Call is made for joined up thinking between governments on coronavirus
Key measures should be taken to ensure a more co-ordinated response to coronavirus from Westminster and the devolved governments.
A joint ministerial committee with an “enhanced remit” would establish better understanding between the UK government and the Edinburgh administration, as well as the devolved administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland.
That is the view of MP and former Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael, who is behind the call alongside Liberal Democrat colleague, and former Scottish Deputy First Minister, Jim Wallace.
They argue people – already concerned for their health and livelihoods – are getting “mixed messages” from governments, and that “confusion and inconsistency” risk breeding fear.
The two say the collective approach could help to restore public confidence that leaders are pulling together.
It follows a clear difference in approach by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has signalled a loosening of lockdown measures, and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon- who has favoured sticking to the “stay at home” message.
A JMC is a consultative body involving the UK government and devolved administrations.
It is hoped a coronavirus JMC would bring ministers and officials from all UK governments together to agree on solutions.
A statement released by Mr Carmichael and Lord Wallace said: “This is not about dropping blame at anyone’s door.
“The reality, however, is that in recent days and weeks, attempts to formulate responses to the coronavirus are more notable for apparent disagreements between national governments than for policy substance.
“We need governments to build consensus and create a shared responsibility across the UK.
“We are calling for a more joined up response to what is a cross-governmental challenge – by establishing a coronavirus joint ministerial committee.”
They argue a JMC which meets regularly “and with an approach based on consensus and shared responsibility” could help to cut disputes – with all governments involved in developing plans.
“It would help to refocus coronavirus response based on national and regional needs rather than political borders.
“This solution could help reduce the chaos of the current political climate – and point the way towards a better long-term crisis response mechanism in future.
“We believe that an enhanced JMC for the coronavirus crisis is the right way to give people confidence in their governments during this time – with a message that leaders are working with, rather than against each other.”