Thursday’s First Minister’s Questions was a departure from the norm, as Deputy First Minister John Swinney stepped in for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who was attending the opening of a memorial for military veterans who served in Afghanistan.
Questions were opened by the Scottish Conservatives’ Ruth Davidson who asked whether, during the 2014 Independence Referendum, the Scottish Government considered oil as a ‘bonus’ or as the ‘basis’ of independence.
Mr Swinney said that oil is a bonus which brings £300m revenues for the UK and has propped up the UK economy for many years.
Ms Davidson responded by asserting that the economic basis of the SNP independence argument is ‘bogus’. Mr Swinney countered by arguing that oil has been a huge bonus for the UK over 40 years and pointed out that the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, said there would be a £200m oil bonus if Scots voted no and promised that Scotland would stay in the EU – all ‘bogus’ pledges.
Labour’s Kezia Dugdale also focussed on the oil sector, arguing that the OBR has confirmed that oil and gas actually cost the Treasury money last year. She questioned why the Scottish Government is refusing to “tell people the truth”.
Mr Swinney side stepped the question and accused the Labour Party of joining up with the Conservatives. He advised Scottish Labour to think long and hard about how it has ‘enabled’ the Tory party to govern the UK.
Ms Dugdale then asked why the Scottish Government won’t scrap their plans for a new Independence Referendum in light of the ‘sums not adding up’. Mr Swinney accused Ms. Dugdale of not being on Scotland’s side.
Patrick Harvey of the Scottish Green Party then turned to the Draft Climate Change Plan, which he described as ‘barely half baked’.
Mr Swinney pointed out that the draft was published on the 19th of January and had been rigorously scrutinised to allow the fulfilment of the Climate Change targets the Government has set for itself.
Mr Harvey then said that he regrets the Scottish Government’s response to the UK Budget, where they criticised the lack of UK support to the fossil fuel sector. Mr Swinney voiced his surprise that Mr Harvey thought he would be keeping his criticism of the UK Chancellor to only one issue and added that not enough is being done to support the renewable energy potential in the Western Isles.
Questions from other Members included queries on sectarianism, life expectancy, and suicide prevention.