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Liberal Democrat News 27th January 2012

January 27, 2012 11:41 AM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

More power for Scotland

The Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore, is determined to move Scotland forward towards greater devolution. As well as delivering the Scotland Bill, he is paving the way towards Home Rule.

In an interview with Liberal Democrat News he said: "These are exciting times for Liberal Democrats. We are leading the charge. The central issue at the moment is the independence referendum, which was in the SNP manifesto at their victory last May. We are clear, however, that they do not have the legal powers necessary [to instigate independence]. We are looking carefully as to how that referendum takes place. My job is to work with the Scottish Government to make sure we can devolve powers that are legal, fair and decisive.

"The referendum must be overseen by the Electoral Commission. On timing, we believe that a referendum needs to take place as soon as possible, as the uncertainty is extremely unhelpful to business."

Combining questions on a ballot paper is complex, and devolution is a separate issue to independence. So, while the Secretary of State is consulting the Scottish people on this, the Coalition government's view is that there should be a simple, straightforward, 'yes-no' question on independence.

"The suggestion of a third option, 'Devo-max' question would not resolve the issue and may well end up in the courts," explained Michael. "For instance, 55 per cent of the people could vote for full independence and 75 per cent plus vote for Devo-max. Alex Salmond believes if that was the result, then full independence would carry the day. Most democratic people would strongly disagree."

"This party has always been in the forefront of the debate for Home Rule," continued Michael. "The Liberal Democrats in the Coalition are delivering greater powers in the Scotland Bill. But the Liberal Democrats are not stopping there. Willie Rennie has asked Ming Campbell to set up a Commission to look at what powers Scotland should have within the UK. This would be similar to the Constitutional Convention, the Scottish Parliament and the Calman legislation for the Scotland Bill. In that way you get common ground and consensus before legislation."

There are a number of important questions the SNP has left unanswered: What regulation would be applied to Scottish banks and who would enforce it? Would they be prepared to buy out the UK Government's stake in RBS? Which currency would Scotland adopt? What would happen to Scottish membership of international organisations (including the EU), our armed forces, pension liabilities? What are the bottom line costs of independence?

As Nick Clegg said last Sunday on BBC's The Andrew Marr Show, "You would have thought for a party whose sole purpose in life is to advocate independence, they [the SNP] would have been able to provide answers about what it means for defence, for taxation, for investment, the currency, and that's what I think we should focus on."