Sunday 2 September 2007

Executive no more!

Very chuffed to read in the Sunday Herald, the Scotland on Sunday, the BBC's website that the "Executive" will now be the Government. I know some people in the SNP who don't believe it should be changed until Scotland has the full powers of a Government, but I think it's a step in the right direction. It might sound like semantics, but I think it's important for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the term "Executive" means nothing to ordinary people. The only people I hear referring to the "Executive" are public sector and voluntary agencies. So many folk - even intelligent people who really should know better - seem to think that "Executive" "Government" and "Parliament" are synonymous. Oddly, their confusion doesn't extend to Westminster - they wouldn't blame the Parliament there for something the Government has or hasn't done. While you could always pin the blame on the public for not taking an interest in their political system, my view is that the lack of vision and personality of the previous "Executive" has pretty much bored people into submission. A change in name and, more importantly, in attitude ought to help turn things around.

Secondly, renaming is a big decision - one Labour in London wouldn't let Henry McLeish (remember him?!) take. I think it's telling that the SNP Government has done so, and that there - at least so far - seems to be no move from Westminster to stop the change. Does the Labour Government in Westminster believe that to intervene would be unpopular or play directly into the SNP's hands? Are they playing a longer game? I'm not sure it matters - once we are called a Government, act like a Government, people will begin to demand the powers of a Government.

Lastly, it's a change that the Unionist parties in Scotland will have to take heed of - and a change they'll find it hard to reverse. We're in a period where they have to react to the SNP's agenda, and this is something they're finding it hard to do. Labour, for example, have shifted already from saying the Scottish Parliament shouldn't have any more powers, to saying they'll reconsider. The Tories are dead on their feet in Scotland - could a distinctively Scottish Conservative party change their fortunes. And the Liberals... well, they're increasingly irrelevant under their current leaderships. These three need to decide within their own party membership what the direction should be. Playing constitutional musical statues isn't going to work.

As for the SNP - we need to be careful not to lull ourselves into a false sense of security - we may now be the Government, but we're not yet the Government of an Independent Scotland.


Anonymous said...

No, it's not just a semantic distinction, but...

It IS a pre-emptive move so that Salmond can say, in 6 or 9 months time "We're called a government, why don't we have the powers to match." At £100k, it's an expensive piece of party politics.

BellgroveBelle said...

It's a policy the party had in the manifesto which it's implementing in Government.

That's true of any policy and any government, so I'm not sure that's really as grave a criticism as it sounds.