Thursday, May 17, 2007

Scotland moves forward with new First Minister & Cabinet - Justice and Injustice now ripe for reform

After a few days of fretting among the defeated Labour & LibDem Coalition on what to do, Alex Salmond has been voted Scotland's first SNP First Minister, and today we finally have a Ministerial Cabinet to run the Executive - with no help from the opposition parties it seems !

Of course, while Scotland moves forward at last, the occasional hiccup crops up, as it certainly did in the Scottish Borders the other day, where the new coalition of Liberal, Tory & Independent councilors which 'run' Scottish Borders Council had their first fight - only a few hours into the deal, which saw the Tories accused of pushing an Independent Councillor off his chair !

Another fine example of stupidity from Scottish Borders Council, where only it seems the worst calibre of politicians get elected to run what has to be one of Scotland's most corrupt local authorities. Maybe this lot should be deposed and the new Executive could take over the running of the Borders - and bring in some decent people to run the Departments at SBC, rather than some of the spiteful vindictive figures which have graced the halls of SBC's Newtown StBoswells Headquarters for so long.

Anyway back to national issues, and within the Ministerial appointments, we see the excellent John Swinney as Finance & Suststainable Growth Minister - certainly a good appointment there, and from what I see of the rest of the team, no significant surprises or causes for worry.

Kenny MacAskill gets the Justice portfolio, of course, which isn't a surprise, but what now for reform of the judiciary and the remaining reforms to the legal system and the operation of the legal profession ?

Would a minority government be capable of taking on Scotland's Judiciary on the subject of much needed reform, given the ferocity of resistance we have seen in the past from the Judiciary when even mere talk of reforms came to the fore ?. There may be little chance if previous experience has anything to go by .. not forgetting the SNP chaired Justice 1 Committee inquiry "Regulation of the legal profession" in 2001, where the Sheriff's Association threatened the then J1 Committee with court action if they investigated the role of Sheriffs ... J1 of course, backing down immediately.

Personally, I don't think we will see much in the way of Judicial reform in this Executive ... not at least unless the other parties cooperate in any plans, and on such a strong issue as this, which at least, only the Labour party showed any willingness to pursue in the past .. I can't see that cooperation materialising.

Of course, that's not to say we should'nt be lobbying for reforms to the Judiciary even though the numbers at Holyrood may not add up because it has been quite obvious for many years the Judiciary in Scotland needs a few changes to it's hundreds of years old operation and accountability only to itself ... something which doesn't really fit in with transparency & modern day human rights when people seek to question or take issue with failings from the Judiciary itself.

Going back to the issue of reforming the legal profession, Mr MacAskill was recently reported by the Herald newspaper to be wavering on some policies such as raising the small claims limit and opening access to justice, something which there seems a reluctance to put into practice, despite growing calls for opening up the legal services market in Scotland. I covered this issue here : It's time for Injustice to end, but will the SNP end Injustice in Scotland ?

As far as reforming Justice and ending Injustice go, we must now expect the SNP to deliver on this, after eight long years of inactivity on the issue from the Scottish Parliament where victims of injustice have been left largely unaided by their msps, unless it suited party political means to do something about it.

There is now no excuse for sitting on the fence - no more excuses for just complaining about it now, the SNP are in Government so that's it - let's deliver and give Scotland a respectable justice system and an honest accountable legal profession - which we all need, use, and deserve, and lets not forget the victims of injustice of the past which require also to be put right without delay.

Following article from the Scotsman reporting on the new Ministerial team and Mr Salmond's speech as First Minister :

United we stand, Salmond tells his new parliament

ALEX Salmond invited his political opponents to forge a new consensual era of Scottish politics yesterday, using his maiden speech as First Minister to call for an end to the dogmatic party divisions which have characterised parliamentary business since devolution.

Aware that he will have to run Scotland with little more than a third of its MSPs, Mr Salmond appealed to all the MSPs in the chamber to work together in the country's best interests.

And, in a move that will infuriate Gordon Brown, the likely next Prime Minister, the SNP leader said he felt significant progress could be made if the parties united to call for more powers for the parliament.

Mr Salmond was elected as First Minister at precisely 11:11am yesterday morning. The outcome, although expected, was greeted with jubilation on the SNP benches and in the public gallery, from where his wife Moira, father Robert and sister Gail were all watching.

His victory, which came with the aid of votes from Scotland's two Green MSPs, will enable him to form a minority SNP administration.

The Nationalists are 18 seats short of a majority in the 129-member parliament.

In his speech, Mr Salmond stressed the ties and causes which united MSPs of many parties, not the divisions between them.

"We are not divided. We have a sense of ourselves. A sense of community. And above all, a sense of the 'common weal' of Scotland," Mr Salmond declared. "We are diverse, not divided," he said.

And he added: "There is a broad consensus on the need for this parliament to assume greater responsibility for the governance of Scotland, and there is an understanding that we are engaged in a process of self-government - and an awareness of the distance already travelled."

Jack McConnell picked up on Mr Salmond's theme, saying: "Voltaire once said that governments need both shepherds and butchers and I think Alex may need to be more of a shepherd than a butcher in his new role, looking around this flock here and trying to secure majorities for his policies."

He also gave a clear hint in his speech that he intended to stay on as Labour leader in Scotland, at least for the near future.

"I am very proud to lead the largest and most experienced opposition that this parliament has ever had and I look forward to that job," he said.

But the former First Minister also took the opportunity to warn Mr Salmond that he did not have an "unconditional" right to govern.

After leaving the chamber, Mr Salmond told his supporters:

"You think you can imagine what it's going to be like but, when you imagine, it's never quite the reality. It's a wonderful day."

Mr Salmond went on from the parliament, where his party were still celebrating his election as First Minister, to St Andrew's House, the home of the civil service in Scotland.

He met Sir John Elvidge, the Permanent Secretary, and then unveiled his slimmed-down ministerial team.

However, the new sense of consensual politics appeared to dissolve as soon as Mr Salmond announced that he was trimming the previous nine departments to just six.

Mr McConnell immediately criticised the plans as a "badly prepared rearrangement".

"This is change for change's sake, but the impact could be very damaging."

The new First Minister took a congratulatory telephone call from Douglas Alexander, the Scottish Secretary, but by last night he had still not heard from either the Prime Minister Tony Blair or Mr Brown.

Soon after Mr Salmond's election in the parliamentary chamber, the Queen signed the warrant appointing him as Scotland's First Minister.

The Queen will see Mr Salmond in person in Scotland next week.

Today, Mr Salmond will perform a ceremony in the Court of Session before the Great Seal of Scotland which will give him the legal power to run the Scottish Executive.

He will later undertake his first official engagement, an environmental announcement at Longannet Power Station.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, welcomed the SNP leader's appointment.

"I am sure that he will work for the good of all the people of this country," he said.

Matt Smith, the Scottish secretary of Unison, congratulated Mr Salmond and asked for an early meeting with representatives of the new administration.

Friends of the Earth Scotland welcomed the appointment of what they described as a "tough on climate change, anti-nuclear" First Minister and they urged all MSPs to support the new Executive's environmental plans.

Surprises spice up the expected rewards for loyalty in top team

THE new slimmed-down Cabinet for Scotland saw Alex Salmond award trusted lieutenants with senior posts but also a few surprise faces.

The new First Minister has reduced the number of departments from nine to six by merging certain portfolios.

But the breakdown of departments was already causing concern yesterday. Opposition politicians said twinning transport with climate change could cause a conflict of interest and de-coupling enterprise from higher education was a mistake.

However, Mr Salmond insisted the new government would be more focused.

"It sends a signal for the rest of the public administration in Scotland," he added.


Mr Salmond has two deputies. BRUCE CRAWFORD will need all his diplomatic skills as minister for parliamentary business. As minister for Europe, external affairs and culture, LINDA FABIANI has a huge portfolio with responsibility for Gaelic, architecture and the arts.

NICOLA STURGEON will be deputy first minister as well as cabinet secretary. This means leaving Shona Robison, who was expected to get the role, out of the cabinet. Instead she will take on a junior post as public health minister. Stewart Maxwell,who first proposed the public smoking ban, is minister for communities and sport.


As expected, the most important role goes to former leader JOHN SWINNEY. His deputies are the SNP's economic brains: Jim Mather as minister for enterprise, energy and tourism, and Stewart Stevenson as minister for transport, infrastructure and climate change.


As the former spokeswoman on education, FIONA HYSLOP was an obvious choice as cabinet secretary. Her deputies are more unexpected. Maureen Watt, the minister for schools and skills, has been in Holyrood for just over a year and Adam Ingram, minister for children and early years, is an unshowy character.


After serving as justice spokesman, KENNY MACASKILL was rewarded with the job, fresh from winning the SNP's first seat in Edinburgh. His deputy, Fergus Ewing, was expected to get a senior role, although minister for community safety was an unusual move.


RICHARD LOCHHEAD, the Nationalists' former fisheries spokesman, has landed a senior role as cabinet secretary but his inexperience may tempt some opposition politicians to try to target him for attacks. Michael Russell, the author, commentator and former television producer, makes a comeback as minister for the environment.


THANK you, Presiding Officer, for your congratulations; and can I now turn to the party leaders to thank them. Firstly, Annabel Goldie. I toasted Annabel Goldie recently at the Scouts and Guides Burns Supper and such was the excellence of her replying to the toast to the lassies that I was sorely tempted to vote for her today.

Tempted Annabel, but not seduced.

My wife Moira and wee sister Gail are here today - it's a good job my big sister is not here, Annabel. But my dad is here today as well.

My father has never seen me in the chamber because he always refused to set foot in the Palace of Westminster; some people say I should have heeded his advice. But I thank my family for their support today.

I thank Nicol Stephen for his typically gracious speech. I listened carefully when you listed all your manifesto commitments. I am not sure the government can afford all of them but we will certainly try our best. Lastly, can I turn to Jack McConnell to thank him for his good wishes. Mr McConnell once said the job of First Minister was to leave Scotland better than how you found it, and I think in terms in particular of the ban on smoking and campaign to tackle sectarianism, Jack McConnell has certainly done that.

I applaud your continued efforts in that direction and wish you and Bridget all the best for the future. Thank you very much.

This parliament, as we should remember, is created by the people of Scotland in a referendum. It is bigger than any of its members or any one party.

I believe that Scotland is ready for change and for reform. This is a small nation with a big future. But it is also a small nation with big challenges.

It was said earlier on that Scotland is a divided nation. Given the closeness of the election result, I can understand that in some ways. However, it is not the case.

Certainly, the gap between rich and poor is far too great. We need to grow faster. We need to heal the scars of the past. We need to be greener. We need to be still smarter.

But we are not divided. We have a sense of ourselves. A sense of community. And above all, a sense of the "common weal" of Scotland.

In some ways we're not even a divided parliament. Of course, in this part of the chamber, we seek independence and equality for Scotland. I'm told not everyone agrees. But there is a broad consensus on the need for this parliament to assume greater responsibility for the governance of Scotland. And there is an understanding that we are engaged in a process of self-government - and an awareness of the distance already travelled.

In 1961, Bashir Ahmad came to Glasgow to drive buses. In 1961, the very idea of a Scottish Parliament was unimaginable. In 1961, the very idea of a Scots Asian sitting in a Scots parliament was doubly unimaginable.

But Bashir is here and we are here, and that part of the community of Scotland is now woven into the very tartan of our parliament. And we are stronger - so much stronger - as a result. We are diverse, not divided.

The nature and composition of this third Scottish Parliament makes it imperative that this government will rely on the strength of argument in parliament and not the argument of parliamentary strength.

Despite all the challenges we will face together, I welcome that as a chance to develop a new and fundamentally more reflective model of democracy.

The days since the election have been understandably dominated by questions over the structure of government - will there be a coalition or will there be a minority government?

Let me say to parliament that what matters more to the people we all represent is less the structure of government and more what we, all of us, achieve on the people's behalf.

Presiding Officer, all of us in this parliament have a responsibility to conduct ourselves in a way which respects the parliament the people have chosen to elect. That will take patience, maturity and leadership. My pledge today is that any Scottish government led by me will respect and include this parliament in the governance of Scotland over the next four years.

In this century, there are limits to what governments can achieve. But one thing any government I lead will never lack is ambition for Scotland. Today, I commit myself to leadership wholly and exclusively in the Scottish national interest. We will appeal for support policy by policy across this chamber.

That is the parliament the people of Scotland have elected, and that is the government that I will be proud to lead.


Anonymous said...

The judges will be keeping an eye on Salmond and his gang.Don't expect them to let him get away with much.

offbeat said...

The price of your snp government will be 4 years of arguing with London over policy so dont come ctying to us when it all goes wrong.

Anonymous said...

So its time for all intelligent people to move south ?

Anonymous said...

Mr Cherbi
Douglas Mill was right, you should have been taken out with something sharp.

Peter Cherbi said...

#anonymous @7.21pm

We are all aware how much Douglas Mill dislikes me, and to what extent he will go in attacking me, so thanks for the tip.

I will let your comment stand for all to see.

Archie said...

Hi Pete

keep the lawyers at bay !

blindingfury/ said...

This seems a jolly little war you guys have going.Can anyone join in ?

I side with the blog owner since those lawyers are such bastards.Go on kid let everyone know how nasty those guys are to people.

Anonymous said...

I was just reading your comments in the Scotsman.

Completely agree with you about the lawyers and judges.The whole system definitely needs cleaned up and all this self regulation stuff ditched.

Anonymous said...

So it looks like the legal profession were responsible for the election mess after all and Douglas Alexander is of course a lawyer too !

Will Kenny MacAskill continue the great tradition of covering up for lawyers ?

Anonymous said...

I came here too after reading your stuff on the Scotsman forum.

Very good comments.I was amazed at what you said on the John Lindsay story and that letter from his family.Never thought lawyers would also do that but now I know different and it matches something I heard about from a neighbour who made a complaint against their own lawyer.Will try to get them to contact you about it.