Again, it was Nicol Stephen who made all the running at First Minister's Questions yesterday - this time pointing out the SNP’s hypocrisy on their policy for the prison transport system.
“This week, the SNP Government privatised the prison transport service for young people for the first time. It gave a major new contract to Reliance. Does the First Minister think that Reliance is the right organisation to carry out that public service?
“I wonder why the First Minister does not listen to his Cabinet members on the issue. Look at what they said when they were in Opposition.
"Nicola Sturgeon said: "Reliance assurances have been shown not to be worth the paper they are written on".
“She also said that: "Running public services for private profit is a recipe for disaster."
“Kenny MacAskill said that it was wrong to hand prison escorts to Reliance; the SNP said that that was "gambling with public safety".
“So why have the First Minister and Kenny MacAskill just given Reliance brand-new services to run? What kind of backtracking, breathtaking, promise-breaking U-turn is that?
“It is like Margaret Thatcher waking up one morning and saying that Arthur Scargill was the right person to run our coal mines after all. The headline on one SNP press release was "Reliance: Time to dump the Keystone Cops".
“Why have Salmond and MacAskill, Scotland's Laurel and Hardy, just given a new contract for more services to the keystone cops? Why has the First Minister privatised that service?”
You can read the full exchange by clicking the headline above.
The major media commentators are again recognising Nicol's real impact as LibDem leader in the Scottish Parliament :
· Magnus Linklater; Scotland Editor, The Times: “The only one who is having some kind of effect is Nicol Stephen, the Liberal Democrat Leader, who consistently brings up embarrassing revelations. He had great fun yesterday, pointing out that the Executive had just given a new contract to Reliance, the transportation company… It is fair to say that Mr Salmond had no great answer to this. It is equally fair to say that no one seemed particularly surprised. And so the braying grows…” (Times, 28.03.08)
· Ian Bell; Political Commentator, The Herald: “Nicol Stephen had fun with changed SNP attitudes towards the Reliance "Lags'R'Us" service.” (Herald 28.03.08)