Robinson says some of Scotland’s powers are about ‘feeling independent’
NI First Minister will reject attempts to deprive North of secretary of state at Cabinet in London
Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said some of the powers that had been devolved to Scotland were about it ‘feeling independent’. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson has said some of powers that
have been devolved to Scotland have had more to do with it feeling
independent rather than offering Scots economic, or social gains.
Meanwhile, he said he would reject any attempt to deprive NI of a
secretary of state sitting at the Cabinet in London, even though “there
are very few issues in the day-to-day life” where the current incumbent,
Theresa Villiers is “directly involved”.
Robinson’s remarks came during evidence to a House of Lords inquiry into
the relations between Whitehall and the devolved administrations, which
has heard frequent complaints about London’s lack of interest.
Making it clear that NI should not look for extra devolution powers over
the next few years, he said it already had powers that are still not
enjoyed by Scotland, or Wales, particularly over social welfare.
He dismissed the devolution of some powers to Edinburgh, such as
authority over aggregates’ levies, or house stamp-duties, which will, he
claimed, see things done little differently from elsewhere in the UK -
even though Scotland has already made major changes to the latter.
“I can’t see any social or economic change that will result to the
benefit of Scotland by having those powers resting in Scotland unless it
is simply a case of adding up as much power as you can to make yourself
feel as independent as you can,” he said.
It has been suggested frequently that a single secretary of state should
represent Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland at the Cabinet - a
proposal that could easily re-emerge after the May general election.
Disagreeing, Mr Robinson said the devolved governments may frequently
disagree on issues, so he valued Northern Ireland having “a direct
voice” - something which was valuable when Theresa Villiers pushed the
case for devolving corporation tax.
Meanwhile, he expressed little value in the Downing Street meetings
between the prime minister and leaders of the devolved administrations,
saying that he spoke directly to No. 10 on anything that was important.
Former Liberal Democrats Scottish deputy first minister, Lord Jim
Wallace remembered attending three such meetings: the first in Edinburgh
Cardiff was “quite exciting”; the second in Cardiff was less so and Tony
Blair “looked out of the window during the third” in Downing Street.