Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Two mad people in the attic

The most recent edition of Holyrood magazine carries a very lucid look at the West Lothian Question and Barnett Formula by Professor Iain McLean of Nuffield College, Oxford. He likens the two issues to "two mad people in the attic: everyone can hear their creaks and groans but nobody wants to talk about them".

Monday, January 28, 2008

Politics Then

A wonderful old interview from 1977 on the stv 'Politics Then' website. Colin Mackay, who now works on BBC Radio Scotland, interviews the then prime minister James Callaghan.

They discuss pay policy, the grim economic climate and, of course, the forthcoming Scotland Bill, which was supposed to establish a devolved Scottish Assembly. Sunny Jim is clearly remembering a devolution brief in responding to the last question and, remarkably, does not guarantee the Bill will pass. 'Remember,' he tells Mackay, 'we are a minority Government.'

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Scottish Constitutional Commission # 2

Today's Sunday Times quotes former Scottish Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind calling the Scottish Constitutional Commission "naïve and simplistic". It seems Sir Malcolm believes there is a risk that moving towards greater powers for the Scottish Parliament risks the Union.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Scotland Office aide

Lots of stuff in the Sunday papers, followed up in today's Mornings, about an email written by John McTernan (now a special adviser to Scottish Secretary Des Browne) when he was working at the Scottish Arts Council in 2002.

In the email, McTernan wrote to Karen Gillon MSP: 'If you've not been to Sweden before I think you'll really like it - it's the country Scotland would be if it was not narrow, Presbyterian, racist, etc etc. Social democracy in action.'

Des Browne has quite rightly dismissed this email, curiously released under FoI, as having no bearing on McTernan's current position.
It brings to mind Tom Nairn's quip, adjusting the words of Diderot, that Scotland would be reborn only when "the last Kirk minister has been strangled with the last copy of the Sunday Post".

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Scottish Constitutional Commission

A belated post on the three Holyrood opposition leaders' (Wendy Alexander, Annabel Goldie and Nicol Stephen) southern sojourn to meet with their Westminster counterparts, the Scottish Secretary Des Browne, Shadow Scottish Secretary David Mundell and the Lib Dems' Scottish spokesman Alistair Carmichael - retained despite Nick Clegg's reshuffle.

They apparently discussed additional powers for the Scottish Parliament, as well as the proposed cross-party Scottish Constitutional Commission. This, I fear, amounts to very little beyond posturing and flannel, and the anodyne statements (all identical) issued by each party after the meeting simply confirms this.

It brings to mind another Scottish Secretary, George Younger, and his all-party talks on Scottish governance held in the early 1980s. The SNP refused to take part, and the outcome was another fudge: a revival of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee and Scottish meetings for the Scottish Grand Committee.

Alan Cochrane of the Telegraph has an interesting piece on the meeting here.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Ian Smith

Interesting obituary in today's Scotsman on Ian Smith, who was a former head of the Scottish Office agriculture department.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

National Archives

Lots of interesting stuff on Scottish devolution from the annual declassification of government files under the 30-year rule. Paul Hutcheon has made the most of it in today's Sunday Herald, which includes then-and-now quotes from the former Scottish Secretary Bruce Millan. Eddie Barnes' column in today's Scotland on Sunday also draws on similar material, while the documents themselves can be viewed in pdf form by visiting the National Archives website.