Page last updated at 13:43 GMT, Thursday, 9 February 2012

First minister's questions

Alex Salmond defended the awarding of contracts for the new Forth crossing to overseas firms during first minister's questions on 9 February 2012.

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont demanded an immediate review of the "disgraceful" decision to award a contract to supply steel for the new Forth crossing to China.

Ms Lamont claimed the first minister had gone to China and "pulled off a master deal", telling MSPs: "The Chinese got an £800m steel contract and we got two pandas."

She raised the issue after it was announced that Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors, the consortium responsible for delivering the principal contract for the crossing, had struck deals with "major international steel suppliers in China and the EU".

However, Mr Salmond told the Scottish Labour leader that the steel contract only represents 5%-10% of the total value of the Forth replacement crossing principle contract which is is worth £790m.

He added: "I'm not sure if Johann Lamont knows this but we don't actually have manufacturing fabrication facilities for steel in Scotland, thanks to the degradation of past Westminster governments."

The first minister said 118 of the 155 subcontracts on the project had gone to firms in Scotland, while Scottish companies would benefit from 870 of the 1,041 supply orders.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson criticised the first minister for comparing a BBC employee to a "Nazi" after his planned appearance on a sport show ahead of yesterday's Six Nations Scotland-England rugby clash was cancelled on political grounds.

Mr Salmond compared one of the corporation's advisers to a "Gauleiter", the term given to provincial governors in Germany under Hitler.

It also means someone in authority who behaves in an overbearing manner.

The first minister said the term as defined in the dictionary meant an "overbearing wielder of petty authority" and insisted it was used in public parlance a number of times.

Ms Davidson said she hoped in his meeting with Lord Patten, the head of the BBC Trust, he would focus on "broadcasting jobs, careers and livelihoods" and not "waste a second of time on this petty side show".

Mr Salmond hit back saying the reasons for the BBC withdrawing the invitation were not petty and had to be confronted, asking if David Cameron would be prevented from appearing on Olympic coverage in London.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie asked why an extension of Scotland's freedom of information system was being blocked excluding housing associations, PFI projects and some public bodies.

The first minister insisted Scotland's freedom of information system was substantially better than those elsewhere and that now was not the moment to extend it at this difficult time.

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