Alex Salmond: Scots were ‘tricked’ into voting No

First Minister Alex Salmond has accused Westminster leaders of 'tricking' No voters. Picture: Ian Rutherford
First Minister Alex Salmond has accused Westminster leaders of 'tricking' No voters. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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ALEX Salmond has declared the “writing is on the wall” for Westminster as he claimed party leaders there tricked people into voting No to independence with their last minute promise of more powers for Holyrood.

The Scottish First Minister, who is stepping down from the job after his independence dream was rejected by voters in the referendum, said that the “Westminster gang” were already going back on the pledge they made.

Concerns have been raised by nationalists that David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg will not make good on their promise to extend new powers over areas such as tax and welfare to Scotland in the timetable that has been laid out.

The Prime Minister has stressed the need to link this to changes in Westminster to ensure that only English MPs can vote on legislation which only impacts on England.

But this insistence that the new settlement for Holyrood should go hand in hand with efforts to answer the so-called West Lothian question about the rights of Scottish and English MPs has been met with wariness from Labour, which has most of Scotland’s 59 seats.

It could also spark a fresh rift in the Westminster coalition, with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg warning that Mr Cameron’s decision to link the two issues could see him forced to renege on his promise to the people of Scotland.

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Mr Clegg, writing in The Sunday Times, insisted delivering the extra powers “cannot be made contingent on other constitutional reforms”.

The Prime Minister has insisted the timetable for further devolution would be met, stating: ‘’New powers over tax, spending and welfare are on their way to Scotland.

“The timetable is brisk, but achievable: a White Paper by November, and draft legislation published by January.”

But Mr Salmond - who has identified the vow by the three Westminster leaders as being pivotal in the success of the No campaign - claimed the Labour and Conservative positions were now “irreconcilable”.

Threat

He told the Murnaghan show on Sky News: “David Cameron doesn’t think he can carry his own backbenchers, never mind the threat from Ukip, unless he links Scottish progress to changes in England.

“Ed Miliband doesn’t want to do that because Labour would lose their majority over English business in the House of Commons. That is the log jam the Westminster leaders got themselves into.

“There is a big issue there, but shouldn’t they have thought of that before they made a solemn vow and pledge to the Scottish people.”

He added: “I don’t see how they can be kept between David Cameron who says they must go in tandem with changes in England, and Ed Miliband who says they can’t go in tandem with changes in England. These seem to be two irreconcilable positions from political interest at Westminster.

“It’s the people who voted No because they believed these commitments from the Westminster leadership, these are the people who are feeling most angry, most hurt, most disappointed in Scotland today.

“The wrath of Khan will be as of nothing to the wrath of a No voter who has been gulled by the Westminster leadership.”

Analysis of figures from the referendum showed that “the majority of Scots up to the age of 55 voted for independence, and a majority of Scots over 55 voted against independence,” Mr Salmond said.

“I think that vow was really important and the people who are really angry in Scotland today are not the Yes campaigners, our opinion of the Westminster elite is really pretty low. The people who are really angry are those people who were persuaded to vote No by that vow, by that solemn pledge and are now already beginning to feel let down, angry, disappointed because it looks like they have been tricked.”

‘Time up for Westminster’

He went on: “When you have a situation where the majority of a country up to the age of 55 is already voting for independence then I think the writing is on the wall for Westminster.

“I think the destination is pretty certain, we’re only debating the timescale and the method.”

He restated his view that a constitutional referendum is a “once in a generation” opportunity, but added: “There are many routes to independence.”

Mr Salmond said: “This is a real thing, this generational change of opinion in Scotland, and I think the writing is on the wall for Westminster. It’s a question of how fast and how far we get.”

He also ruled out taking a seat in the House of Lords after he steps down as First Minister.

“My policy is to abolish the House of Lords,” Mr Salmond said, adding that “rocks would melt with the sun” before he would “ever set foot in the House of Lords”.

A Downing Street spokesman said today: “The three pro-union parties have made commitments on further powers for the Scottish Parliament and we have set out a clear timetable to do this.

“Lord Smith of Kelvin has agreed to oversee the process to take forward the devolution commitments with powers over tax, spending and welfare all agreed by November and draft legislation published by January.

“This Government has delivered on devolution and we will do so again in the next Parliament.”

Mr Miliband has pledged changes in Scotland will be delivered according to the timetable, which was set out by former prime minister Gordon Brown.

Writing in the Sunday Post he said Scotland had “voted for change” in the referendum.

“Labour will guarantee that change, with more powers coming to the Scottish Parliament on the timetable we agreed during the campaign,” Mr Miliband said.

Change across the UK needed

But Mr Cameron has stressed change across the UK was needed.

In an article for the Mail on Sunday the Conservative leader said: “’This moment must not just be about securing Scotland’s future in the UK - and celebrating that fact - but settling other questions whose time has come.

“The challenge is to make sure our UK works for all nations.

“Millions of people in the rest of the UK have been listening to these debates, watching this campaign and rightly asking: ‘What will change for us? Why can’t we have the same powers and the same rights as those in Scotland?’

“These are questions the Conservative Party itself has been asking for a long time.”

Mr Cameron added: “If the Scottish Parliament will soon have a range of new powers: powers over income tax rates; to change benefits such as housing benefit; to increase spending, including on the NHS - then there is a crying need to reflect that across the UK.”

But former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell insisted that the extension of new powers to Scotland should not be delayed while constitutional issues in England are addressed.

“Scotland should not be held up for England to catch up,” he said.

Sir Menzies, who chaired a commission for his party setting out its proposals for the transfer of powers, added: “No-one, least of all the Liberal Democrats, doubts that the constitutional reform for the whole of the UK is essential or that proper arrangements for England are required.

“But Scotland is in a different place from the rest of the UK. It has its own parliament, its own legal system and its own institutions. Scotland, as a result, is much further down the road than any other part of the United Kingdom.

“The pledge made in the referendum campaign by the three main party leaders can be implemented according to the timetable set out by Gordon Brown and should be.

“It is for England and the English to determine what form of devolved government they want, but Scotland has already made up its mind.”