Jim Wallace answers your questions
The leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Jim Wallace, denies his party are "policy eating surrender monkeys", discusses his green credentials and defends his record in government.
Labour clearly dominated the last executive to such an extent it was difficult to see what difference the Lib Dems made - what is the point in voting Lib Dem?
I think we made significant differences in the last four years. The abolition of tuition fees and the reintroduction of student grants came from the Liberal Democrats. Free personal care for the elderly was pushed within government by the Liberal Democrats.
If you want the proof of that, Labour governing on its own at Westminster has not done any of these things. We have been the ingredient in government that has made a difference. Free concessionary off-peak travel in local areas for pensioners, that was a Liberal Democrat manifesto promise that was carried through.
The fact that now - better late than never - we've shifted the focus for treating patients from waiting lists to waiting times is a step in the right direction. I still wish we could get waiting times lower. At least now we're focusing on the right target and arguably lost some valuable time because the Labour Party were hooked on a waiting list pledge they had made in the 1997 election.
I've always taken the view that if you're a patient waiting for an operation you'd rather know when you're going to get the operation rather than the scant consolation of knowing how many people are waiting alongside you. We're now properly focusing on waiting times and it was the Liberal Democrats who argued for that. Health promotion was argued for by Liberal Democrats.
The interesting point is that if you take the Labour Party's three main election posters: pre-school for three and four-year-olds whose parents want it was a joint commitment in both our manifestos; the concessionary travel for pensioners was our manifesto commitment; free personal care for the elderly was what we argued for. And Jack McConnell has said his proudest moment was the abolition of tuition fees.
Even the Labour Party themselves accept that some of the best achievements of the past four years were Liberal Democrat initiatives.
How can the Lib Dems make such a play for green votes, when Ross Finnie, the Minister for Rural Affairs in the last Executive, has presided over so many unpopular, unsustainable and environmentally damaging actions, such as continuation of GM crop trials?
The reason we can claim good green credentials is that it is not necessarily our own proclamation. Friends of the Earth did an audit of the parties' manifestos and scored us at 8 out of 10 for our green credentials, compared to 5 for the SNP, 4 for Labour and zero for the Conservative Party. I don't think anyone would question Friends of the Earth's independence. Certainly no-one's ever suggested they're a branch office of the Liberal Democrats.
In terms of GM crops there was European law that Ross Finnie was obliged to follow. Now that field trials have taken place, it is Liberal Democrats who have argued that the national debate which Margaret Beckett and DEFRA have been proclaiming should not be concluded until the results of the field trials have been published.
Ross Finnie has argued successfully within government for the local authority recycling target to go from 6 per cent as it is today to 25 per cent by 2006. As a party we make a commitment to 55 per cent by 2020.
Ross Finnie, as environment minister, has driven forward a target of 40 per cent of electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2020. That last target is far more challenging than what we've heard from the Labour government alone in Westminster.
We can point to positive things that have happened in the past four years as well as a manifesto that doesn't compartmentalise green issues but rather sees environmental issues as pervading every area of policy.
Stewart Kirkpatrick: Is being green part of your key appeal?
I think it is a distinctive Liberal Democrat appeal. I think if people are serious about seeing green action in government then the Liberal Democrats are the only credible party to vote for.
The Green Party itself is not going to be in government. We credibly could be in government after 1 May. I think if people are interested in seeing sustainable, environmental policies pervading every area of policy then the Liberal Democrat vote is the only credible vote.
Would you be prepared to enter into a coalition with the SNP?
The position of the party, which the party endorsed at its conference in Aberdeen earlier this year, is that we will first and foremost talk to the party with the greatest number of seats. That's a proper response to the electorate, who after all decide which is going to be the largest party.
Quite frankly nothing in any of the opinion polls, even if you put the normal health warnings on them, suggests that the SNP is going to have the largest number of seats.
The most recent polls suggest it's the Liberal Democrats who are going up and the SNP that are falling back.
I think it's a hypothetical question.
If the SNP, hypothetically, were to be the largest party, which I doubt very much, we would see if we could reach a programme for government with them. I think a referendum on independence would be very difficult. It's perfectly legitimate for the SNP to call for that. But Thursday's vote is a referendum on independence. If people want independence they know what to do: vote SNP. If the SNP don't get the support they can't expect us - or indeed any other party opposed to independence - to supply them with a majority for it.
What's your minimum price for a coalition? Are there any policies you'll always stick by or are you "policy eating surrender monkeys"?
Our position is that every policy that appears in our manifesto is there for a purpose and a reason. I want to implement as much of this manifesto as possible.
It would be crass negotiating tactics to start trading in policies before polling day. If every party is a minority no-one then has a mandate to implement 100 per cent of their manifesto. What we've got to do is find as much common ground as possible and build on it.
There are some very clear themes that we would find very important in government. We should not just be raising standards in education but we should be looking at a system that puts the pupil centre stage in a system that meets the needs of pupils rather than fitting pupils into the straitjacket of the system.
We want to see much greater emphasis on health promotion and prevention of illness, not just a health service that tries to cure illness.
We must have an enterprising economy where enterprise is seen as something that is important in schools as well to encourage young people to have the self confidence to run their own business.
We must have effective ways of cutting crime and a programme for government that does reflect the importance of environmental sustainability.
The other issue that is very important to us, though I accept that it doesn't rank highly in voters' priorities, is reform of the voting system for local government.
It's a question of democracy. At the last local elections 46 per cent of people in Midlothian voted Labour but the Labour Party got 94 per cent of the seats. 31 per cent voted SNP and it got no seats. I don’t consider that democratic.
It is important because it is about opening up local government and making local government more accountable. As someone who has a very strong belief in local democracy - I'd like to see local democracy refreshed and renewed in this country - I believe a change in the voting system is key.
Stewart Kirkpatrick: Without revealing which of your policies would be up for negotiation is there one that you would mark out as the sine qua non, the one of which you could say to the electorate "if we are in government this will definitely happen"?
I think it's fair to say the policy on the changes to the voting system is in a different category because we already have as an executive published a bill. The Local Governance Bill has been published. It includes a system of voting, the single transferable vote, which was widely supported in the consultation. I frankly don't see how we could retreat from the position of a bill that's already been published.
I think it's a matter for the Labour Party to say how they could possibly try and justify a system that produces such undemocratic results. I took some encouragement yesterday morning when I heard one of the leading lights in Labour's "first past the post" campaign basically effectively saying that if "first past the post" goes then so be it.
I think there's an unstoppable momentum towards PR in elections in 2007.
Which of the three Labour First Ministers you've worked with was the best?
They all had their own strengths. For example I don’t think Jack McConnell would have been the best person to be First Minister in May/June 1999 but that doesn't mean I wish to detract from his achievements as First Minister.
Everyone will always believe that Donald Dewar, the father of devolution, will always have a special place. In saying that, I don’t want to detract from what I achieved in partnership with Henry McLeish and Jack McConnell.
Because Donald was the first First Minister - and I worked with him in the devolution referendum - I think he will be seen as the person who gets most credit for delivering devolution.
Stewart Kirkpatrick: How would you contrast Henry McLeish and Jack McConnell?
It's one of these things where you work along with people and you don't sit down and analyse where they're different.
People talk about how Donald and I had known each other for 20 years, known each other in the commons and worked together on the referendum. People also forget that Henry and I worked together in the consultative steering group which did a lot of the blueprint of the parliament. When Jack was general secretary of the Labour Party he and I worked very closely in the Constitutional Convention in its final stages.
With both Henry and Jack I had a track record of working with them, and working with them in the context of a Scottish parliament. I've never tried to analyse them - though I might when I write my memoirs.
In all three cases, I've worked with people who want the Scottish Parliament to work, people who are committed to having a Scottish parliament within the United Kingdom and who look for solutions when problems arise without pistols drawn at dawn.
It's that constructive approach I've enjoyed with all three First Ministers that I believe has served Scotland well over the past four years.
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