Extra devolution in Scotland: We can all learn from this lesson in clever politics

The Nationalists still have the ability to win the war of the airwaves, no matter how many heavy hitters the Government sends North to make its case

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The Independent Online

Alistair Carmichael clearly knew what to expect.

“I would be astounded if the SNP didn’t find something to criticise,” the Scottish Secretary said.

He was right.

Within 10 minutes of the launch of the draft legislation on extra devolution for Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon had sent out a tweet criticising the plans. According to Ms Sturgeon, the legislation would give UK ministers an effective veto over some Scottish Government welfare policies.

David Cameron went on the television to “absolutely guarantee” there would be no veto and Mr Carmichael and Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, did the same.

But by then the damage had been done. Instead of being a story about great new plans for devolution, it became a row about perfidious Westminster and whether UK ministers would continue to hold the reins in the Scottish Government.

Ms Sturgeon may have made a technical point and, actually, she had little to back it up, but she managed to shift the debate on to an area that she wanted to talk about.

It was simply good politics and it showed that, despite the loss of Alex Salmond, the Nationalists still have the ability to win the war of the airwaves, no matter how many heavy hitters the Government sends North to make its case.

And, with the general election around the corner, this is one lesson that should not be lost on the Westminster parties.

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