The fallout from the General Election result in Scotland has dominated the airwaves. As the 56 SNP MPs were pictured making their way down to Westminster by plane, train and automobile, Scottish Labour has tried to retain intact as Cabinet resignations have threatened to topple leader Jim Murphy.
The 50 new SNP MPs, and the 6 existing MPs, travelled to Westminster for the first time on Monday following their triumphant victory at last week’s election. Now the third largest party at Westminster, the group marked their entry to the Westminster fray by tweeting selfies from the dispatch box, the green benches and applauding in the chamber when told by a Tory MP that it was not allowed.
Confirmed as the third largest party at Westminster, the SNP is likely to have questions at PMQs, departmental questions, will push for chairmanships of two select committees and will have the option to hold membership on all Committees. It is understood that the SNP will take the Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee and may not sit on committees with responsibility for looking at powers already at Holyrood such as, education.
Angus Robertson and Stewart Hosie were confirmed as Leader and Deputy Leader of the group, whilst former First Minister, Alex Salmond picked up the Foreign Affairs brief. More announcements on SNP spokespeople are expected in the coming weeks.
Post-Election Outcome Statement
In a Ministerial statement to Holyrood on Wednesday, First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, set out the SNP’s priorities at Westminster. As well as representing Scotland with a stronger voice, she argued that if the Prime Minister meant what he said about respecting the outcome of the election in Scotland, that the UK Government must now agree “a process that looks again at the Smith Commission proposals, with a view to extending devolution even further”.
She also gave one of her strongest indications that a promise of another referendum will feature in the party’s manifesto for next year’s Holyrood election. She told the chamber: “There will only be another independence referendum if the people of Scotland vote in a future Scottish Parliament election to have one.”
In the wake of Scottish Labour’s losses, two Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet members have resigned their positions, calling for further debate and discussion around the future direction of the party. Alex Rowley MSP – previously general secretary of the party and advisor to Gordon Brown – released a letter stating that Murphy remaining in post would be an “unhelpful distraction from the real issues”.
The parliamentary party at Holyrood remain divided on whether Murphy should stay or go, in addition to the unions, with UNITE and ASLEF calling for him to go and USDAW offering their support. However, it is expected that Murphy will remain in post, securing enough support at this Saturday’s executive meeting. Ian Murray, Scottish Labour’s remaining MP, supports Murphy’s leadership and has called for a period of reflection in the party.
Smith – Falling Short
The Devolution Committee at the Scottish Parliament has published an interim report on the draft legislative clauses for the new Scotland Bill. The Committee unanimously agreed that the proposals did not meet the challenge of translating the agreement reached in the Smith Commission into legislation. Although the Scotland Office and UK Government has maintained the line that more powers will be devolved through the package outlined by Smith, the Prime Minister will come under pressure to reflect and respond appropriately to the outcome of the election in Scotland.
UK unemployment has fallen to its lowest rate in seven years, and the numbers of those in work has also increased. However, in Scotland, unemployment rose by 19,000 to 168,000. CEO of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, Liz Cameron, said the figures “were consistent with the weak employment trends we have been picking up from Scottish businesses in the early part of this year.”