POLITICS

David Cameron's Appointment Of Andrew Dunlop Just Another Way The Tories Are Trolling Scotland

15/05/2015 15:11 BST | Updated 15/05/2015 15:59 BST

David Cameron has defended his decision to make a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher a lord so he can become a junior minister in the Scotland Office.

It emerged yesterday that Andrew Dunlop has been given a peerage, enabling his appointment as Scotland Office Minister in the new majority Conservative government.

David Mundell has been appointed the Scottish Secretary, but as he was the only Scottish Tory MP to be elected Mr Cameron has been forced to look elsewhere to fill the junior ministerial role.

sturgeon cameron

Prime Minster David Cameron meets with Scottish First Minister and leader of the SNP Nicola Sturgeon at Bute House

He said the new Scotland Office Minister is "extremely talented" and has a "great record in public service".

The Prime Minister spoke out as he visited Edinburgh for talks with Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon.

The SNP claimed yesterday Mr Dunlop was part of Mrs Thatcher's policy unit at the time the poll tax was introduced in Scotland in 1989, describing the appointment as a ''scandal''.

Angus Robertson, leader of the Westminster group, said: ''If one thing demonstrates how out of touch the Tories are, it's the appointment as a government minister for Scotland of an unelected lord who played a leading role in the imposition of the hated poll tax on Scotland."

But Mr Cameron said he believed Mr Dunlop had been involved in defence procurement when he worked for Mrs Thatcher.

The Prime Minister said: "What I've done is I've taken someone who is extremely talented, with a great record in public service, who will make an excellent minister in the Scottish Office.

"I read some of this morning's press with incredulity because my memory is he was responsible for defence procurement under the Margaret Thatcher government, but why let the facts get in the way of a great story?"

Meanwhile, Mr Cameron said today that he does not rule out making further changes to new powers that are planned for Scotland if "sensible suggestions" are made.

The Prime Minister said there would be a fresh look at plans to give Holyrood powers over welfare, to make sure that these reflect the agreement reached by the cross-party Smith Commission.

poll tax riot

The Poll Tax Riots on Charing Cross Road in London, 31st March 1990

poll tax 1990

The People's March against the Poll Tax in London, October 20, 1990

He spoke out after meeting face-to-face with Nicola Sturgeon for the first time since last week's general election, which saw the Conservatives win a unexpected majority across the UK.

But they only have one MP north of the border while the SNP swept the board, claiming 56 of the 59 constituencies up for grabs north of the border.

Holyrood's Devolution Committee said yesterday that the current plans to transfer more power north failed to meet both "the spirit or the substance'' of the Smith Agreement

Mr Cameron said his government would "make sure it really is Smith" adding: "We're going to look again at welfare and make sure the clauses reflect what that agreement was."

He added: "The First Minister wants to send some proposals for me to look at and I'm happy to examine proposals, there's going to be a debate, of course there will be a debate.

"I don't rule out making other changes if sensible suggestions are made."

Ms Sturgeon said the meeting was "constructive and businesslike".

"Two things of significance were agreed at the meeting," she told Sky News.

"Firstly, there was a commitment from the Prime Minister that the legislation that they will shortly introduce to the Westminster parliament to implement the proposals of the Smith Commission will implement those proposals in full.

"We had a report of a Scottish Parliament committee yesterday which said that where they have got to thus far doesn't fully implement the Smith Commission proposals.

"So, there is a commitment to do that, and we will make sure that happens.

"Secondly, I have said we will put forward proposals for devolution further than the Smith Commission proposals.

"The Prime Minister has said they would consider those proposals.

"I am not going to put words in his mouth and say he has agreed any specific proposals, but there is an agreement to look at that and there will be a meeting with Deputy First Minister and the Secretary of State for Scotland to take that discussion forward.

"I want Scotland to have full fiscal autonomy, David Cameron doesn't, but what we said in our manifesto was that there were priority powers over and above the Smith Commission that we wanted to see devolved.

"So, what we are talking about are business taxes and employment legislation, the minimum wage and more powers over welfare."

sturgeon cameron

Face-to-face: David Cameron meets with Nicola Sturgeon for the first time since last week's general election

Ms Sturgeon said she still advocates full fiscal autonomy despite the oil price crash which would leave Scotland with a large deficit.

"I recognise that even if there was an agreement to move to full fiscal autonomy, which there is not, that would take time to do," she said.

"As a priority, I want to get our hands on the levers that really matter as quickly as possible."

Deputy First Minister John Swinney, who was also at the meeting, said today that the Scottish National Party will consider putting plans for another independence referendum in its election manifesto for Holyrood next year.

Ms Sturgeon told Sky News: "I said to him on the phone last Friday and I have said it to him again today, he has a choice to make about how he responds to how Scotland voted last week.

"He can act as if it is business as usual and nothing has changed, and people will draw their own conclusions from that.

"They will think that Westminster isn't capable of listening or responding.

"Or he can prove that Westminster does listen, it does respond, it can deliver a better deal for Scotland."

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