Cameron promises to elevate Salmond to his equal

I can’t actually believe I read this one:

    DAVID CAMERON last night challenged Alex Salmond to agree to an annual grilling by MPs under a Conservative government. The First Minister would be asked to appear at least once a year before a cross-party Westminster committee to discuss policy and spending decisions affecting Scotland.

    In addressing his Scottish conference in Perth on Friday, Cameron went further: “If the Scottish Parliament so wishes, I will come to Holyrood once a year and answer questions from MSPs on any subject, from Scotland to the wider world.

Cameron is essentially promising to place himself, as PM of the UK, on the same level as Alex Salmond, FM of Scotland. And presumably the logic then follows through to the other devolved Assemblies. All while other measures seem to substantially increase the prestige and oversight powers of the Scottish Parliament. Personally as a fan of national sovereignty I think it is a great idea, and can’t think of many better things to get people used to the idea of an independent Scotland with equal relations to England. But from a supposedly pro-Union party it seems like ill thought out madness of the highest order.

Hat Tip Oneill

  • CS Parnell

    Cameron is essentially promising to place himself, as PM of the UK, on the same level as Alex Salmond, FM of Scotland.

    No, he’s not. Is he given Salmond power of any sort? No. Is he even going to take Salmond’s pronouncements on foreign policy, armed forces, nuclear weapons seriously? No, of course not.

    He’s promised to answer a few questions *if* they bother to ask him.

    But, of course, there are always plenty of people willing to lap up “Dave’s” latest PR stunts.

  • Bob Wilson

    Kensei when he turns up and they question him about all the important not devolved issues would they not be drawing attention to the fact that Westminster has control over many key areas including the overall level of public expenditure?

    Chances of Sinn Fein turning up?

  • Kensei

    CS

    He’s promised to answer a few questions *if* they bother to ask him.

    Yes. Because an SNP and Labour dominated forum are not going to bother calling in Dave for a grilling. MSPs will pass up the chance to increase prestige and publicity for themselves. Engage some bloody brain cells.

    And yes, the remits will be appropriate, though if Salmond wants a question outside it bank on a SNP MP throwing him one. But you have to look at the optics here.

  • Kensei

    Bob Wilson

    Kensei when he turns up and they question him about all the important not devolved issues would they not be drawing attention to the fact that Westminster has control over many key areas including the overall level of public expenditure?

    Sure. And Salmond will illustrate that the Scottish Parliament has a big say in people’s lives when he goes to Westminster. And if either trip up on performance or policy then it’ll be damaging. There is risk, as with everything, but they are giving Salmond a huge grandstanding opportunity and they are putting Cameron on a level with Salmond. One for one. Madness.

    Chances of Sinn Fein turning up?

    In the Scottish Parliament? None.

  • SM

    Cameron is essentially promising to place himself, as PM of the UK, on the same level as Alex Salmond, FM of Scotland.

    No he isn’t.

    Just because you let people ask you questions doesn’t mean you are making them your equal. It just means you’re doing your job as a politician to engage with people and let them ask you questions.

    If we follow your logic then does that mean doing Cameron Direct mean the Leader of the Opposition is putting himself on the same level as unelected folk and therefore he shouldn’t do it?

  • oneill

    Ah right, so it was in The Sunday Herald, link now fixed!

    At first reading it seemed bizarre to me also, but it’s been one of Brown and Labour’s mistakes to appear so overly and publicly petulant in relation to the SNP and Salmond. Putting the onus back onto the SNP for once to at least appear grown-up and mature politicians is a good alternative tactic. Their first reaction was an interesting one, along the lines of “Yeah, right, er…we already do that”- Dave and the Conservatives being nice and constructive doesn’t fit their narrative.

  • Brian Walker

    kensei, Yes, I think you’ve slightly misjudged this. I don’t see how it implies equality. It fills a gap in contacts between devolved governments and Westminster. Cameron touched on this in last week’s speech about ending double jobbing. In a different way, reciprocal reporting would restore leaders’ personal contacts when Salmond formally quits Westminster but in a more transparent and effective form .Thanks for the update. In practice it would be a constant tussle with the SNP in office to argue over sharing praise or blame for government actions at both levels. It may also be seen in the context of Cameron’s declared intention to reduce the size of the Commons. He won’t know the effect of this on devolution politics as no one has done any work on it, but it sounds like smart politics. Next question: will Cameron extend the offer to the NI Executive?

  • slug

    “Next question: will Cameron extend the offer to the NI Executive?”

    You can ask him at Cameron Direct, in Ballymena, on Wednesday.

  • slug

    Cameron Direct, in Ballymena, on Wednesday:

    According to the BBC: Anyone who wants to attend has been asked to email their name and address to info@voteforchangeni.com. Alternatively people can call 028 90 333381 to book their place.

  • Kensei

    SM

    It’s not the asking of the questions. It’s the equivalencve of the positions. One day you ahe Cameroon coming up to Scotland to get grilled by the SNP for Labour, then another you have Salmond disappearing to London to be grilled by the Tories. You want to do this, then you make damn sure people know who’s boss. And perhaps Cameron will attempt to find another way of doing that, but he sets up Salmond for a different type of attack then.

  • Kensei

    Brian

    kensei, Yes, I think you’ve slightly misjudged this. I don’t see how it implies equality.

    It’s matter of prestige, Brian.

    It fills a gap in contacts between devolved governments and Westminster. Cameron touched on this in last week’s speech about ending double jobbing. In a different way, reciprocal reporting would restore leaders’ personal contacts when Salmond formally quits Westminster but in a more transparent and effective form .

    There you have it “reciprocal reporting”. Holyrood is not the equal to Westminster. Holyrood is subordinate. This elevates it to an equal, and strengthens both the prestige and oversight of that Parliament. And onmce you grant these things, you ahve’t a cat’s chance in hell of getting them back. Not without ructions, anyway.

    Thanks for the update. In practice it would be a constant tussle with the SNP in office to argue over sharing praise or blame for government actions at both levels. It may also be seen in the context of Cameron’s declared intention to reduce the size of the Commons. He won’t know the effect of this on devolution politics as no one has done any work on it, but it sounds like smart politics.

    I thin I might term it courageous.

    Next question: will Cameron extend the offer to the NI Executive?

    I can’t see how he avoids extending it, if nto now when it actually happens. Otherwise he is furtehr elevating the Scottish parliament.

  • loki

    Cameron direct- Thursday, not Wednesday.

    Think Cameron’s played well- he’s putting oonus on SNP to respond and if they don’t they risk looking petulant or scared. Either way, he’s accepted devolution and wants to play a role in it
    for the betterment of the UK- how does it weaken him or the Conservatives if they show willing to engage as here?

  • loki

    Kensei,
    I don’t think he is elevating Holyrood, rather he is showing a willingness to engage with the devolved regions on their own territory. How many other MPs are willing to take a chance outside theirhome turf?? Not many, unless it’s on expenses I would imagine

  • Kensei

    loki

    I don’t think he is elevating Holyrood, rather he is showing a willingness to engage with the devolved regions on their own territory. How many other MPs are willing to take a chance outside theirhome turf?? Not many, unless it’s on expenses I would imagine

    It’s courageous, certainly, but whatever way you spin it is increasing Holyrood’s prestige. nor is it isolated – he’s also suggesting doing things like sending Treasury officials to be grilled twice a year. It might eb decent party politics for the Tories, but it doesn’t make sense to me in the context of the independence debate, if for nothign other than the opportunities he is handing to SNP.

    Imagine the Treasury drilling after the last budget.

  • loki

    Kensei,
    What independence debate? It has no more reality in Scotland than it does in NI. It ain’t happening-the devolved regions are all too attached to their public funding to be serious about UDI, even with the oil money from the North Sea going to Holyrood rather than Westminster.
    Just htin oyu’re over-egging this particular one- a Tory who knows where Scotland is happens to be a refreshing change

  • Oiliféar

    Kensei,

    Have you lost the plot?

    “Cameron is essentially promising to place himself, as PM of the UK, on the same level as Alex Salmond, FM of Scotland.”

    No. Civil servants appear before committees every day. That doesn’t make them prime ministers.

    The substance of Camerons invitation is to strengthen the union. You will not hear of the Taoiseach appearing before of committee of the UK parliament or the UK prime minister appearing before a comittee of the Oireachtas. The reason is a simple one: sovereignty.

    Camerons invitation to Salmond would eat away at Salmond’s drive towards Scottish sovereignty. It would make their relationship clear: Salmond, the elected administrator of a UK region, explaining his actions to the UK parliament; Cameron, the prime minister of the UK, explaining his actions to the parliament of a UK region.

  • Kensei

    Loki

    “No independence debate”? Come back when you have something useful to say.

    Olifear

    Have you lost the plot

    No. Next question.

    No. Civil servants appear before committees every day. That doesn’t make them prime ministers.

    Prime Minster don’t have to offer turning up to the civil servant’s as a quid pro quo to induce them to it. Complete missing of the point. Next.

    The substance of Camerons invitation is to strengthen the union. You will not hear of the Taoiseach appearing before of committee of the UK parliament or the UK prime minister appearing before a comittee of the Oireachtas. The reason is a simple one: sovereignty.

    Where did I claim this was about sovereignty? I don’t think I did. Straw Man. Next.

    Camerons invitation to Salmond would eat away at Salmond’s drive towards Scottish sovereignty. It would make their relationship clear: Salmond, the elected administrator of a UK region, explaining his actions to the UK parliament; Cameron, the prime minister of the UK, explaining his actions to the parliament of a UK region.

    Or it’ll make Salmond look even more like PM of Scotland and the Scottish Parliament feel more important and even less minded to take direction from Westminster. As it is worded the offer places the FM of Scotland, a subordinate Parliament on the same footing as PM of the UK. That only enhances the former’s prestige.

    Christ. I had hate dealing with offended partisans. Please CUMBLA kids, try to look outside the box, just for a wee bit.

  • Oiliféar

    “Prime Minster don’t have to offer turning up to the civil servant’s as a quid pro quo to induce them to it.”

    *shakes head* Don’t you not think that Cameron might be playing a political game?

    “Where did I claim this was about sovereignty? I don’t think I did.”

    Well, actually you wrote: “Personally as a fan of national sovereignty I think it is a great idea, and can’t think of many better things to get people used to the idea of an independent Scotland with equal relations to England. ”

    Despite this, it is my argument that you neglect to see the erosion of Scottish sovereignty as being the crux of Cameron’s “invitation”. Straw man, indeed.

    “Or it’ll make Salmond look even more like PM of Scotland…”

    What PM of any country defends his/her policy and spending to a parliamentary committee of another?? Does the PM of Denmark answer to a committee of the German Bundestag? Does the PM of New Zealand defend his/her policy and spending decisions to a committee of the Parliament of Australia? What relationship would you think existed between those states should that be the case? Independent? Sovereign? No way!

    What business would any future PM of Scotland have defending his/her governance of Scotland to a committee of the UK parliament? (I do, however, agree where you hint that cordial relations are a genuine mark a sovereignty.)

    “…the Scottish Parliament feel more important and even less minded to take direction from Westminster.”

    How? By it’s First Minister annually defending his/her spending and policy decision to a committee sitting … where? … oh, yeah … Westminister! Do you not think that that comittee might be inclided to direct the First Minister one way or the other? And that the First Minister might feel obliged to answer to answer to those directions?

    What kind a colonial think would make the Scottish parliament feel “important” by sending it First Minister down the road to explain himself to a committee at the London parliament?

    “CUMBLA”

    I don’t know what means. What is it?

    “,..look outside the box…”

    Looking outside of the box is a fine thing. And a thing to be encouraged.

    “Have you lost the plot / No. Next question.”

    OK. I’ll put it another way: have you lost the box?

  • Kensei

    Olifear

    *shakes head* Don’t you not think that Cameron might be playing a political game?

    Yeah, he’s playing it badly.

    Well, actually you wrote

    Yes, I did. Being a fan of sovereignty, I think this helps move it towards the point where people get it, not materially change the circumstance. It is quite clear.

    Despite this, it is my argument that you neglect to see the erosion of Scottish sovereignty as being the crux of Cameron’s “invitation”. Straw man, indeed.

    There are words but they don’t actually make sense.

    Yadda yadda yadda…. What business would any future PM of Scotland have defending his/her governance of Scotland to a committee of the UK parliament? (I do, however, agree where you hint that cordial relations are a genuine mark a sovereignty.)

    They wouldn’t. Neither would the PM of rump UK go to the Scottish Parliament. Cameron has to offer himself up in front of the Scottish Parliament. He has set up an equivalence. If you can’t see it, sorry, I can’t make you.

    How? … Tiresome ramblings …

    Please stop using only one half of the argument. I know you think that this is the PM of the UK and not the same and the rest, but Cameron is likely to be in a small minority in Scotland. SOrry if you can’t see it. I can’t make you.

    OK. I’ll put it another way: have you lost the box?

    Tired and sore after jujitsu and have limited patience. Go away.

  • Oiliféar

    “Tired and sore after jujitsu and have limited patience.”

    Well that explains a lot.

    Still, I get it now. Me, CS Parnell, Bob Wilson, SM, Brian Walker, loki … in fact everyone here who has commented one-way-or-the-other so far is wrong. And Kensei is right.

    “Go away.”

    OK.

  • fin

    is it just me or does this idea muddy the waters around the Westlothian question, the Tories don’t want scottish politicans MPs or SMPs involved in decision making for matters relating to England but are happy to debate them, is it that the Tories are offering the same to Scotland. Alternatively is this a variation on Brown taking cabinet meetings on the road, the Tories are offering a big UK pow-wow in Edinburgh. Why not NI and Wales also?

  • kensei

    Olifar

    Still, I get it now. Me, CS Parnell, Bob Wilson, SM, Brian Walker, loki … in fact everyone here who has commented one-way-or-the-other so far is wrong. And Kensei is right.

    Correct. I am sorry everyone here is wrong. It happens and an appeal to popularity remains a fallacy. It doesn’t help that half the people here are just so offended that Cameron might do anythign wrong. Does not compute.

    And now I’m slightly less pain than I was last night – the Tories in England absolutely cannot treat Salmond coming down as an uppity Scot reporting to the English. He would make mincemat of them, and it would go down very badly in Scotland. But the reverse is not necessarily the case, given the Tories are fairly unpopular there. But I fancy tone would be important in both cases.

  • Oiliféar

    It’s the “reporting to the English” part that I see as a step backwards.

    * Before: Scottish government not responsible to Westminster. Scottish parliament independent of UK PM.
    * After: Scottish government defending its policy/spending to a comittee at Westminister. Scottish parliament that has an annual PMQs with the Westminster PM.

    Right now, the personalities involved (Salmond and Cameron/SNP and Conservatives) make this interesting but the personalities are transitory. The offices involved would be the First Minsiter of Scotland moving from being an office independent of Westminster to being an office that reports to Westminster.

    I get what you mean but I don’t think that it is the way to go. A genuine equity between UK PM and Scottish FM would be for the two to meet as equals and discuss their mutual/respective spending and policy and agree joint ones. This kind of framework already somewhat exists in the British-Irish Council. The North-South Ministerial Council here is more like it.

    Contrast Camerons “invitation” with a) the NI FMDFM explaining their policy/spending before an Oireachtas committee vs. b) the NI FMDFM meeting with the Taoiseach to discuss and agree mutual/respective policies.

  • kensei

    Olifar

    Right now, the personalities involved (Salmond and Cameron/SNP and Conservatives) make this interesting but the personalities are transitory. The offices involved would be the First Minsiter of Scotland moving from being an office independent of Westminster to being an office that reports to Westminster.

    And there is absolutely no way that the FM of Scotland, of whatever party designation, will deign to be treated as a subordinate by a committee of Westminster, likely dominated by English MPs. And the English MPs would be very stupid to do so, because a pile fo English Toffs ticking off the Scottish FM will go down like a bunch of lead bricks in Scotland. And if the FM happens to be of an opposition party tot he one in Westminster, a ton of ammution will be handed to him. The atmosphere will ahve to be respectful.

    I get what you mean but I don’t think that it is the way to go. A genuine equity between UK PM and Scottish FM would be for the two to meet as equals and discuss their mutual/respective spending and policy and agree joint ones. This kind of framework already somewhat exists in the British-Irish Council. The North-South Ministerial Council here is more like it.

    And Cameron has already stated that he will meet more with the FM of Scotland and be more constructive. You don’t get straight from devolution to independence and there is always goign to be a certain imbalance int he relationship. I am not suggesting otherwise. But what is the net affect of all this? What si the direction of travel? It is to elevate the FM of Scotland. More meetings. More respect. Tacit admission that the PM of the UK needs to trend a bit careful in Scotland. Reciprocal reporting.

    Perhaps he is trying to construct a trap whereby he is exerting Westminster’s authority; theresi devil in the detail here. But it is a dangerous game, particularly when you look at what he is giving away.

    Contrast Camerons “invitation” with a) the NI FMDFM explaining their policy/spending before an Oireachtas committee vs. b) the NI FMDFM meeting with the Taoiseach to discuss and agree mutual/respective policies.

    The Taoiseach doesn’t turn up in front of the Assembly to explain himself either. Look at the whole picture!

  • kensei

    I should also add: this is all borne out of weakness. The Tories, even with a few decent polls recently, will command a small minority of Tory seats. Would he be likely to do this if the Tories were a major rpesence in Scotland?

  • Oiliféar

    “Perhaps he is trying to construct a trap whereby he is exerting Westminster’s authority;”

    I had written a sentence to this effect but deleted it because I thought it was too paranoid sounding 😉

    “The Taoiseach doesn’t turn up in front of the Assembly to explain himself either. Look at the whole picture!”

    The whole picture is that if that was the case then the two assemblies on this island would be far closer to unity. Unionists shake their head at Seanad seats with good reason. Meeting to discuss things as peer is all well, good and neighbourly (although hard fought), but the Taoiseach in front of an Assembly committee or the FMDFM before an Oireachtas committee would be an act of unity.

    The difference is that the two jurisdiction on this island are partitioned – and “unionists” here want to keep it that way. The two jurisdictions on the neighbouring island are in union – and “unionists” there want to keep it that way too. A “unionist” here would never want to see a representative of one assembly on this island sitting before a committee of the other. “Unionist” on the neighbouring island would.

    Anyway, we’re not going to sort it out here. Let’s see how Salmond handles it and maybe time will tell.

  • kensei

    Olifar

    I am not entirely convinced the Taoiseach turnign up for a grilling would be particularly useful for unity. I’d much prefer rid of Stormont all together in an All ireland context.

    In any case, you haev to look at the direction of travel. To getf orm here to Dublin I have to pass Newry, no amtter what direction I go in. Where is the UK starting from? It starts from a positoon where the UK PM does not have to explain himself to subordinate legislatures.