So prime minister Cameron has finally found some sucker prepared to be an un-elected minister at the Scotland office in the face of a Scottish opposition comprised of a Falkirk double-decker busload of SNP MPs and Lib Dem and Labour ‘groups’ who could, with some care, share a moped. It quite a feat that rather than just picking someone ridiculous with zero credibility in the face of 58 elected opposition MPs, the prime minister has picked an architect of that hugely successful Scottish policy, the poll tax. Oh, and the hatefully negative No referendum campaign – that’s Andrew Dunlop’s other claim to fame.
Next up, the Advocate General for Scotland. This job is sometimes done by an MP, but is a ‘law’ appointment which really needs a QC for credibility (again..) so it’s generally accepted that the appointment might be filled by a peer. Jim Wallace was the last one. For now, though, there’s no-one. Why does anyone give a hoot?
Well, for politicos and non-lawyers, the Advocate General holds a job which is a bore. Up until now, no-one’s really cared much who it is. But that’s about to change. The job was created to ensure that the Scottish parliament passed only ‘competent’ legislation – never mind what you think ‘competent’ means normally – in lawyer and politics-speak it means passing legislation within your powers. There was a tweak of excitement in the Advocate General’s office in 2007, when Alex Salmond hinted that he might take the piss bit with legislation. But then the SNP administration cunningly chose to be sensible so interest faded.
Until now. Whether it’s the Scottish parliament withholding a Sewell motion or simply passing some legislation or other to do with devolution or Europe, it looks very likely that at some point the Advocate General will have to say ‘NO’! And in the face of 56 SNP MPs and an elected Scottish parliament and government, what democratic legitimacy will this minister have? Absolutely none – he or she will look like a visitation from the early days of the union; some unelected arse whose legitimacy extends from his or her new ermine robe, for actual fs, telling everyone in Scotland they can’t have what they voted for.
The prime minister needs someone so desperate for a place in the ridiculous Lords that s/he is up for crapping all over his/her life’s legal work. Well, go on, punk. Make everyone’s day – just for a laugh, like.
PS: Malcom Macaskill (@_macaskill), formerly a senior Scottish Tory, has suggested to me that Richard Keen QC might be game. Keen’s defending Andy Coulson from Friday, though, so her might not be, er, keen. Or maybe Coulson will be looking for another brief?