Friday 7 December 2007

remember remember

The 5th of November might carry some degree of resonance for those interested in political plots and underhand machinations. Many recall fondly their celebrations of the deeds of Mr Fawkes. Students of modern politics will remember this year for another political plot. Oh yes...

This year they shall mostly be wearing cloaks

The Brains Trust of the Soviet Union had nothing on the Brains Trust of the British Union, I tell you! Wendy Alexander, Annabel Goldie, Nicola Stephen, David Mundell, Alas Carmichael and Des Browne all gathered at Des Browne's Edinburgh pad (also known as the Scotland Office frontier outpost in Melville Crescent) for tea and crumpet and the creation of a cunning plan.
What they plotted was dastardly - oh yes it was - dishing the Nats as those damned revolutionaries stormed the bastions of the Great British Way of Life. So successful a government were those flamin Nats running that there was a danger that people would start to like them. Can't have that old chap - fetch me my blunderbuss!
The outcome of all the plotting and planning was the motion passed in Parliament yesterday to force the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body to set up a Commission to examine the way forward for Scotland - of course, the money has to come from somewhere (another barking mad spending plan from the combined opposition in Parliament), so something will have to close. The creche, perhaps, or the education service? We'll see.

Just before we leave this topic, can I just tell you all that Cathy Wilson came up with a fantastic idea last night. She pointed out that she had all the right qualifications to sit on that Commission, so she was going to apply. A wee discussion later, and we thought "every nationalist should apply" - after all, we know more about constitutional settlements than anyone else. So I'd like to encourage you all - send in your applications now, get your name in the frame, sing hallelujah and join the Commission. Write to:

The Scottish Parliament Corporate Body
The Scottish Parliament
EH99 1SP

All of your applications will be welcome, I'm absolutely certain.

Anyway, back to the Bonfire of the Inanities on November 5th. They'd had this meeting in Government premises in Melville Crescent and plotted and planned and planned and plotted until all the crumpets were finished and the teapot was empty and then they sprung their cunning plan.

Now a friend of mine (can't tell you his name - all hush-hush don't you know) thought to himself "by gum, that's a rum use of Government property", so he dashed off a quick email to Sir Gus O'Donnell, Chief Head Honcho-type Boss of the Civil Service in Londonshire. Here's a reproduction of that email:

Dear Sir Gus,

I note from the BBC website that a meeting took place yesterday, 5th November, in the Scotland Office premises in Edinburgh, which was attended by the Secretary of State for Scotland, his Conservative and Liberal Democrat shadows and the Leaders of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat Parties in the Scottish Parliament.
Apparently the purpose of the meeting was to agree on a common stance in opposition to the minority Scottish National Party devolved government of Scotland.

This meeting seems to have been entirely about partisan political interests, not about matters of Government either at UK or Scottish level.

I shall be grateful if you will advise whether, in your view, such a meeting should properly have taken place in government premises, possibly with civil service input. Should the political parties involved have contributed to the cost of making provision for such a meeting? I look forward to hearing from you in reply at an early date.

Yours faithfully,

All very good, you say. Here's the reply he got:


Sir Gus O'Donnell has asked me to thank you for your email of 7 November 2007 and to respond on his behalf.

The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Rt Hon Des Browne MP convened discussions, as you say, with political leaders from Holyrood and Westminster in Melville Crescent in Edinburgh on 5 November. Melville Crescent is the Edinburgh office of the Secretary of State for Scotland.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Devolution settlement in Scotland. This is a specific responsibility of the Secretary of State for Scotland and is Government business. The Cabinet Secretary is satisfied that the meeting was within the rules.

Many thanks

There you have it - the Chappie in charge of the Civil Service believes it to be Government business, so inside the rules. My friend, a thoughtful type fellow with a cheery demeanour and a penchant for discussing the finer details of everything which comes into his view, took it upon himself to enquire further. He sent an epistle to the Scotland Office, and here it is reproduced:

Subject: Review of Scottish Devolution
I shall be grateful if you will, under the Freedom of Information legislation, supply me with copies of all correspondence, meeting notes and minutes relating to a possible review of Scottish devolution since May, 2005. This information should include, but not be confined to, all such correspondence, meeting notes, memos and full minutes relating to the meeting held today (5th November) in the Edinburgh base of the Scotland Office attended by the Secretary of State for Scotland; David Mundell, MP; Alastair Carmichael, MP; Annabel Goldie, MSP; Nicol Stephen, MSP; and Wendy Alexander, MSP.

I look forward to hearing from you in reply within 20 days. An e-mail reply would be preferable. Kindly acknowledge receipt of this message.

Yours faithfully,

Cracking cheese, Grommit! An FOI request and he's not even Davie Hutchison!

Here's the reply:


Thank you for your e-mail of 5 November to the Secretary of State for Scotland.

The UK Government has not instituted any review of Scottish Devolution since May 2005 and accordingly no papers are held on that topic.

As regards the meeting held on 5 November, the discussions were held amongst political parties and a news release was issued following the discussions. No papers on these discussions are held by the Scotland Office.

I hope this reply is helpful.

Yours sincerely

Oho! Oho, aha and uhuh! A party political meeting held in Government premises and at our expense! Shameful, I say. Disgraceful, you say.

What's to be done, that's the question. What would your next step be? Isn't that what the comments function is for?


Anonymous said...

It seems to me that I would write to their respective standards committees. I would be of the inclination to aditionally report young Wendy to her standards committee over her use of illegal funds - for her own good of course - best to get these things out in the open, don't you think?

Anonymous said...

If it were as the civil service minion put - a discussion on the devolution settlement - why were all the political parties with MSPs not represented at the discussions?