Page last updated at 17:45 GMT, Wednesday, 5 September 2007 18:45 UK

Salmond outlines government plans

Alex Salmond (Picture by the Scottish Parliament)
Mr Salmond set out planned legislation to MSPs

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond has outlined his first legislative programme for government.

He announced 11 bills to reform areas including public health, justice, education and the economy.

Mr Salmond said the programme of his minority SNP administration would need to "persuade" other parties and seek to find shared values and objectives.

However, opposition parties claimed the programme showed that the SNP would not deliver on its manifesto promises.

Cathy Jamieson, deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party, said Mr Salmond's statement revealed that he would not fulfill a previous commitment to deploy 1,000 extra police officers.

The Scottish Conservative leader, Annabel Goldie, said the legislative programme had failed to address Scotland's "crisis in dentistry".

Nicol Stephen, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said: "Where have they gone, the promises that they made to the many not the few - to students, on class sizes and many others?"

I ask that we remain focused not just on this year or next - but on the country we can be, the country we should be, the country we must be
Alex Salmond
First Minister

The first minister said he did not believe that every problem should be resolved through new legislation.

Bills including the abolition of bridge tolls, scrapping the graduate endowment and safeguarding rural schools were set out to the Scottish Parliament.

Other legislation will seek to give patients a bigger stake in health policy, including direct elections to health boards.

Mr Salmond said government must always be about vision.

"Restoring belief in the power of democratically-elected government to effect change - something which remains one of the great challenges for any modern government - is about focussing on the possible rather than merely accepting the status quo.

"It means painting a picture of a better, more dynamic society and offering Scotland a radical and inspirational choice about our future," he said.

The first minister also announced more modernisation of the courts system and a bill to reform the law on rape.

The economic strategy will focus on lowering business tax and easing regulation.

School meals
A free school meals scheme will be piloted

More planned legislation will also support Glasgow's bid to hold the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

The Scottish Government also intends to act, without the need for formal legislation, to raise the age for buying tobacco from 16 to 18, scrap prescription charges for those with chronic conditions and pilot a free school meals scheme.

Mr Salmond said his government was "ready, willing and able" to work within the current Scottish Parliament to improve the lives of everyone in the country.

He added: "Years of underperformance tells us that the status quo is not capable of delivering the step change in Scottish life we all want to see. That much, I think, is accepted to some extent by at least every member.

"I ask that we remain focused not just on this year or next - but on the country we can be, the country we should be, the country we must be."

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