Westminster criticised after Home Office refuses to give evidence to Holyrood committee


  By Sean Martin
The UK Government has been criticised for failing to live up to a pre-election pledge to visit Holyrood on a more regular basis – after Home Office representatives refused to appear before a Scottish Parliament committee.
As part of the European and External Relations Committee’s inquiry into independence, the Home Office was invited to send delegates to give evidence on citizenship and immigration.

But the UK Government department rejected the request by letter on 12 May – sparking condemnation from the Committee’s convenor, SNP MSP Christina McKelvie.

Ms McKelvie said the snub was proof the Conservatives were not living up to their 2010 general election manifesto pledge to visit Holyrood for questioning on a regular basis.

The pledge, contained on page 83 of the 2010 manifesto, also said the party had the aim of “creating a relationship of mutual respect between Westminster and Holyrood” – something Ms McKelvie questioned.

“This latest snub to the Scottish Parliament from a UK Government is yet another sign that Westminster has thrown its ‘respect agenda’ towards Scotland out of the window,” she said.

“In recent days we’ve had confirmation that David Cameron is to play a central role in the No campaign and that the UK Government is doing the No camp’s polling for them – it seems that the UK Government wants to direct the campaign against independence but won’t answer any questions about its role.

“If the Tory-led Government wants its views on Scotland’s future to be taken seriously, they can’t just take day trips to Scotland to parrot the latest Project Fear scare story – they should engage in the respect agenda that they promised when they were elected.”

Ms McKelvie’s criticism echoes similar concerns voiced by Kevin Stewart MSP, a member of the Welfare Reform Committee.

Mr Stewart yesterday responded to news that the Employment Minister, Esther McVey, intends to refuse a meeting with the committee to discuss the impact her policies have on vulnerable people across Scotland.

Her apparent refusal, contained in a letter to the Scottish Government’s Minister for Housing and Welfare, Margaret Burgess, also suggested there was no link between the coalition’s welfare cuts and the rise in foodbank usage across the UK.

Mr Stewart responded by calling the Employment Minister “heartless” and claiming that the UK Government has “washed their hands” of the portion of the population who use foodbanks.
He added: “The crux of the letter is that Ms McVey has refused to formally attend the Welfare Reform Committee to answer questions about the very policies she is enforcing on vulnerable people.”