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EDITIONS
Monday, 2 December, 2002, 14:58 GMT
'Arrogant' Cabinet plans under fire
Cabinet Meeting
The Cabinet has set out plans for five years
A confidential document has revealed the Scottish Cabinet's plans for legislation beyond the next election.

The leaked document, obtained by BBC Scotland, includes plans to reform divorce law, the courts system and schools.

Opposition leaders said it revealed an "arrogant assumption" that the Labour-Lib Dem coalition would continue in government.

But Scottish Executive ministers insisted there were no backdoor deals between Labour and the Lib Dems.


They are going to pretend that they are two separate parties when in reality they have actually agreed a programme in anticipation of them winning

Scots Tory leader David McLetchie
The document is in the name of Labour MSP Patricia Ferguson, the Minister for Parliament.

It was presented to the Cabinet sub-committee on legislation in September.

The paper details eight main Bills for 2003/04, including a shake-up of Scotland's court system.

The 15-page document then outlines possible legislation up to 2007.

Key notes include divorce law reform which was put off until after next May's election because it is controversial and to include changes to adoption law.

The document also speculates that long-term reform of schools may run up against local council monopoly control.

Separate parties

Senior sources insist that has been overtaken and ministers are firmly committed to keeping schools in council hands.

The document also floats an extension of road user charging.

But the bigger issue is the implicit assumption that the coalition will continue.

Opposition parties said these detailed plans undermined the argument that Labour and the Lib Dems will fight the coming election as entirely separate parties.

David McLetchie
David McLetchie: "Confidence trick"

Scottish Conservative leader David McLetchie said the document reflected "the arrogance" of the present administration.

"They are preparing to perpetuate a confidence trick on voters," he said.

"They are going to pretend that they are two separate parties when in reality they have actually agreed a programme in anticipation of them winning."

Scottish National Party leader John Swinney said the document revealed Scotland's worst kept political secret.

Prudent planning

"The Liberal Democrat Party has now been subsumed into the Labour Party, and they are now just one party desperately trying to cling on to office."

Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace said it was "prudent planning".

The Liberal Democrat leader said: "When the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999 there was widespread criticism that we didn't hit the ground running, we had to wait for legislation to be worked up."

Executive insiders said it was only common sense to plan for the future - but that any big decisions would only follow fresh coalition negotiations.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Scots Tory leader David McLetchie
"It reflects the arrogance of the present administration."

Leaked paper
Brian Taylor assesses the document
See also:

30 May 02 | Scotland
30 May 02 | Scotland
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