Salmond ‘either misled us or he is incompetent’

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ALEX Salmond has been accused of being either incompetent or of misleading MSPs over claims college funding had increased.

The allegation came from Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont as she demanded to know whether Mr Salmond’s Cabinet had discussed cuts to college funding.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Ms Lamont asked whether other ministers, such as finance secretary John Swinney, had known about the reduction in college budgets for 2012-13.

She said: “Are we being led to believe that this was not discussed at Cabinet and, if not, why not?

“It goes to the heart of this Scottish Government’s pretence of competence: keep people in the dark, assert the opposite of the truth and hope that no-one will notice.

“The worrying thing about all of this isn’t that the First Minister allegedly got one specific figure wrong. If we are to believe him, it is that he didn’t know if spending in Scotland’s colleges was going up or down.

“Which is worse? The First Minister is so incompetent he doesn’t know when spending is going up or down, or that he deliberately misled the people of Scotland and denied the impact of his choices on the workforce in the colleges and communities right across Scotland?”

However, Mr Salmond called on MSPs to accept his apology over the college funding row, which he insisted had been made with “good grace”.

He said: “I apologised for my mistake that came from a briefing that suggested college funding had increased.

“I read out the wrong figure from a briefing paper – that’s the explanation.”

The First Minister said that other parties had been guilty of failing to acknowledge their own mistakes, even invoking Labour’s position on the war in Iraq.

He said: “These questions, and this apparent position of Johann Lamont, where she never makes mistakes, is in severe variance with the fact.

“The difference is this: that when a mistake was made, both myself and the minister of education apologised to this chamber and corrected the mistake.

“The Labour Party never corrects their mistakes. They don’t correct the mistakes they make on a regular basis in this chamber.”