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BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor reports
"After a day of tense negotiations they bowed to the inevitable pressure"
 real 56k

Lorraine Davidson, of the Scottish Mirror
"I've lost count of the number of u-turns we've had on this policy"
 real 28k

Gordon Leishman, of Age Concern
"It may turn into very good news for older people in the rest of the UK"
 real 28k

Thursday, 25 January, 2001, 20:09 GMT
Labour caves in over OAP care
Women in an elderly people's care home
The Executive will bring forward new OAP care plans
Labour has caved in over the full implementation of the Sutherland Report by promising new proposals on universal free personal care.

The shock move - announced in an emergency Scottish Parliamentary statement - came after tense talks between Labour and their coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats.

The statement, made by the Scottish Executive's business manager, Tom McCabe, came just minutes ahead of a crunch vote on the issue.

The Executive was facing defeat as backbench Labour MSPs threatened to vote with the opposition.

Tom McCabe
Mr McCabe announced the U-turn
They were angry that the Executive had earlier ruled out the introduction of free personal care for all pensioners in Scotland.

Personal care covers things like washing and shopping and is seen as an important support mechanism to nursing care.

But Mr McCabe said: "The Executive will bring forward, as soon as practicable after consideration of the Development Groups Report in August 2001 proposals for the implementation of free personal care for all, along with an analysis of the costs and implications of so doing."

"We have taken cognisance of the views expressed yesterday and today, especially the sincerely held views of our colleagues in the Liberal Democrat and Labour parties."

Before he could get to his feet, opposition MSPs raised a barrage of points of order, all over-ruled, on whether he should be allowed to make his statement.

Immediately after his statement, Liberal MSPs applauded and thumped their desks in approval.

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon: "They have been humiliated"
Mike Rumbles, Lib Dem MSP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, later said he was "absolutely delighted" with the outcome.

He said: "The Labour party has understood the will of Parliament and has accepted it and that is great.

"The Liberal Democrats have been working for months and now we have finally achieved what we set out to achieve.

"This is a successful result for the members, for the Liberal Democrats and for the elderly folk of Scotland."

But the manner of the Executive's U-turn infuriated the Scottish National Party's health spokeswoman, Nicola Sturgeon.

She said: "This is absolutely disgraceful. The government has had three or four opportunities to clarify it's position but its taken until two minutes before the vote to do so.

Mike Rumbles
Mike Rumbles: "A successful result"
"This is nothing short of a tragedy that the government has to be dragged kicking and screaming.

"This is a victory for elderly people but this government does not know what it is doing from one hour to the next - it's a government in disarray."

She added: "It has been humiliated in this chamber this afternoon."

David McLetchie, the Scottish Tories' leader, welcomed the statement.

But he added: "I do think that the Liberals have been bought off cheaply.

"If you look at the motion we were going to be voting on, it calls for not only an unequivocal commitment but saw a definite timetable for implementation.

The Lib Dem benches
The Lib Dems were delighted
"I do not think that Mr McCabe's motion came forward with a definite timetable for implementation."

First Minister Henry McLeish refused to answer questions as he emerged from the Chamber after Mr McCabe's announcement.

Deputy first minister Jim Wallace said it was "a satisfactory outcome", but refused to be drawn on his role in securing the about face.

Fellow Lib Dem, Donald Gorrie, the MSP for Central Scotland, said that eight meetings of the party's parliamentary group had taken place over the last two days.

He said the Lib Dem ministers had lead talks with Labour ministers and had brought back a new proposal to each of the meetings.

He said the final statement was not agreed until late on Thursday afternoon and the decision to read it out before the vote was not made until the "last minute".

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See also:

25 Jan 01 | Scotland
Warm welcome for care climbdown
25 Jan 01 | Talking Point
Should the old get free care?
25 Jan 01 | Scotland
Executive in OAP care concession
24 Jan 01 | Scotland
Elderly care - minister's statement
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