Carmichael accused of neglecting his role as Scottish Secretary

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  By Owen O’Donnell

Scottish Secretary, Alistair Carmichael has been accused by the SNP of failing “to take his job seriously” after admitting he is thinking of a career change.

Mr Carmichael was quoted in the Sunday Herald saying that he was “thinking about quitting Westminster” as he “can’t be in politics forever”

Lib Dem Carmichael, who became the MP for Orkney and Shetland in 2001 explained, “…one of the most dangerous things for anybody in politics is to think they’re in it for life.

“I look around the political scene, especially at Westminster – I’m not going to name names – but you see people and you think, ‘Actually, you’ve stayed too long’.”

While he says that he will be standing as a candidate in the 2015 General Election, these comments come a mere three months after he was appointed to the position in UK Government cabinet meetings with a supposed reputation as a “bruiser” to replace Michael Moore.

SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing threw scorn on his remarks, she said: “If Alistair Carmichael is already thinking about his next career move it’s no surprise people are questioning his commitment to his current role.

“This semi-detached attitude shows how apathetic he is already in representing Scotland interests.

“During his short time as Westminster’s man in Scotland, Mr Carmichael has repeatedly failed to stand up for the people of Scotland.

“People in Scotland have far greater expectations than this and Alistair Carmichael urgently needs to up his game when it comes to standing up for Scotland.”

Carmichael has come under scrutiny by the SNP for a perceived inability to represent Scotland in Westminster on a number of issues during his brief tenure as Scottish Secretary.

He was blasted by transport minister Keith Brown in November for refusing to commit to extending the high speed HS2 rail line – a project Scotland is contributing towards – over the border; with Brown saying that “Scotland should be top of his to-do list.”

Carmichael insisted that this could not be done until a Y-shape line extending to Leeds and Manchester was completed.  He said: “Getting it to Scotland is the next piece of the jigsaw.”

He also came under fire during the industrial row which saw shipyard closures in Govan and Portsmouth for refusing to state whether he would continue to fight for Scottish shipyards to win contracts after a Yes vote in the referendum.

Carmichael was slated after appearing to side with the rival Portsmouth yard, after he stated: “If Scotland were to vote yes, then the rest of the UK would be looking for shipyards within their jurisdiction and yes, you would think Portsmouth would be well placed in that circumstance.

“If at any point Scotland were to remove herself from the rest of the UK then when the rest of the UK came to let its contracts it would be let within the rest of the UK.

“That’s law, not politics.”

Mr Carmichael recently provoked fury from within the Scottish farming community after giving his support to a Westminster backed decision to not pass on full EU funding payments.

The money, called the convergence uplift, amounts to almost a quarter of a billion euros over the next seven years and accrues solely due the poor Common Agriculture Budget allocation awarded to Scotland’s farmers. In November, the Coalition Government announced its intention to split the money between farmers across the whole of the UK.

Carmichael’s description of the decision as “a fair and positive package” was savaged by SNP Agriculture spokesperson, Dr Eilidh Whiteford, who accused him of “Echoing what his Tory counterpart at DEFRA” told her in response to a question that “Scotland is getting more than its fair share.”

Ms Whiteford added: “There has been cross-party consensus in the Scottish Parliament that the convergence uplift must come to Scotland, yet UK Ministers have shown  again they are simply not listening , and worse Mr Carmichael is happy to follow his Tory leaders.”

A cross-party letter was sent in October to the UK Government calling for about €230 million in extra EU farming subsidies to be allocated to Scotland.

The additional Common Agricultural Policy cash, known as the ‘convergence uplift’, is worth up to €60 million a year – the equivalent of about €230 million over the whole budget period – and the only reason that the UK qualifies for the uplift is because of Scotland’s low payments under the current system.

Mr Carmichael has himself previously signalled his support for calls for the funding to be paid in full.  Speaking in October, the Lib Dem MP said: “I am completely aware of that argument (on the extra £195m), and I am not without sympathy for the force of it.”