Salmond: First 100 days in power
BY HAMISH MCDONELL
ALEX Salmond admitted yesterday that he would have to alter his plans for the first 100 days of a Nationalist government if the SNP was forced to operate as a minority government.
Two months ago, Mr Salmond published a document setting out exactly what he would do in his first 100 days in office.
Yesterday, he admitted that everything would have to change if he had to fight and persuade for every vote.
Some policies will remain the same, particularly those that do not need primary legislation - such as announcing the go-ahead of a new Forth crossing or negotiating with Westminster for money Mr Salmond believes is being withheld - but others will change.
"If we have a minority administration, quite clearly what you try to implement, not just in the first 100 days, but in the first year, you have to look at areas which will command widespread parliamentary support," he said.
"If there is legislation involved, you have to look at the areas which command more broad consensus in the parliament."
Mr Salmond did not say which issues would be postponed and which less contentious ones would be brought forward, but he did say his controversial plans to introduce a local income tax were always designed to be introduced towards the end of the parliament, not at the beginning.
"You would have to take from the programme those things which you think have a good chance of going through."
Nobody has tried to run a minority government in Scotland before and no-one has wanted to. Mr Salmond knows it will be incredibly difficult, not least because his party will not command a majority on the parliamentary bureau, which decides how parliamentary time is allocated. If the SNP cannot timetable its business and legislation when it wants, it will be at the mercy of the other parties.
Mr Salmond also cannot have Executive majorities on the parliamentary committees. This will leave any legislation open to radical change and even defeat in committee, before it gets to the floor of the parliament, where, once again, the SNP will not be able to control enough votes to get legislation through.
It will be uncharted territory for the SNP and for the other parties in the parliament. It is likely that Mr Salmond's opponents will be keen to inflict defeats on him and he will endeavour to secure as much cross-party support as possible - sometimes from the Greens and the Liberal Democrats and sometimes even from the Conservatives.
But Mr Salmond knows that this experiment in minority government has to work and the SNP has to be seen to be making achievements for the good of Scotland. Otherwise, his dreams of building credibility in government will be finished.
MR SALMOND has promised to publish a white paper on an independence referendum within his first 100 days in office. There is no reason why this cannot be done. In fact, civil servants are probably preparing it already.
MR SALMOND wants to cancel the Edinburgh Airport rail link. He can do this without legislation simply by not providing the money for it. He also intends to give the go-ahead for a new Forth crossing, probably a tunnel, as soon as possible. This may need parliamentary approval but that should not be a problem. This is likely to be the first issue where the SNP meets major opposition from the Greens.
OIL AND GAS
ALEX Salmond promised to ask Westminster for Scotland's share of oil and gas revenues within his first 100 days. There is nothing to stop him doing that, but his chances of success are slim and he might find his time is better spent in the daily battle to get votes in Holyrood than arguing with ministers in London. He also wants to start formal discussions with the Norwegian government for a North Sea Super Grid. He could do it without legislation, but it would cause problems with London.
ALEX Salmond also promised to go to Westminster and demand the return of £40 million in attendance allowances which, he claims, should be coming to Scotland. This is money that was coming north before the Executive introduced free care for the elderly.
Mr Salmond claims it should still come to Scotland. He can argue his case, but his chances of success are slim given that the Labour-led Executive already tried asking for the money back, without success.
MR SALMOND wants to slim down the Scottish Executive as his first act in government and there does not seem to be any reason why he should not be able to do this.
The current nine departments will be slimmed down to six: the Office of the First Minister, Finance and Sustainable Growth, Health and Wellbeing, Education and Skills, Justice and Rural Affairs.
This does not require legislation so should not prove a problem.
ALEX Salmond wants to introduce a Criminal Justice Bill for tougher community sentencing, which should get the backing of the Liberal Democrats, and he wants a full judicial inquiry into the Shirley McKie case, which he could do without parliamentary support. The Criminal Justice Bill is the sort of legislation the Conservatives might support. Annabel Goldie made it clear she would back the government on an "issue-by-issue" basis and policies such as sentencing will test this.
SPORT AND LEISURE
Mr Salmond has promised to publish plans for a full St Andrew's Day holiday and to convene meetings with stakeholders to see if Scotland can put out its own Olympic team. Neither of these will need legislation so he should be able to start the process on both. But both are likely to be hugely contentious and Mr Salmond runs the risk of the opposition parties using their time in the parliament to debate, and vote, on these issues. Defeat would not be binding but it would be embarrassing.
THE SNP promised to introduce a local healthcare bill, including direct elections for health boards, to phase out public private partnerships and abolish prescription charges. Mr Salmond will be able to publish these plans but he will have some trouble getting them through.
Everything depends on the Liberal Democrats, who might support the community health proposals but who will oppose the scrapping of the PPP scheme. This part might be delayed until later in the parliament.
THE administration's first real job will be to produce a budget, setting out where the money is going to come from for its spending plans, how much will come from efficiency savings and re-allocations.
The stakes on the budget are high. If it is voted down, the Executive will have no money - a move which would be tantamount to a no-confidence motion. But the other parties might agree to allow the SNP budget to go through, giving it the time to start to govern.
THE SNP has pledged to introduce a bill abolishing tuition fees. This should get the support of the Liberal Democrats, which would give it the backing it needs to go through parliament.
The SNP also wants to increase free nursery provision by 50 per cent and reduce class sizes to 18 in P1 to P3. Neither of these measures would be controversial and might even generate cross-parliamentary support, if they were seen to be improving Scotland generally.
On a personal note I would say that I was delighted that the SNP has won the election as I believe Scotland needs a fresh look at everything. That's not to say that I might agree with everything but at least this is a chance to look afresh at how Scotland governs itself.