‘ It has maded a huge dif­fer­ence to

● For­mer First Min­is­ter Jack Mcconnell re­flects on the achieve­ments of the par­lia­ment

The Scotsman - - SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT -

The Scot­tish Par­lia­ment has “def­i­nitely made a huge dif­fer­ence in peo­ple’s lives”, for­mer first min­is­ter Lord Mcconnell has said.

In an in­ter­view to mark 20 years of de­vo­lu­tion, the Labour peer, who was first min­is­ter from 2001 to 2007, said the es­tab­lish­ment of a Scot­tish Par­lia­ment en­abled tar­geted ac­tion to deal with long- term prob­lems in the coun­try.

He said there would have been “ri­ots in the pubs” if West­min­ster had used Scot­land as a test case for the smok­ing ban, brought in north of the Bor­der in 2006 and fol­lowed by the rest of the UK in 2007.

En­act­ing the leg­is­la­tion at Holy­rood meant peo­ple in Scot­land got on board, he said.

“The Scot­tish Par­lia­ment is not only good for democ­racy

be­cause the de­ci­sions are made in Scot­land for Scot­land but also more de­ci­sions can be made,” Lord Mcconnell said.

“If the smok­ing ban had been an ex­per­i­ment by West­min­ster in Scot­land there would have been ri­ots in the streets – or ri­ots in the pubs – but be­cause the de­ci­sion was made in the best in­ter­ests of the peo­ple of Scot­land, ev­ery­one, even if they didn’t like it, went along with it and they helped make it work.”

He added: “I think it’s re­ally im­por­tant to look back at what Scot­land was like in 1999.

“We had a world­wide rep­u­ta­tion as a un­healthy coun­try, de­spite all our great nat­u­ral as­sets, and that was best epit­o­mised by the high lev­els of smok­ing and sec­ond- hand smoke.

“We had a bad rep­u­ta­tion, par­tic­u­larly in Glas­gow, for knife crime and violence.

“We had the sec­ond­worst record for re­cy­cling in Europe, be­hind Turkey, and our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem’s morale had been at the bot­tom for a decade or more.

“If you look at it in that con­text ... Par­lia­ment has def­i­nitely made a huge dif­fer­ence in peo­ple’s lives.

“Th­ese four ar­eas are ar­eas of real, long- term change.”

The for­mer MSP said: “Au­ton­o­mous gov­ern­ment within the UK has given us a chance to take ac­tion that is spe­cific in deal­ing with longterm Scot­tish prob­lems.”

He said an ex­am­ple of this was the Fresh Tal­ent Ini­tia­tive, which he launched as first min­is­ter in 2004 to en­cour­age peo­ple to come to live and work in Scot­land Par­lia­ment P and the Scot­tish Ex­ec­u­tive E ( Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment) was w passed by the UK Par­lia­ment and a re­ceived royal assent on

19 1 Novem­ber. The Con­sul­ta­tive Steer­ing S Group on the Scot­tish to re­verse a de­clin­ing pop­u­la­tion.

“That would never have been done un­der the old sys­tem of West­min­ster gov­ern­ment, as a spe­cific is­sue for Scot­land, “he added.

“We went from a de­clin­ing pop­u­la­tion to an in­creas­ing pop­u­la­tion from about 2004 on­ward.”

Ques­tioned about what might have been done dif­fer­ently, he said he would have liked to have won the

“If the smok­ing ban had been an ex­per­i­ment by West­min­ster in Scot­land there would have been ri­ots in the streets” “I hope that lo­cal gov­ern­ment is stronger and in a much bet­ter place, rais­ing more money of its own and hav­ing more pow­ers”

0 Lord Mcconnell was First Min­is­ter from 2001 to 2007

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