Scotland Office Minister Mundell opens up on "cathartic moment"
David Cameron has today urged an immediate conclusion to talks on the independence referendum following “a spring and summer of shadow dancing” by the First Minister.
In an exclusive interview with Holyrood magazine coinciding with the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, the Prime Minister insisted he wants to see the “biggest question of all settled once and for all”.
The call comes as Scotland Office minister, David Mundell, revealed that a sea-change in negotiations between the Scottish and UK Governments has occurred following last month’s reshuffle of the SNP party machinery.
“I hope that we are now writing the closing chapter on the referendum process – when the referendum will be and what the rules will be,” Cameron, who sat down with the First Minister a fortnight ago to pore over plans for the referendum, told Holyrood.
“I made it clear at the start of the year that Scotland should have the powers to hold a legal, fair and decisive vote and now we are working to ensure we deliver on that aim. So after a spring and summer of shadow dancing, I am glad that the First Minister now looks ready to reach agreement. He, like me, wants this settled.”
And in a candid insight into the negotiations, Mundell today underlines the “very good working relationship” he shared with Bruce Crawford – who until last month held the post of Cabinet Secretary for Parliamentary Business and Government Strategy – behind the scenes.
What appeared to be prevarication by the Scottish Government over the issue of how many questions there will be on the ballot appears to have subsided, according to Mundell, who says the process is in the final stages.
“I don’t know what cathartic moment happened but clearly something did and a number of things happened; Kevin Pringle moving to Yes Scotland, Nicola taking on the responsibility of the referendum process and definitely having a different tone to the First Minister,” said Mundell.
“I think the position we were in was that we were pretty close to an agreement and now we seem to have a position where the green light has been given for that agreement to be concluded and I am very hopeful that will happen within a relatively short timeframe because to allow the parliamentary process to happen within the timescale that has been set out then we want orders through both parliaments by the privy council meeting on 4th Feb next year and that has to happen if the Scottish Government was to meet its own timescale in terms of getting its own Act of Parliament passed by next spring.”