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Wednesday, June 16, 1999 Published at 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK

UK Politics

Dewar reveals legislation

Donald Dewar: "Another milestone" for parliament

Scotland's First Minister Donald Dewar has unveiled the government's legislative programme for the first term of the parliament - putting education at the top of its priorities.

Colin Blane in Edinburgh: The focus is on education, land reform and traffic congestion
A bill to improve standards in education is one of eight pieces of legislation announced by Mr Dewar.

He told MSPs that the parliament had reached another milestone. "For the first time, a programme of legislation for Scotland will be laid before a democratically-elected parliament in Scotland," he said.

"Let us not underestimate the scope and range of powers available to this parliament," Mr Dewar went on.

"There will be exceptional and limited circumstances where it is sensible and proper that the Westminster Parliament legislates in devolved areas of responsibility.

'Law of land'

BBC Scotland political correspondent David Porter on the day's proceedings
"But that can only happen with the consent of this parliament and consent specifically given after due process.

"But day in, day out it is here that the law of the land will be shaped and laid down. This parliament is in charge of a wide sweep of domestic policy touching upon the lives of every man, woman and child in this land."

[ image: Alex Salmond: Criticised programme]
Alex Salmond: Criticised programme
Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond denounced the programme for having a "lack of ambition".

"There is nothing that touches these commanding heights of the Scottish economy," he said.

"How are going to gain the comparative and competitive advantage that most of us would like to see in this parliament? How are going to deliver for Scotland that advantage to secure the prosperity of our people.

"The legislative programme is silent on the area of jobs, enterprise and the economy."

The Conservative leader David MacLetchie said: "I am afraid to say that the main elements of this programme are a hotch-potch of previous priorities and grovelling apologies for Labour's failure in local government."

MSPs will not begin work on the new legislation until they return from their two-month recess, which begins on 2 July.

Answering complaints

But while the education legislation takes take top billing, ministers have stressed their desire for wide-ranging plans which they hope will answer complaints that the parliament has been ineffectual so far.

There will also be a finance bill, setting out the parliament's cash framework; a transport bill, which could include controversial road toll plans; a bill on ethics in local government and two bills on land reform.

One will seek to abolish the feudal system and the other will consider more general reforms.

MSPs are due to debate the issue of tuition fees on Thursday, with the prospect of further attacks on the Scottish Liberal Democrats and amendments tabled by the SNP and Tories.

Holyrood debate

Holyrood will be approved as the permanent site for Scotland's Parliament, according to a poll of MSPs carried out by BBC Scotland.

BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor on the BBC's parliament survery
Reporting Scotland canvassed the views of individual members of the Scottish Parliament and a clear majority favour the option of a new building at the foot of the Royal Mile.

Despite doubts over cost and design, MSPs will vote through plans on Thursday to move from their temporary home on The Mound to Holyrood.

[ image: Work continues at Holyrood]
Work continues at Holyrood
The BBC asked 112 of the 129 MSPs whether or not they wished the Holyrood project to proceed and found 68 want the work on the new site to continue.

Ten MSPs said they preferred to stay at the Church of Scotland Assembly Hall, two declined to answer and 32 were either unsure or did not like either site.

Work on new contracts was suspended last week to give MSPs a chance to consider the issue after it emerged that the cost had risen to nearly £120m.

An opinion poll for the Scottish Daily Mail said 53% of the public want the Holyrood project to be abandoned, and for MSPs to stay instead at the general assembly building.

Some 23% said the project should go ahead, while 24% were unsure. The poll, by Scottish Opinion, covered 1,002 men and women of all ages and backgrounds.

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