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BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor reports
"Downing Street insisted there were absolutely no plans for a formal name change"
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Wednesday, 10 January, 2001, 17:24 GMT
No 10 enters 'Scots Government' row
Scottish Executive building
The Scottish Executive name could be no more
Westminster politicians have dismissed suggestions that the Scottish Executive will be renamed the Scottish Government.

A row over the possible rebranding erupted on Tuesday, with tensions between Labour politicians in Edinburgh and London threatening a new turf war.

But a spokesman for Scottish Secretary John Reid described the affair as a "storm in a teacup", and poured scorn on claims there will be any name change.

A spokesman for the prime minister said there was no question, nor had there ever been any suggestion, the executive should call itself the Scottish Government.

John Reid
John Reid: "Storm in a teacup"
However, Number 10 said there had been some thought given as to how to differentiate between Scottish ministers and the Scottish civil service - where confusion sometimes arises.

Ministers in Edinburgh admitted they were "surprised" at the row which erupted after comments made by Parliament Minister Tom McCabe.

A spokesman for First Minister Henry McLeish insisted no formal decision had been taken.

"I am a bit surprised, and I think ministers are a bit surprised," said the spokesman.

He also claimed the word "government" has in the past been used without raising eyebrows.

The spokesman added: "What did the executive call its plan launched last year? 'A programme for government' - and there wasn't a row then."

'Kicked around'

Ironically, he was speaking to journalists in a Holyrood office known for the past year, without controversy, as "the government room".

He said the idea of a name change had been "kicked around", but with no firm conclusion.

"They have thought about it, if you like, corporately, in terms of what the public recognition is," he said.

Tam Dalyell
Tam Dalyell: Disagrees with the move
The term "government", sometimes used as a synonym for the Scottish Executive, is feared by some critics - particularly among those Labour MPs at Westminster wary of the devolved administration - to carry too many suggestions of power.

But others argue that "government" is simply a realistic description of the work done by a devolved legislature, and that "executive" is a clumsy word the public is not familiar with.

Veteran Linlithgow MP Tam Dalyell was one of the first to condemn the proposal, claiming it would lead to the break-up of the UK.

Mr Dalyell said: "This is why I was so vehemently opposed to devolution. It's really a fundamental change.

'Degree of confusion'

"Norway has a government, Greece has a government - this will bring about the break up of the United Kingdom.

"If that's what people want then so be it, they should not go into this blindfolded."

On the current name, Mr McCabe said: "Some people ask if that achieves maximum recognition. There is a degree of confusion."

Tom McCabe
Tom McCabbe: "There is a degree of confusion"
But he insisted the possible change was not being prompted by the need for a new image.

He said it was vital taxpayers knew what the executive was and what it did.

Mr McCabe added: "Everyone wants to make sure that their organisation is as clear in the public's mind as it possibly can be, and I think that this is more important for the government than anyone else."

As the controversy rumbled on, the SNP demanded that Mr McLeish "clarify" what they claimed had become a public relations disaster for Labour.

Party leader John Swinney said the First Minister had been "humiliated" by Downing Street saying there was no question of the executive calling itself the Scottish Government.

'Public relations disaster'

"He has now been publicly rebuked and embarrassed by Downing Street, which shows that he and his 'Executive' are totally subordinate to Big Brother Blair in London", said Mr Swinney.

"This whole fiasco is a public relations disaster for Henry McLeish and Labour in Scotland."

Scottish Tory leader David McLetchie said: "This is a humiliating slap in the face for Henry McLeish and the delusions of grandeur he has been exhibiting over the last few weeks.

"If Henry wants to re-brand his increasingly discredited administration he should forget about dreaming up grandiose titles for it, and re-focus his attention on delivering for the people of Scotland on the issues that really matter."

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See also:

09 Jan 01 | Scotland
Ministers play the name game
31 Dec 00 | Scotland
McLeish in devolution pledge
31 Dec 00 | Scotland
Wallace voices election confidence
31 Dec 00 | Scotland
SNP on election alert, says Swinney
30 Dec 00 | Scotland
McLetchie's 'high hopes' for 2001
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