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Wednesday, June 16, 1999 Published at 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK

UK Politics

Dewar's full statement

Donald Dewar lays out the legislative programme

This is the full text of the statement made by Scotland's First Minister Donald Dewar to the parliament, in which he laid out the government's legislative programme.

"With your leave, Mr Presiding Officer, I would like to make a statement on the Executive's first legislative programme.

Down to Business

We have travelled a long road to get here. There have been significant milestones on the way from the Constitutional Convention to the reality of Scotland's Parliament.

The driving force has been the Labour Government elected in 1997 a government that put Scotland's Parliament at the forefront of its legislative programme; which kept faith with the people.

Today, we reach another milestone. Today, for the first time, a programme of legislation for Scotland will be laid before a democratically elected parliament in Scotland.

We are a young parliament. We have not yet taken up our formal powers. Much of our talk to date has been, of necessity, about how we work as a parliament as much as about what we do as a parliament.

People ask when will this parliament begin to make a difference? Today, we begin to answer that question.

In a minute I shall say more about the bills that we shall bring forward but first as a parliamentarian, as someone who serves in this parliament, I want to say something about our law-making powers.

Let us not underestimate the scope and range of powers available to this parliament. There will be exceptional and limited circumstances where it is sensible and proper that the Westminster Parliament legislates in devolved areas of responsibility.

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.

This is fundamental, radical change. This is a parliament.

And with that power comes responsibilities. We shall pass laws. Not because we are here and must look busy. Not because someone grabs a microphone, or a megaphone, and says that 'something, anything, must be done'.

We shall act for and in the name of the people of Scotland.

Already we can see one way in which this parliament can make a difference. Under the old dispensation, we could reasonably expect to get one major piece of Scottish legislation through Westminster in a year.

But I will be giving you details today of eight Bills, Bills which will address matters of pressing importance to the people of Scotland and will address them in ways which meet their concerns and needs. Scottish solutions for Scottish problems.

And this is just the start. There will be much more to follow over the lifetime of this parliament.

The parliament's role

We are here to keep promises.

We will be watched, closely judged on the way we go about our business. There will be vigorous debate. So there should be. But it should be debate of serious intent, aimed at improving, not wrecking.

Legislation must be necessary, well prepared. Our consideration must be thorough, open, accessible.

We need to understand what that means. There is a balance to be struck between the call the understandable call for quick results and the promise of genuine dialogue, proper scrutiny, public and parliamentary involvement.

That balance is a matter of fine judgement. Members must understand, and relay that understanding to those who watch our business, that proper scrutiny takes time.

What is expected of us is sensible politics. We have, through the cross-party deliberations of the Consultative Steering Group, created structures which will encourage consultation, the necessary scrutiny.

But the smartest systems will not make a cheap debate a rich debate. That is our challenge.


A word on partnership. When I accepted your nomination as first minister I said I would work with those who would work with me.

The evidence of that is before you. We present this legislative programme as a partnership, a partnership committed to stable and responsible government.

In a democracy parties can and should work together where circumstance demands it. This partnership is built on common objectives.

The eight bills which I will set out today are the first return on that partnership.

Let the test of what we do be the end product. We are working together to deliver a programme of government which will deliver for the people of Scotland. It is on that we should be judged.


Our aim is social justice, social justice in a prosperous Scotland.

  • A Scotland which is a vigorous and thriving part of the global economy

  • A Scotland in which all have the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

  • We must celebrate our unique cultural and natural heritage.

  • We must tackle the problems of transport and the environment.

  • We must build strong and stable communities, a Scotland where every family can raise children in safety and decency; where affordable housing is within reach of all; where communities are not overshadowed by the fear of crime; where communities, rural and urban, are valued.

  • We must build an enterprise economy, making the best use of our talent, encouraging creativity and innovation.

  • We must build a healthy nation, making our Health Service among the best in Europe.

Above all, at this, the edge of the 21st century, we must build a world-class education system, unlocking opportunities for all our children.

We cannot accept a Scotland where 4000 children leave school each year without formal qualifications, where heart disease and cancer have given us a mortality rate amongst the worst in Europe, where one-third of Scottish households have below half the average UK income and one-quarter of our housing stock suffers from dampness or condensation.

We can use the powers of government to change that the spending decisions, the policy initiatives, the power to government to connect, persuade, cajole, encourage, preach and lead. We can, and we shall.

Approach to Government

We shall work with the people as well as for them. We will work with local government, other public agencies, the private and voluntary sectors, with the communities of Scotland.

We shall do so with new energy and new commitment. We want to make this parliament what it can be, the democratic crucible in which we test our ideas, seek new inspiration, stand to account on our record.

And, where necessary, we will invite you in this parliament to use your law-making powers to change Scotland for the better.

The legislative programme

And now to our first legislative programme.

When George Goschen, a late Victorian Chancellor a touch dim but author of the Goschen Formula father of Barnett first entered parliament, he wrote to the then prime minister Lord Palmerston requesting details of the government's legislative programme for the coming session.

The great man replied: "There is nothing to be done."

We are not in that position. There is much to be done.

We have identified eight areas where legislation is required to ensure that we have the right solutions, Scottish solutions, to the challenges we face.

Land reform bill

For years, indeed generations, land reform has been an issue of fundamental concern.

It is so in our rural communities, and far beyond. It is an issue which has languished for want of the political will required to achieve change.

There has been wide-ranging enthusiasm for the proposals developed by the Land Reform Policy Group. The measures proposed pose no threat to good landowners.

But they will make for a better balance between the private and public interest. They are a central element of our partnership's commitment to enhance rural life.

We will therefore introduce a bill for land reform. Our legislation will give new hope and create new opportunities for those who have lived and laboured on it for generations.

Communities will have the right to buy as and when the land comes on the market.

We will also legislate to create a right of responsible access to the land for recreation and passage for ramblers, for climbers and for those simply passing through.

Who could imagine a land reform bill of this kind passing unscathed through the massed ranks of the Lords?

A Scottish solution to a distinct Scottish problem, now the responsibility of this parliament.

Feudal tenure

We will introduce a bill to abolish the feudal system of land tenure.

The arcane rights of feudal superiors will be abolished. They will no longer be able to enforce in arbitrary fashion conditions on property and land use in which they have no defensible interest.

Appropriate steps will be taken to ensure the survival of conditions which are necessary to maintain common facilities and to protect the amenity of property.

This legislation will put the final stop to the abuses of the feudal system.

A Scottish solution for a distinct Scottish need, now the responsibility of this parliament.

National Parks bill

We will introduce a bill to allow the creation of National Parks in Scotland.

Scotland's natural heritage is unique. We need to manage that natural heritage in a sustainable way, protecting it while recognising the rights of those who live and work in the countryside. National Parks should be part of that future.

This will be enabling legislation. It is our intention that the first National Park should be based on Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.

Scottish solutions to distinct Scottish needs, now the responsibility of this parliament.

Local Government (Ethical Standards) Bill

We will introduce a bill to maintain high standards in local government.

Local government is the foundation of our democracy. Its role is central to the good government of Scotland. We made it clear in the partnership document that we were committed to modernising government at all levels.

As a first step, we will, as promised, introduce a Local Government (Ethical Standards) Bill to establish a Scottish Standards Commission and a code of conduct for local government.

The aim is to enhance the reputation of local government and to ensure a commitment to the highest standards.

A Scottish solution to a distinct Scottish need, now the responsibility of this parliament.

Incapable Adults (Scotland) Bill

We will introduce an Incapable Adults Bill.

Our aim is to protect the rights and interests of those people who, for whatever reason, are incapable of managing their own affairs.

Up to 100,000 people at any one time in Scotland will benefit from this legislation. There is strong support for the modernisation of the law.

We recognise there are issues of real importance and of great sensitivity involved.

There will be particular concerns and a need for detailed discussion on the medical aspects of the consultation document. We do not plan to legislate on advance directives, (sometimes known as living wills), on withholding and withdrawing of treatment from incapable patients, or on non-therapeutic research.

We will be holding further consultations and, in finalising the draft of the bill, we will also listen with care to the views of the scrutiny committee and give weight to the outcome of their soundings of Scottish opinion.

A Scottish solution to a distinct Scottish need, now the responsibility of this parliament.


We will introduce a bill to address Scotland's many and diverse transport challenges.

We need to tackle the environmental problems and unreliable journey times caused by congestion.

We need to generate the resources required to deliver a transport system fit for the 21st Century. We need local solutions to local problems, but within a coherent strategic framework.

Our bill will establish a framework to enable road user charging where it is sensible to do so and to allow local authorities where appropriate to introduce a levy on workplace parking.

Our bill will modernise the regulatory framework for buses, giving local authorities the ability to work for improvement through quality partnerships.

A Scottish solution to a distinct Scottish need, now the responsibility of this parliament.

The Financial Procedures and Auditing Bill

We will introduce a Bill on Financial Procedures and Auditing.

This is not a Bill to authorise expenditure. Separate legislation will do that. This Bill will be essentially a technical measure but an important one.

It goes to the heart of the relationship between the parliament and the executive, putting in place the framework for the parliament's scrutiny of the executive's proposals particularly on the allocation of public expenditure.

This will not be a parliament where decisions of immense financial significance pass unnoticed and unchallenged.

The bill will set out the rules under which expenditure may be undertaken and for dealing with the income received by the executive.

It will also put in place systems of audit and accountability designed to ensure that the parliament can confirm its financial resources have been spent in the way that was intended and to the best possible effect.

A Scottish solution to a distinct Scottish need, now the responsibility of this parliament.


We will introduce an Education Bill.

I have already said that education is our number one priority. And education will be the priority in our legislative programme.

Our bill will lay a duty on local authorities to raise standards and to tackle the problems of underperforming schools. It will confirm local control of education within a national framework.

The bill will include provisions to meet our promises in respect of self-governing schools and pre-school education.

This bill, one of the first of the new parliament, will underwrite our commitment to raising educational standards in Scotland.

A Scottish solution to a distinct Scottish need, now the responsibility of this parliament.


This is a legislative programme which responds to the needs of the people of Scotland.

  • It speaks for those in rural communities long held back by an inequitable system of land ownership

  • For those in both rural and urban communities put upon by the antiquated burdens of feudalism

  • For those who live in, and those who enjoy our areas of outstanding natural heritage

  • For carers who look after those who can no longer look after themselves

  • For all those who look to local government to operate to the highest standards

  • For all those in our cities frustrated by traffic jams and all those in rural areas frustrated by the lack of public transport

  • For those who look to this parliament to manage our financial resources rigorously and efficiently

  • To all with an interest in the education of our children and to all who want to see those children leave school able and ready to make a full contribution to our society.

Sir David, I commend our legislative programme to this parliament."

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