David Cameron mets Nicola Sturgeon
David Cameron and Nicola Sturgeon are holding talks in Edinburgh, with further powers for the Scottish Parliament expected to dominate. It is the first meeting between the prime minister and Scotland’s first minister since the general election. Mr Cameron, who is visiting Scotland on a post-election tour of the UK, has promised a devolution bill in the Queen’s Speech later this month. But Ms Sturgeon argues that the proposals do not go far enough. The two leaders shook hands on the front steps as Mr Cameron arrived at Ms Sturgeon’s official residence at Bute House.
Ms Sturgeon has been joined for the talks by her deputy John Swinney, who is also the Scottish finance secretary. Mr Cameron has been accompanied by David Mundell, who is the new secretary of state for Scotland, and Andrew Dunlop, who was controversially appointed as a junior minister at the Scotland Office on Thursday. Ms Sturgeon and Mr Cameron spoke by phone last Friday – the day after election voting – and agreed to hold more detailed discussions at the earliest possible opportunity.
The first minister said she had “made it clear” to Mr Cameron during their brief telephone conversation that “it cannot be business as usual” in Scotland. Mr Cameron’s Conservatives won an overall majority in the election, but Ms Sturgeon’s SNP won 56 of the 59 seats in Scotland. Ahead of their face-to-face meeting, Ms Sturgeon said she was “looking forward to serious and substantial talks” with the prime minister and would have a “constructive and co-operative approach” in dealing with the UK government.
“But, as I have made crystal clear, the general election result last week, and the overwhelming mandate that has given the SNP, means that it simply cannot be ‘business as usual’ when it comes to Westminster’s attitude to Scotland – whether on public spending or on more powers for Scotland,” she said. The proposals of the Smith Commission are a good starting point, but the election result shows that people all across Scotland are keen to move beyond the extra powers it identified. “She pointed to endorsement by the Scottish Trades Union Congress of new powers for the Scottish Parliament, including over issues like the minimum wage and employment law, as showing “the depth of support within civic Scotland for substantial new powers for Holyrood”.
Some Conservative politicians have urged Mr Cameron to consider offering a more radical package of devolution to Ms Sturgeon, including full fiscal autonomy – full control over tax and spending. But the prime minister has so far given no indications that he intends to go beyond the proposals contained in the Smith agreement. Mr Cameron said he was visiting Scotland to “underline my commitment to our United Kingdom and Scotland’s important place within it”. “That means remaining true to the promise we made to implement the all-party Smith agreement to make Scotland one of the most accountable and powerful devolved parliaments in the world,” he said.
He added: “Scotland has two governments and it is the duty of the first minister and myself to respect each other’s roles and responsibilities and to work together for the benefit of all the people of Scotland.”As more powers are devolved to Scotland, it is time to move beyond the debate about processes and focus on those bread and butter issues that affect every family in our United Kingdom – jobs, homes, good schools and strong public services, and dignity and respect in retirement.”