3 Scots pro-UK leaders promise more powers after “No” vote

Brazil v Scotland 22In an unprecedented show of unity, the leaders of the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour parties in Scotland wrote a joint article for Scotland on Sunday yesterday in which they promised more powers for the Scottish Parliament if Scotland says “No, thanks” to independence in 3 months’ time.

Ruth Davidson, Willie Rennie and Johann Lamont have managed to put together a decent article, cogently arguing the case for staying in the UK, and for more powers to Holyrood and from Holyrood. That last bit is very important and I’m encouraged that Lamont and Davidson agreed to something that has been a constant theme of Willie Rennie’s leadership.

There is no step by step list of the powers that will be devolved but there is an unequivocal, irreversible commitment to continuing the devolution process.

The Nationalists will claim over the coming months that a No vote is an opportunity missed. They will warn that to vote No will be to pass up the chance for Scotland to find a better way. The problem with this argument is that it is 100 per cent wrong. The ground has shifted under the Nationalists’ feet. For we are now clear: a No vote does not mean no change. A No vote opens the door to more powers for Scotland. And if people do vote against independence, we can get on with the job of reforming the Scottish Parliament for the better.

More powers for Holyrood are coming already. Within months of a No vote, the Scottish Parliament will start to set a part of your income tax rate, driving real power and responsibility out of Westminster and into Edinburgh. The legislation has been passed: the powers are on their way. But we now want to go further. All three of our parties have now backed a further extension of powers at Holyrood. And while the details of our plans differ, they all include a commitment to drive more taxation and more social protection to Holyrood. We all believe that the parliament needs to have more responsibility over the money it raises, not just the money it spends, in order to create a more mature politics in Scotland. And when we talk of new powers we are not just talking about powers for Holyrood. We will be true to the central principle of devolution and devolve power down from Holyrood to people and local communities.

Our plans have been published. At next year’s general election, they will all form part of our manifestos. Rightly, we will have a vigorous debate about the substance of those plans. We do not hide the fact that we have different visions; in a democracy, that is only healthy. All of us are looking forward to an honest, passionate contest of ideas about who best can seize the spirit of what has been achieved in Scotland and take it forward. Then all three of us have said we will legislate as soon as possible afterwards, on the basis of people’s consent. No ifs, no buts – we are all committed to deliver.

I actually like the fact that the three of them haven’t cooked something up in advance, that they are actually going to engage the public in debate about what they want to see – and there will be a place in that debate, as Willie Rennie has frequently said, for the SNP. Scotland can then vote for what it wants to see in the General Election next May.  You can read the whole article here.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • That’s a shame. I was hoping for a pledge for a concrete set of powers that would be agreed by all three parties ahead of the vote, so that we could make an informed choice between the two different options.

    Instead we not only get a set of vague promises for “more devolution” without specifics, but it’s coming from the Scottish parties, who don’t actually have the power to deliver more devolution to us.

    Sadly, I can’t see this making much of a difference.

  • In a way it will be Independence in the end, the process of devolving powers seems to be a continuous one, the more is devolved the more it becomes questionable whether there is any point staying as one country

  • Doesn’t really matter what politicians promise though, does it? People know that they can lie.

    Anyway, this whole independence debate should have been allowed to be sorted out by the will of the people years ago, when the SNP first won the Scottish elections. The SNP even offered the Lib Dems a coalition if only the Lib Dems would agree to let the people have their say, the ‘liberals’ felt they could not allow the people to have their say and the SNP were forced to run a minority administration which the people of Scotland felt they did rather well actually and then as a result gave them a majority.

  • I am in England I hope Scotland stays while more devolved powers means regions have more say in what might help the region best at least the countries who make up the union still can maintain a notional ideal of more strength

    Fingers crossed Scotland stays in the union

  • @Allan

    What do you think of the Lib Dems refusing to allow Salmond to ask the question after the SNP won the election in 2007? SNP wanted a coalition but insisted on a referendum, the Lib Dems said they couldn’t support that.

    What do you think of Cameron allowing the question to be asked properly now by agreeing to make the referendum legally binding?

    Is denying the people the chance to have their say via a referendum ‘liberal’? Can anybody actually tell me what ‘liberal’ means in any meaningful way or is is just one of those words like ‘fairness’ or ‘freedom’ that almost everyone claims to believe in but it means different things to each of us?

  • Malcolm Todd 16th Jun '14 - 11:24am

    “A No vote opens the door to more powers for Scotland. ”

    Well, that makes no sense. In what way would a Yes vote reduce the possibility of more power devolving to Scotland? If more devolution is on offer, fine; but it makes no sense to claim that the transfer of powers is somehow dependent on voting against an even greater transfer of powers.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 16th Jun '14 - 11:41am

    @David: I actually agree with you. We should not have made such a song and dance about saying we wouldn’t agree to a referendum. But we did, and once we had, we couldn’t then agree to it. I opposed our stance at the time as I’ve always been pretty relaxed about having a referendum.

    I think that you should acknowledge, though, the contribution of Michael Moore who, as Secretary of State for Scotland did so much to ensure that we had a legal, fair and decisive referendum. The way he and Nicola worked together professionally and cordially was a credit to both of them.

  • In form agreement with you there Caron. I think the referendum’s been a long time coming, and I’d like to see it closed as a question, either way around, so we can concentrate on improving Scotland (Liberally!)

  • @david

    Hi I do not think that LibDem rule on no referendum was correct a mockery as the party wanted a referendum for AV

    I think David did the correct thing making the vote binding otherwise zero point in having the vote

    I also think the LibDem and Labour rejection of a binding EU referendum is wrong I think we would vote to stay

    The views above certainly don’t make me less hopeful that the union stays and more power is dissolved regionally

    I am in Teesside the Labour Party had a vote here for more devolution though I strongly believe it was sold poorly more would you like a Mare


  • Mayor even lol

  • Charles Rothwell 16th Jun '14 - 12:30pm

    I think the Party should have supported the idea of a referendum in Scotland when it had the opportunity (in the same way as having a referendum on the EU long before now would have ‘strangled UKIP in its cradle’. An unfortunate lack of “Trust the people!” In forward-looking terms, when (as I believe) Scotland (narrowly) votes “No” and it comes time to deliver on enhanced devolution to Hollyrood, the time will finally have come seriously to consider again the idea of devolution within ENGLAND as well. London/the South East is now having such an imbalancing impact on the rest of England is so many ways, that administrative/constitutional/financial measures have got to be discussed and devised to address this state of affairs as a matter of urgency and this Party should be the one at the very forefront of such a discussion (which, to address the point made by @theakes) also needs to take on the whole issue of subsidiarity at all four levels (European, national, regional, local) as well. I believe that there are certainly roles which being members of the EU and the Union can lead to benefits for everyone in this country, but times are changing so radically that we cannot just stumble on with structures now well beyond their sell-by date in many cases! (Unlike the vapid and weak-kneed effort over AV, however, the Party needs a really well thought out, convincing and extremely well presented set of policies on this which will make it totally clear to voters how such matters affect every aspect of their daily lives and the chances of improving the prospects for their children and grandchildren.

  • @Caron “We should not have made such a song and dance about saying we wouldn’t agree to a referendum. But we did, and once we had, we couldn’t then agree to it. I opposed our stance at the time as I’ve always been pretty relaxed about having a referendum.”

    Now this really makes no sense to me. You could make a huge song and dance about tuition fees having every single MP sign a personal pledge from them as an individual to their constituents promising to vote against any rise in student tuition fees and then vote to triple them but you, as a liberal party, couldn’t go back on a promise not to trust the people of Scotland to decide their own future in a referendum? What does ‘liberal’ mean if not trusting people, empowering people, and letting people make decisions and determine their own futures?

    And anyway, why choose that issue to make such a “song and dance about”, wasn’t their anything the SNP wanted to do that was illiberal that you could oppose on a point of principle instead? And if not, what is the point in the party? Or was it simply an opinion poll or focus group that told the party to make a song and dance about no to any referendum? This makes no sense at all.

    The reason the SNP did so well in 2011 was because they actually did a pretty good job in government. Prescription charges were scrapped, free personal care for the elderly still exists, they spared Scotland from student tuition fees etc… In Scotland we can look at the way things are in England and it’s clear that we’ve got things pretty good up north. The Lib Dems could have been a part of that. Instead they refused any coalition for what really seems to me like the most illiberal of reasons (not allowing the people to have their say in a referendum) and went and on to lose every single mainland constituency in the next Scottish election. The same could now happen in next year’s General Election too! They really could lose every single Scottish MP.

    Do you guys actually even want an EU referendum, or is that just a big game too? And more importantly, can I believe the answer you give to that question either way?

    Tell me what do liberal democrats, and you guys on this site who are lib dems, think about the following social issues about liberty and why? –
    1. Should parents be allowed to send their children to religious schools which teach their, and only their religion is correct and don’t follow the national curriculum?
    2. Should cannabis be legalised.
    3. Should prostitution be legalised?
    4. Should we have an in out referendum on the EU and if so why not now?

    What does it actually mean to be ‘a liberal’. Unless you can answer that with more than just vague ideas about not being enslaved by poverty or ignorance, and unless you can show those people in the electorate who are liberally inclined that you are serious about standing for these principles rather than just opportunistic game players your party is heading for disaster. Will such a disaster serve the UK, is really it in the country’s best interests to go back to a two party system?

  • @David

    1 no opinion bit old for that one
    2 yes
    3 yes
    4 sooner the better no true reason for waiting issue should be settled

    I am assuming you are pro Scottish independence and that is your right even though I would like you too stay may I just point out politicians promising one thing and not delivering is very common hence the reason the vote turnout is low. I mention “Fibs” because at the moment you don’t have evidence the SNP will be different in the long run.

    Re things like prescriptions and care it is probably wrong to assume the rest of the union don’t want the same only issue is with a national debt of £1.4 trillion is it defiantly affordable even with say an 8% part of that debt.

  • At the moment I’m undecided on the referendum but adds to confusion. The Better Together UK dividend is the Barnet formula which is contentious in middle England. This looks like a ploy by the UK parties to appease English voters and damage the Scottish devolved budget settlement. Scratching my head now but it makes independence look much more attractive.

  • @Allan I’m not pro-independence. I’m an ex-Lib Dem activist and will generally vote Scottish Green or SNP these days. Both the Scottish Greens and the SNP are pro-independence but voting for these parties cannot make Scotland independent, only a referendum came. I think Scotland will choose to stay in the Union and that will settle the issue for a generation. Besides, the Greens have some great polices and the SNP generally do a pretty good job of running things here.

    The Lib Dems voted to make prostitution tolerance zones illegal in Scotland and ran away from the cannabis issue when it became a bit less popular. Funny thing is though, that whilst those issues probably still do not have anything like majority support they have way, way more support than the Lib Dems. I think the Lib Dems are finished up here to be honest, expect perhaps on the Northern islands. Backing these unpopular but liberal causes would have helped, not harmed, the Lib Dems.

  • @David

    Thank you for the clarification and I do hope you are correct that Scotland stays I have a strong feeling of identity with them from relatives my own travel in Scotland and finding the Scots to be a friendly lot and a hope that I may be able to move even more North than I am now.

    I like you find some of the recent actions of the LibDem party not very liberal and should they wish to have votes in a general election perhaps returning more to the way they acted before a taste of power even the rush for the AV referendum gave little chance of success

    I really think the union will vote for staying in the union, I would like a little less interference in general life though

  • The Barnet formula is subject to the sovereign will of future UK-wide electorates of the coming months, decades and centuries who are not bound by promises given by any particular generation of politicians. Certainly it, and the one-sided devolution settlement, is hugely unpopular in England and probably won’t last much longer.

    @Allan. Can you please stop referring to Scotland as a country. Based on the criteria we would use for the rest of the world, it is a region of the UK which may become an independent country. Unless we are going to start referring to places like Ogoniland as countries then it seems like we are applying different rules to ourselves than we would to others.

  • @Richard S

    ‘Can you please stop referring to Scotland as a country’

    The thing is, even if Allan does, the Scots won’t. Even strong unionists would still call it a country. Caron Lindsay and the Liberal Democrat chapter of the Better Together campaign certainly do, and frankly why not? Country doesn’t simply mean ‘nation state’.

    Its far too late to abolish Scotland and England as countries now. If in around 1900 the Liberal Party had managed to push through a system of home rule parliaments for the regions within the British Isles, then perhaps a changing understanding of Britain and the smaller units might have emerged, similar to how old countries like Bavaria and Saxony were absorbed into Germany’s federal structure alongside the more administrative units like Mecklenburg-Vorpommern or Nordrhein-Westfalen that used to make up Prussia.

    If Britian had gone down that route, perhaps Scotland, Wales, Northumberland, Wessex, East Anglia and the rest would have been able to exist more comfortably in a union.

    But here and now, its looking unlikely. If by some stroke of misfortune the Yes lot manage to lose the referendum, there will be one last fleeting chance to pull it off. Liberal Democrats, however battered and bruised by this coalition and the consequences of our mistakes, have to be there to campaign for it. But if it is allowed to pass by along with all the others, we’ll be looking at a second, far more acrimonious, far more unanimous referendum within two decades, alongside the consequences of continuing overcentralisation and general misrule in England.

  • @Richard S

    No sorry I will continue calling Scotland a country when I travel North I see signs saying welcome to Scotland, I see currency that is Scottish though legal tender in the UK

    My relatives considered they were Scottish and I may be English though also British or perhaps European

    You refer to the Barnett formula and how that will have to be reduced sorry I disagree I think it far more likely that more devolution will come about with or without Scotland in the Union

    Social media has changed politics for ever it is not only Scotland that considers London takes a lions share in the Union

    Assuming you are in Scotland be proud of your nationality you have that now and if you go independant you will still have it it’s mainly strength in numbers you shall leave

  • Alex Macfie 16th Jun '14 - 8:27pm

    @Allan: Strictly speaking Scottish currency is NOT “legal tender”. Legal tender is a narrow concept, referring to forms of currency that a creditor is obliged to accept in settlement of a debt. Thus it does not apply to a great many ordinary transactions, since a merchant is legally entitled to refuse a sale for whatever reason they wish. Legal tender would apply, for instance, in settling a bill at a restaurant or with a black cab driver (as there is a pre-existing debt), but not when buying things in a shop. In the UK, only Bank of England notes and coins are legal tender. Other sterling banknotes are accepted by general consent.

  • @T-J ‘Can you please stop referring to Scotland as a country’

    It is a country, at least it is a nation in the historical sense of the word. It might not be a nation or a country on the world stage (i.e. a nation state member of the UN) but it is a nation within the United Kingdom, as is England, as is Wales. As a pro-union Scot who loves Scotland I see Scotland as a nation among equals in a union that has benefited all parties. I for one won’t stop calling Scotland a country. If that is your attitude, that Scotland having a national identity is really something you don’t like (or am I misunderstanding you?), maybe independence would be better after all.

  • @ Alex Macfie

    I agree in total about legal tender but we do agree i think that most shops etc in England accept a Scottish ten pound note and they are usually banked at which point I have thought they would be sent back for re use in Scotland.

    I have never returning from Scotland had the currency refused though perhaps other parts of the union have different views

  • @David

    You’re quoting my context quote of what Richard S was saying. I think we’re broadly on the same side of this issue.

  • Steve Deller 17th Jun '14 - 7:23pm

    so the article ignores the consequence of further devolution. That Scottish influence in the UK government must be reduced.

    Also please stop referring to England as a collection of regions and not a country.

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