12/01/2012 Daily Politics


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Good afternoon from the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh where Alex


Salmond is holding his first First Ministers' Questions of 2012.


Inside the chamber everyone is agreed there should be a referendum


on Scottish independence. But they are anything but agreed on WHEN and


exactly what question the Scottish It's a beautiful sunny day here in


the Scottish capital, but there have been some pretty stormy scenes


in the chamber behind me just up these steps. For First Minister


Alex Salmond, sparring with the New Labour leader here in Scotland,


Johanne Lamont, frankly it wasn't very pretty. I had to avert my eyes.


She accused Mr Salmond of not wanting a referendum very quickly.


She said there should be one sooner rather than later. She even accused


the First Minister of lacking courage. It's not fair on Scotland


now or the Scotland of the future for the timing of this referendum


to be in the hands of one politician. A Now, the First


Minister, Alex Salmond, has already told the Prime Minister, David


Cameron, to butt out of all of this business of a referendum, to stop


stirring, but we have been doing a bit of stirring ourselves. We sent


Max out with "the mood Bob," of the Daily Politics to find out what


people down south think of Scottish independence. Anyone else -


Scotland? Should it be independent, yes or no? No! The Government says


it must press ahead to controversial changes to the


welfare reform which were defeated in the House of Lords last night.


And we'll be delving into the relationship between the police and


the media - are they too close for comfort?


Yes, all that coming up in the next half hour. And with us for the


duration is the former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Ian,


now Lord Blair. Welcome to the programme. Thank you very much.


first this morning let's talk about welfare reform because last night


the Government suffered a series of defeats in the House of Lords over


its plans to cut the cost of welfare. Labour and cross-bench


peers defeated plans to means test and time limit payments to those


recovering from serious illnesses such as cancer. Peers also


overturned a plan to restrict young people with disabilities from


claiming benefits. You, Ian, were one of them, weren't you? I was.


What was the strength of the feeling like? I think the strength


of the feeling was very considerable. I am a new boy in


there, but I am told by the old hands it's a very, very long time


since the Government has lost three divisions in a row and by


significant margins. The Government has already said this morning -


Christopher grailing has been out saying we're going to overturn


those defeats, and you're wrong on this issue. Obviously, the


Government has the right to put it back to the Commons and change it,


but the mood of the Lords was summed up by the really marvellous


Lord Patel, the obstetrician, who led the amendments, who said if


we're going to rob the poor to pay the rich, then that is the kind of


morality I cannot support. And the whole issue here is that the most


vulnerable people - the people recovering from cancer, the people


with long-term disabilities, are going to lose money in a


significant way, to the extent of nearly �100 a week in some cases,


and in particular this issue of what's called the Education Support


Allowance. There is a suggestion that the people would be limited to


just one year of that as from April, but also they're going to back date


it, so if you have been on it for a year you're going to lose it on the


first day. The Government no doubt made its case in the House of Lords


today and has reiterated it saying actually they have made adequate


provision for those people. The welfare reforms are the centrepiece


of their policy plan, and if the defeats you put on the Government


last night were to go ahead, it would cost between �1.5 and �2


billion that has to be claimed somewhere. That is an important


issue. Hugely important, but those figures, as I understand them,


relate to absolutely everybody taking the maximum period they


could possibly do. One of the instances is, for instance, cancer


patients who are undergoing chemotherapy and so on - wented


that period extended beyond one year. Everybody who knows anything


at it says that most people want to go back to work as soon as possible.


It's part of the therapy, but some can't. This is an issue that no


doubt will come back. Stay with us. We're going to return to Edinburgh


and Andrew Neil who is at the Holyrood Parliament. Thanks. All


the headlines in the coverage for this in London and Edinburgh have


been dominateded by the process, when will the referendum be? Should


there be more than one question, an interim question between status quo


and independence? Who should look after the referendum? Should it be


the Electoral Commission or so on? When we were today offered an


interview with Scotland's Finance Minister, John Swinney, I thought


we'd park the process for a minute and ask a bit of substance about


what an independent Scotland would look like in his view, so I began


by asking him, what would the currency be if Scotland was


independent? It would be sterling. We have made it clear that would be


the currency we'd inherit, inherit those arrangements from the United


Kingdom. That is the basis on which we would plan independence. There


is a debate to be had about the European central currency, but we


have set out we'd only ever go into a single currency if the economic


conditions were correct and if the people of Scotland voted for that


in a referendum, and the economic conditions in our opinion most


definitely are not correct for that at this time, so sterling would be


the currency... So Bank of England - the Bank of England would set an


independent Scotland's interest rates? We would have to operate in


that fashion if that was the operation of the Bank of England...


So interest rates would be set by London? The key proposition that


would be different about independence in that context is


that a Scottish Government would be able to pursue its own fiscal


policy which would enable an independent Scotland to take


significantly more decisions than can ever be taken today about


ensuring that we have the economic conditions and interventions that


are appropriate for the needs and the aspirations of the Scottish


economy. That's fiscal policy, but you wouldn't control your own


interest rates or money supply? You couldn't print your own money, is


that right? But what we would be... Is that right? The Bank of England


would be able to take decisions... Yeah, the Bank of England would


take decisions about a country in which it was not part and didn't


care about. But obviously, if it was operating - if the currency was


part of the jurisdiction of the Bank of England, if that was part


of the agreement and approach that we took, then the Bank of England


would operate in a fashion that was appropriate to those economic


circumstances, but what we would also be able to do - and this is a


crucial point, Andrew - there would be a separate distinction about


fiscal policy that would be able to be taken forward about a Scottish


Government which would give us significantly more economic


influence and leverage than we have at the present time, and... That's


not what I am asking about. Would - the Bank of England would also


control how much you could borrow, correct? Well, the Bank of England


- the Scottish Government would determine what degree of borrowing


it was able to take forward. the Bank of England would have to


have a say-so to that. It would have to do so within a sustainable


climate and framework. Set by the Bank of England. That's where you


have to take into account the fact that we have both - there is a


debate about monetary policy and also fiscal policy because what


fiscal policy enables you to do is to create a more prosperous set of


conditions and deliver a greater degree of growth. I understand that


an independent Scotland sets its own tax. No. I would like you to


answer this question. Would the Bank of England control how much


you could borrow? Let me complete this point - what's important about


fiscal policy is it can influence the amount of growth you can


deliver in the economy, which is clearly a fact of the influences -


the degree of borrowing that is required to be undertaken soo. You


would have to apply to join the European Union. No, we wouldn't.


But Scotland isn't a part of the you'reene union. We're clearly a


part of it today. We inherit the obligations of the United Kingdom...


Do you have guidance from Brussels you wouldn't have to rejoin? If you


look at some... Have you had guidance from Brussels? If you look


at the most distinguished opinion on this suffered offered by one of


the secretaries of the European Commission, if you look at a report


by Eamon Gallagher - the treaty obligations of the United Kingdom


and being already a member of the European Union... Sure. The Royal


Bank of Scotland - 83% owned by the UK taxpayer. Who would own it after


independence? That would obviously be part of the dialogue that would


have to take place between the United Kingdom Government... Would


you take it over? Clearly, we would have an interest in the ownership


of the Royal Bank of Scotland, but it would be part of a negotiation


between the Scottish Government and UK... But is it the policy of the


Scottish Nationalists the Royal Bank of Scotland should become a


wholly owned Scottish bank again? What it should become in our


aspiration is a privately owned bank, and we'd want to encourage


the bank as soon as it is efficiently able to do so to become


a privately owned bank. That is what it should be. I understand


that. For the foreseeable future, it doesn't look like it's happening.


It's owned by the state at the moment. Will the Scottish state


take it over? The UK Government has disposed of its interests in


Northern Rock. What's the answer to my question? Will the Scottish


state take over the Royal Bank of Scotland? My to answer you is


twofold. One is the fact that the Scottish Government would negotiate


that with the United Kingdom Government, what the ongoing


arrangements were. Secondly, we would have the aspiration, just


like the UK Government has, to return the Royal Bank of Scotland


to its proper place within the private sector which I think will


happen soon. In the interim, will you take over its toxic assets as


well? That's part of the interests the UK has within the Royal Bank of


Scotland. It has to be properly negotiated between the two


governments. What's important is the Royal Bank of Scotland is on a


journey to get back into private ownership. We'd want to encourage


that. That was John Swinney talking to the SNP earlier on. A lot of


people in England and Wales think Scottish independence is as much


matter for them as the people of Scotland. We sent Max out with the


mood box to see what the people of London thought. It's an ancient


political debate - independence for Scotland - should we hold our


Scottish brothers and sisters to our bosom in a United Kingdom of


Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or should Scotland be unhitched and


pushed out into the North Atlantic? That's the question - do we want an


Scotland - should it be independent? Yes or no? Pop a poll


in the box? No. OK. No, no, no. Half my roots are Scottish and half


English, so I don't wish to divide my allegiances. I voted no.


voted no. Great. I was going to vote yes.


Because I think it would be a good idea that we wouldn't have to pay


for their National Health. think they should pay for their own


National Health? I definitely do. Do you think the English People


should get a vote on Scottish independence? With Scottish genes,


yes. You voted no. Why is that? think a Act of Union was correct in


1707. Would you vote to make Scotland independent? Yes, I would


do. It's because you love Scotland? I love Scotland. I love the


Scottish people. We have only been at it half an hour, and it's very


evenly matched between yes and no, but what lots and lots of people


are saying is there should be a third box which says it's up to the


Scottish people. Ultimately, politically, it needs


to be Scotland's decision, but I don't think it's realistic. Keep


together. I kind of want them to be independent, so it shows them how


isolating it is to be alone. aren't we getting a vote as well?


Why do you think we should get a vote in England? I think it affects


England as well as Scotland. We should get a vote too. Are you


French? Should it be independent or not? Lieb, OK.


I am conflicted here because the only reason the Tories are giving


us independence is so there are less Labour MPs in Parliament.


that the only reason? I am bloody sure that's the reason. Is it


Andrew Neil? Yeah, yeah. If only you said, in which case... You're


going to vote no. Right. Time is up - lots of people voting. The yeses


are just about ahead after an hour- and-a-half. My two favourite


comments have been, firstly, what on earth are you doing asking this


question in London, you burke? The second, which is the box for


rebuilding Hadrian's Wall? LAUGHTER


That's very funny. Evenly split there as well. I am joined by Lord


Foulkes, and, of course, Ian Blair is with us too. Does it take two to


separate, as we heard some people saying here? I think that is very


good point. There is a legitimate English interest. I am in favour of


a federal system. I want to see devolution to England. Don't put


any other options forward, please! I thought it was very interesting,


Andrew's interview with John Swinney. You can see why they don't


want an earlier referendum. He couldn't answer the question on


currency, on RBS, on European membership. He didn't even get on


to the army, Navy and air force. There are so many unanswered


questions. That is the point. It has been about the process - or a


large part of the discussion has been about the process. Once we get


into the substance of it, it may be more difficult in terms of


presenting an argument as far as the SNP is concerned, is that your


view? Yes. I think they want to delay it as much as possible.


give them more time? Yes, to work up their arguments. I am also


worried they're trying to fix the referendum because what is


absolutely vital is that the Electoral Commission must run it,


an independent body. That's same all over the world. Electoral


Commissions do that. What they want to do is run it themselves - decide


the timing... They would argue they confounded expectations last year,


and they won, and they won very decisively in those elections, and


one might say as a result partly of Labour's failure in Scotland. Do


you accept Labour hasn't performed well in Scotland and has allowed


Alex Salmond and the SNP to perform as well as it snas I think that's


inevitably a conclusion you're right to draw.


But he got 45% of the vote. They talk about an overwhelming mandate.


45% is not overwhelming. They have always made their position clear.


We have said that they have got a right for a referendum to be


conducted. We have accepted that. What was said by Michael Moore in


the Commons yesterday quite rightly is they don't have the legal


ability to do it. We can give them the power to do that, but it must


be done fairly. There was a statesman-like agreement in the


House of Commons yesterday between David Cameron and Ed Miliband


yesterday over the future of Scotland and Scottish independence.


Do you agree that the Prime Minister could end up being the


best recruiting sergeant for an That's quite possible. I think


there are voices coming forward now, from all over the United Kingdom,


saying this is a bigger issue than just about Scotland. There was a


very good article in the Telegraph yesterday about the nature of


British identity, that actually the Scots and the English and the Irish


and the Welsh have developed an identity which is a force for good


p -- in the world. Do you think it was a mistake for some of Labour's


big beasts from, Scotland, to come down to Westminster? Have they


ignored and forgotten it? No, we live up there. We are active in


Scottish politic. We have to be active in British politics as well.


We are Scottish, blish, we are European. That is the -- British,


we are European. That is the modern way to look at it. To talk about


hundreds of years is really turning the clock back in a ridiculous way.


Let's go back to Edinburgh now. Here in Edinburgh I am joined by


two of the finest of Her Majesty's press core here in the Holyrood


Parliament, Lorraine Davidson from The Times and Alan Cochrane.


If the Scottish nationalists, if this Parliament goes ahead with a


referendum, on its own terms, would it immediately be challenged in the


courts? I think it will be. That will mean the referendum is held up,


possibly, for years, beyond Alex Salmond's term in power. You will


then have some sort of civil movement, where people are saying,


didn't we vote for this? Isn't it our democratic right? All that will


amount to a lot of frustration and anger in Scotland. David Cameron's


offer to Alex Salmond, is despite all of Alex Salmond's bluster, a


very attractive one to him. If he wants to put his once in a lifetime


opportunity to the people of Scotland. If fear a referendum, if


he does not negotiate with London would be unconstitutional, because


it is a reserved power of the Scotland Roit Act. That is for all


the bluster and Mr Cameron being -- that is for doing a deal? There are


two Alex Salmond could do a deal on now. He could do a deal about the


16 year olds voting. He has to have an independent overseeing of the


referendum. He cannot apoint three pals to say, "That is fine, on you


go." It has George Reid. One of the founders of modernism.


This explains why he's trying to kick the referendum into 2014, why


he wants more than one question. If there was a simple - do you want to


be independent or don't you? Yes or no? If that was held now, the Scots


would probably vote "no", am I right? It is running around one-


third of Scots. It has been as long as that. It has always been around


one-third. There's no great momentum behind demand for


independence. It's a high-risk strategy. If he gos to the people


with that and he loses it, they cannot come back with that question.


He wants a consolation prize. He wants to come away and say people


in Scotland have demonstrated what they want is sweeping new powers


for the Parliament. Then he can go to party and say, all we have to do


now is the final piece of the jigsaw.


Is he frightened he would lose it if it went now and it was a simple


yes or no question? Yes. Otherwise we would have had the referendum.


We've been talking about independence since you and I were


boys. That was not yesterday. is at least ten years ago. I have


been back in Scotland for 17 years. It has been in the agenda and


newspapers for every day of those 17 years. Alex wants another three


years. What is left to discuss? Alan Cochrane has offered to take


us for lunch. You never turn an offer down like that from Mr


Cochrane. It's all right for some. See you


next week. Is the relationship between the police and media too


cosy? Last week a report found the close relationship between parts of


Scotland Yard and the media had caused serious harm. We will get


the thoughts of our guess of the day in a moment. He used to be in


charge of the Metropolitan Police. Welcome to the Red Lion. It is one


of my Westminster locals. If I was a crime reporter it is the sort of


place I might sink a jar or three with some of my Scotland Yard


contacts N the wake of the phone hacking scandal that could be a


thing of the past. Socialising and flirting between journalism coppers,


a bit of a no, no. Elizabeth Filkin has devised a new set of rules.


Very briefly, clearer guidelines on briefings and more transparency are


in. Cosy chats, leaking to your favourite journalists, they are out.


They are likely to be adopted by other police forces as well. Will


they work? It is really important that the newspapers and police


establish a much clearer line between what is incorrect and what


is correct. For instance, I don't think they should be wining and


dining. They should have meetings, maybe a coffee, but not a bottle of


champagne. Without that informal contact can we find out what is


really going on? She talks about openness and transparency in her


report. At the same time, she talks about threatening ordinary officers


with criminal investigations and the sack if they have informal


conversations with journalists they trust. That seems to be closing


down an avenue for police officers who have concerns about racism,


malpractice to talk to journalists they trust and to get that


information out there. Now, she would say that perhaps. What about


a veteran of some of Britain's toughest murder cases? Has anyone


over a couple of pints got more out of you than you intended to say?


find that hysterical. No way. I am sure if you spoke to most, they


will say never go for a drink with Sue, I will drink them under the


table, as will many of my colleagues. We've had a trusting


relationship. I think for the sake of one or two people who have


behaved or perceived to behave inappropriately with the media it


is a sledgehammer to crack a nut. One of the former commissioners,


when he was faced a scandal he told officers to be open and talk to the


media, talk to other people about their concerns. He thought shining


a light on a scandal was better than covering things up. It is a


thought. With the police and media both facing huge pressure to reform,


is this drinking-up time and a last chance salon?


Of course, Ian Blair is here. Let's pick up on the wining and dining


issue. Will in the end, a report end up closing communications


between the police and media? Communications that are in the


words of the detective in that film and also the crime reporter, a good


thing? I think Elizabeth Filkin has fired a bun der blast at this.


There are two or thing things going on. You have the relationship for -


let me stop for a second, it may appear that I may appear in front


of the Leveson Inquiry to talk about this.


Of course. There is an issue between senior officers and


journalists. That will have an examination. That's the wining and


dining thing. That was too much about.... There is a suggestion it


was becoming a bit frequent. Then at the really difficult end of the


scale you clearly have got a small number of police officers and a


small number of journalists who are prepared to exchange information


for money. That is illegal. The people involved, on both sides,


should be arrested and, if the evidence is there, should be


charged and put before the courts. It's the middle bit that Sue Hill


was talking about. I am with Robert. I think we should


have a really open relationship with the press inside the police.


We should meet journalists, we should talk. We should not give


away matters which are confidential. But we should have a situation in


which a police officer, who feels something is wrong, as soon as any


other whistleblower should be in that situation. Is it difficult to


control those relationships if alcohol is involved? Elizabeth says


alcohol and journalists don't mix, avoid flirtation. It sound relick


douse. Surely you are -- ridiculous, surely you are grown ups. It's a


long time since I have been in the position of being a middle-ranking


or junior officer. I don't recall a situation in which people were


getting drunk together. These are conversations that need to happen,


the same way as conversations need to happen between other parts of


the state with journalism. That is what a free press is there. There


should be a clear code of conduct and people should stick by it.


There is a code of conduct. As you say, financial transactions are


illegal any way. How can you really stop these things happening? Well,


the question is, what are we trying to stop? I hope leveson will find a


distinction between the elements wrapped up in this conversation.


What about the links with politicians? It's not just about


the media. You talked about officers, particularly at the top


level. Is that relationship also too cosy? You will no doubt be


asked about that too?. I think it is inevitable. The Metropolitan


Police deals with the most difficult inquiries. It deals with


the protection of the Royal Family and counter-terrorism. Are we going


to say the commissioner is not going to speak to the Home


Secretary about that. That is inevitable. The relationship


between journalists and police officers will continue. In the end,


will anything fundamentally change as a result of the Leveson Inquiry?


I think, I really do hope some things will change. It did become,


in my view looking back, a too cosy relationship between some senior


officers and some journalists and editors. I think that has to be, at


least clearer - I think is the right description. I am with Robert


Mark. We should shine a clear light T publication of diaries by senior


police officers - I don't mean memoirs - I mean the daily diary,


it seems to me really important. have time for you to pick one of


these out of the big mug. This is the winner of the Guess The Year.


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