By a Newsnet reporter
On the third anniversary of David Cameron’s claim that his government would have a “respect agenda” towards the Scottish Parliament a Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander is under fire for failing to attend a parliamentary committee and appearing to give misleading reasons for his decision not to attend.
Wednesday’s newspapers reported that Mr Alexander cancelled an appearance at the Scottish Parliament’s Finance committee at short notice, claiming he had business to do with the spending review – when he had instead chosen to take part in the Scottish Affairs Committee’s politically motivated anti-independence inquiry.
Mr Alexander’s letter to Kenneth Gibson – the Convener of the Finance Committee – cites ‘diary pressures associated with the forthcoming spending review’ as the reason for his non-attendance. Mr Alexander asked the Holyrood committee to reschedule for September.
Mr Alexander’s snub to the Scottish Parliament is the latest in a series from UK cabinet ministers. The SNP say that this now amounts to a definite pattern of behaviour from members of the UK Government which flies in the face of David Cameron’s commitment that Westminster would co-operate fully with Holyrood in the run-up to next year’s independence referendum.
In May 2010 David Cameron said: “I want a real agenda of respect between our parliaments.
“I want to see Scottish ministers able to appear in front of select committees in Westminster and I believe that, if the Scottish Parliament would wish it, I would appear every year at the Scottish Parliament to answer questions.”
Despite the Prime Minister’s statement, Danny Alexander’s snub this week follows Iain Duncan Smith and a host of others from Westminster who have refused invitations to appear before the Scottish Parliament.
- Michael Moore refusal to attend European and External Relations committee to discuss the Eurozone crisis and Scotland.
- Both Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Freud have repeatedly turned down invitations to appear in public session before the Welfare Reform Committee to defend Westminster policies such as the Bedroom Tax.
- When Caroline Spelman was Secretary of State for Environment, she turned down an invitation to appear in front of the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee.
- Current Environment Secretary Owen Paterson was meant to appear in front of the committee on 8 May, but cancelled.
The SNP has now called on the UK Government to remember its promise of a respect agenda, and have accused the UK Government of “gross discourtesy” and of showing “a complete lack of respect” which proves that they are “running scared of Scotland”.
Kenneth Gibson MSP said:
“Westminster is clearly not interested in Scotland.
“Danny Alexander’s snub of the Scottish Parliament is concerning, if not surprising.
“The fact that he seems to have misled the Parliament for his reasons for not attending shows that he is running scared of Scotland.
“Mr Alexander said his cancellation this was due to ‘diary pressures associated with the forthcoming spending review’ – but now we learn that these ‘diary pressures’ involve him attending a politically-motivated Westminster inquiry to scaremonger over independence. It shows you can’t trust a word anti-independence politicians say.
“Danny Alexander owes the committee an apology and a proper explanation. We are considering legislation he introduced and his plans to reduce Scotland’s block grant so it is a gross discourtesy that he has failed to attend, and appears to have misled the committee on his intentions.
“Three years ago this week David Cameron made much of a ‘respect agenda’ with the people of Scotland’s Parliament. With the repeated failure of his ministers to attend the Scottish Parliament and explain their actions Westminster is once again not working for Scotland.
“It is endemic of the complete lack of respect from Westminster towards Scotland that will help turn the undecided voters towards a Yes vote in September 2014.”