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Monday, July 26, 1999 Published at 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK

UK Politics

Labour admits constitutional 'unease'

Labour accepts the new parliament has raised concerns

Scottish constitutional change has created "unease" within the UK but it should not lead to independence, according to the government's second annual report.

Ministers have welcomed the document, saying it shows the government is delivering real improvements to the daily lives of Scottish people, but opposition parties have dismissed it as an exercise in style over substance.

Opposition politicians discuss the report with the BBC
The report says MSPs now have "an historic n historic responsibility to meet the aspirations of the people of Scotland".

But there is also recognition devolution has not been universally popular.

[ image: Dr John Reid:
Dr John Reid: "Radical changes"
The report concedes: "Any constitutional change of this magnitude is bound to create a certain amount of unease.

"But there is no reason why devolution should lead to independence."

Scottish Secretary John Reid welcomed the report and said: "If you change the constitution of the UK in a more radical way than ever before then we have to see a way through that."

But Prime Minister Tony Blair acknowledged some of his aims have not been achieved.

But former Tory Scottish Secretary and Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind said the government was not being courageous by releasing the report.

[ image: Malcolm Rifkind: Impressed by PR skills]
Malcolm Rifkind: Impressed by PR skills
"It's only courageous if they are prepared to admit to the failures of the last two years," he said.

"Most of us know, and the government themselves know that they have been brilliant on presentation, very impressive and I am very envious of their presentation skills.

"But when it comes to the quality of life that people in Scotland or down south are facing, they themselves admit that the waiting lists in the hospitals have gone up.

"We know that the universities are up in arms because of the tuition fees which have been introduced and which are destroying higher education in Scotland."

He added: " Traffic jams are getting worse, so what is this great achievement other than PR skills?"

[ image: Michael Moore: Questioned report's timing]
Michael Moore: Questioned report's timing
Michael Moore, Liberal Democrat MP for Tweeddale Ettrick and Lauderdale, said: " I think the principle of the annual report is a good thing and nobody should decry that.

"But we are entitled to question the timing of this report which comes out 36 hours before the House of Commons goes into its summer recess and long after the prime minister has finished his final prime minister's questions of the session.

"Therefore there is very little time for parliamentary scrutiny of this."

Mr Moore accused the government of being "strong on saying it has lots of targets" which were set in the manifesto, while being "short on independent examination" of how they are being met.

He suggested it would be "brave and bold" of the government to call in the National Audit Office to see just how well it was performing.

[ image: John Swinney: Slight improvement]
John Swinney: Slight improvement
And Scottish National Party MSP John Swinney said he was unlikely to make the effort to track down the report in his local supermarket.

"There's slightly more value in the report this year because they at least accept there has been some failure within the government this year," he said.

"They said last year everything was perfect and this year everything is far from perfect."

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