The flagship timetable for new Holyrood powers set out by the main UK parties to halt the Yes campaign’s dramatic poll surge has come a year late, former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy said today.
And he warned that Labour, the Tories and Lib Dems will all have to compromise on their own separate plans to meet the tight schedule set out by ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown this week.
The parties pledged that, in the event of a No vote, they would a agree a deal on more powers by St Andrew’s Day on November 30, with legislation to enact the new controls for Holyrood published by Burns Night next January
“I very much welcome what Gordon has done, I think it’s an excellent initiative,” Mr Kennedy said as he hit the campaign trail in Glasgow’s West End today with Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie.
“I wish it had been done a year ago frankly, but we are where we are. It is an ambitious timetable, but I think it’s one we’ve got to meet.
“Alex Salmond is asking for a Yes vote so that he can go and negotiate an independence package. The implication is `I’ll ask you for something, then I’ll go and negotiate on your behalf.’ You would expect him to come back and say `What do you think of the outcome?’ But we all know the outcome is the outcome.
“We want a mandate to conduct negotiations, but the difference is we do come back, there’s another general election and there’s further constitutional change and ways that can measured in the future.
“But we have to - if we’re going to command trust an credibility - stick to the timetable set out.
“Give us a year and we will take a year, give us six months, it will have to be six months. Give us two years, it will be two years. That is the nature of political beings. It’s tight, but we’re going to stick to it.”
The Lib Dems back a federal UK with Scotland being handed major fiscal controls, but their plans differ from the Tory proposals which include full control over income tax and Labour which wants further elements of tax and welfare devolved.
“Everybody is going to have to compromise for an agreed final package,” Mr Kennedy said.
“But an agreed final package, and the history of Scottish politics proves this, has to go beyond the political parties themselves to command widespread approval and endorsement and legitimacy.
“That’s why you’re going to have to go out to civic Scotland to get their views and you’re going to have to build in the views of the people who voted Yes. That’s vital as well.”