UK ministers arrived in Aberdeen today for the first ever Cabinet meeting in the city.
It will be the third time the Cabinet has been convened north of the border, with Lloyd George’s ministers having gathered in Inverness in 1921, and Gordon Brown’s in Glasgow in 2009.
The location and timing of today’s visit are by no means accidental.
Two major Westminster announcements affecting the north-east were made today – the publication and approval of Sir Ian Wood’s final recommendations on maximising North Sea oil and gas, and the agreement to move to the advanced design stage of a carbon capture and storage plant at Peterhead.
The coalition’s relations with the oil and gas sector got off to a bad start with its shock 2011 Budget tax raid, but the UK Government has since moved to repair the damage. The battle over Scottish independence has also entered a key stage, and UK ministers want to demonstrate their commitment to Scotland through the visit.
The Liberal Democrats – who have two north of Scotland MPs sitting at the Cabinet in Danny Alexander and Alistair Carmichael – will also have had one eye on next year’s general election.
Sir Malcolm Bruce will be stepping down in the Gordon seat, Sir Robert Smith will attempt to defend West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, and the party will try to hang on to the five Highland and islands seats occupied by Mr Alexander, Mr Carmichael, John Thurso, Alan Reid and Charles Kennedy.
Mr Carmichael said: “In terms of why we are going to Aberdeen and why we are going now, the Cabinet does this from time to time. Too many politicians go to Edinburgh and think that they’ve seen Scotland so I’m pleased that the Cabinet is going beyond that.
“I think it’s important that we should do that at this time because we are seeing the UK economy recover, you are seeing unemployment coming down, the number of people in employment going up, you are seeing economic growth increasing.
“And Scotland is doing very well – we are the second most successful part of the UK economy outside the south-east and London.”