Weekend news

  • According to BBC News (reported here), trailing Cheryl Gillan’s speech to the Conservative Party conference, the ‘Ap Calman’ commission is to be announced in Parliament in November.
  • Eddie Barnes in Scotland on Sunday (here) has a leak of a number of suggested new names for the reconstituted right-of-centre party in Scotland, if Murdo Fraser is elected leader.  They include ‘Scottish Unionists’, ‘the Scottish Reform party’, the ‘Scottish Progressives’, ‘the Progressive Conservatives’, ‘Scotland First’ and ‘Scotland Forward’.
  • The Telegraph reports (here) serious disquiet from unionist politicians about the role Scottish Government officials are playing in supporting the SNP’s constitutional policies.  All three unionist party leaders in Scotland have written to Sir Gus O’Donnell about the role Peter Housden, permanent secretary of the Scottish Government, has taken in the debates.  They seem to believe that officials’ actions in supporting their ministers have gone beyond the requirements of impartiality set out in the 2010 versions of the Civil Service Code.  (There are now separate codes for UK Government and the Scottish Executive, both of which state both the importance of political impartiality and the duty of civil servants to ‘serve the Government, whatever its political persuasion, to the best of your ability’ and ‘act in a way which deserves and retains the confidence of Ministers’. The Scottish code is here, and the UK one is here. )  While it’s clear that civil servants have assumed what might be seen as a more political role in the Scottish constitutional debates than is customary, this has not just been on the Scottish Government’s side.  One might point to the way the Scotland Office’s role has become more politicised since 2007, for example, especially if it is co-ordinating what looks very like preparatory work for an anti-independence referendum campaign, as this Reuters report suggests.  One might also look at the support arrangements for the Calman Commission.  This looks rather like a case of unionist politicians thinking that what’s sauce for the goose isn’t sauce for the gander as well.
  • It’s also worth drawing attention to ‘Thinkpiece’ written for the Labour-supporting group Compass by Owen Smith MP, called Towards  a New Union ..?  (available here; there’s also an edited version on WalesHome here ).  Smith acknowledges the incomplete nature of asymmetric devolution and Labour’s failure in office to think through its implications, particularly with regard to England.  He regrets the failure of Labour’s ‘regional’ agenda, though doesn’t seem to acknowledge the dynamic nature of the constitutional debates (he likens David Melding’s ideas for a federal Britain to ‘Alex Salmond’s plan to bifurcate Britain”, for example).  However, his solution – greater localism in England – isn’t one that appears to command much support, either among politicians or the public at large.  (I say that with confidence having had early warning of some very interesting survey data due out shortly from IPPR, about which more in due course.)


Filed under Calman Commission/Scotland bill, Civil service, Conservatives, Devolution finance, English questions, Labour, Referendums, Scotland, Wales, Westminster, Whitehall

4 responses to “Weekend news

  1. Thanks for the round-up Alan. I look forward to reading IPPR’s findings. I’m surprised you didn’t include Simon Jenkins’ article in the Mail in this round-up – emotional stuff like that is far more significant to the Union debate than all the maneuvering of politicians will ever be.

  2. Rob

    There needs to be a ‘South Country’ (England south of the Wash – South East, South West, East Anglia) assembly

  3. Pingback: The territorial dimensions of Ed Miliband’s front bench « Devolution Matters

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