Warning - for the benefit of Lib Dem blogger Stephen Glenn, the following paragraph contains traces of irony...
We all know how the SNP Government picks endless fights with London - it's all the party exists for. Manufacturing endless conflict where previously there was nothing but a well-oiled Rolls Royce of a home civil service machine, all with the aim of fostering division so as to aid the nefarious process of splitting up the most perfect form of governance yet known to mankind.
It's certainly what a monstrous clamjamfry of lazy journos, intellectually moribund talking heads and shrilling unionist pols in search of a decent argument would have you believe. However, today sees a report published, from the most unlikely of sources, which surely once and for all places a hermetic seal on this argument before burying it 200 feet down a concrete-lined shaft.
The Scottish Affairs Select Committee, stappit fu' of dangerous and insidious Scot Nats like Ian Davidson, Lindsay Roy and David Mundell, has today published a report entitled "Scotland and the UK: cooperation and communication between governments". It finds as follows (emphasis mine):
- Daily communication between the UK and Scottish governments at a ministerial and official level appears to work well. Problems only tend to occur where civil servants in Whitehall are less used to dealing with devolution issues.
- A devolution champion within each UK Government department at senior level should be introduced to maintain higher levels of devolution awareness amongst staff.
- The Committee says it is important that the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Scottish government work together to improve communication where possible.
- Robust debate and discussion between Ministers is healthy and the resumption of Joint Ministerial Committees is to be welcomed. However, greater transparency of proceedings is needed to allow scrutiny of intergovernmental cooperation.
- Opportunities for participation by Scottish Ministers in European Council meetings should be provided by the UK government, where appropriate and where there is agreement on the negotiating line.
- An updated Memorandum of Understanding between the UK and the devolved administrations is long overdue; the 2001 version did not provide adequate guidance on how disputes should be resolved – as demonstrated during communications between the governments on the UK's negotiations with Libya on the Prisoner Transfer Agreement.
- Communications between Whitehall and Scotland at an earlier stage during the negotiations between the UK and Libya could have produced a more satisfactory outcome with a possible carve-out of the prisoner transfer agreement for Mr al-Megrahi. Lessons should be learnt from this.
So there you have it. Given a gilt edged opportunity to hammer the Scottish Government and by extension the SNP just weeks before an election, the Committee opted not to - because the evidence which they gathered did not for a moment support the preferred narrative of 'picking fights'. Notable also is the support for what the Scottish Government has been saying all along re Lockerbie and the attitude of the UK Government - particularly Tony Blair - who refused even to respond to letters from the First Minister on the subject of the Prisoner Transfer Agreement.
The report, if you fancy reading the whole thing, runs to a healthy 126 pages. It should be compulsory reading over Easter for Her Majesty's loyal opposition, whether they happen to be members of a parliament - or even members of the press corps.