland is powerless to act on such an issue. The only way the New Scottish parliament will be able to address these issues is when we have a parliament which has full control over all Scottish affairs.

I strongly believe that our new Scottish Parliament will prove to be the catalyst for taking Scotland forward onto independence within Europe.

It is for this very reason that all the SNP members of the Scottish Parliament, are so committed to making our new parliament work.

By making a success of this parliament, the people of Scotland will recognise that we have both the ability and resources to run our own affairs.

'Needs and aspirations'

The commitment of the SNP to make our parliament reflect the needs and aspirations of the people of Scotland is unquestionable, although the same cannot be said of the London-based parties.

Tony Blair's grip on New Labour in Scotland could be clearly seen during the coalition talks. He's anxious that the Scottish branch of his party remains in line with his views in London.

This in itself does not bode well for the new Labour party in Scotland, and will certainly be of concern to the parliament and the people of Scotland.

The close relationship between the London-based Paddy Ashdown and Tony Blair is now manifesting in Scotland, through the Lib-Lab pact in the Scottish Parliament.

The price of this deal has been extremely costly for the Liberal Democrats in Scotland, having been forced to sell out on a number of key election commitments in order to make new Labour happy.

"Students are angry about tuition fees"
Excluding new Labour, all the major political party's campaigned during the elections to have student tuition fee's scrapped.

Over 60% of the electorate voted for a party committed to having these fees abolished early in the new parliament.

Clearly the settled will of the electorate was to end the day's of New Labour's "tax on learning".

But now as part of the Lib-Lab pact, the Liberal Democrats have settled for a review of student tuition fees.

Is the selling out of major election pledges to be the price of so called "new politics"?

From the students I've met, there is clear anger that the democratic will of the electorate could be ignored so readily for the sake of ministerial office.

'New politics'

There has been much talk of the "new politics" which is expected of the parliament.

Naturally, we don't want to see the "yahboo" politics of Westminster creeping into our new parliament.

Where there is agreement between the political parties we should seek consensus, and work with one another.

I believe this is the form of new politics which the people of Scotland have expected.

The actions of this coalition deal have sought to undermine the consensus which existed over student tuition fees.

New politics is not about selling out on policies and principles upon which you were elected, purely because it was politically expedient to do so.

'People of Scotland'

The challenge is now for the Scottish Parliament to prove itself to the people of Scotland, and it's a challenge which every new MSP must be prepared for.

Given that only 57% of the electorate voted in these historic election, it is we the politicians, who are clearly in the dock.

On a personal level, I hope to highlight many issues which are easily forgotten in the hurly burly world of politics.

There's a pressing need to improve services for the young mentally ill, a marked lack of resources for those with a learning difficulty, and action must be taken to address Scotland's appalling health record.

The only way our new parliament can prove itself, is by its ability to make a positive difference to these issues and many others.

But to create a truly more social, just Scotland we will need to take that next step forward, by bringing all the powers from Westminster to our new parliament in Scotland.

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