United Kingdom Government

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:59 am on 14 June 2007.

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Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat 11:59, 14 June 2007

To ask the First Minister whether he intends to work constructively with the United Kingdom Government on issues of mutual concern. (S3F-69)

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Parliamentary Leader (Westminster), First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

Yes, I do. I gave an example of such constructive work earlier when I mentioned that I had approved the appointment of the new chairman of the commission for employment and skills, and Robert Brown will have noticed that over the past week, Linda Fabiani and Richard Lochhead have worked extremely constructively with their Westminster counterparts on the approach to the European Council and on fisheries.

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

I thank the First Minister for his assurance. He has rightly drawn attention to the fact that the joint working arrangements with the UK Government need to be reinvigorated. Now that the lines of communication with Westminster appear to be opening, will he discuss that matter with his new pal, the Chancellor of the Exchequer? In the interests of transparency, will he agree to publish regularly a note of all ministerial meetings with UK ministers and their subject matter? Does he support the Steel commission's suggestion that there should be a joint Scottish Parliament and Westminster Parliament committee to reflect the parliamentary dimension of those vital UK relationships?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Parliamentary Leader (Westminster), First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

I am attracted to the idea of the publication of the minutes. Of course, that would require the agreement of the United Kingdom ministers, and traditionally United Kingdom ministers have not been happy with the publication of the minutes of ministerial meetings. Nevertheless, I shall pursue that point and get back to Robert Brown.

There is a lot of concern, not just in the chamber and in the Government, about the way in which the joint ministerial meetings—apart from those on Europe—effectively fell into disuse over the past few years. There is concern about that in the Northern Ireland Assembly and in the National Assembly for Wales. A lot of people share my concern that we need to reinvigorate the formal structures so that matters can be properly operated on.

I hear what Robert Brown says about communications. I can tell the chamber that communications have been restored. I have received a letter from the Prime Minister.

Members:

Is it signed?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Parliamentary Leader (Westminster), First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

Yes, it is signed. It tells me that Her Majesty the Queen has graciously asked me to join the Privy Council. I am delighted to accept. So, here we have it: after 28 days, I have received a letter—by royal command.

Meeting suspended until 14:15.

On resuming—