‘ It has maded a huge difference to
● Former First Minister Jack Mcconnell reflects on the achievements of the 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