In conversation with Michael Moore MP – on community action, jobs, referendum and F1

It’s Parliamentary recess so you might think that MPs and Government ministers (at least those not appearing at Leveson) would be chillaxing with their iPads in the sun. Not so for Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore, who is in the middle of a tour which is taking him all over Scotland. He phoned me as he was driving (or, more accurately, being driven) along the M8 between Edinburgh and Glasgow. He was practically passing my house – if we’d planned it better he could have come in for a cup of tea. As it happened, we did get cut off due to dodgy reception. The first thing he did when he phoned me back was to remind me that the Government was investing £150 million in mobile broadband infrastructure.

Last time he spoke to Liberal Democrat Voice he was in the middle of his constituency Summer Tour. It’s clear he loves this sort of thing:

I think it’s important that all politicians get out and talk to people. I represent an area that’s 1500 squre miles and the very idea that I can do that just by spending time in Hawick and Gala is  wrong and in the same way I can’t be Scottish secretary and just do events in Glasgow and Edinburgh. It’s a fantastic country and a great excuse to get out.

Liberal principles in action

The first stop on his tour had been a visit to Islay:

I met the Islay Energy Trust which is working with Scottish Power developing what they hope will be the first array of tidal power devices that will power 10megawatts of power in the Sound of Islay. As liberals we want to encourage partnership working, community action, green energy – all these things crystallise in that project. This is really exciting, seeing how the things we’re doing in Government, combined with great community effort, make a real difference.

Taking questions from schoolchildren

The highlight of the trip so far had been taking questions from 11 year olds in a primary school. They’d asked him what got him interested in politics.

I explained that when I was a bit older than then, things like what was happening in Eastern Europe with people who couldn’t have a say in how their country was run and the situation at home with devolution not happening. These got me stirred up.

Opportunities for young people

A trip to Aviva in East Dunbartonshire had given him the opportunity to discuss the Youth Contract with employers. Jo Swinson, the local MP has a campaign to find 100 local jobs in 100 days.

There’s critical things like work experience, the opportunity to give a young person the chance t o show what they’re made of in a workplace and also just to learn some o f the basic skills. We need to bang the drum on the Work Programme too, everywhere we go. Employers are keen to take part.

“We got there because I refused to accept the received wisdom”

Six months ago, some said the Scotland Act was dead in the water. Nobody would be able to satisfy the SNP, who would have to vote it through Holyrood, or the conflicting demands of Labour and Tories who needed to vote it through the House of Lords. How had he got this Bill through?

I’m an optimist – as a liberal, I have to be.  I simply refused to accept the received wisdom. I was confident in the strength of what we were trying to do, giving the Scottish Parliamant some really susbstantial powers. I was surprised that  the Scottish Government didn’t put forward a very strong case on some of their core policies and in the end challenging their case was the key to winning the broader battle. I was delighted we got unanimous support in the Scottish Parliament – even better  than in the previous Parliament.

Referendum debate must not be confined to parliament and tv studios

I have been very concerned that the debate on independence so far seems to have been conducted almost exclusively by men in suits and asked him how we were going to engage the whole range of Scots.

This must not be about me slugging this out with Alex Salmond. This is not for people in politics and the media to debate, it’s got to be the talk of nursery groups, community councils, school gates, pubs. Only if we get the debate beyond tv studios and parliamentary chambers will we have a proper, broader engagement and campaign.

Who’d want to bet anything on this year’s Formula One championship?

Mike Moore is almost as interested in Formula One as I am. So I couldn’t miss the chance to discuss the most thrilling series start I can remember. Who did he think would win?

Who’d want to bet anything on it? The tyres have made it all a lottery. I still hope it’ll be one of the McLarens. I was delighted to see Williams back in the frame, though. I’m such a long standing  fan of Frank Williams and it was great to see Maldonado where he was – just incredible.

I met Paul Di Resta after British Grand Prix. A more rooted down to earth guy you couldn’t wish to meet and my goodness has he got talent.  The competition in F1 at the moment is fantastic, really really exciting.

Then it was time for him to head, first to a service at the National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle and then to a bus garage in Falkirk.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Stuart Mitchell 31st May '12 - 7:15pm

    ” The first thing he did when he phoned me back was to remind me that the Government was investing £150 million in mobile broadband infrastructure.”

    I’m a bit shocked by that. When you have a company like Vodafone making £9.5billion annual profit, and avoiding literally billions in tax, why on earth are we forking out for mobile infrastructure?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 31st May '12 - 8:11pm

    So that we don’t have these issues with reception, I guess – and I suspect the 4G network has something to do with it. That comes with a bit of a health warning because I really don’t know.

  • Nigel Ashton 1st Jun '12 - 10:47am

    “He phoned me as he was driving” – I sincerely hope not.

  • “This must not be about me slugging this out with Alex Salmond. “

    Good Lord, is that really how he sees it?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 1st Jun '12 - 8:54pm

    Nigel, he was being driven rather than depriving but good point.

    Ivan, some people do see it like that. He clearly doesn’t.

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