Scotland politics

David Mundell calls for end to 'blame games'

David Mundell Image copyright Scotland Office
Image caption Mr Mundell was speaking at an event in Edinburgh

The Scottish and UK governments should end the "bickering and blame games" and work together in the national interest, the Scottish secretary has said.

David Mundell said the result of the recent Holyrood election offered an opportunity to "reset the relationship" between Holyrood and Westminster.

And he argued that people now wanted to see politicians working together.

The SNP's John Swinney said political differences between the governments could not easily be swept aside.

The SNP won its third consecutive Holyrood election on 5 May, but lost its overall majority after winning 63 of the 129 seats.

The party is to form a minority government, with Nicola Sturgeon expected to be re-elected as first minister later this week, while the Conservatives replaced Labour as the second largest party after winning 31 seats.

In his first speech since the election, Mr Mundell again claimed that new devolved powers over tax, welfare and equal opportunities would make Holyrood "one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world".

The Conservative MP added: "People in Scotland have a right to expect - and Scotland's two governments a duty to deliver - a relationship between Holyrood and Westminster which puts the national interest first and political considerations last.

"Frankly, people are sick and tired of the bickering and blame games. They want to see their politicians working together for the common good.

"So I want to make a big offer to the incoming Scottish Ministers: let's reset the relationship between our two governments.

"Let's put our political disagreements aside where we possibly can, and put our energies and talents together to deliver a better future for Scotland."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Mundell insisted the SNP does not have a mandate for a second independence referendum

He called for everyone in Scotland - including businesses, charities, churches, trade unions, universities and private citizens - to join together in a "collective effort to use our powers and potential in this common endeavour."

Mr Mundell said Scottish ministers would be given a bigger role in the UK's international negotiations in areas such as fishing, and that UK ministers would be more available to the Scottish Parliament.

He also insisted he was open to "continuing dialogue" on the Trade Union Bill, which the Scottish government has pledged to defy if it is implemented in Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to re-launch her independence campaign in the summer in an attempt to persuade those who voted No in 2014 of her case for leaving the UK.

But Mr Mundell said the UK government's "respectful" stance would not extend to accepting a second independence referendum.

'No mandate'

He said: "My position is quite clear, and the prime minister's position is quite clear, that there is no mandate for a second referendum in the SNP manifesto.

"The votes that many people cast in Scotland's election were votes to ensure that the SNP government did not have a majority and were not in a position to seek to take forward a second referendum.

"If the first minister is listening to the people of Scotland, then she will stop talking about a second referendum and get on with governing Scotland."

Responding to the speech, Mr Swinney - Scotland's deputy first minister - called on Mr Mundell to "answer for the Tories record of working against Scotland's interests".

He added: "The SNP will always work together with other parties when it is in the interests of the people of Scotland - but it's disingenuous of David Mundell to pretend that the political differences between our governments can be so easily brushed aside.

"The Tories are cutting the Scottish government's budget by 10%, betraying promises made to shipbuilders on the Clyde and are slashing support for the renewables industry - potentially jeopardising the future of a booming Scottish industry.

"If David Mundell expects the SNP to quietly forget these inconvenient truths so that he can have an easier time in office then he can think again."

Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon said: "MSPs have barely been sworn in and the SNP and the Tories are already bickering over the arguments of the past.

"Labour will have three priorities for the next five years - tax the richest 1%, so we can invest in schools and stop the cuts to our public services. We'll keep the SNP government focused on what matters to Scotland rather than rerunning old arguments."