Willie Rennie: No to independence doesn’t mean no to change

Willie Rennie - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsScottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie sent an email to members yesterday outlining what he is trying to do as regards building a consensus around further powers for the Scottish Parliament in the event of no vote in next year’s independence referendum. If I had been him, given the proximity of Scottish Conference and how fabulously awesome it is going to be, with lots of controversy and debate, I would have put a link at the bottom enticing people to go and register.But seeing as he didn’t – you can find out all the information you need here.

Anyway, here is his email in full:

When I spoke to you at our Autumn Conference barely five months ago, I told you about the Liberal Democrat Home Rule Commission.

Led by our friend Sir Menzies Campbell, I told you I was proud that the Liberal Democrats were once again leading the way on substantial transfer of power and authority to Scotland.

Constitutional power which gives the Scottish Parliament permanent powers, not powers on loan from Westminster.

Financial powers which would see up to two thirds of spending raised through taxes in Scotland and controlled in Holyrood. It’s Home Rule in a Federal United Kingdom.

I told you that by working together with others we could achieve change.

Now we are so many steps closer towards achieving the stronger and fairer relationship we all want to see. And it’s not just Liberal Democrats like you and me who want to determine our own destiny on the domestic agenda whilst enjoying the benefits of the partnership with a federal UK.

The majority of people in Scotland believe what we believe. They want more powers for the Scottish Parliament.

A recent Scottish Social Attitudes survey showed nearly two-thirds of Scots felt the Scottish Parliament should make the important decisions about tax levels in Scotland. The majority of people, some 61 percent, preferred a Scotland which remained in the UK whilst having an elected parliament.

So I know we’re on the right track and we’re not alone on this journey. Last week I also attended the publication of the Institute for Public Policy Research’s report DevoMore. It joins the emerging consensus following the publication of our Home Rule report and Reform Scotland’s Devo Plus report.

Labour has started their review of powers for the parliament and the Conservatives have now indicated their willingness to support change.

I want to see a pre-referendum agreement between those who advocate more powers. It would set out the process for achieving a swift transfer of powers after Scotland votes No. This agreement could come in the form of a contract or compact and would give people across Scotland confidence that Westminster will deliver the sort of change they want to see.

Many people want to be assured that No to independence doesn’t mean No to change.

I am committing myself to build that agreement across all the political parties and wider society.

I was disappointed last week that Alex Salmond refused to even consider engaging in a discussion about more powers for the Scottish Parliament if Scotland rejects independence. This seems to mark an end to the SNP’s gradualist approach to powers for the parliament and a return to the days of isolation when they walked out of the Constitutional Convention.

Yet, with the polls looking grim for the nationalists I remain hopeful that the First Minister may have a change of heart. If we are to achieve a lasting constitutional settlement we need all parties and wider society to be partners in that settlement. So for the First Minister my genuine offer remains open. I’m ready to talk whenever the First Minister is.

With the support of the majority of people in Scotland and the will of our political parties, Liberal Democrats will work hard to achieve consensus on more powers for Holyrood.

We will continue our home rule journey. We will work to deliver a settlement which gives us a stronger economy in a fairer society so that everyone has a chance to get on. I will continue to reach out to the SNP to work with us to deliver more powers in the event of a no vote.

I look forward to working alongside all of you this year whilst we make the case for a stronger Scotland within the United Kingdom and Europe.

Best wishes


Willie Rennie MSP

Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats

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

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  • It is interesting to see a statement that begins to map out the position of Scottish Lib Dems on the referendum. I still do not really understand why, in the binary Yes/No question, Lib Dems should adopt the position of refusing independence.

    Is the nature of the independence clearly established? Is there scope for a vote for independence to transform during negotiations into an effectively maximised devolution?

    I am not Scottish and do not live in Scotland, but my daughter does and I am struggling to see why she would be advised to vote against independence.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 31st Jan '13 - 8:55am

    I’m not in favour of independence because I think we Scots are better off as part of the UK, economically, socially, culturally. We have the best of both worlds as it is. Scotland could be independent, but why would we want to lose loads of international influence an d put barriers where there don’t need to be any? Scotland gains from the union and the union gains from having Scotland as a part of it. I would like the UK to be a bit more federal in nature, but I want the union to stay.

  • As regards Willie Rennie’s bit of fear mongering about Scotland having to re-negotiate 1400 treaties, please see the link to Wings Over Scotland for the answers;

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