Sir Menzies Campbell asks for Scottish members’ views on Home Rule

Late last year, Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie appointed North East Fife MP and former leader Sir Menzies Campbell to chair a Commission on Home and Community Rule to set out exactly how a liberal Scotland would divide up government power. Uniquely, our party looks at ways of devolving power from as well as to Holyrood.

Sir Menzies today e-mailed Scottish members to let them know he wants their views and outlining plans for a consultative session  at the Party’s Inverness conference in March. (Should you wish to attend, please note that the deadline to register at the cheaper rate is this Friday, 27th).

His e-mail said:

Our party can be proud of the last one hundred years of campaigning for home rule. Back in 1913 ‘home rule’ meant that a Scottish Parliament would have responsibility for everything except defence and foreign affairs. Our task is to describe the end-point of home rule in the 21stcentury.

Should a Scottish Parliament have the ability to raise the money in taxes that it spends on services? How would new powers affect the economy and wealth of the nation? What is necessary to secure the social cohesion of the United Kingdom?

There are different taxes to consider: income tax, corporation tax, excise duties and, of course, oil revenues.

The Scottish Parliament has substantial law-making powers. But we will need to look at the case for issues such as drug policy being different in different parts of the UK. Some welfare benefits are closely linked to policies such as housing, skills and employability which are tackled at a Scottish level. But other benefits might be considered better provided by the United Kingdom. That great Liberal invention, the state pension, comes to mind.

We are determined to make sure that we give real power to local communities. The community rule part of our remit is important.

The Commission is very keen to hear from you on all these matters. But more than that we want to hear about your vision for Scotland. How can liberal values and a home rule parliament be combined to give the best future for Scotland and the people who live and work here?

Whether through a response to this email, through a discussion in your local party or from participation in the special consultative session in Inverness I look forward to hearing your views.

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

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13 Comments

  • K. Campbell 25th Jan '12 - 9:25pm

    “Back in 1913 ‘home rule’ meant that a Scottish Parliament would have responsibility for everything except defence and foreign affairs.”

    Er, correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t that exactly what devo-max is supposed to be? Complete domestic powers with full fiscal responsibility but remaining a part of the UK with defence and foreign policy reserved to Westminster?

    But anyway, isn’t this all just a massive waste of time if the Scottish Lib Dems aren’t even going to attempt to get it onto the ballot paper in 2014? This sounds about as close to devo-max as you can get – yet we are expected to believe that if we want home rule we must vote ‘No’ in the referendum and it will be delivered by the UK government at some unknown point after 2014? And of course that would require a hefty Lib Dem presence in the UK government which in itself seems rather unlikely.

  • Devo-max isn’t really defined yet, that’s its major problem. Salmond’s just thrown the name out there and challenged someone to define it so he could put it on his referendum as a consolation prize in the event of the nationalists failing to split the union. Ming Campbell’s report intends to outline just how much further the Liberal Democrats believe devolution should go, but it’ll take time.

    The point, though, is that Ming’s report indicates that the Liberal Democrats in Scotland are going to be arguing for continuing the process of devolution as their pitch for the status quo. No to Independence doesn’t mean no to more powers for Scotland, and continuing devolution means we can get what we all want without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

  • I think for the Lib Dem message, whatever it ends up being, to have even a shred of credibility in Scotland they’re going to have to start with an admission that they took their eye off the ball for the past few years and completely misjudged the electorate.

    This “but we’ve always been the party of home rule!” line comes across as desperate and totally delusional, and is just going to make them a laughing stock.

    @T-J

    I don’t think Salmond wants a third option on the ballot at all, I just think he wants it to be part of the debate for the next two years because it keeps everyone, including his opposition, talking about increased powers for Scotland, and because it’ll keep the opposition parties tying themselves in knots trying to define it and prevent them forming a united front against him. Then when the day comes and there’s no third option (which, naturally, will be your fault for refusing to define it in spite of the SNP’s generous offer to include it) the Scottish people who have spent the last two years discussing change will be presented with a stark choice between two options, only one of which can deliver any change at all – independence.

  • If I was a member in Scotland I would reply to the consultation saying ‘why on earth are you trying to force a new phrase that means nothing to anyone (except nerdy political historians) into the debate?’ It sounds evasive and will not stick. Simply decide whether you support or oppose independence and campaign clearly and forcefully on that because that is the only question that is going to get any attention from the electorate.

  • What Ed Maxfield said.

    Salmond is winning. Never mind what the polls now say. He has a simple, clear message and the persuasiveness to get people to rally round it. Unionists will lose unless they can match that simplicity and clarity.

  • @Ivan

    Of course Salmond wants the third option on the ballot – he thinks it will split the unionist vote, since polls repeatedly show large majorities backing greater devolution, guaranteeing him greater powers for Holyrood at the very least. This placates at least the gradualist wing of his party if nothing else. Is generosity still generosity when its done for entirely self-interested reasons? One for the philosophers, I think.

    Anyway, an equally plausible outcome of the two-choice question is that the Scots, faced with a stark choice between splitting the union or not, will opt for the less risky option of staying in and carrying on with the devolution process.

    The point of Ming Campbell’s report is to outline an idea of where that status-quo choice might take Scotland in the future. If that’s where a majority of Scots want to go, great, but I don’t see any particular benefit in presenting a ‘united unionist front’ – from a tactical point of view, that plays into Salmond’s hands far more easily. And from a democratic point of view, I would rather have all the voices heard in the debate.

  • Patrick Smith 26th Jan '12 - 10:50pm

    There has been a vociferous minority of hard bitten Scots hell-bent on rousing attention on a nationalist crusade since William Wallace . But despite the latest apotheosis and sage of Scotish Independence,aka Alex Salmond has a great deal more logical economy persuasion to do, if he is to succeed in a majority vote, whenever the refendum takes place.The Scots are a canny people and do not believe in independence if it means a lower cost of living.

    I am firmly of the belief that the best Scotland to confront the future in times of econonic uncertainty is one that stands the stronger with England ,in the United Kingdom, as there is clearly an inherent risk, that Scotland will become weaker if the 300 year union, since 1707 is broken, on this latest whimsical set of anti-Union nats.`bandwagon’ reasons for forcing the issue.

    There has been intermarriage with Scots south of the border, over centuries and the British Armed Services could not have been so influential around the world but for the might of the Scotland soldier in military gallantry.

    I believe that the Nats.choice of the 700 th anniversary of a medieval batlle at Bannockburn and Falkirk may yet prove a `busted flush’ : and will also serve as a distraction to the real issue that is fighting for jobs for the UK 2.68m unemployed and the more important work to `rebalance’ Britain`s ailing trade and manufacturing record.

  • Voters in Scotland who want change can hardly be criticised for supporting independence when the ‘unionist’ parties steadfastly refuse to set out what the alternative is. Vague promises of further devolution – all dependent on the support of disinterested or outright hostile Conservative MP’s in Westminster – fall so far short of the target it can hardly be a surprise that the momentum is with those who promote independence. To vote for a continued Union under these circumstances really would be to vote for a “pig in a poke”.

    For the Scottish Lib-Dem response to this to be bringing forth another commission is hand-wringingly inadequate. How they have ended up painting themselves into the ‘unionist’ corner is a mystery anyway but the first thing the Lib-Dems could do to step back into the spotlight of political relevance would be to admit that support for Scottish independence is entirely compatible with being a Lib-Dem supporter. Not compulsory but perfectly respectable. Instead of hiding behind the skirts of a self-interested Labour Party blinded by detestation of the SNP and the knee-jerk, misty-eyed imperial nostalgia of the Tories, the Lib-Dems could accept that this is an issue where good Liberals can disagree and stand on both sides of the debate.

  • @T-J

    Of course Salmond wants the third option on the ballot – he thinks it will split the unionist vote, since polls repeatedly show large majorities backing greater devolution, guaranteeing him greater powers for Holyrood at the very least. This placates at least the gradualist wing of his party if nothing else. Is generosity still generosity when its done for entirely self-interested reasons? One for the philosophers, I think.

    I think you’re wrong, but time will tell. It’s interesting that an opponent is more willing to take what he says at face value than a supporter!

    Anyway, an equally plausible outcome of the two-choice question is that the Scots, faced with a stark choice between splitting the union or not, will opt for the less risky option of staying in and carrying on with the devolution process.

    Indeed. It’s wide open at the moment and a hell of a lot can happen in two years.

    The point of Ming Campbell’s report is to outline an idea of where that status-quo choice might take Scotland in the future. If that’s where a majority of Scots want to go, great, but I don’t see any particular benefit in presenting a ‘united unionist front’ – from a tactical point of view, that plays into Salmond’s hands far more easily. And from a democratic point of view, I would rather have all the voices heard in the debate.

    So let me get this straight. The Lib Dems are going to roll up to the referendum and ask the electorate to vote for the status quo on the promise of what they want the status quo to be in the future, even though they’re clearly not going to be in any position to deliver any of it? If that’s what the Lib Dems are going to offer, then they may as well just sit this one out.

    Of course all the voices should be heard, and if a third option can be defined adequately and there is strong support for it then of course it should be on the ballot. But I’m willing to bet it won’t be, because “adequately” would require that any proposal could plausibly be implemented, and without the broad agreement of either the Tories or Labour or both it simply won’t be plausible.

  • Richard Swales 27th Jan '12 - 10:39am

    Something like asking husbands but not wives if they should be allowed to visit strip clubs.

    If you want to leave the marriage then that’s your right and your choice alone. If you want to change the terms then that’s a joint decision.

  • “Changing the terms”, above, should include opting for “independence” while asking to retain sterling. That would yoke two independent countries into a financial “chain gang” situation with all the technical problems of the eurozone arrangement, to the considerable disadvantage of England/Wales/NIreland as well as Scotland!

  • Martin MacEwen 17th May '12 - 1:17pm

    While it may be nerdy to refer once again to the ‘West Lothian Question’ of the Scots, Welsh and Northern Ireland MPs voting on and influencing essentially or predominantly ‘English’ issues such as housing, is this not a significant impediment to objective debate in parliament on a federal UK?
    I suggest that ‘max dev’ must, as a starter, create an ‘English parliament’ with like powers and to do this the lower house at Westminster might be split with, in the short term, an English parliament of elected English MPs only and a UK parliament comprising all MPs for matters not devolved or not yet devolved.
    To avoid a ploriferation of elected MPs at various levels with differing constituencies and the expense that goes with it, would it not be sensible for each devolved ‘parliament’ to then appoint nominees to the UK parliament- or for the respective electorates to nominate from existing devolved MPs – on a party proportional basis? Such appointees would serve on both national and UK Federal parliaments. While some recognition to the English population dominance might be apporopiate, it would also be sensible to enable national vetos on war declaration and expenditure on defence and other non -devolved budgets. The House of Lords might be abolished or a small elected chamber substituted to review non devolved UK decisions.
    Apologies if these considerations have alreadybeen debated in these exchanges – and no doubt in much greater depth- but I have not had the benefit of seeing these in recently.

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