"We have said that we do not believe that the [UK] bill will go far enough, which is why we need to find a workable system that will reduce the availability and use of air-guns even further in Scotland's communities and reduce the potential for similar incidents in the future. We will find such a solution, butwe will do so properly and in discussion with the Scottish police forces and the Home Secretary."
By Friday, this position had been considerably hardened. The Scotsman reported that the First Minister had agreed a position with the Home Office whereby Scotland would be allowed to do its own thing, even to the extent of a reverse Sewel motion:
"He [the First Minister] is prepared, though, to extend the scope of the Scottish Parliament's powers into UK law, if that is required, and he has the full backing of the Home Office to do so.But then today, Scotland on Sunday rubbishes the Friday report, making it clear (here) that independent action by the Scottish Executive is a non-starter:
This groundbreaking move to crack down on airguns will represent the first time that the Scottish Executive has legislated in such high-profile matters which fall outside its remit.
A source close to Mr McConnell said: "Jack believes the Home Office did not go far enough when it announced its plans on imitation weapons this week and he wants to go further. It will definitely happen.""
Why does the Scottish Executive do this? The First Minister takes a defensible line at FMQs; the next day, his spinners push the boat out too far; and then the Home Office make them look like idiots. Did they not clear the Friday line with the Home Office? Or did they think that they could bounce the Home Office into adopting a change of tack? Or were they simply suckered into believing that the Home Office would play along? Whatever way, the First Minister's advisers have been grossly naive.
"THE Home Office is to block moves by First Minister Jack McConnell to create a new licensing system for airguns in Scotland. Sources close to Home Secretary Charles Clarke claim it would be "ridiculous" to have different registration schemes on either side of the Border. They are insisting that Scotland should fall into line with their own plans to create a new registration programme for all firearms, which is soon to be piloted in England."