Iain Gray in parting shot at ‘all mouth and no trousers’ Alex Salmond
ALEX Salmond was accused of not being “big enough to take responsibility” for a sharp rise in Scotland’s unemployment by outgoing Labour leader Iain Gray during a bad-tempered session of First Minister’s Questions yesterday.
Mr Gray made the strongly-worded attack in his final FMQs as Labour leader, after official figures showed Scotland’s unemployment figure rose from 7.5 per cent to 8.5 per cent, or to 229,000 people, over a three-month period. It is now higher than the UK’s 8.3 per cent rate.
Mr Gray also accused Mr Salmond of being “all mouth and no trousers” and suggested he was promoting the independence referendum at the expense of tackling unemployment.
However, the First Minister told the Labour leader that he had “greatly enjoyed” the “weekly jousts” at Holyrood with him, as he insisted that Scotland was faring better than the rest of the UK over unemployment,
Mr Salmond said: “Under this SNP government, 72 per cent of the time Scottish unemployment has been better than the UK average; 87 per cent of the time, including this month, Scottish employment has been better than the UK average.
“Can we not in this last exchange … agree that we should have in this parliament the responsibility for bringing jobs and prosperity to our people?”
Mr Gray said that the action of the UK government “is wrong and it is not working”, but he also attacked the SNP’s policies on unemployment, which he said were not working either.
He said: “That is probably because in essence they are doing the same thing – they are slashing the public sector and slashing capital investment.
“It was only three months ago that the First Minister was touring the TV studios boasting, ‘Scotland is the only place in the islands where unemployment is falling, therefore there must be something distinctive happening which is not happening in economies elsewhere in these islands. Plan MacB has a great deal to recommend it.’
“Now he says the problem lies somewhere else. He loves to claim the credit when things go well. Is he big enough to take responsibility when things go wrong?”
Mr Gray also said that Mr Salmond had claimed the independence referendum – scheduled to take place in the second half of this five-year parliamentary term – was the answer to Scotland’s economic problems.
He said: “If he is really telling those unemployed Scots that his referendum is the solution they need, then why is he telling them they have to wait three, four or five years for it?
“I saw that Alex Salmond arrived in China last week without his trews. Is that not a perfect metaphor for him and his whole government? All mouth and no trousers.”
Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie also pressed Mr Salmond on the economy and employment.
Ms Davidson asked why the Council of Economic Advisers, who she described as Mr Salmond’s “wise men” had not met for 14 months.
Mr Rennie said Mr Gray was right over unemployment, and accused Mr Salmond of having a “heads I win, tails you lose” approach to taking responsibility for the number of Scots out of work.
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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