SCOTTISH Secretary Alistair Carmichael said he wants to “press the reset button” on Westminster’s relationship with the Scottish Government after Nicola Sturgeon takes over as First Minister.
In his first briefing since the independence referendum, Carmichael said he planned to meet with Ms Sturgeon on a more regular basis than was the case with current First Minister Alex Salmond, who he criticised for making “unhelpful” comments in the wake of the referendum.
He also warned that the Scottish Government had not been “keeping its eye on the ball” in terms of policies outside of the referendum debate such as education and healthcare and urged MSPs to return to do their “day job”.
Carmichael said: “With Nicola taking over the reins as SNP leader and then as First Minister next week - as somebody who has always believed in the devolution settlement, who has always believed in the merit and the benefit to Scotland of having two governments working together, I hope that this will be a point when we can hit the reset button on the relationship between the two governments.”
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
He added: “The recent history of working between the two governments hasn’t been good. That was inevitable, I think, while we had the prospect of a referendum coming.”
He said he hoped there would now be a “sensible, responsible, professional” working relationship between the two governments and called for unity to bring an end to the division which has existed since 55 per cent of Scots voted to remain part of the United Kingdom.
“For us all in politics, there’s a job of work to be done now to move Scotland on from being divided between the 55 and the 45, to heal some of the deep and quite understandable divisions that there were in the course of the referendum,” he added.
“If they [the SNP] are continuing to pursue a second referendum that des make it more difficult. It’s a relationship based on mutual respect.”
Salmond yesterday claimed he would see an independent Scotland within his lifetime - having insisted before the September vote that it would be a “once in a generation” opportunity.
Carmichael said: “Some of the stuff that Alex Salmond in particular has said since the referendum wasn’t helpful in that regard.
“I’m hoping that that is just some of the sort of raw emotion that you carry out of the referendum experience.”
Earlier this week, both Salmond and environment secretary Richard Lochhead verbally hit out at the decision to send a Conservative peer to represent Scotland’s fishermen at European Union talks.
He said that he did not feel that the comments reflected the “referendum outcome”.
“I would hope that once Nicola takes charge, Richard Lochhead or whoever is going to be doing that job would take a more constructive approach,” he said.
He pointed to a fall in teacher numbers and college places, as well as recent figures showing the financial challenges facing the NHS in Scotland.
“I don’t expect Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon to stop believing in Scottish independence,” he said. “What I think I am entitled to expect is that they respect the outcome of the referendum on September 18.
“I don’t expect them to recant their belief in independence overnight but I do expect them to do the day job that they’ve been given by the people of Scotland, to perform the functions that they have as part of a devolved Parliament and to work constructively with those of us who have different responsibilities.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS