The Liberal Democrats’ decision to enter a coalition government with David Cameron’s Conservative Party will be good news for isles voters, Orkney and Shetland’s MP has insisted.
Alistair Carmichael said he accepted he was likely to face criticism in the Northern Isles over the agreement and understood people’s concerns about the Liberals propping up a Tory-led administration. It is understood he may be in line for a junior ministerial post within the arrangement.
Mr Carmichael told The Shetland Times he had undertaken “quite a journey on this one myself” but believes the deal is “absolutely a good thing for Shetland, for Scotland and for people who voted Liberal Democrat”.
He said he had initially sought to initiate discussions with the Labour party but it was “soon apparent” to him that Labour was not interested in making a deal. It is understood Labour negotiators refused to give ground to the Liberals over a range of issues including ditching ID cards and support for the third runway at Heathrow.
“What we have done is constructed a coalition which will produce five years, fixed, of solid, stable government which will have to make many difficult decisions, but which will be guided substantially by the Liberal Democrat manifesto principles of fairness and change.”
Asked whether he could understand why some people who had contributed to giving him a record majority in the constituency last Thursday might now feel betrayed by his party’s support for the Tories, he said: “I understand the concerns, believe me. I have been through quite a journey on this one myself. I would say to people who are concerned about it, judge this by the content of the agreement, not by the fact that it involves the Conservative Party.
“It’s not a Tory government. If this was a Tory government there would not be a commitment to end the detention of children of asylum seekers in removal centres like Dungavel in Lanarkshire. If this was a Tory government, it would not be restoring the link between the state pension and average earnings. It would still be prioritising changes to inheritance tax, which it isn’t.”
There had been speculation that Mr Carmichael would become secretary of state for Scotland, but that role is instead going to his Scottish colleague Danny Alexander who he described as “one of my closest friends”, adding: “The fact that one of my best mates is in the cabinet on a personal and political level delights me.”
Under the terms of the coalition deal published this afternoon the new government has pledged to introduce the Calman Commission proposals for the Scottish Parliament to be given greater tax-raising powers.
A commission will also be established to look at the West Lothian question, or why Scottish MPs get to vote on domestic English issues while no such right exists for English MPs on domestic Scottish issues.
Mr Carmichael added: “I was concerned that I could not see how a coalition arrangement could provide stable government. Having seen what has been negotiated, I am enormously re-assured that it can and that that government will produce a fairer country, a fairer and more sustainable country.
“I have always said that you make your decisions in politics and you have to explain them to your voters. I am more than happy to do that and the next time I face the electors, they will judge me on that.”