Former UK Government minister says PM can no longer tell Scots to ‘shut your pie hole’ over constitution

THE UK Government’s Scotland Office should be reformed and has no real purpose, one of its former ministers has claimed.

Lord Ian Duncan, who served as junior minister in the department for two years, said there “wasn’t much to do” in the role and he never spoke to either Theresa May or Boris Johnson during his time there.

He said Boris Johnson should reconsider his position on the constitution, arguing that he could not ignore the problems and tell Scots to “shut your pie hole”.

Speaking to the Institute for Government for its Ministers Reflect project, which is being released today, Lord Duncan said: “I don’t think the territorial offices work. If you think about how they were constructed, post-devolution, that was not how they were intended to be.”

The peer, who was also junior minister in the Northern Ireland and Wales offices, added that prior to devolution, the UK Government’s Scottish Office was “a hub, a hive of activity” but said: “By the time devolution had reached its maturity, that wasn’t the case anymore. So, 75% of what had been the Scottish Office’s core functions had simply been removed.”

He said that the argument that the secretary of state for Scotland was supposed to be Scotland’s voice in the Cabinet was concerning, explaining: “I’d be troubled if all the rest of the secretaries of state didn’t get Scotland enough on their own.

“Because if they don’t, doesn’t that make the SNP right?

“I don’t want to ever have a situation in which I need the secretary of state in a particular department to only understand Scotland because the Scottish secretary tells him that.”

He added: “I don’t mind there being a secretary of state for Scotland. I’m just more troubled by the fact that the other departments themselves broadly would lay claim to paying attention to the union…Up to a point, but not really. That’s the problem.”

Lord Duncan later said: “I think the Scotland Office probably needs to be reconfigured to be more effective.”

The former MEP revealed it was Ruth Davidson, former Scottish Conservatives leader and now Baroness, who asked him to take on the role in 2017– despite there being 13 Scottish Tory MPs in Westminster who could have done the job.

He explained: “The Scottish Conservative Party went from one MP to 13. But again, none of them became under secretary of state for Scotland. “That was me, the unelected one.

“But even within the ranks of that group, I think there were certain eyebrows raised about ‘Why would it be that we don’t have the experience to undertake this role, but he does apparently?'”

Discussing the constitutional argument, Lord Duncan said Boris Johnson’s government had to be “innovative and thoughtful” adding: “They can’t just say ‘It’s fine as it is, shut your pie hole.’

“They have to be recognising where there are shortcomings and where they can be addressed in new ways.”

The peer said that Mr Johnson’s policies “aren’t really landing that well in Scotland” and explained: “The good UK policies are not being particularly well explained by the Scottish Government in Scotland.

“You’ve literally got a situation where no matter what good work is done by the UK government, it’s not the job of the Scottish government – or its dependents – ever to admit it. Ever to admit that there’s anything good about the UK government.”

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992