As the only Conservative MP in Scotland (not the only Conservative as I am sometimes introduced!), I would require to be multifunctional whether or not I was Shadow Secretary of State! David Cameron reinstated the role to the Shadow Cabinet to ensure that the Scottish perspective was part of its deliberations and I hope that I achieve that.
Obviously there are distinctly Scottish interests which need to be taken into account on reserved matters such as the taxation of the oil industry as well as the staple Scottish issues which include the Barnett formula (we have no plans to change it) or the West Lothian Question (which is currently being looked at by Ken Clarke’s Democracy Task Force), but there is also a need to have an awareness of the devolution settlement and its impact on decision making for the rest of the UK.
Our commitment is to make the Scottish Parliament work, for all the people of Scotland. As a former MSP I hope I am well placed to take that agenda forward and working closely with our MSP Group at Holyrood and the Party Organisation in Scotland. I am part of the equivalent Scottish Shadow Cabinet and the Scottish Executive of the Party. This is clearly an important time for the Party in Scotland as we head into the Scottish Parliament and local government elections on 3rd May 2007 and I will be spending an increasing amount of time in Scotland between now and May.
I take part in the monthly Scottish questions in the House with Douglas Alexander, Secretary of State for Scotland (and Transport). Given my "single status", I am most grateful to my colleagues who come along to Scottish Questions to assist in my role of holding the Secretary of State to account. Topics include the Government’s plans (or lack of them) to mark the 300th anniversary of the Act of Union later this year, energy policy in Scotland in light of the Scottish Executive’s opposition to nuclear and the state of the Scottish economy.
I am the only one of my Shadow Cabinet colleagues to actually serve on a Select Committee; not surprisingly the Scottish Affairs Select Committee. This allows me to play a part in and hopefully influence the Committee’s work; most recently the Committee’s Inquiry into the relationship between the Scottish Parliament and the Westminster Parliament.
Looking ahead, a clear priority for our Party at Westminster is to ensure that the processes and procedures are in place to allow effective working relationships between the UK Government and the Scottish Executive; and the Westminster and Holyrood Parliaments. At the moment, these relationships are based on the nods and winks of a Labour Party ‘old boy’s network’.
It is important that robust arrangements are put in place so that we do not have politically-contrived conflicts every day and there is a mature evolution of the devolution process. I am looking at how other countries deal with this issue and I am particularly interested in Spain which, like the UK, has an asymmetric system of devolution. When we return to power at Westminster we must be ready to govern a very different United Kingdom.