Thursday, 23 April 2009

What's in a name? (2)


When I wrote this piece last week, I noticed that Ed Miliband, the UK Energy Secretary, had referred to the Scottish Government as the "Scottish Executive" and it interested me slightly.

Now there is nothing technically wrong in Mr Miliband's comment - for legal purposes (as enshrined in the Scotland Act 1998) the Scottish Executive will always be the Scottish Executive. But I wondered if his comments were politically motivated - a pointed refusal to call the SNP-run administration the Scottish Government - or if he was so far out of touch with devolved politics that he still thought it called itself "Scottish Executive." Or had he simply mis-spoken.

Ruling out a mistake (which might itself be a mistake) leaves Miliband's news being out of date (unlikely I grant you) or a political motivated decision. Which led me to Hansard.

It appears that in Scottish questions on 18 March this year, Labour backbencher Michael Connarty as well as Secretary of State for Scotland Jim Murphy referred to the Scottish Executive rather than the Scottish Government.

Funny then, that in Welsh questions, they don't seem to be too troubled in using the word "government" for the Welsh Assembly Government.

Then again, he who must be obeyed has spoken...

9 comments:

subrosa 23 April 2009 at 16:14  

It's purely derogatory. What more do we expect from labour?

Malc 23 April 2009 at 16:16  

Their MSPs seem to be (slowly) getting it. Messers Alexander & Gray never seem to have a problem calling it the Scottish Government.

ASwaS 23 April 2009 at 16:38  

I always think its a bit funny to insist, given that the Scotland Act probably refers to the relevant entity more often as "Scottish Ministers" than "Scottish Executive" anyway.

Malc 23 April 2009 at 16:42  

That is true ASwaS.

subrosa 23 April 2009 at 18:33  

Malc many Westminster MPs called it the government more or less immediately. Two years later we still have the usual suspects refusing and now it's become obvious who they are. Tell me why do these same MPs have no problem calling the Welsh assembly the government? It's all rather childish anyway.

Mark 24 April 2009 at 08:37  

It's not my understanding that this is derogatory (although one would normally suspect this). Rather, I read something about this online a few days back where it said that - because there is no legal grounds for calling it the Scottish Government - the Westminster practice was and would remain to refer to it was the Scottish Executive. Indeed, simply on the legal point, I don't support calling it the Scottish Government either.

Malc 24 April 2009 at 09:51  

Mark,

I have to point out that until 2006 there was no "legal" reason for calling the Welsh Assembly Government that but Labour MPs did anyway.

Incidentally, Labour MSPs now - and even before the name change, when Jack McConnell was still First Minister, referred to the executive as the Scottish government (small g).

I'd argue that if it was a Labour First Minister (as was the case in Wales) who decided to call it something different then perhaps Labour MPs might not have such an issue with it. Then again...

Grogipher 27 April 2009 at 07:52  

When Jim's in the Big Hoose he calls it the Executive, to play up with his cronies down there.. When he's in Scotland (i.e. when he's on the Politics Show or whatever, or talking to a mostly Scottish audience), he calls it the Government.

When he was on talking about going to China the week before Eck, he said that "people have to realise Scotland has two Governments(!)". Different message for different audiences?

I think most of the MSM have finally started calling it the Government, except perhaps the Times. We must remember though, whose suggestion it was..

Malc 27 April 2009 at 15:53  

Grogipher,

That's an excellent point. It is all to do with who is listening at the time and is used for maximum political effect. Murphy knows that in Scotland the SNP have been more popular in their two years of government than Brown has in his (not quite) two years as PM - hence the change in language when talking to Scots.

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