David Cameron's double broadside at Alex Salmond and Libya top brass
David Cameron has warned that the SNP government will not do "the right thing by the people of Scotland" because it is too consumed by an independence referendum on a day when his own commitment to a respect agenda was questioned.
The comments at one of his regular briefings to journalists represented the first serious attack by the Prime Minister on the Nationalists since he launched his "respect agenda" with Scotland after taking office last year.
The Prime Minister said: "What I worry about is the government of Scotland is going to be too much about how to bring about the right circumstances for his referendum and whether he (Alex Salmond] wants two questions or four questions or six questions or whatever, rather than actually trying to do the right thing by the people of Scotland."
He added: "What I won't have is just an endless situation where this isn't about the health and wealth and wellbeing of the people in Scotland, it's just about trying to get to a referendum situation to satisfy his needs. That's not right at all.
"I've always said if the Scottish Parliament votes to have an independence referendum, that's a vote we have to respect and we have to allow and enable that to happen.
"I don't believe in Scottish independence. I believe in the United Kingdom. I want to keep the United Kingdom together.
"I'm not going to play a game with Alex Salmond about the hows, whens and wherefores. He should get on delivering good government for the people in Scotland and working with the Westminster government to make sure we join him in that endeavour. But I'm not going to play games over independence."
His attack on the SNP agenda for government in Scotland came as the UK government has been showing signs of frustration over the lack of a date being set by the SNP for a referendum and vagueness over the question.
First Minister Alex Salmond has proposed to put two questions offering independence or fiscal autonomy.
However, the SNP has also snubbed an offer by Tory Scotland Office minister David Mundell for Westminster to help out with the legal problems around the election including allowing the Electoral Commission to police it properly.
But Mr Cameron also insisted that he did respect Scotland and its government.
He went on: "I genuinely believe in the respect agenda. I respect the mandate that Alex Salmond has. "The government here at Westminster will work with him and talk with him, how we can amend the Scotland Bill, how we can make sure everyone benefits from the policies of the UK government and the two governments work well together."
But following his comments, the debate on the report stage and third reading of the Scotland Bill was chopped down to four hours, preventing serious debate on the Supreme Court, transferring corporation tax and broadcasting powers and revising legislation on road safety.
Calls by Labour and the SNP for the bill to be rescheduled were rebuffed by the government after parliamentary time was taken up by an emergency statement on the government's justice policy, a ten-minute rule bill that ate up more time because it was, unusually, opposed by the Tories and another debate on a health bill.SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson said last night: "David Cameron may speak of respect but his party and government do the complete opposite.
"Either this bill is groundbreaking or it is not, either it is the biggest transfer of power or it is not, but if it is these things sufficient time should be given to debate it."
However, the SNP last night welcomed Mr Cameron's remarks, saying that he recognised that it was the Scottish Government which should bring forward a referendum.
A spokesman for the First Minister suggested that the Prime Minister's criticism was more aimed at Tory rightwingers who tried and failed to have an early referendum as an amendment for part of the Scotland Bill.
Mr Salmond's spokesman added: "We have just been resoundingly re-elected on our record of good government across the range of policy, and our plans to give the people of Scotland the opportunity to decide their own future in the timescale set out in the election.
"We are currently working to get economic teeth into the Scotland Bill, so that we can strengthen recovery."
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