SNP MINISTERS will represent the UK Government in European talks under plans drawn up by the new Tory-Lib coalition pact.
• New British Prime Minister Prime Minister David Cameron (left) talks to Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond during a visit to St Andrews House, Edinburgh. Pic: PA
UK ministers have told First Minister Alex Salmond that they will look favourably on calls from the SNP to play a key role in international negotiations on fisheries in Brussels.
The new move to allow Scottish ministers a greater role in international talks is being seen as a further shift in the relationship between Holyrood and Westminster.
And it is being taken as further evidence of David Cameron's new administration attempting to show it governs Scotland with respect.
Tory ministers believe that a co-operative approach to Scottish demands will help them shake off their Thatcherite image while also dampening support for independence.
The agreement centres on crucial EU negotiations on UK fisheries, the bulk of which are based north of the Border.
The matter came to a head just before the election when Richard Lochhead, the SNP's fisheries minister, claimed he had been barred from attending a European Fisheries Council meeting in Vigo, Spain. Instead, the former Labour government sent a junior minister from the House of Lords in his place.
Conservative Scotland Office Minister David Mundell last night told Scotland on Sunday that a new agreement would now start.
He said: "A Scottish minister speaking on behalf of the UK obviously has got to represent the UK position as a whole. But the attitude of the previous government – that simply because they are Scottish ministers and that they are asking for it, it should be rejected – that is consigned to the history books. Everything will be done on the basis of a fair and common sense approach."
It is understood that Scottish Secretary Danny Alexander has also given Salmond an undertaking that he will see how Scottish ministers can be more widely involved in EU talks on a "partnership" basis.
Conservative sources also confirmed last night that the agreement to allow Scottish ministers to take part in EU discussions had been accepted within the new government.
The new Con-Lib pact has swamped the Scottish Government since coming into office two weeks ago. Cameron flew to Edinburgh on his third day in office for talks with the First Minister. Last week it was confirmed that the new government intends to accept the SNP's request to claim some 180m in renewables cash.
Alexander has also confirmed that he will break new constitutional ground by addressing the Scottish Parliament to explain this week's Queen's Speech. This is the first time that a UK minister has offered to speak to a full meeting of the Edinburgh Parliament.
However, on the fisheries deal there were warnings from Labour last night that the UK government had to be careful not to break constitutional boundaries.
Aberdeen North MP Frank Doran said: "All foreign affairs are reserved matters, including fisheries."
Salmond will step up his demands for further concessions from Cameron when he attends talks with his fellow first ministers for Wales and Northern Ireland in Belfast today. A spokesman for the First Minister said that the focus of the meeting would be to squeeze more funds from Westminster from so-called Olympic "consequentials".
Salmond argues that the Barnett Formula – the method by which funding is distributed to all parts of the UK – should be applied to Olympic spending, as most of the investment is in regenerating the east end of London.
If Barnett were applied, Scotland would receive 165m.