Rennie chooses Michael Moore and Tavish Scott to represent Liberal Democrats on Scotland Devolution Commission

Willie Rennie announced two very different Liberal Democrat representatives for the Scotland Devolution Commission to be headed by Lord Smith of Kelvin. On one hand you have former Secretary of State, co-architect of the Edinburgh Agreement, statesman, diplomat. On the other you have plain-speaking, uncompromising former leader Tavish Scott. They will be quite a formidable double act,  a parliamentary good cop/bad cop. 

The two attended a photo opportunity outside the Scottish Parliament today with Willie Rennie, who said:

Home Rule is in our DNA. From Gladstone through to Grimmond, Bruce and Wallace, ScottishLiberalDemocrats have been championing home rule for Scotland. We are the most prepared for this great opportunity now that the independence issue has been laid to rest. We were first out the blocks with our plans for more powers, with Sir Menzies Campbell’s proposals for home rule in a federal UK published in 2012.

Michael Moore and Tavish Scott are champions of home rule for Scotland.  Michael has the weight and authority of a former Scottish Secretary and is respected across the political spectrum after successfully delivering the Scotland Act 2012 and the Edinburgh Agreement.  He is the architect of the fair, legal and decisive result delivered last week with the backing of two million voters.

As a former Scottish Government Minister and Party Leader Tavish too has the knowledge and experience to deliver great gains for our home rule ambition.  As a Shetlander he will also be making the strong case for powers to be transferred beyond Edinburgh so that power can be exercised locally to meet local priorities.

Both men have a tricky task. On one hand, they have to persuade Labour to relax a bit and not hang on to power in the centre. This it’s very reluctant to do, mainly because it may then end up being diminished by English Votes for English Laws. Neither Labour or Conservatives really understand that if you are taking power away from the centre, the parliament at the centre should  get smaller. While the Tories see EVEL as a mechanism to push Labour out of the picture, we are quite relaxed about it, as long as it’s done within a constitutional framework that makes sense.

They also have to keep the SNP in the process when it is very much in their interest that the process fails. They will want to capitalise on the strength of the Yes vote last week to get more MPs. If they can successfully portray themselves as the people who are fighting for Scotland’s interests, then they might send a much larger contingent than they ever have before to Westminster next May. That could have a significant effect on the balance of power, reducing primarily the number of Labour MPs. They could also vote down the powers package and try to engineer a further referendum. Whether their new leader, likely to be Nicola Sturgeon will aim to destabilise the process from the start, or bide her time to see if there’s an EU referendum remains to be seen.

The political ground has shifted on to our natural territory. It’s up to Mike and Tavish to do the best they can to deliver as close to the Campbell Commission as they can possibly get. No pressure…


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

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  • Denis Mollison 25th Sep '14 - 8:50pm

    Congratulations to Michael and Tavish on their appointment – a good selection to represent both our “part of the UK” and “more localism” views.

    Why do you say it’s in the interests of the SNP for the process to fail? Their interest is clearly to push for the kind of real federal solution that Gordon Brown airily outlined rather than the “devo-nano” that Labour came up with in the Spring, but surely that’s what we want too? If we campaign to deliver real federalism the SNP are our natural allies. Of course they want to go further at some point in the future, but if federalism works well that need never happen.

    Mind you, it’s stretching a point to call the Campbell Commission’s proposals real federalism. If we are to answer the West Lothian question we need as clear as possible a distinction of which decisions are for England/rUK only.

  • I would be very surprised if Nicola Sturgeon were to work for failure of the this enhancement of Scottish devolution. She must know that the prospect of a majority being found within Westminster for allowing the SNP to put us all through the harrowing process of a “break up the UK” referendum in the foreseeable future is about nil. Therefore the more devolved power she can get the better for her. Indeed this is arguably the real objective for many of those who vote SNP. To my mind the danger is that a desire to placate SNP and its supporters will lead to too much devolution, not too little.

    A federal UK is an enormous project and anyone who thinks this or anything like it will come about quickly is in cloud -cuckoo land. The fulfilment of the panicked pre-referendum “vow” requires a degree of urgency in addressing enhanced devolution to Scotland but in the absence of federalism throughout the UK the greater the powers devolved to Scotland the more pressing the demand from England for EVEL will become – and as Vernon Bogdanor has clearly set out in yesterday’s Guardian EVEL is virtually a constitutional impossibility. Also does it make any sense, having just “saved the Union” to go way down the road of providing Scotland with something perilously close to the independence they have just voted against? I hope Michael and Tavish will consider all these issues very carefully and not rush to the conclusion that their main objective is to support the SNP push for “devo max*. The Liberal Democrats are a UK party and must seek the best way forward for the UK.

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