By Joseph Willits
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With the results of the Scottish Conservative party leadership elections expected later today, David Cameron has paid tribute to outgoing leader Annabel Goldie, and her contributions to both Scotland and the party.
“Annabel did a great job in her six years of leadership of the Scottish Conservatives. Throughout, I found her a complete pleasure to work with: straightforward, hardworking, passionate about her politics and packed full of common sense. I also really appreciated the strong support she gave me.
“Annabel has been a no nonsense breath of fresh air in Scottish politics, and I pay tribute to the way she fought the campaign for the Scottish Parliament. She will continue to be a formidable presence as an MSP and I know she will carry on fighting for causes close to her heart, like supporting families, tackling drug abuse and keeping Scotland in Britain”.
During the emergency session of the Scottish Parliament this afternoon, the Conservative leader there, Annabel Goldie, has again declared that it was wrong for the Lockerbie bomber to be released back to Libya.
She told the chamber:
"For me the image of the Lockerbie terrorist atrocity is etched indelibly in my memory. I shall never forget my sense of disbelief and horror - which is why I want to make clear that the decision to release Mr Megrahi was not done in the name of Scotland or in the name of this Parliament or in my name. It was a decision made by Mr Salmond’s SNP Government and Mr Salmond’s Minister.
"If Mr Megrahi’s condition is so severe that keeping him in prison is inhumane, why could he not have been released to a secure house or a hospice or a hospital in Scotland? Is this SNP government seriously suggesting that our Scottish Police who coped so admirably with security arrangements for G8 Leaders could not adequately protect Mr Megrahi?
"I know he said in his statement that it would take 48 police officers to look after Mr Megrahi in Scotland. That is a small price to pay to for just a few weeks. Scotland's reputation on the world stage is worth far more. Or is this SNP government seriously arguing that our excellent NHS is incapable of providing compassionate and sensitive palliative care? Even Mr Megrahi’s own lawyer Dr Ibrahim Legwell considers Mr Megrahi would receive better treatment in Scotland than in Libya.
"Compassion and justice would have been better served by that approach than by a convicted terrorist being feted as a hero in Libya to a backdrop of waving saltires.
"Equally disturbing is the extraordinary and incomprehensible silence of the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. This SNP Government's flawed decision has significant implications for Foreign Policy and Trade so what joint efforts are now being undertaken by Alex Salmond and Gordon Brown to limit the damage done to our country’s international reputation and to our economy?"
The Calman Commission - an enquiry into ten years of Scottish devolution - reports today and is recommending that a number of tax raising powers be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish government currently has the freedom to alter the rate of income tax by plus or minus three pennies in the pound. Although it has never used that freedom the Calman Commission recommends that it has the freedom to cut income tax rates by up to 10p in the pound and that there should be no limits on how high it can raise income tax.
The Commission established by Scotland's Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties - and shunned by Alex Salmond's minority government - also recommends devolution of stamp duty on house purchases, air passenger duty, a landfill tax and a tax on mineral extraction (see report in The Herald).
Leader of Scotland's Conservatives, Annabel Goldie issued this statement:
is critical of the report, however. Accusing it of "focusing on
accounting changes to the Scotland Act rather than the transference of
actual economic levers at a time when Scotland needs them more than
At First Minister's Questions today Annabel Goldie, who leads the Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament, asked what contact Alex Salmond has had with Gordon Brown (an issue that David Mundell, the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, raised yesterday).
It turns out that the Prime Minister and First Minister last met face-to-face in the House of Commons on 28 April 2008 (to discuss the strike at Grangemouth Oil Refinery).
Annabel Goldie - who is rightly appalled - has issued a press release:
"It beggars belief that the Prime Minister and the First Minister have never met to discuss ways of helping Scotland through Labour's recession.
Mr Salmond indicated at FMQs today that the last time he had any meeting with the Prime Minister was almost a year ago.
To make matters worse, Alex Salmond clearly attempted to blame Gordon Brown for blocking any face to face discussions. The First Minister stated that he was 'more than willing to meet the Prime Minister' but one wonders what he has done to facilitate such a get together. It takes two to tango.
Instead of picking fights with each other the Prime Minister and the First Minister should be working together to help Scotland weather Gordon Brown's economic storm. Surely the best interests of the nation should come before petty party politics?
If David Cameron becomes the next British Prime Minister he has vowed to work constructively with the First Minister of Scotland whichever party he or she may be from.”
David Mundell has also commented:
"During Scottish Questions at Westminster yesterday I asked the Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy when the Prime Minister and the First Minister had last met. Jim Murphy replied: 'I do not keep the Prime Minister's diary'.
I find it staggering that the Secretary of State for Scotland neither knows nor seems to care whether his boss is engaging with the First Minister of Scotland.
The British government and the Scottish Government must put aside petty differences and work together in the best interests of Scotland, especially during Labour's recession."
Highlights of Annabel Goldie's contribution to Holyrood debate on ten years of Scottish devolution and why Scottish Tories are joining with the LibDems to back a new Labour-inspired Constitutional Commission. The Commission's website sets out four main aims:
There are two approaches to Scotland's constitutional status: "The minority Administration, comprising the Scottish National Party as the Scottish Government, seeks independence; the majority presence in the Parliament, comprising the Labour Party, the Scottish Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, supports our continuing partnership with the United Kingdom. The minority view—the SNP view and the nationalist conversation—is all about tearing up our constitution and ripping Britain apart. My desire—our desire and the majority desire—is to build on what we have and take it forward."
Devolution is good for Scotland, independence would be harmful: "During the Scottish Parliament elections, I argued that being part of the United Kingdom opens doors for Scotland, that it gives us influence in world affairs and that that influence, if wisely exercised, gives us authority in world affairs. At the same time, devolution has responded to our country's desire for a greater say over its domestic issues. As a Scottish Conservative, I am driven by an overarching goal of creating a strong and prosperous Scotland within a strong and prosperous United Kingdom. I am driven by what unites us in these isles, but the nationalists are driven by a desire to divide the nations of the United Kingdom. Rejecting independence is not anti-Scottish or unpatriotic; it is quite simply wanting the best for our country. I say clearly to Alex Salmond—wherever he is—that the Scottish National Party does not have the monopoly on Scottish patriotism. It is a proud and deep emotion, shared by millions of people outwith the Scottish National Party. Our saltire and the lion rampant are the symbols of our nation, not the badges of nationalism."On working with Scottish Labour and the Scottish LibDems to defend majority support for the Union: "This tripartite agreement is significant. Strengthening devolution while continuing to secure the position of Scotland within the United Kingdom is not just an honourable but a highly important commitment. It is bigger than any one political party, because it dwarfs party politics. We are talking about shaping the constitutional direction of travel of our nation for the future, not just because it is sensible and pragmatic to do that eight years on, but because it overwhelmingly reflects what Scotland wants to happen. Today's debate gives Scottish parliamentary breath to that overwhelming public aspiration. I thank Jack McConnell for his initial support of the process and I thank my counterparts, Wendy Alexander and Nicol Stephen, for the constructive discussions that have brought us to the stage of agreeing the need for an independently chaired commission to review devolution in Scotland."