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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 September 2007, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
Salmond gives commitment pledge
Alex Salmond

First Minister Alex Salmond has been accused by opposition leaders of moving away from key SNP election pledges.

He came under pressure during question time over bringing in the 2,000 first time home buyers' grant and legally-binding NHS waiting times.

But Mr Salmond said he would work through all the SNP manifesto commitments over the next four years.

The first minister said he would consult on waiting times, adding that action had been taken in other areas.

Conservative leader Annabel Goldie attacked Mr Salmond for giving criminals a "soft option" of community sentences, claiming he was more interested in emptying jails.

Nicol Stephen
Will clinical decisions by Scotland's doctors now be influenced by the shadow of Scotland's lawyers?
Nicol Stephen
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader

Her Liberal Democrat opposite number, Nicol Stephen, suggested the binding waiting times would introduce US-style litigation to Scotland, with a lawyer by every bedside.

Acting Labour leader Cathy Jamieson challenged Mr Salmond on whether he would deliver on manifesto promises, including the home grants, ending PPP, freezing council tax and cutting class sizes.

"Whilst I do accept the first minister will require a parliamentary majority for legislation, there are a whole range of things for which a parliamentary majority in that context would not necessarily be required to keep all the manifesto commitments," she said.

The first minister, who accused Ms Jamieson of taking a negative attitude to the Nationalists' programme for government, replied: "The SNP are going to work through all our manifesto commitments over the four-year term of this administration.

Meaningful guarantees

"While Cathy Jamieson was saying the programme contained very little, the British Medical Association, the RCN, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, Rape Crisis Scotland and the Law Society of Scotland were welcoming the legislative programme and looking forward to productive communication as this government implements its manifesto over the next four years," he said.

Attacking the Nationalists on prisons, Ms Goldie asked the first minister if he had the "political will" to build another prison, should public protection demand it.

"The Scottish Conservatives are committed to building the prison capacity that Scotland needs to contain those that the courts decide should be in jail," she said.

"By contrast, the first minister, with his proposals to give burglars, muggers and others the softer option of community sentences, is clearly more interested in emptying our jails than in protecting the public."

Annabel Goldie
Annabel Goldie criticised "soft" community sentences

Mr Salmond stated the Scottish Government's announcement of a new public sector-run jail to replace Low Moss, at Bishopbriggs near Glasgow, and plans to build a "super-prison" to replace ageing facilities at Aberdeen and Peterhead.

"We made the very, very welcome decision to build a new state-of-the-art prison in the north east of Scotland to replace the Victorian facilities in Aberdeen and Peterhead," he said.

Defending against the Liberal Democrat leader's attack, Mr Salmond said legally binding waiting times were aimed at giving patients meaningful guarantees after the "scandal" of the last administration's hidden waiting lists.

Mr Stephen said: "The SNP made this promise because it sounded good - a great sound bite, but the reality is now clear."

He asked: "Will final decisions on treatments be taken out of the hands of doctors and will clinical decisions by Scotland's doctors now be influenced by the shadow of Scotland's lawyers?"

Mr Salmond said the system was based on the Norwegian health service where it worked extremely well, adding: "This initiative is patient-centred, it puts the patient first."


SEE ALSO
Salmond outlines government plans
05 Sep 07 |  Scotland

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