Salmond's Cabinet pack their bags for summer roadshow
ALEX Salmond is to take his ministerial team around Scotland this summer, holding Cabinet meetings in places as far apart as Skye and Dumfries.
The First Minister has been desperate to portray his administration as a government for the whole of Scotland, not just the Central Belt.
Yesterday, he used a visit to Stranraer to announce that four Cabinet meetings over the summer would be moved out of Edinburgh.
The Cabinet usually meets every Tuesday at the First Minister's official residence of Bute House, in the capital's Charlotte Square. But over the summer, it will convene in Inverness, Skye, Dumfries and Pitlochry. Ministers will arrive at the chosen location on the Monday evening, in time to hold a reception for local good causes.
The Cabinet meetings will take place on the Tuesday mornings, with afternoons set aside for events to promote the SNP government's "national conversation" on independence.
Ostensibly, Mr Salmond's decision to take his Cabinet around Scotland is to make it appear closer to the people.
But it is also a way of moving on the "national conversation", the pace of which has slowed considerably since it was launched in August last year.
The first phase of the scheme attracted 26,000 comments from individuals and organisations across Scotland, and the website has recorded 314,000 hits.
Officials have, though, been forced to remove 41 offensive messages from the site, including anti-English slurs and attacks on the Royal Family, and the whole exercise has cost about 150,000.
Mr Salmond said at the start that he wanted to take the "conversation" around Scotland with a series of "roadshows", and holding Cabinet meetings in different parts of the country has given him the chance to do so.
"Last summer, I was determined to ensure that the new Scottish Government got off to a fast start, and part of that process was to arrange Cabinet meetings throughout the summer recess," he said yesterday.
"This year, it seems a logical next step to take Cabinet across Scotland and to allow local communities to meet with ministers and discuss issues of local and national importance with them in their home areas."
The Scottish Cabinet has met outside Edinburgh once before, in 2002, when the parliament met in Aberdeen.
On 7 September, 1921, Inverness hosted the only UK Cabinet meeting to have taken place outside London. David Lloyd George, the Liberal prime minister, who was holidaying in Gairloch for the shooting season, called his ministers north for an emergency session to discuss Ireland. The Inverness Formula, which was agreed at that meeting, was used to form the Anglo-Irish Treaty.
THE Scottish Government's Cabinet will move out of Edinburgh for four weeks over the summer.
It will meet in Dumfries on 29 July, followed by Inverness on 5 August, Pitlochry in Perthshire on 19 August, and Skye on 26 August.
The six Cabinet ministers will be joined by senior civil servants, press officers and other officials for the two-day visits.
The usual Cabinet media briefings, which take place after the meetings on Tuesdays at the moment, will be carried out either by conference call or by videoconferencing.
This will allow journalists in Edinburgh to be briefed as usual by the First Minister's press team, but from a distance.
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