Alistair Carmichael MP writes…A proud day as we move nearer to Liberal Democrat vision of home rule for Scotland

Saltire - St Andrews Flag - Scotland - Some rights reserved by byronv2One of my first political campaigns was the 1979 referendum on a Scottish Assembly, as it was then styled.

The failure of that campaign was formative in my political thinking.  We all learned the hard way some simple political truths. Constitutional change is only achieved by working with people from other parties and of no party and that our liberal vision of Home Rule for Scotland within a strong federal United Kingdom is more relevant today than it has ever been.

As a teenager growing up in a small tight-knit island community I also quickly realised that local communities were best placed to make the decisions that affect them. We also understood that Government in Edinburgh was just as capable of getting things wrong for us as government in London.

Fast forward thirty five years and it was a proud day for me as Secretary of State for Scotland when we won decisively the vote to keep our 300 year old family of nations together with a promise of extensive new powers for our Scottish Parliament.

We set up the cross-party Smith Commission to bring people together and build consensus on what these new powers should be.

No party got everything they wanted but we owed it to the majority of Scotland who made the democratic decision to reject independence to see through their desire for more powers – a desire shared by our party.

I was pleased the Smith Commission aimed high.

The draft clauses I have published today will mean our Scottish Parliament will raise over half of what it spends. It will create a new Scottish Welfare State System with a starting budget of more than £2.5 billion.

And it will introduce votes for 16 and 17 years olds for Holyrood and local government elections.

Smith also made another important point that has not received the attention that it deserves, namely that the process of devolution should not stop in Edinburgh but should be driven to local communities across Scotland.

As an islander and MP for Orkney and Shetland, I am particularly excited by the prospect at last of us wresting control of the seabed around our coast away from the remote control of the Crown Estate Commissioners. This was the subject of my maiden speech in the Commons when I was elected in 2001 and it is something for which I have campaigned ever since. Scottish Liberal Democrats will hold the Scottish Government to honouring their obligations there.

Inevitably the nationalists will cry foul and say that this is not enough. For them, only independence is enough. The problem for them is that the people of Scotland said in the clearest possible terms on September 18 that they do not agree. Today is also a test, therefore, for the nationalists. Is their obsession with independence more important to them than respect for the democratically expressed view of the Scottish people?

The draft legislation we have published today will deliver extensive new powers to Scotland. At the end of this process the Scottish Parliament will be the third most powerful devolved legislature anywhere in the world.

The Liberal Democrats have always delivered on our devolution promises. We shall do so again.

The journey towards Home Rule has been a long and sometimes difficult one.  Today we enter the home straight with our destination in sight.  We should be proud.

* Alistair Carmichael is the MP for Orkney and Shetland and Liberal Democrat Chief Whip.

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18 Comments

  • I also wish to see more powers for Scotland. However I have no confidence that these will be delivered without hidden clauses to control and minimise their effectiveness. Power devolved is power retained.

    The LibDems have demonstrated that they are not to be trusted. They enabled a Tory government to enact the most savage cuts on the poorest people in the UK. No matter how much spin you put on the LibDems contribution while in government the public will not be deceived.

    It has been sad to watch a party who expressed such high ideals being seduced by a taste of power. The lack of experience was evident by the manner in which so many egos led them to be the front men for Tory policies. The Tories will emerge intact as a party. The LibDems will be reduced to a dozen MP’s. I suspect (and hope) that you will be the only MP representing Scotland at Westminster.

  • Such a shame that the Unionist parties decided in the end to water down the Smith Commission proposals especially on welfare. Latest polls show Lib Dems struggling to win more than one seat in May and Rennie`s approval rating at -17 ( Sturgeon at +49). A missed opportunity for the party to repair its standing in Scotland

  • @Julia Gibb

    “The LibDems have demonstrated that they are not to be trusted. They enabled a Tory government to enact the most savage cuts on the poorest people in the UK”

    No they haven’t. Just repeating the same old mantra doesn’t make what you are saying true. And yes, the Lib Dems are more trustworthy than any of the other two main parties. Just remember Labour and its broken promises, lies and continual warmongering which led to thousands of deaths and cost us tens of billions. Which government were we supposed to “enable”, exactly? Labour, with 29% of the vote?

    And please, don’t bother mentioning the Greens. None of their policies add up financially and they don’t have a chance of more than one or two MPs.

    I really am quite fed up with people hostile to the Lib Dems coming on here and posting this kind of comment without any kind of justification just in order to have a go at us.

    As for devolution, it is quite mystifying that we should be the party recommending something, promising it, delivering it and the reward we get is 4% in the opinion polls.

    I’m not sure what it is that Scots expect to get by voting SNP, but given that any UK government reliant on them to prop themselves up would immediately become highly unpopular in most of the rest of the UK (52% are opposed to an SNP supported coalition according to one poll), whatever it is, they won’t be able to get it.

    May 2015 is going to be a highly unsatisfactory election for everyone concerned.

  • The Scottish political landscape has become a bleak, depressing place for liberals, particularly the few who remain with the Liberal Democrats. That map in the Independent is honestly not an enjoyable sight, but it is one that can credibly present a worst case scenario.

    We will probably hold a seat or two. Mr Carmichael’s, Mr Kennedy’s. And of course Christine Jardine stands an outside chance in Gordon, where she might yet build up a large enough not-Salmond vote to hold on. Of course he won’t be stopped there – he’ll just step into one of the newly safe SNP seats elsewhere in Scotland.

    There’s not much we can do except defend our record as best we can, take the hits and hope to rebuild in opposition. Mr Rennie has been able to take a theme, run with it and force concessions out of the nationalist administration – it is to be hoped that he can continue this and build up a little after the coalition millstone is removed, in time for a decent showing at Holyrood in 2016.

    RC, the causes of our 4% regardless of what we achieve in government are vexing, especially since we didn’t implode when in coalition with the red team at Holyrood. Perhaps it is simply that the Tories are that toxic? Although they’re still at 15%.

    Regardless, your point about the SNP is important – their going into coaliton or a confidence and supply, or however-wise propping up a UK government, is key to the next stage of their plan I think. They need to discredit unionism in England too. If they can make the Labour Party as toxic in England as the Tories are in Scotland, make the reds as fundamentally ‘unEnglish’ as the blues are ‘unScottish’, they can divide the UK political scene to the level where England and Scotland have two entirely separate two party systems. Scotland going down the Labour/National divide, England reverting to some variation on a Whig/Tory theme. And mostly Tory for the foreseeable. When the dominant political tribes in each constituent do not exist in the other, maintaining a union becomes even more difficult. Will it happen? Can it? Would Labour do a deal with the Nationalists to govern Britain for five years, when the consequences of that look like becoming unelectable in England?

    The 2015 election will be deeply unsatisfying, particularly for liberals, but it may yet become one of the major historical elections of our time.

  • Perhaps rather than complaining the Lib Dems could set out their proposals for completing the journey to their definition of Home Rule. What are they?

  • The SNP are doing so well, perhaps they should consider running candidates in English constituencies.

  • Julia
    “The LibDems have demonstrated that they are not to be trusted. They enabled a Tory government to enact the most savage cuts on the poorest people in the UK.”
    It was well clear before polling day in 2010 that if the election resulted in no party having a majority then the Liberal Democrats would form a coalition with the party that had most seats.An agreement was made and kept if the Liberal Democrats were so untrustworthy then they would not have kept the agreement.
    I do remember the fuss that was made by the Tories at the time of the Lib-Lab pact and the low poll ratings the Liberals then had.
    I am sure you have a Swiss bank account with plenty of Swiss Francs because it seems you want continued Sterling financial turmoil and a bombed out currency which will hurt the poor.Remember the collapse of communism and the hunger that followed in its wake.
    The 1997 Asian financial crisis came about because a government was not prepared to take difficult decisions. The Thai Baht should have been devalued but some where living high on the hog and they were blind to any bad news. Not taking action caused disaster which spread to other asian countries and yes the poor suffered.People lost jobs and millions went back into poverty. Of course it was real poverty with no welfare state.
    Of course Labour will make cuts there is no question about that.They did in the 1970s and will have little choice now .Blame who you want.
    There can be no going back to the old ways. East Asia has recovered and is now economically dominant.
    The choice for the UK is between some kind of political cooperation or real decline.

  • The LibDem candidate received a total of 40 (Yes 40) votes at last nights by-election in Fife.
    . Part of Gordon Browns empire

    Britain Elects @britainelects
    Follow
    Kirkcaldy East (Fife) result:
    SNP – 47.3% (+15.9)
    LAB – 35.3% (-11.8)
    CON – 7.2% (-2.3)
    GRN – 4.1% (+4.1)
    UKIP – 3.8% (+3.8)
    (Others) – 2.3%

  • Jane Ann Liston 23rd Jan '15 - 9:46am

    What a catastrophe – Kirkcaldy East being such a stronghold for us LibDems!!

  • Julia Gibb,

    Thank you for that update on ‘real votes in real elections’ as Paddy used to describe by-elections.

    I note from your figures that the SNP result was pretty good for a ‘party of government’
    SNP – 47.3% (+15.9)

    I also note that the Liberal Democrats did not get enough votes to appear in the list of parties in the results and so must be somewhere amongst – ‘Others’
    (Others) – 2.3%

    Are you able to tell us if the Liberal Democrat was SIXTH behind SNP, LAB, CON, GREEN and UKIP ?
    Or was there a Bus Pass Elvis candidate driving us down into SEVENTH place ?

  • Manfarang

    I notice you omit the discussion with the Labour Party. I accept Gordon Brown’s team may have been rude and unhelpful but an alliance that pulled Labour up was preferable to holding Tories back.

    I seek a society which values free education, free prescriptions, a fully funded NHS, representation by fully elected representatives, renewable energy ABOVE weapons of force projection (aircract carriers / Trident / Astute class submarines) and nuclear generation.
    Your point is a financial stability ONLY. The debate should be about HOW we spend the wealth of our nation.

    The main Westminster Parties (I still include the LibDems) wish to maintain a UK strutting the world stage as a “top table” nation. The rest of us look inward at foodbanks, austerity cuts, the growing gap between rich and poor.

    Why do we need to have the 4th. largest “Defence” budget in the world? Why do we act outwith the UN mandate so often? Why do we dance to the American music?

  • Julia
    No amount od discussion in 2010 would change the fact that Labour and Liberal Democrats together did not have an overall majority.Anyway note new Labour was in favour of privatisation so maybe they weren’t so anti-Tory..
    Free prescriptions was a pledge broken long ago by Labour, in fact it has become something forgotten.
    The other things you say would have warmed the heart of any Burma Socialist Programme Party member.They were not so concerned about democracy after all they were so sure of their beliefs they felt everyone should support them.
    Yes it was a true workers paradise in Burma. Of course the country was reduced to absolute poverty.
    The thing is wealth has to be made as the Chinese realised.My relatives in China tell me what it was like under Chairman Mao and China’s city streets then weren’t full of shoppers as Britain’s High Streets are.
    I have no doubt Tony Blair can answers your questions.
    As for me it is the John Lewis Partnership rather the Co-op Bank.

  • rather than

  • Jane Ann Liston 23rd Jan '15 - 11:34am

    Dear Caractacus – There’s a slight difference between Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline, as far as historical LibDem support is concerned.

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