NEW deputy Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has won plaudits for her debut display at First Minister’s Questions.
In her first outing on the front line at the weekly showdown, the Lothian MSP tackled Nicola Sturgeon over plunging oil prices and the resulting threat to Scottish jobs.
She called for assurances to be given to oil workers with greater Scottish Government support for the “crisis-hit” industry.
Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government was already working with the industry, and called on Holyrood’s parties to unite around a plea to the UK Government to ease the tax burden on the sector, and support innovation.
Ms Dugdale said the First Minister would have Labour’s support when she goes to the UK Government with her calls, but she went on to outline the responsibilities she said the Scottish Government already had in relation to the oil and gas industry, including onshore business taxes, support in finding new markets, supporting infrastructure and diversifying the industry. “Therefore, the same old answers about looking to Westminster for solutions just do not stack up,” she said.
Ms Sturgeon again spoke about the need for consensus, said she was keen to “work across party boundaries” and promised to give “serious consideration” to specific proposals that any other party wanted to bring forward.
But Ms Dugdale had more to say, quoting Finance Secretary John Swinney that the oil price would bounce back to $110 a barrel by next year, citing an expert’s forecast of prices falling to as low as $40 a barrel and asking whether the Scottish Government had done an assessment of the long-term impact of the falling oil price and, if so, if it would be published.
“Isn’t it the truth that the Scottish Government just didn’t see this crisis coming, because they believed their own wishful thinking about oil prices?” she asked. Ms Dugdale was elected deputy leader of Scottish Labour last weekend, but has to shoulder the role of taking on Ms Sturgeon at FMQs because new leader Jim Murphy is an MP rather than an MSP.
Edinburgh Northern and Leith MSP Malcolm Chisholm said Ms Dugdale had been “outstanding”. He said: “She had a good tone – quite robust in a respectful kind of way – and she picked a good subject. Nicola ended up repeating herself quite a lot. I’m not sure she was on her strongest ground.
“I’m all for consensus where there is consensus, but it should not be used as a cover for not answering the question.”
Tory MSP Murdo Fraser posted on Twitter: “Bit of a car crash for the FM at #FMQs today. Good, effective attacks from the opposition all round.”
And Susan Dalgety, former special adviser to ex-First Minister Jack McConnell, tweeted: “I am about to go out into rain. But cheered up by @kdugdalemsp’s great first #FMQs. She is good, very good. And @NicolaSturgeon knows it.”