Sunday, September 28, 2008

Scottish Secretary post to be retained

Yet another story based on 'senior Whitehall sources' in today's Scotland on Sunday. This time the post of Secretary of State for Scotland is to be retained in Gordon Brown's imminent reshuffle. So not scrapped, amalgamated with the Northern Irish and Welsh counterparts, or restored to full standalone status - all as reported on the basis of 'senior Whitehall sources' over the past few weeks - but retained, probably in conjunction with another Government department. So the same as it is now.

I give up. Watch this space.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ann McKechin

A belated post to mark the appointment of Ann McKechin MP, only recently elected chair of the Scottish Labour group of MPs, to the Scotland Office in place of David Cairns, who resigned last week over Gordon Brown's leadership of the Labour Party and the Government. Eagle-eyed politicos will have noticed that while Cairns was a Minister of State, his successor is a more humble under-secretary of state.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

David Cairns resigns

The Daily Telegraph is sticking to its story that David Cairns, Minister of State at the Scotland Office, is poised to resign from the Government in protest at Gordon Brown's troubled premiership and leadership of the Labour Party. The BBC has also picked up on the story, but Downing Street says it has no knowledge of his intentions. Watch this space.

UPDATE: Cairns' resignation has been confirmed by Downing Street. You can read coverage of his statement on BBC Online. No news as yet on who will succeed him as Minister of State at the Scotland Office.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Flag in the Wind

That excellent Scottish publisher Birlinn has just re-published an updated version of John MacCormick's book, The Flag in the Wind. It tells the story of the National Movement in Scotland, the birth of the SNP, and also MacCormick's campaign to become Rector of Glasgow University. This edition has an introduction by John's son, Professor Sir Neil MacCormick, and a foreword by Ian Hamilton, whose own book, Stone of Destiny, was also recently republished by Birlinn (to tie in with the film of the same name).

The book is to be launched next week by the First Minister Alex Salmond. You can buy it by visiting the Birlinn website.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Alistair Darling Profile

BBC Radio 4's Profile looked at the Chancellor and former Scottish Secretary Alistair Darling this weekend. It includes interviews with one of his former teachers at Loretto, and also his friend and former Scottish Office minister Brian Wilson.

Council Tax Abolition Bill

Is it just me or is the SNP's planned 'Council Tax Abolition (Scotland) Bill' strangely reminiscent of the Conservatives' 'Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc (Scotland) Bill' of more than twenty years ago?

Both focused attention on the system of local taxation being abolished rather than what was replacing it. In 1986/87 it was the Community Charge or Poll Tax (presumably the 'Etc' in the title), while in 2008 it is the Local Income Tax.

Tom Johnston

BBC Radio Scotland's NewsWeek carried a short item on the wartime Scottish Secretary Thomas Johnston this morning, about whom I was interviewed by the presenter Derek Bateman.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Scottish Secretary RIP?

Today's Scotsman reports that the the post of Scottish Secretary is set to be scrapped at Westminster as a consequence of the IRA being declared redundant as a paramilitary organisation, which would make Des Browne (left) the last holder of the historic Cabinet position.

Personally, the story has been trailed so many times before - and always by 'senior' Government or Whitehall sources - that I'm a bit cynical. However, watch this space!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Jim Murphy to be SoS?

Holyrood Magazine was reporting earlier this summer that Jim Murphy, the Labour MP for Eastwood and current Minister for Europe, is being 'strongly' tipped to take over from the embattled Des Browne if the Prime Minister decides on a late recess reshuffle. The same 'senior Whitehall sources' also told the Herald that his appointment was being considered in order to have a Cabinet minister focus more attention on Scotland.

Speculation that Gordon Brown will scrap the post of Scottish Secretary altogether, and indeed the Scotland Office, (as is the desire of the Scottish Government), also resurfaces occasionally.

Alistair Darling's 'pissed off'

An interesting, and rare, profile of the Chancellor and former Scottish Secretary Alistair Darling in Saturday's Guardian, which is now better known as the interview in which he committed his so-called 'gaffe' by saying the UK economy was at its worst in 60 years (he also said the former Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander was 'not likeable at all', but has apparently since apologised). Given that several ministers have made similar remarks over the past few months, it's difficult to see what all the fuss is about...

The new age of Hydro

Interesting to see Alex Salmond on Newsnight Scotland last night praising the wartime Scottish Secretary Thomas Johnston as 'perhaps the only truly great Secretary of State' (or words to that effect), as he heralded a new era of hydro-electric power on opening Scottish and Southern's Glendoe project. David Ross in yesterday's Herald duly gave Johnston credit for the major hydro projects in the 1940s and '50s.