Apart from providing the First Minister with the impression of a new East-West dimension to this new political dispensation we keep hearing about, what exactly have the First and Deputy First Ministers signed up to on our behalf? Are there any actual commitments? Is it in any way binding? No and unlikely I suspect are the answers to those questions. And as for the Joint Ministerial Committee that Alex Salmond has been promoting.. Here’s how the Cabinet Office website describes it – “The Joint Ministerial Committee (which is not a Cabinet Committee) is a consultative rather than an executive body and cannot bind any of its participants.” And, while a Scottish Parliament research note from September 2000[pdf file] records the “expectation is that the participating administrations will support positions agreed in JMC discussions”, it also pointed to the comment in 1999 by the SNP’s Alex Neil
“The proposed Joint Ministerial Council is clearly biased in Westminster’s favour, since it would always be chaired by a UK Minister – including in the adjudication of disputes – and ultimately by Tony Blair. UK Ministers, including the Prime Minister, represent and reflect the Westminster interest, and are obviously not impartial players.”
Adds The Herald has some interesting thoughts on the future of, what is for now, a largely symbolic pact.