Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Devolution's big stick

In all the media coverage of FM Salmond’s away-day to Stormont, little explanation has been offered as to why his visit was so appealing to Dr Paisley and Mr McGuiness. After all, they did invite him. The Scottish media's uniform take on matters thus far revolves entirely around the potential irritation that his visit will cause Whitehall, with the usual spin being that Wee Eck again is just keen to pick a fight with Number 10. By stepping into international relations (rather than continuing Labour’s tradition of running Scotland as a glorified town council) he will do that. Our lamentable media also seems perplexed that a Scottish nationalist should be able to make common cause with a staunch defender of the union of the parliaments, and an Irish Republican. Again what passes for the political analysis here in Scotland misses the point. The leadership in Northern Ireland (and doubtless Wales too in due course) regard (and always has done) Scotland’s First Minister as ‘first among equals’ across the devolved administrations. This reflects the fact that, under the devolution settlements, Scotland emerged as the most powerful of the three devolved administrations. By aligning itself with Salmond, Northern Ireland's leadership can punch above its weight in dealings with London and so get more out of UK Government than otherwise (although EU state aid rules will almost certainly prevent them getting what they want on corporation tax). Seems that the only administration not to have worked out how to deal with the new political angles thrown up by May 7th historic result north of the border is, well, the one in London.

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