The National:

This week's Worst of Westminster is out now and you can sign up to get it in your inbox for free every week by clicking here.

The end of recess is almost upon us and the UK Government has been forced into a change in formation ahead of the new season kicking off.

Every day I’m shuffling

That’s right, the UK Government are off doing the LMFAO dance again following a mini-reshuffle.

Grant Shapps has replaced Ben Wallace as Defence Secretary after the latter resigned, while Brexiteer Claire Coutinho has stepped into Shapps’ old shoes as Energy Secretary.

READ MORE: Anas Sarwar slammed after U-turning on calls for 'greater devolution'

That makes Coutinho the sixth person put in that position since the 2019 election while Shapps is onto his fifth Government job in 12 months. One could say we have strayed well clear of the “strong and stable” leadership once pledged by Theresa May.

Having worked as a special adviser to Rishi Sunak in the Treasury previously, Coutinho is an ally of the PM and is firmly behind the UK’s exit from the EU – once saying she wanted to be an MP to deliver Brexit “from the inside”.

She has been handed the energy portfolio amid accusations that Sunak and his ministers are rowing back on environmental commitments and net-zero aims.

The National: Grant Shapps is the new UK Government Defence SecretaryGrant Shapps is the new UK Government Defence Secretary (Image: PA)

Critics have hit out at plans to grant new licences for oil and gas extraction in the North Sea while Countinho herself is against the expansion of the ultra-low emission zone in London.

As for Shapps, Tory MPs are already raising questions about his suitability for such an important post. He has served in the Cabinet for many years but only in domestic briefs and many believe there were plenty of other contenders with more experience.

Foulkes strikes again

It was never going to be too long before Labour peer George Foulkes made another appearance in Worst of Westminster.

This week the former MSP and MP, who previously insisted the idea of an equal Union was nothing more than a “myth”, referred to the Scottish Government as an “elected dictatorship”.

Foulkes, who sits in the House of Lords as Baron Foulkes of Cumnock, added he would be intensifying his campaign to stop “illegal spending” by Scottish ministers.

He has argued for years that Holyrood should not be able to spend on matters relating to independence, given constitutional matters are reserved to Westminster.

He posted on X, formerly known as Twitter: “When @UKHouseofLords returns on Monday I will be intensifying my campaign to stop illegal spending by @scotgov.

"An elected dictatorship is always wrong but when it is a devolved government there is a way it can be stopped if the UK Government exercises its responsibility.”

The SNP described Foulkes’ comments as “deeply insulting” and insisted they illustrate the Labour party’s contempt for Scotland’s democracy.

King Charles portrait or free school meals?

The UK Government has proposed £8 million of funding for hanging portraits of King Charles in government-owned buildings across the UK, including Scottish schools.

If this £8m were reallocated to providing school meals, every pupil in Scotland would have a weeks’ worth of meals for free.

With the average cost of a school meal in Scotland at £2.35 (£2.28 for primary, £2.42 for secondary), the proposed funding would be enough to provide 3.4 million free school meals to Scottish pupils.

READ MORE: Scotland's 1994 Rugby World Cup rescue set for Murrayfield stage

The money could also fund 253 new teachers in Scotland, with a starting salary of £31,584.

The SNP and Greens reacted with anger to the news, saying it was inappropriate during a cost of living crisis and branding it something that “would look more at home in North Korea”.The First Minister insisted it was not a good use of taxpayers’ money.

The National understands the Scottish Government has complied with a request from their UK counterparts to provide information on public buildings that would be eligible for the portrait.


  • It has emerged that a Stirling University student who was detained by the Home Office remains barred from continuing his studies despite being released on bail. Muhammad Rauf Waris spent more than two months in Dungavel House immigration removal centre in South Lanarkshire after he was arrested at his place of work on suspicion of working over the allowed time on a student visa. The 26-year-old remains unable to continue his masters degree in business management for the time being due to the terms of his release including a suspension of his student visa.