Scots demand powerhouse parliament, says Salmond

First Minister Alex Salmond. Picture: Ian Rutherford

First Minister Alex Salmond. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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SCOTS want to see Holyrood transformed into a “powerhouse parliament” when pre-referendum pledges of new powers are delivered, Alex Salmond has told MSPs.

The SNP leader faced opposition rivals yesterday at First Minister’s Questions, for the first time since the referendum defeat and his announcement that he will stand down.

Labour’s Johann Lamont was taunted after recent speculation that her future as party leader was in doubt, but insisted she would be in place “long after” Mr Salmond has gone.

The First Minister said he was ready to take part in a “constructive” discussion with other parties, as part of a commission led by Commonwealth Games chief Lord Smith, aimed at hammering out an agreement on extra powers for Holyrood.

But he reminded MSPs that Gordon Brown had pledged the new powers would create “home rule and as close to federalism as it can be”.

There was now an “expectation” among Scots this would be delivered, the First Minister said.

“People will want to see a genuine powerhouse parliament coming from the steps being taken at Westminster, rather than the insipid group of proposals which were published last spring,” Mr Salmond said.

The main pro-Union parties set out their individual proposals earlier this year.

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie told MSPs yesterday that William Gladstone, former party leader Jo Grimond and, recently, Mr Brown had backed “home rule and federalism”, as he urged the First Minister to engage in the process.

Mr Salmond added: “In terms of securing the jobs test for a powerhouse parliament, then I shall be standing shoulder to shoulder with William Gladstone, Gordon Brown and Willie Rennie.”

The SNP leader said he was ready to take part in a “very constructive discussion” about the prospect of more powers.

Referring to a tweet from novelist JK Rowling, a No campaign supporter and donor in the referendum, Mr Salmond told MSPs it stated: “I’m voting No then supporting anyone who will give us Devo Max.”

He added: “There is a considerable expectation among people who voted No and financed the campaign – a very substantial expectation – of seeing real economic powers.”

Opposition leaders hit out at claims by Mr Salmond that Scots had been “tricked” in the aftermath of the referendum.

He had also appeared to suggest that independence could be declared without the need for another referendum. But both he, and his successor-in-waiting Nicola Sturgeon, have since said that only a referendum can deliver constitutional change.

The SNP has been invited to submit its own proposals to the Smith Commission, but it is not clear whether such a blueprint would be set out. A spokesman for Mr Salmond said yesterday that the “onus” lies with the pro-Union parties to deliver on the promises that were made.

The Liberal Democrats’ proposals were set out in a commission report published by former party leader Sir Menzies Campbell. This appeared to indicate that the Barnett Formula, which determines Scotland’s budget from Westminster, would be overhauled, Mr Salmond said.

Nationalists fear this could lead to cuts of £4 billion to Scotland’s budget.

Mr Rennie said he was “looking forward” to the SNP’s plans for more powers being put forward.

“Then we can create a Scottish Parliament with the tax powers to give us the flexibility, the ability to do things differently in Scotland: powers to tackle inequality, invest in the long term and create a stronger economy and fairer society – driving down power into the local communities and creating a federal UK,” he said.

In the wake of the referendum result, where majorities for Yes were recorded in Labour strongholds such as Glasgow, there has been speculation that Ms Lamont’s position could be in jeopardy.

Mr Salmond said: “Johann Lamont says she’s going to be retained in her current position – yes, I hope she continues as leader of the opposition in this parliament for some considerable time.”

Ms Lamont insisted that her position was safe. “When the First Minister is long gone, I will still be doing my job on behalf of the people of Scotland,” she told Mr Salmond.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government is to step up its push for 16- and 17-year-olds to be given the vote in future elections.

“Their thoughtful and passionate engagement in this debate means that there is now an overwhelming, indeed unanswerable, case for giving 16- and 17-year-olds the vote in all future elections in Scotland, and indeed across the UK,” Mr Salmond said on Wednesday. “I am glad that this case now has the support of all parties across this chamber.”

Ms Sturgeon, who launched her leadership campaign earlier this week, has also written to the Prime Minister, urging the UK government to devolve full responsibility for elections to the Scottish Parliament.

This would allow the Scottish Government to ensure 16 and 17-year-olds will be able to take part in the 2016 Holyrood election.

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