By a Newsnet reporter
According to sources reported in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper, Lib Dem Scotland Secretary Michael Moore is likely to be a victim of this summer’s UK cabinet reshuffle, and will be replaced by Lib Dem colleague Jo Swinson
The Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP has failed to impress in his current role, and has been frozen out of key decision making in the UK government’s anti-independence campaign.
The Scotland Secretary, who is seen as “over-cautious” by Downing Street, has also marked his term in the role with a series of unfortunate gaffes resulting in him being sidelined by PM David Cameron.
Moore was not briefed on David Cameron’s interjections on the timing of the independence referendum and proposals to give Holyrood the legal powers to hold it. Both incidents were deeply embarrassing to Mr Moore.
Although the Secretary of State for Scotland is officially “Scotland’s voice in the UK Cabinet”, the incidents revealed that not only did the Prime Minister’s office not consult him about key decisions affecting Scotland, he was not even informed before a public announcement was made.
In another sign of the loss of confidence in Mr Moore, he was almost invisible at the recent launch of the official anti-independence ‘Better Together’ campaign earlier this week, with prominence being given instead to the Lib Dem’s Holyrood leader Willie Rennie.
Some commentators have suggested that if replaced by Ms Swinson, the female MP will be given a more prominent role in order to bolster the ‘Better Together’ campaign which has identified women as a key target group in the 2014 referendum.
The Prime Minister is expected to announce that Mr Moore is to be transferred to another office, possibly Defence, in the Cabinet reshuffle expected after the end of the Olympics. Downing St insiders speaking to Scotland on Sunday say that the timing was chosen in order to minimise the political damage that would be caused by a change at the top of the Scotland Office only a few weeks after the uninspiring launch of the No campaign.
East Dunbartonshire MP Swinson is being touted as the most likely replacement for Mr Moore. She is said to have impressed cabinet colleagues by her willingness to vote in favour of tuition fees for university students despite having made her career on a commitment to abolish them.
Ms Swinson’s first speech to the Lib Dem party conference was on the topic of student fees, she later stated it was the party’s opposition to student fees which had led her to join them. Speaking after her decision to vote in favour of annual tuition fees of up to £9000 for students in England, Ms Swinson claimed that the new system was “fairer” and claimed that many students would pay less despite the new higher charges.
Following her party’s dismal performance in the Scottish elections, the Lib Dem MP is thought to have been hoping for a move to a safer English constituency seat away from her own marginal Scottish seat, in order to preserve her parliamentary career. Any ‘promotion’ to the role of Secretary of State for Scotland may jeopordise such a move.
Ms Swinson also attracted criticism during the MPs expenses scandal in 2009, when it was revealed that had regularly used the additional costs allowance, which MPs use to fund a second home, to claim for low-cost, everyday items like a 29p packet of dusters, a bottle of Mr Sheen cleaner costing 78p, and a £1.19 window cleaner. It was also claimed that Ms Swinson had used her expenses to claim personal items such as eyeliner, a hairdryer, and an electric toothbrush.
Ms Swinson claimed: “None of these items would have been necessary for me to buy were I not living away from home for half of the week.”
She denied that she had claimed for the eyeliner, saying that it was listed on a receipt that included other items for which she did seek repayment.
The MP opposes positive discrimination to address gender imbalance, and at the Lib Dem conference in 2002 she led the argument against positive discrimination to select candidates, wearing a pink T-shirt with the slogan, “I am not a token woman.”