Chancellormoves to stop Scots turf wars

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The Independent Online
A SYSTEM for heading off disputes between the Government and the new Scottish Parliament will be unveiled today by Gordon Brown, the Chancellor.

In a keynote speech in Edinburgh, Mr Brown will announce the setting up of joint cabinet committees and task forces involving ministers from both the Government and the Scottish executive. The framework has been hammered out by Mr Brown in talks with John Reid, the Scottish Secretary, and Donald Dewar, the First Secretary in Edinburgh, who have been involved in several "turf wars" since the assembly was set up this spring.

Government sources denied the committees were a response to teething problems with devolution, saying new methods of co-operation between London and Edinburgh had always been envisaged in areas where both have a role.

The joint committees will cover pensioner poverty; child poverty and hi-tech economic advances.

Mr Brown is determined to stop power struggles between Westminster and Holyrood bogging down the governing of Scotland. He wants the Government and the Scottish executive to focus on "the real economic and social issues".

His approach has been influenced by Labour's private polling, which shows Scottish people want politicians in London and Edinburgh to concentrate on " social justice" issues such as health, education, jobs, the economy and welfare reform. The creation of the joint committees is seen by ministers as the most significant development since the setting up of the Scottish Parliament. Similar groups are expected in Wales. Mr Brown hopes the changes will underpin the devolution settlement.

But his critics in the Scottish National Party (SNP) will see the changes as an attempt to limit the scope of policy splits between London and Edinburgh and to neuter a future nationalist administration north of the border.

In his speech, Mr Brown will say: "Everyone who wants to solve the poverty problem knows the only way to triumph over the problems of poverty is to work together." He will accuse the SNP of being "more interested on removing Scotland from Britain than removing poverty from Scotland".

He will continue: "We need to tackle the real problems with a new politics of joint action instead of carrying over manufactured grievances from the old politics of constitutional conflict. The SNP's actions show they are more interested in separatism than social justice."

Mr Brown will argue that the "battle for Scotland" has been fought in two phases. For 20 years, the Scottish people rejected the centralisation, insecurity and conservatism of Tory governments.

Then for 20 months they rejected the "divisive separatism of the SNP", he will say. He will hail the first elections to the Scottish Parliament as the crucial turning point in the battle.