UK PM Cameron and Scottish First Minister Salmond meet in Edinburgh

Saturday, May 15, 2010

David Cameron pictured here earlier in 2010

Newly-appointed UK Prime Minister David Cameron today travelled north to Scotland to meet with the country's First Minister, Alex Salmond, for the first time since the general election. According to The Scotsman, around 200 noisy protesters greeted the new PM, forcing security staff to take him into the devolved parliament via a back door.

Cameron's Conservative Party have traditionally been unpopular in Scotland. They won just one out of 59 Scottish seats in the election, gaining around seventeen per cent of the vote. Prior to the meeting, Salmond told reporters he intended to press Cameron for greater Scottish financial independence from Westminster, including greater tax powers— something supported by the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives' new coalition partners, and Danny Alexander the Lib Dem Scottish Secretary and on which Cameron has promised a cross-party commission.

Alex Salmond shown here in 2008

Cameron had been seeking what he called a "fresh start" to restore ties between the parliaments at Westminster and Hollyrood. In addition to meeting the first minister, Cameron also met with the sixteen Conservatives currently sitting in the devolved Scottish Parliament.

After the meeting, both Salmond and Cameron agreed that the conversation had been "positive and constructive" and Cameron pledged a mutual "respect agenda" which would see him address the devolved Scottish parliament every year if invited and, in return, MSPs would appear before Commons committees in Westminster.

Cameron outlined part of his spending plans in preparation for an emergency budget, scheduled for fifty days after the election. He announced that no cuts would be made to the £30 billion annual budget for Scotland though that £6 billion in spending cuts would have to be made— something likely to cause controversy in Cameron's coalition government. However, both Cameron and Salmond anticipate that cuts may need to be made in subsequent years.

At a conference, Salmond said the talks had been "positive, constructive, detailed and substantive. I prefer a 'respect agenda' to a 'disrespect agenda'." He added that "[h]ow we judge the outcome of that agenda will be based on the policy options the Westminster government pursues, not just the words". At the same conference, Cameron told reporters "I believe, and Danny [Alexander] believes, that we should be pursuing the Calman agenda, and that that is a much greater degree of fiscal autonomy for Scotland."