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Jack McConnell slams polemic independence debate

Lord McConnell will address a Better Together meeting today. Picture: Donald MacLeod

Lord McConnell will address a Better Together meeting today. Picture: Donald MacLeod

  • by ANDREW WHITAKER
 

FORMER First Minister Jack McConnell has said that the fight against Scottish independence would continue even after a No vote, and backed what he said should be a “new conference of the Union”.

He also said there would be a deal between the three main unionist parties on more devolved powers and new financial powers for Holyrood.

The Labour peer called on Scots who are “democrats and patriots but not nationalists” to reject the Yes campaign, as he delivered a keynote speech marking the 15th anniversary of the opening of the Scottish Parliament yesterday.

He said there had been a “degree of complacency” among supporters of devolution, which he suggested had led to the rise of the SNP.

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Lord McConnell, speaking at a No campaign event in Edinburgh, said: “There is far too much talk about the settled will. Nothing is settled and we have experienced that over the past three years.

“There was a degree of complacency on the part of everybody who believes in home rule inside the UK that once we got the parliament that would be accepted, and we didn’t have to keep making the case for that system of government.”

Lord McConnell also said there were some “bad people” in the referendum campaign with “too much abuse” on the internet by both sides.

The former Scottish Labour leader also said dislike of Alex Salmond or David Cameron was not a good enough reason to vote No or Yes.

Lord McConnell added: “I have watched over the past two years the debate around the referendum on independence become increasingly polarised between unionism and nationalism.

“I have never described myself as a unionist, although I respect most who do. I am not a nationalist, although I respect most Scots who [are]. I am a patriot, a democrat, and I believe in a better Scotland in a better world.

“I appeal to those who believe in Scotland, who care about Scotland, who are democrats and patriots but not nationalists, to think twice, not to save the Union, but to save devolution, to save home rule inside the United Kingdom.

“I don’t support a centralised British state, but that is not what we have. I don’t defend colonialism, or subjugation, but that is not what we have.

“The question in September is not about colonialism, subjugation or ‘freedom’ from the English.”

Lord McConnell – who shared the stage with Advocate General Lord Wallace, his former deputy in the last Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition Scottish Government – also set out the case for further devolution of powers after a No vote, and wider consideration of how the UK is governed.

Lord McConnell also backed the replacement of the House of Lords with a chamber made up of representatives of the UK regions in the event of a No vote. The Labour peer said that such a reform would “give the nations and regions a voice”.

A Yes campaign spokesman claimed a No vote would lead to more cuts to public services imposed on Scotland by Westminster.

The spokesman said: “A No vote means more budget cuts and a generation or more of Westminster austerity imposed on Scotland.”

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