Page last updated at 13:31 GMT, Thursday, 13 May 2010 14:31 UK

SNP seeks Labour unity on economy

From Democracy live: First minister's questions

First Minister Alex Salmond has urged Labour at Holyrood to back his plan to secure measures from the new UK government to aid economic recovery.

He said Scotland's government and main opposition party should unite to make the demands of the Tory/Lib Dem administration.

But Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray accused SNP ministers of presiding over severe health service cuts.

He said NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde was planning to shed 1,200 posts.

The health authority, Scotland's largest, later said it planned to make the cuts over 18 months without compulsory redundancies, after an investment programme meant it could provide the same standard of care with less staff.

The exchanges, during first minister's question time at Holyrood, came the day after Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed his earlier pledge to visit Scotland within days of winning the election.

Is the first minister shameless or just clueless?
Iain Gray
Scottish Labour leader

Mr Salmond told Mr Gray: "When I meet the prime minister in the very near future, wouldn't it be a tremendous asset if I was able to say that the Scottish government and the leading opposition party in Scotland were united in wanting to see capital acceleration, borrowing powers, the £180m fossil fuel levy, the Olympic consequentials that should be running into the Scottish economy - all of the things that were denied us by a Labour administration in Westminster.

"But now, unencumbered by the guilt of office at Westminster, surely our opposition leader can join with the government and ask on behalf of Scotland that these things are done to revive the economy and protect our vital public services."

Mr Gray accused the SNP - as well as the Tories and Liberal Democrats - of wanting to cut vital, frontline Scottish services such as the NHS.

'Girn and whinge'

The Scottish Labour leader told MSPs that unions were presented with NHS Greater Glasgow's job reduction plan on Thursday morning.

He said more than half the posts under threat were those held by nurses and midwives.

And Mr Gray - who also mocked the SNP for failing to hit their 20 MP target in the election, where the party won six seats - said health cuts were also on the cards in Lothian and Ayrshire and Arran.

He said of the first minister: "When he told this chamber he would protect the NHS, was he covering up these cuts, or does he just not know what's going on - is the first minister shameless or just clueless?"

Brian Taylor
Brian Taylor
Political editor

And with one round, he was free. One round of voting, that is.

Labour's Iain Gray seemed decidedly liberated at first minister's questions today.

For why? For this reason: he no longer has to act as defence counsel for the UK Labour government, rebutting taunts from the FM.

Isn't defeat wonderful?

Mr Salmond said NHS spending across Scotland this year was £264m higher, despite a £500m "cut" handed down by the last UK government.

And he also accused Labour of "ducking" the opportunity of forming an anti-Tory coalition government.

Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie urged Mr Salmond to work with Mr Cameron and welcome Tory policies to scrap ID cards, keep winter fuel allowance and increase pensions.

She said: "Scotland has been badly served by the first minister's politics of gripe and grievance over the past three years and his attitude has damaged his relationship between our governments and our parliaments.

"Will he work with the new politics and abandon his girn and his whinge?"

Mr Salmond replied: "Where we have polices in the interest of the Scottish people, then this government will support them, but Annabel Goldie would also expect at all times this government will advance the cause of Scotland."

The first minister also welcomed a pledge by the Westminster government to end the detention of children at the Dungavel immigration centre in Lanarkshire.

Scottish Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott, whose party colleague Danny Alexander has been appointed Scottish secretary, told MSPs: "Labour had 13 years to do that, and yet as their term in office ended in March, we saw reports of six-year-old children being taken in their school uniforms from their Glasgow school to Dungavel - wasn't that a shameful end to a Labour government?"



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