This Parliament cannot be a prisoner of the past

kezia dugdaleScottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale responded in the Scottish Parliament today to the nomination of Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister. Here is the full text of her speech.


There is more that unites us than divides us across this chamber and today every party in this place will wish Nicola Sturgeon well and offer her congratulations as she begins a fresh term as First Minister.

It is the votes of MSPs in this chamber that officially nominate her for the office and title of First Minister of Scotland again today, but it was the votes of the people of Scotland that really put her there.

Nicola Sturgeon will be acutely aware of the responsibility on her shoulders. She is the leader of the first Scottish Government to achieve three terms in office and she is the most powerful First Minister that this country has ever seen. With the mandate that the people have given her, I hope she uses it to be bold.

I hope she has the courage to change course. To use her power to challenge vested interests, to stand up for the majority and to do everything she can to make Scotland a country where your destiny in life is determined not by your postcode but by your potential.

Presiding Officer, the Scottish people have delivered a result in this election that has matched a strong Scottish Government with a strong Scottish Parliament to keep it in check. The people have changed the balance of power in this Parliament and they have deprived the government of a majority. That means an even greater responsibility on the First Minister to build consensus and to reach out to parties that represent the wide and varied interests of people across Scotland.

And each time she reaches out, she’ll be faced with a choice. A fork in the road. She can look to the left where she’ll find allies in progressive parties, who believe in the power of government to transform lives, or she can look right, to conservative forces who ask government to do less and cut more.

I hope and expect the First Minister to use her mandate to be radical and to use all the powers available to change the lives of the people who live in our great country.

In navigating minority government, the First Minister might want to take a leaf out of her predecessor’s book when he said: “The Parliament will be one in which the Scottish Government relies on the merits of its legislation, not the might of a Parliamentary majority.” For my part, I will take some advice from one of my predecessors, Donald Dewar. When he was nominated as First Minister, he said: “We are indeed a country with a past. The past has shaped us, but our task now is to shape the future.”

Since Donald was First Minister we have written new chapters in Scotland’s story. We have seen the parties in power change, our Parliament has come of age, and we have had a referendum which has changed the face of our nation forever. Whatever roads we may choose to go down in the future, this Parliament cannot be a prisoner of the past. We have to take the best of what we have learned and use it to take our country forward. Our job, as at the birth of this Parliament, is to shape the future.

Let us be inspired by our past, let us not be bound by it.

For the next five years, this chamber should echo with the same energy and passion that we saw in 2014. It should be fuelled by the same hope and expectation that people felt when they voted both yes and no.

And it should be the place where we don’t just debate the kind of society we want to build, but the place where we lay its foundations. And that’s a responsibility we all carry.

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36 thoughts on “This Parliament cannot be a prisoner of the past

  1. Will some kind Yoon please explain to me the advantage of having a Parliament limited to some powers and some methods of raising revenues in relative terms to having a Parliament with full powers and full revenue raising capabilities?

    1. The idea that there should be different levels of government, and that it’s appropriate to have different powers at different levels of government, is surely not so outwith your understanding that you need it explained?

      Scots want, as expressed in a mass-participation democratic vote, to be part of the United Kingdom. It makes sense for there to be a level of government covering the whole of that United Kingdom making policy where we have a shared interest – in fairness and equality, for example, which is often better enforced at as large a level as possible. Indeed we have pooled power over significant aspects of fairness and equality by signing up to be bound by such instruments as the ECHR and the UN Declaration of Human Rights. We recognise that sharing those commitments works best when as many people as possible are under their umbrella.

      At the other end of the scale, no-one would sensibly suggest that local planning decisions should be decided by the UN or a European body, and nor indeed would it be sensible to have such distant control over local issues from either Westminster or Holyrood. It is appropriate for those powers to lie with democratically elected local government. Indeed some may argue that even current councils are too distant from local decision-making, especially in rural areas like the Highlands, and more power should be invested in community councils to make such choices.

      In between these extremes is a whole range of decision-making, and some sits appropriately at council level, some at Scotland level, some at UK level and some at EU level or higher. This isn’t outrageous. It isn’t unfair. It’s an entirely sensible and logical way to look at things. Powers should sit where they are most appropriate.

  2. So you think the UK Parliament would be better served having less powers authority and taxation controls? Who do you suggest they cede them to?

    1. As a matter of fact I think we need to stop moving powers around on a national level for a good few decades until we’ve established how well the current settlement works. Constitutional change should not be happening constantly – it should be rare, and careful, and democratic.

      1. So what suddenly happened to “appropriate” levels of Government?

          1. Because we’re still suffering the aftershocks of the referendum. Things should now calm down. For the good of all of us.

  3. “Powers should sit where they are most appropriate.”

    So why is it appropriate for the Rep of Ireland to have the power of National Independent authority and not Scotland? Why cant Scotland have the same tiers of “appropriate” authority as the other Nations within the UN?

    1. Who says Scotland “can’t”? I’m saying Scottish voters, in the highest turnout plebiscite of the last century and after a lengthy and exhaustive debate, decided that Scotland should remain part of the UK. It is therefore highly appropriate that the UK parliament, to which we all send representatives, retains suitable powers.

      Why do you so fervently disagree with powers residing at one level of government but not at levels above and below it?

      1. It’s powers that should reside at national level being split between two govts, with one retaining all the really meaningful powers and holding the purse strings of the other that I disagree with.

        It is complicated, expensive, unnecessary and detrimental to the junior partner.

        1. All the really meaningful powers? Holding the purse strings? You cannot honestly make that argument. The Scottish Parliament has powers to set taxes to raise revenue and vary social security to support those in need; it has full control over health, education, the law, transport and local government. You cannot possibly honestly claim that the UK parliament retains “all the really meaningful powers”.

          Yours is an argument rooted in an already-confirmed belief in independence, and you then twist the facts to suit your preferred outcome.

          1. Except the reality is the Scottish Parliament only has the powers to transfer revenue from the Barnett block grant to locally raised taxation. It doesn’t have the power to raise more unless it borrows.
            Any increase in local income taxation in Scotland will see a proportional reduction in the block grant.
            Labour had the opportunity to raise or lower income taxation by 3% and chose not to do so in 8 years. Labour knew they would gain nothing from doing so as the block grant reduction would rebalance the extra income to zero.

            Scotland still hands over 60% of its revenue potential to Westminster. That’s not power that’s a lack of power.

          2. That’s simply untrue. The Scottish Parliament sets income tax rates and gets the benefit if it raises them and the cut if it lowers them. The block grant would NOT be adjusted. You are peddling a plain lie about how these powers work. Stop doing it.

          3. I’m not twisting any facts. It’s a simple truth that the vast bulk of Holyrood’s budget is set by Westminster and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

            The limited tax raising powers Holyrood will get are almost useless within the unitary UK state as, without the full control of all revenue raising powers, it is impossible to tailor a coherent, national fiscal framework that works to Scotland’s benefit that is not a hostage to the (often malicious) whim of Westminster and the relative ease of avoidance the unitary state facilitates.

            You will disagree but, to me, that is simply the reality of Scotland under the Union.

            You talk of the abilities to “manage” much of Scotland’s services and welfare (though by no means all) but, without the ability to fund them as we would wish with the afore-mentioned coherent fiscal framework, they too could suffer at the whim of a Westminster govt albeit indirectly (budget reductions mean something has to give).

            While power over the economy and foreign affairs remain at Westminster, Scotland will always be struggling with one hand tied behind its back and blindfold. While others decide the macro-economic environment in which Scotland must operate and which of our neighbours we can talk to, when we can talk to them and what we can talk about, Scotland will NEVER prosper as it could.

            You will disagree, fair enough. But none of the unionist rhetoric about the benefits of a devolutionary Scotland within the unitary UK state will ever be anything but specious to me and many, many, many others.

          4. So your response is simply that you want independence and nothing will persuade you it isn’t in our interest.

            That’s a position, but it’s not an argument.

          5. That is your opinion Mr Hothersall. I could easily bat it back to you and say you don’t want independence and nothing will persuade you it is in our interest …. a position not an argument. But where would that get us?

          6. I have long been on record that my position on independence is based on what I think is in the best interests of the most people. Indeed I came to the referendum debate without a fixed view but with the clear assertion that unionism is not a Labour value. I looked at the evidence and came to an almost immediate conclusion that the proposal would damage lives and should be opposed. If the evidence underlying that assessment changed, I would reassess my view.

          7. What makes your opinion any more valid than that of any of the many, many, many people who went through the same process but came to the conclusion independence was the best way of guaranteeing prosperity for Scotland and it’s peoples?

            It is only your opinion and it no more and no less valid than those who disagree with it.

          8. I never claimed it was more valid. I was responding to your suggestion that my view was unchangeable.

            Guaranteeing prosperity? No rational evidence-based approach could possibly reach that conclusion.

      2. The Union says we cant.

        If the referendum determined it was appropriate for Westminster to have a tier of Government over Scotland then surely it was inappropriate before we had the referendum?

        Why do you think its appropriate that Scotland England and Wales has a unique level of Government other countries would fight to the death to avoid?

  4. “That’s simply untrue. The Scottish Parliament sets income tax rates and gets the benefit if it raises them and the cut if it lowers them. The block grant would NOT be adjusted. You are peddling a plain lie about how these powers work. Stop doing it.”

    Of course its true! Any local income taxation raised in Scotland will immediately be proportionally reduced from the Barnett block grant! That’s a fact! And whats more you know it!

      1. In respect of Income Tax, Mike is describing the situation as it is now, while Duncan is describing what the situation will be from April 2017 – both are correct.

        The problem really is that devolution of Income Tax alone (of the major taxes) is pretty useless – all any ScotGov can realistically do with it, is put it up! The unionist parties know this, and it is the reason they agreed to its devolution in the first place.

        I remember the first budget of the Thatcher era – Chancellor Geoffrey Howe, announced large income tax cuts, but was only able to do so by significantly increasing other taxes (e.g. VAT from 8% to 15%).

        The Scottish Government will not have such power, and until it does, any attempts to bring about meaningful change will be futile.

        1. I’m amazed Duncan never got back to you to tell you how wrong you are (even though you’re not)

  5. “Because we’re still suffering the aftershocks of the referendum. Things should now calm down. For the good of all of us.”

    That’s not an answer which deals with your inconsistency between telling us we have appropriate levels of Government and the fact that its changing because it isn’t appropriate.
    In fact it seems nobody can agree on what is and isn’t appropriate even within parties.
    We have Labour members telling us Home rule of Devo max would be appropriate and others saying Devo minimum is enough.
    Labours constitutional position has never been stable nor appropriate. It adjusts itself based on the success or not of the SNPs popularity with the electorate.
    How sad is that for a political party?

    1. The levels of government are not changing. Powers at each level have been changing but should now settle down, for the good of all of us.

  6. How can you say on one hand the levels of Government are not changing yet the powers of Government at each level are?

    What is settling down Duncan? we are about a month away from another referendum which can alter a tier level of Government and its on a knifes edge. There is now parity in support of Scottish Independence relative to union with another Indy ref on the horizon.

    You’re still living your own little life of self delusion and deceit.

    1. The levels of government are not changing! The powers at different levels are. What is it about that statement you find difficult to understand? We voted on the change to levels of government you wanted, and we decided to stay part of the UK and keep the UK government. How often do you need to be asked to deal with that democratic decision by Scottish voters?

      The EU referendum is not on a knife edge, and there is not parity of support for independence in Scotland. These are things you are spinning to make yourselves feel better.

  7. There you go again Mr Hothersall; equating your opinion with irrefutable fact and dismissing all who disagree with you as irrational. Hubris is the sin most reviled by the Gods.

    I would argue that your position is irrational in that you have looked at the fiscal position of Scotland under the Union, seen it to be dire, and then bizarrely concluded the Union is good for Scotland. That, to me, is irrational. If the Union is so good for Scotland, why is the fiscal position not at least as good as the UK as a whole? Why is it not as good as even the worst off of our small, independent W. European neighbours?

    To therefore conclude that the Union is NOT good for Scotland is a perfectly rational action. That you wont recognise it as such argues against your claim to be changeable in your views. You can disagree with it, but you can’t say it is irrational.

    1. What an empty argument! You rightly point out that Scotland’s current economic state is not great, but then you inexplicably assign responsibility for that to the fact that it is part of the UK, and even more inexplicably suggest that not being part of the UK must make things better. It’s simply bizarre.

      1. All I have said is that it is a perfectly rational conclusion to come to. And hardly “bizarre”. Despite my acknowledgement you could come to a different conclusion, you refuse to reciprocate which, as I have said, undermines your claims to be open minded.

        To address the issue, if Scotland’s current and historic fiscal position (according to GERS which is wholly inaccurate) is so bad, and it is DESPITE being under the Union, what is your explanation for it? It can’t be the current Scottish govt as these Unionist claims go back decades and claim centuries of English largesse.

        Is it because, as Joanne Lamont claimed, Scots are genetically incapable of making good decisions? Are we just so handless that we need to be saved from ourselves? As I’ve said, our small, independent neighbours (including Iceland and Ireland) prosper to a far greater degree than Scotland under the Union. What do they have that Scotland doesn’t? Could it be the complete freedom to act in their own best interests?

        Your argument appears to be ” it’s always been, and always will be this way”. That shows a complete inability to see beyond the here and now and envision a different future where Scotland prospers as others do without supposed “English largesse”. It’s a view that condemns Scotland to the appearance of being an inveterate ” beggar nation” for eternity. It also leaves Scotland’s fiscal position a hostage to the whim of Westminster politicians as they argue that Scotland “gets to much” (whether it does or not) and demand the Block Grant be cut.

        Independence would not “guarantee” prosperity for Scotland, but it is certainly not responsible for Scotland’s current fiscal woes. The apparent poor fiscal position unionists cheer about is NOT an argument FOR the Union and unionists have yet to explain how it can be remedied under it.

        It is therefore completely “rational” to reach the conclusion that the Union has failed Scotland. It is also completely “rational” to view the “evidence” of our independent neighbours, and their freedom to act in their own best interests, and conclude that independence would be the “best way of guaranteeing prosperity”.

        You may disagree, but you can’t honestly say it is either ” irrational” or “bizarre”.

  8. Their is a simple way to solve this! Let’s have a look at who the Scottish people decided to elect to speak for them:

    Duncan’s labour have 1 MP and 24 Msp’s.

    The SNP have 56 MPs and 63 MSPs.

    So who do the Scottish voter’s actually believe is speaking the truth, well it doesn’t appear to be Duncan and the labour party.

    When will you and the labour party learn Duncan, Scotland has found you out and it is simple as that.

    Their that’s another comment you can delete.

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