Former treasurer suggests SNP ‘go for Home Rule’

Ian Blackford in 1997. Picture: TSPL

Ian Blackford in 1997. Picture: TSPL

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SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE: Scottish National Party should begin to fight for “full Home Rule” from within the United Kingdom, an influential figure within the party has suggested.

As the SNP attempts to ­recover from the devastating blow of losing last week’s ­independence referendum, its former treasurer Ian Blackford called on the party to set out a fresh policy position that recognised that the independence issue has been settled for the time being.

With the constitutional position adopted by the SNP sure to be a key issue as the leadership of the party transfers from Alex Salmond to Nicola Sturgeon, Blackford attempted to kick-start a fresh debate.

His comments were made as Scotland on Sunday ­published an article by the influential SNP MSP Marco Biagi, which accepted that it was “inconceivable” that his party could go into next year’s general election with a ­manifesto containing a pledge for an independence referendum.

Blackford, formerly a managing director of Deutsche Bank, said it was now time to re-frame the constitutional debate by fighting for Home Rule – a settlement that would devolve all domestic policy to Holyrood with just defence, foreign affairs and international relations being reserved to Westminster.

Blackford said: “This is the sort of debate we have got to be having. We have got to get beyond the shouty headline stuff. Because it is how you improve people’s lives, that’s the issue whether in a devolved or independent set up.

“I would always argue that independence is what we need, but what we need to recognise is that we got a vote on Thursday and that door has closed, at least for now.

“We have got to get through the next 18 months and I think we have got to take part in the body politic of Scotland. The voters expect us to do so. They have given a very clear opinion that they want change in Scotland.”

Blackford said the SNP should take part in discussions involving the options for constitutional change offered by the Westminster parties.

“We do it by saying we know people voted for change and we think in order to come up with something which is sensible, logical and is fair to the rest of the UK, as part of that process, then we should be calling for full Home Rule for Scotland – everything that can be considered domestic matters. The logic of doing that is you are then not having an unbalanced United Kingdom, as Scotland is then responsible for all its domestic activities and pays to Westminster for being a part of the Union.”

Blackford said that stance would allow the SNP to stand on a ticket in 2015 that appealed to the 45 per cent of the electorate that voted Yes and the proportion of No voters who rejected independence based on more powers coming.

He added: “None of this is going to be enacted into legislation until after the UK ­general election, so it allows the SNP to stand on a ticket for the Westminster election where you are appealing to the people to lend their vote to the SNP in order we get the strongest powers possible.”

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