Parliament: Scotland - Reid `not just go-between'

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JOHN REID, the newly appointed Secretary of State for Scotland, insisted yesterday that his role would not be reduced to that of a "messenger boy" after the setting up of the Scottish Assembly.

He used his first question time since the 6 May elections to make clear there was still a range of residual duties for which he would be responsible. Whilst he defended the right of the Scottish Parliament not to impose tuition fees for higher education students, Dr Reid made clear that MSPs would have to justify their decision and explain to the Scottish people where the money to pay for it would come from.

"We have to countenance the possibility that, on occasions, different priorities will be given by the Scottish Parliament to different issues," he said. However, there were "ground rules" that would have to be followed by London and Edinburgh to enable the partnership to develop, Dr Reid said. Both would have to be aware of "the wider implications" of any decision as well as the "direct interests" of their constituents.

But the Tory constitutional affairs spokesman, Liam Fox, challenged him on whether the Government thought it acceptable for MPs who were also MSPs to vote for tuition fees in England and Wales but against them north of the border. "Leaving aside the legality, do you think that is fair or even desirable?" Dr Fox said.

Dr Reid replied: "Those people who vote two different ways in two different areas will have to reconcile that problem themselves, irrespective of parties."