By a Newsnet reporter
In a speech to be made today, Wednesday, to the David Hume Institute in Edinburgh, the Lib Dem Scottish Secretary Michael Moore will launch an attack on the Scottish Government’s “obsession” with extra powers. Mr Moore will also use his speech to accuse Alex Salmond of “lacking interest” in the powers Holyrood already has and of “picking fights” with Westminster.
The attack on the Scottish Government is his second this week. On Sunday Mr Moore reacted angrily to complaints from the Scottish Government that Scotland was being short-changed in the UK Government’s allocation of funding for broadband. Scotland has been allocated £68.8 million from the £530 million Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK). Mr Moore accused the Scottish Government of having a “sour outlook” and demanded that they “cheer up”.
Mr Moore’s comments came after Scottish infrastructure secretary Alex Neil pointed out that delivering next-generation broadband to the Highlands and Islands region alone would cost £300 million and that the UK Government had failed to take the geography and population distribution of Scotland into account.
In his speech Mr Moore will renew his attack on the Scottish Government and will claim it is fostering an “insidious narrative” by highlighting its defence of Scottish interests.
Asserting that the Coalition has a legitimate mandate to govern Scotland at the UK level, Mr Moore will say: “There is an insidious narrative in which the Scottish Government is portrayed as standing up for Scotland’s interests by standing against the UK Government. So let me be very clear about something which UK ministers have been perhaps too slow or considered it unnecessary to point out: Scotland has two governments – distinct, elected and legitimate.
“Both take decisions in the interests of Scotland, in light of their respective powers and their democratic mandate.”
Mr Moore believes that the Scottish Government should focus its energies on what he terms the “bread and butter” issues for which Holyrood already has responsibility, saying in his speech that the SNP government “should get on with the job”.
In a direct attack on First Minister Alex Salmond, Mr Moore is expected to add: “Yet, all too often, their minds appear to be focused on other things — particularly if those things are happening south of the border.
“The First Minister’s concentration on them leaves the impression that Scottish Ministers lack interest in the powers they do have while being obsessed with powers they don’t have.”
Mr Moore will assert in his speech that the Coalition is listening to the concerns and needs of Scotland, citing examples such as the investment in broadband, the deferral of spending cuts at Holyrood and lifting the burden of income tax on 91,000 of the lowest paid.
“The decisions we make against the backdrop of the worst finances in modern history are decisions taken to get the best for Scotland in the hardest of times. So the Scottish Government need not worry,” Mr Moore will declare in defence of the Coalition’s policies.
Despite this being his second direct attack on the Holyrood administration within a few days, Mr Moore is also expected to remind the SNP government that the Coalition’s “respect agenda” cuts both ways and that Westminster expects acquiescence from Holyrood saying that each should “acknowledge one another’s legitimacy, respect one another’s mandates, and ensure they fulfil those mandates to the best of their abilities”.
Mr Moore’s party was almost annihilated at the Holyrood election in May, losing 12 of the 17 seats they held previously and sinking to an unprecedented low of 5.2% of the regional vote. The party continues to perform abysmally in opinion polls.
Speaking in response to advance releases of Mr Moore’s speech, SNP deputy whip Graeme Dey noted that the Scottish Secretary was obviously “out of touch” with the activities of the SNP administration over the past 100 days.
Mr Dey said: “Lib Dems must be deeply disappointed every time they hear Michael Moore parroting Tory lines.
“People across Scotland including many Lib Dems backed the SNP’s record of competence and delivery in government and our ambitions for Scotland’s future.
“In contrast Lib Dem supporters, members and even councillors are turning away from a Lib Dem leadership that has turned its back on their principles.
“The more Michael Moore stands against the ambitions of the Scottish people the more harm he does to his party.
“This is a speech a Tory would be proud of and that will drive more Lib Dems away from their party and toward the SNP.”
Update: the above article was edited after publication to correct an error in the Liberal Democrats’ share of the vote in the 2011 Holyrood election.