UK and Scottish governments must work together – Scotsman comment

Behind the scenes, SNP and Conservative ministers must have an effective working relationship, particularly given the coronavirus crisis.

Wednesday, 16th September 2020, 12:30 pm
Michael Russell, Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations, has said there is no trust between the Scottish and UK governments (Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament)

Scottish Constitutional Secretary Michael Russell’s remark that there is now “no trust... absolutely none” in the relationship between the Scottish Government and Westminster is deeply worrying.

Clearly, a left-leaning party that has the main aim of separating Scotland from the United Kingdom and a right-leaning one that is officially called the Conservative and Unionist Party were never going to be the best of friends.

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However, there are numerous practical issues that require a significant degree of co-operation between Scotland’s two governments – chief among them the response to the coronavirus crisis.

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Mike Russell: ‘No trust’ between devolved administrations and UK government

If relations are now so bad as Russell describes, which is not hard to believe, and the usual rhetorical animus between politicians is no longer of the fairly harmless, political pantomime kind, then the Scottish public will pay a price and an increasingly high one unless something is done to bring the two sides to their senses.

Like squabbling children, both share some of the blame.

There are times when the SNP clearly seeks to exploit differences for their own political ends as they pursue what some have called a “grievance” strategy against Westminster. And constantly picking fights with the UK Government will tend to get their backs up and perhaps push them into making bad decisions with personal disputes, rather than the good of the nation, in mind.

Meanwhile, the UK Government has been guilty of ignoring Scotland’s particular economic needs during the Brexit process, as well as the views of the majority of Scots. Boris Johnson and co need to realise the outcome of the trade negotiations with the EU will have a real and serious effect on public opinion in Scotland, which has shifted towards independence in recent months.

The Internal Market Bill’s threat to break international law had already raised questions about whether the UK Government can be trusted, so Russell’s remarks may have been deliberately timed to exploit that for entirely political reasons.

However, especially in this time of crisis with lives and livelihoods at stake, we need our politicians to act in a grown-up way, brush off any such politicking and ensure an effective working relationship is maintained.

Failure to do so is simply not acceptable.

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