Sunday, September 05, 2010

David Cameron speaks more to Alex Salmond than he does to Scottish Tory Leader

Today's Scotland on Sunday carries a story about how the Scottish Conservatives are licking their wounds because they've been left out in the cold since the General Election.

Apparently David Cameron has spoken to Alex Salmond 5 whole times and to Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie a total of, well, 5 times less than that since entering number 10. If I were feeling cruel, I could say that he was making sure he kept in touch with the leader of the de facto coalition we've had at Holyrood since 2007. The Scottish Tories have reduced themselves to be little more than Salmond's wee helpers. If they show the same level of dynamism within the Conservative Party on a UK level, then if they are being sidelined, we can maybe see why. They also had issues with their MSP John Lamont embarrassing David Cameron by ignoring the Kelly Report's recommendations and running for Westminster where he was resoundingly trounced by Michael Moore.

I guess, though, if you don't really get devolution of political power as an organisation, then it's going to be more of a challenge to making the various relationships work. And, actually, Labour and the SNP aren't much better.

The Liberal Democrats haven't always been perfect in managing the relationships between Holyrood and Westminster but this has improved hugely under Tavish Scott's leadership. I know that the Scottish leadership and our Ministers and MPs keep in regular contact.  I guess it helps that as a party we instinctively understand devolution and the importance and role of each of the parts of the federal mix. The Scottish Liberal Democrats operate as an autonomous State party which is an integrated part of that UK framework, with places reserved for Scottish representatives on the Federal Committees as well as Scots being free to put themselves forward for the places elected by Federal Conference.

The UK Labour Party sees the Scottish Labour Party as clearly subordinate in its hierarchy. Andy Kerr campaigned on a platform of more power for the Scottish Leader in 2008, while the UK Party sees the Scottish leader purely as the leader in the Scottish Parliament - in effect with no greater status than a Council Leader. There is little prospect of that changing if David Miliband is elected as Labour leader, given what he had to say at the Glasgow hustings:
 "I believe in devolution where possible and unity where necessary and we've go to strengthen both."
That sounds pretty close to "you'll do as you're bloody well told" to me.

If Ed (the brother, not Mr Balls) wins, he, in his usual habit of promising everything to everyone, is promising greater integration.

We shall see. I won't be holding my breath for such an instinctively control freaky party to give power away from the Centre.

And as far as the SNP are concerned, it's all about Holyrood. They are clearly not bothered about Westminster unless they want to pick a fight with the UK Government, whichever colour it may be. They've shown themselves to be irrelevant in every Westminster election I've ever known and they make scant effort to make an impact there.

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