Beleaguered Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, claims the presence of Scots within the Westminster Cabinet delivered by his party has ensured a stronger commitment to social egalitarianism by the UK Government.
In an exclusive interview with Holyrood ahead of the party’s conference in Brighton, the Sheffield Hallam MP said that without the likes of Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, and chief whip Alistair Carmichael “there would be no meaningful Scottish voice in the Government at all”.
Only two of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Cabinet in the wake of last week’s reshuffle represent Scottish constituencies, both of which are contained within the Lib Dem contingent.
Asked if they bring something different to the table, Clegg said: “Definitely, I see it again and again when we discuss Scotland, the UK and the Scottish economy, welfare, society and culture and the fact that Alistair, Danny and Michael are all very senior, very respected members of the Government and are able to talk with an authority that no Conservative can about Scotland is immensely important.
“Without the Liberal Democrats there would be no meaningful Scottish voice in the British government at all and it comes through loud and clear.
“I think there is a Scottish commitment to equality, to fairness and social solidarity and of society because it hangs everything together which isn’t only important to Scotland but to the UK and I am very proud that the kind of socially liberal outlook on life is something that, as Liberal Democrats, we bring to the Government.” Clegg’s long-term position as party leader has come into question in recent weeks amid suggestions by Lord Smith of Clifton that Business Secretary Vince Cable should take the reins ahead of the 2015 General Election.
However, the Deputy Prime Minister believes First Minister Alex Salmond could see his own poll ratings slip as the debate on Scotland’s constitutional future heats up ahead of an expected poll in 2014.
He added: “Personally, I think he is obviously a highly talented politician but I think he almost enjoys playing the games too much and I think he should be careful because there is a point when people want to say, ‘ok, enough games and let’s have a serious debate about what is right for us, our family and our community’.
“You can see it happening [Salmond playing games] all the time. Michael Moore has been asking just for a date in the diary for a meeting so we can help Alex Salmond, help, not work against him, but help him to hold a referendum he is perfectly entitled to hold and he won’t even agree to that date in the diary.
“I think political game-playing has a place at Holyrood but when it becomes a kind of perpetual obsession and a perpetual way of doing things then I think you start to lose people’s confidence and I think Alex Salmond is in great danger of doing just that.”