What’s in a name

Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland (source Harris Morgan)

Interesting to see that the new Scottish Nationalist administration in Edinburgh has adopted the term “government” to describe itself. The previous Labour administration was always coy about the term: it used the phrase “Scottish Executive” instead.

I noticed the difference in the statements by new First Minister Alex Salmond, and you can see it in the titles of the news pages on the website:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2006/01 refers to the Executive

but the statement by Alex Salmond here refers to the “Scottish Government” (upper case G, you note): http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/News-Extras/strategicobjs

The same change happened in Wales back in 2001 years ago. Rhodri Morgan introduced the term “Welsh Assembly Government”, partly to emphasise the distinction between the legislature and the executive, but he did not choose the word “Executive” as in Scotland or “cabinet” as in English local government, but the word “government”. Read about that here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/1679342.stm

There is an important point here. Government is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact it is necessary to maintain a functioning society. It needs to know its limits, but it is nevertheless important.

Let me make a second point, too. Here is an opportunity to drag Europe into the debate. Opponents of the idea of a European government say that it would undermine or even abolish governments within the member states, as though the notion of government carried some kind of exclusivity. What nonsense, as the Scottish and Welsh name changes prove. The UK is not destroyed by the new names in Edinburgh and Cardiff. The word government simply describes what is going on there. Government can exist at different levels to do different jobs, and so can governments.

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