On MitB, I regularly whacked the Lib Dems for everything I could think of.  But given we’ve started afresh, with a blank canvas and a promise of positivity, that has to stop.  Which is a shame – there isn’t much more fun in the blogosphere than baiting Lib Dems.  Nevertheless, I’ll try to get through a post without dissing them too much.

I think one of the most surprising things that came out of the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition was, for me, the fact that the Lib Dems took on the role of Secretary of State for Scotland.  I was a little surprised that they didn’t give it to Alastair Carmichael, who acted as Scotland spokesperson during the election debates (and, in my mind, was a very able performer, even – and I don’t think its unfair to say – outshining Alex Salmond in the event at the Hub) when they did get the position.  More surprised that they gave it to Danny Alexander, and then Michael Moore after Alexander’s move to the Treasury, but then I don’t know that much about internal Lib Dem personalities and cliques.

Anyway, I was more surprised that they took on the role – though I guess the Conservatives didn’t really give them much of a choice (with only one MP in Scotland, the role was probably odds-on to go to a Lib Dem).  For me, the Conservatives must be delighted with this – and the fact that they have a Lib Dem in the Treasury too – for the simple reason that, although the policies that are being enacted (and for “policies” read “cuts”) are pretty much Tory ones, they can point to the Lib Dems and say it is them who is doing it.  In essence what Scotland has is a Lib Dem “Governor General” who fronts for the Tories in Scotland – providing a shield for them and their unpopular cuts up here.  The Tories must be delighted.

But… I said I’d be positive, so here’s something:  I can understand why they took the job.  I think pre-Nick Clegg and the TV debates, the Lib Dem vote was in free-fall.  There were some polls in which they had fallen below 15% nationally – and, indeed, they were squeezed out of the Lab-SNP and Con-Lab narratives in Scotland.  The Clegg effect kept them at 2005 levels.  But because of the two narratives here, they do need a handle on why they remain relevant in Scotland – and I think the fact they have the Secretary of State for Scotland gives them that opportunity.  Now it may be that relevance is symbolic – that Michael Moore can say what he likes in the Cabinet room and no one will really listen – but it does look to the public like they have a role to play.  And that, in elections, is important.

So yes, on the surface, having a Lib Dem Secretary of State for Scotland gives the Tories a nice shield in Scotland.  But on the other hand, it also delivers something for the Lib Dems too – a measure of relevance (which, arguably – and I’m sure you’ll debate the point – they may not have without it).  Everyone’s a winner.

But what about the voters?  Will they see it the same way?  “The Lib Dems have the guy running Scotland in the Cabinet, therefore we must vote for them” is one way they could look at it.  Alternatively, the “Lib Dem Scottish Secretary is a front for Tory cuts in Scotland – we must punish them by voting against them” is another potential view.  So how will that go?  I guess time – and the full force of the cuts – will tell.