Tuesday, 1 November 2011

It's Halloween, and Freddie's back

It must be Halloween if the man once dubbed as the Freddie Kreuger of Scottish politics has been drawn back into the ring.

Yep, Michael Forsyth is back and the on Halloween eve Scotland's last Thatcherite ran his talons across Alex Salmond's tumshie.

Speaking in the Lords last night Forsyth made the extraordinary claim that the First Minister is ready to sabotage a referendum on independence - that's if Westminster has the temerity to call a vote ahead of the SNP government.

Forsyth, who served as the last Conservative Scottish Secretary, accused the SNP leader of threatening to organise a boycott of an indy referendum if Westminster puts a simple "Yes or No" question in front of the Scottish people.

It was certainly a combative return to form, because Lord Forsyth of Drumlean didn't stop there.

He also claimed the First Minister would order Scottish police and other public authorities not to co-operate with a Westminster organised referendum.

If the FM is ready to issue political orders to Scotland’s police forces, Forsyth asked: “Is the First Minister not getting a bit too big for his boots?”

The Scottish government last night dismissed Forsyth’s claims as “wishful thinking” and goaded the Scots Lord by repeating Salmond's own claim that Westminster had no mandate to hold a referendum on Scotland.

(Legally speaking the opposite is true, but I leave that argument to the noble Lord. Here he goes...)

Forsyth hit back that Salmond was not issuing an outright denial of his claim.

Speaking to the Daily Record he repeated the claim and said that the Salmond had delivered the private message of a boycott to none other than Chancellor George Osborne.

Lord Forsyth said: “In public Alex Salmond is saying he wants a referendum and privately he is saying that if you hold one he will not co-operate. I think people should know about that and that he should explain himself.”

He added: “This is a serious matter as the legal position is that he can’t hold a referendum that is legally binding. Constitutional matters are a reserved power for Westminster.”

Forsyth, in prickly alliance with Labour's Lord Foulkes, has led calls for Westminster to beat Salmond to the draw and organise a simple yes or no to independence instead of the SNP’s confusing multi-question options.

Salmond fears he would lose a simple Yes or No question on separation so is banking on a softer “devo-max” question as an insurance at a date to be decided.

A spokesperson for the First Minister said: “We have no idea what Lord Forsyth is talking about - the reality is that the Scottish Government won a resounding mandate in May to deliver the referendum in the second half of this Holyrood term, a position accepted by the Prime Minister after the election."

The official added: “The UK Government has no mandate whatever on the referendum issue, and no amount of wishful thinking by Lord Forsyth can change that.”

No comments:

Post a Comment