A NO vote in this month’s independence referendum “will be a mandate to finish the job of devolution”, Liberal Democrat Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael has said.
Mr Carmichael told The Scotsman that he plans to start the process of more devolution “the day after” a No vote on 18 September and confirmed that informal discussions have already taken place between the Liberal Democrat, Conservative and Labour parties.
He also said further devolution would mean ceding power from Holyrood to local communities. He said one of the failings of devolution since 1999 was that Edinburgh had “sucked up powers” from other parts of Scotland and they needed to be returned.
He said “enough certainty” had been provided to voters in Scotland that a No vote will mean more powers for Holyrood from Westminster.
He added: “In the event of a No vote I want to move on this quickly because the way we have done this in the past has been about building the broadest possible consensus across Scottish public life so you bring in business, you bring in the voice of local authorities, churches, trade unions and society in general.”
On the “mandate” for more powers represented by a No vote, he said: “Of course the other people I would like to see coming into these talks are the SNP themselves.
“They have never been part of building the consensus around constitutional reform in Scotland and they have always derided the efforts of those of us who did build that consensus.”
Mr Carmichael also insisted that whoever wins the election in 2015 will need to bring the next Scotland Act forward in the first Queen’s speech of the new parliament, a pledge already made by the Lib Dems and Labour.
He said: “We have seen how long it has taken to deliver the powers of the 2012 Act.
“This is not one where the parties should be hanging around. That will be necessary to cement in place the settlement of a No vote. Imperative to ensure the devolution settlement is concreted in, the taxation powers in particular.”
Mr Carmichael, the MP for Orkney and Shetland, said that devolution from Holyrood to communities around Scotland was the process “which is not talked about enough” and could not hide his anger over moves by the SNP to centralise services in Scotland.
He said: “The centralisation of policing policy means that Shetland and the Orkney isles now get the policing that Glasgow needs not what we need. And that is true when you talk to people in Inverness, Aberdeen and the Borders as well.
“Look at the way they handled the letting of our last ferry contract. There was the most cursory nod to community consultation and as the consequence of that we are now left with a ferry service which is designed according to what somebody in Edinburgh thinks we need rather than what we here know we need. These are not the same things.”
Mr Carmichael said the case for more powers is a key element of the message by the No camp in the next three weeks and said that the campaign was now going to be won or lost by “arguments of the head”.
He said: “I don’t think there are many people who would decide on the basis of the feeling from the heart who will remain at this stage undecided.”