Wednesday, July 25, 2007

David Mundell is interim Scottish Tory Chairman

It was announced today that Peter Duncan had stood down as chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party to be replaced, on an interim basis, by David Mundell, the Shadow Scottish Secretary and the party's only Scottish MP.

Although Duncan - since May a councillor in Dumfries and Galloway - had been expected to stand down for some time now, it seems to me a little odd for him to be doing so before a permanent replacement has been identified.

Names being mentioned in Abbey House include the former MSPs Murray Tosh and Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, the latter of whom is now active in the House of Lords.

You can read more on this story at BBC Online.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Scottish Questions

Today was Des Browne's first Scottish Questions as the new Secretary of State. You can read the Hansard report of the exchanges but having watched it I think he did pretty well, including a skillful recovery from a verbal slip in which he said he looked forward to working for his new Lib Dem shadow as opposed to with him.

Campbell's Diaries

An interesting excerpt from Alistair Campbell's Diaries, as picked up on by today's Herald:

DUNBLANE: Back me or sack me' Forsyth told Major HE reveals how Michael Forsyth, then Scottish Secretary, and George Robertson, his shadow, told John Major he should take Tony Blair, then leader of the opposition, with him when he visited Dunblane in the wake of the tragic shooting in the town.

"They told Major that the entire community would appreciate it if they both went. He said he had said to Major If my judgment is proved wrong you can sack me' to which Major pointed at George and said yes, but can't sack him'. TB was fretting that they would brief the press that he had barged his way in when in fact he just wanted to do what everyone else thought was right.

"Major and Norma were chilly with TB, and as for me, I might not have existed. At Glasgow we split off and headed to Dunblane and George's place. Forsyth was very kind. George introduced me to Forsyth's wife, who said she hadn't realised that I was tall and handsome as well as famous! I saw a different side to Forsyth. Later TB told George about his plans on devolution and I could see George getting more and more nervous."

Monday, July 09, 2007

Lord Sewel

Lord Sewel, a Scottish Office minister from 1997-99, has become the latest politician to call for the so-called Barnett Formula to be scrapped. You can read a full account of his thoughts in today's Herald, or read his contribution to the Smith Institute publication, Towards a New Constitutional Settlement, by clicking on this pdf link.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Ben Wallace shadowing Scotland Office

David Cameron has put the finishing touches to his front bench reshuffle today by appointing a clutch of the 2005 intake to his team, including the former MSP Ben Wallace, now MP for Lancaster and Wyre, who will assist David Mundell in shadowing the Scotland Office.

This means that the Government ministers, Des Browne and Minister of State David Cairns, will now be shadowed by Mundell and Wallace for the Conservatives, and Alistair Carmichael and Argyll and Bute MP Alan Reid for the Liberal Democrats. You can read more about this appointment by going to BBC Online.

Des Browne under fire

The new Scottish Secretary Des Browne came under fire, again, in Parliament yesterday over his dual status as both Secretary of State for Defence and Scotland. You can either read the Scotsman's account of the spat, or read Hansard's pseudo-verbatim account of the exchanges at Gordon Brown's first Prime Minister's Question Time.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Jo Swinson sacked

While the Conservative Shadow Scottish Secretary David Mundell survived yesterday's Tory front bench reshuffle intact, his Liberal Democrat counterpart, Jo Swinson, has not been so lucky.

Westminster's youngest MP, Swinson was today dropped completely from Sir Menzies Campbell's team of spokesmen. Her place has been taken by Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael, who will also be shadowing Northern Ireland.

Willie Ross and Jock Stein's knighthood

There's an interesting story running today on the BBC, prompted (it seems) by a story in The Times a few days ago. Correspondence released by the National Archives reveals that Willie Ross, Scottish Secretary from 1964-70, lobbied hard to have the Celtic manager Jock Stein knighted, only to have his recommendation rebuffed by the prime minister Harold Wilson.

Tory reshuffle

News of yesterday's Conservative front bench reshuffle at Westminster was largely buried under blanket coverage of the London and Glasgow terrorist attempts, but there were minimal changes. In terms of Scotland, the Shadow Housing Minister Michael Gove was promoted to the Shadow Cabinet, while Oliver Heald - who shadowed the DCA - left the front bench, and David Mundell, Shadow Scottish Secretary since David Cameron became leader, remained in situ.

Monday, July 02, 2007

London-Edinburgh relations

There seems to be thaw under way in terms of relations between the new Labour Cabinet at Westminster and the SNP Scottish Executive in Edinburgh, at least judging from today's story in the Herald which reports that the new Scottish Secretary Des Browne met with Angus Robertson MP, now leader of the SNP in the House of Commons, and First Minister Alex Salmond, following the Royal opening of the Scottish Parliament on Saturday morning. Changed days indeed!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

David Cairns

Interesting to see in yesterday's Scotsman that the able and amiable David Cairns, previously an under-secretary at the Scotland Office, has been promoted to minister of state with the task - according to the Scotsman - of staving off attacks from the SNP Scottish Executive and liaising with Whitehall. Cairns lost his dual responsibility at the Northern Ireland Office when the devolved executive was restored a couple of months ago.