David Cameron pledges to govern Scotland with 'respect'

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DAVID Cameron spoke to Alex Salmond yesterday to underline his "commitment to devolution" amid fears that a Conservative-led UK government without a Scottish mandate would damage the Union.

• Scottish Secretary Danny Alexander, who leap-frogged Tory David Mundell to take the role addesses the media. Picture: Getty

The two leaders also arranged to meet face to face when Mr Cameron travels to Scotland.

The Prime Minister pledged to govern Scotland with "respect" when they spoke by telephone early in the morning.

Mr Cameron also emphasised that he did not want a "no calls, no meetings" approach between the two governments.

A source close to the First Minister said the pair have agreed to meet "as early as Friday" and to spend part of their meeting "without anyone else present".

Mr Salmond said he offered the new Prime Minister his congratulations during their phone conversation, which he described as "constructive and amicable".

The constitutional question was tackled in the Conservative/Liberal Democrat deal document, which agreed to implement the recommendations of the Calman Commission, raising the prospect of the Scottish Parliament being given greater tax-raising powers.

The coalition deal also means the practice of locking up children in Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre in South Lanarkshire will cease.


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However, the new Scottish Secretary, Inverness Lib Dem MP Danny Alexander, last night declined to give a timetable for the introduction of the Calman reforms, which would see Holyrood given the power to set and raise the level of income tax, limited borrowing powers and gain control over stamp duty and landfill tax.

Mr Alexander described his new position as a "very important job" – despite the fact that the Lib Dems have in the past called for its abolition.

Earlier this year, Alistair Carmichael, the Lib Dem campaign manager, claimed abolition of the Scottish Secretary's Scotland Office was a "job waiting to be done".

Mr Carmichael described the institution as a "tax-funded campaign manager for the Labour Party in Scotland".

The Lib Dems may find themselves in power with the Tories, but their new alliance has the potential to create problems for them north of the Border.

The idea of Lib Dems joining forces with a party vilified in Scotland did not go down well with online commentators. Mr Alexander's page on social networking website Facebook was inundated with messages from voters who felt let down.

One, James D Burgon, said: "I hope it was worth it, selling out your constituents, party and promises. We are all very disappointed in you. Next time your party will be lucky to get a look in around Labour or the SNP. We put our trust in you, you abused it. Enjoying power?"

David Cairns, a Labour MP and former Scotland Office minister, said: "Danny Alexander's views and principles suddenly changed when he thought he could be become a minister.

"In the space of five days he has gone from chief critic of the Tories to David Cameron's spokesman in Scotland, occupying a ministry he wants to abolish."

Others in Labour denounced the Lib Dems' partnership as a "deal with the devil".

The shifting political complexion in London has implications in Scotland, and doubts over whether Labour and the Lib Dems could go back into a Holyrood coalition to defeat the SNP will inevitably surface.

Mr Alexander's elevation to the Cabinet was an attempt to tackle the problems the Tories face in Scotland.

He was given the Scottish Secretary job ahead of David Mundell – the Tories' only MP in Scotland – who has spent the last few years as shadow Scottish secretary, a move that acknowledged the Lib Dems' relative strength in Scotland.

Mr Mundell, who is now a junior minister in the Scotland Office, appeared to be philosophical about his failure to capture the top job.

He said: "I have always said I would play whatever role that David Cameron wanted me to and I was very supportive of this coalition. This is about being able to deliver good government in Scotland and I am very proud to be playing a part in that."

But handing over control of the Scotland Office to the Lib Dems did not go down well with some Scottish Tories.

One senior figure said: "If they (the Lib Dems] have got more support in Scotland, it is by a very small margin and we never need to forget that.

"But when you form a coalition on the terms being brought about, we have to make sacrifices and what we are only too aware of is that this country has never needed a stable government more than it does today."

• In full: The Conservative / Lib Dem coalition document

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