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Political Editor Brian Taylor reports
"Jim Wallace believes he has succeeded in the Scottish coalition and Lib Dems want to translate that to Westminster"
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Wednesday, 16 May, 2001, 15:00 GMT
Lib Dems highlight Scots record
Jim Wallace
The Liberal Democrats highlighted their coalition record
The Liberal Democrats have pledged that they will extend their Scottish coalition policies to Westminster.

As the party launched its Scottish and UK manifestos entitled "Freedom, Justice and Honesty", it promised to raise income tax to pay for improved public services and to end the Barnett Formula which sets public spending levels in Scotland.

The manifesto also includes a pledge to abolish the post of Scottish secretary.

Instead the party said it would create a secretary of state for the nations and regions to replace the Westminster ministers responsible for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Scottish Lib Dem Leader Jim Wallace said the party would deliver what the people wanted, namely better public services.

Chancellor Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown said the Barnett Formula would not change

Mr Wallace said while the Lib Dems built on their achievements, gaps had begun to appear in the other parties' policies and they had embarked "on a wing on a prayer."

He told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme that his party had performed well in partnership within the Scottish coalition and as an effective check on Labour at Westminster.

"We are in partnership at Holyrood but opposition at Westminster which involves different responsibilities."

Mr Wallace said the party had achieved much in Scotland and pointed to the abolition of up-front tuition fees and free personal health care as its main triumphs.

He said they had wanted to "set out or own stall" and give the public a reason to vote for the Lib Dems.

Public recognition

The Scottish party leader added that the Conservatives had promised not to increase taxes after winning the 1992 general election but "then 23 came in the ensuing five years."

Mr Wallace said the Lib Dems had performed well in their duel cross-Border role, as coalition partner and opposition to Westminster government.

He said: "The public recognises we're in a changed constitutional environment."

Labour has reiterated the prime minister's pledge that it has no plans to change the Barnett formula, the system which allocates Scotland's share of public spending.

Chancellor Gordon Brown said there were no proposals to alter the system.

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon: SNP would scrap dental check-up charges

Mr Brown said government economic reforms such as the Working Families Tax Credit and the minimum wage meant that people in areas such as the north west and north east of England, were benefiting from higher living standards.

Politicians in both these areas have been increasingly vocal in their criticism of what they argue is the higher levels of public spending in Scotland.

At its media conference, the Scottish National Party has pledged to scrap dental check-up charges to improve the nation's health.

It has attacked Labour's record on health, criticising the Blair government for increasing waiting lists and fiddling the figures.

Red tape

Health spokesperson Nicola Sturgeon said removing charges for dental check-ups should help tackle Scotland's poor dental health record.

She said: "Scotland has an appalling dental health record. Half of all 5-year-olds have dental disease and less than half of all adults are registered with a dentist.

"There is evidence to suggest one of the reasons for this is dental check-up charges."

Scottish Labour attacked the SNP's economic strategy.

Labour's George Foulkes said: "With their uncosted promises and the cost of divorce, that means taxes are going to have to rise."

The Scottish Conservatives rebuked Labour for increasing red tape and bureaucracy on thousands of Scottish companies.

Speaking in Edinburgh Scottish Conservative Leader David McLetchie said: "There have been 3,800 new regulations on businesses introduced in the last four years.

"Only 20 of these have been scrapped. That's a measure of how much red tape and bureaucracy has grown."

Meanwhile, the Scottish Socialist Party has been unveiling its housing strategy for the general election.

Party leader Tommy Sheridan and Hugh Kerr were in Edinburgh to unveil the SSP housing policy.

It wants to see the cancellation of all local authority housing debt, an end to council house sales and widespread rent reductions.

The party says that the proposals would be paid for by extra borrowing and higher taxation.


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