The ending of the various legislative sessions means it’s been a quiet week or so on the news front. But there have been a few interesting stories:
- Lord Elis-Thomas, Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, has joined the chorus of voices calling for abolition of the office of Secretary of State for Wales. Given Lord Elis-Thomas’s key role in helping get the Government of Wales Act 2006 through Parliament (and the vital functions that the Act confers on the Secretary of State), this is a significant change in view. Lord Elis-Thomas also restates his opposition to the idea of the UK Prime Minister answering questions in the National Assembly, which has of course been proposed by David Cameron as a way of emphasising his ‘accountability’ if he were to become PM, at Holyrood as well as in Cardiff Bay.
- Jim Murphy has tried to show that the Secretary of State for Scotland’s post is not superfluous, though, by giving an end-of-term interview to the Herald, warning of the financial austerity that is looming for the Scottish Government. (See also this piece.) Peter Hain has also talked about the looming austerity, but sought to put the blame on the Tories at UK level rather than the devolved government.
- Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, has pointed out that the Bank of England would have no reason to pay attention to Scottish concerns about interest rates, if an independent Scotland were to retain the pound sterling as its currency (as is currently SNP policy). It’s questionable how much influence Scottish concerns presently have, but even that would vanish if an independent Scotland were to choose to use what would be a foreign country’s currency.
And there is still no progress on the devolution of policing and justice to Northern Ireland, despite continued pressure from the UK and Irish Governments as well as Martin McGuinness. The only nominee for the post of Justice Minister remains the SDLP’s Margaret Ritchie.