Campaign for “meaningful” home rule launched
Devolution has failed to provide a “stable constitutional settlement” since the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999, a leading member of the group claimed at its Edinburgh launch yesterday.
The Scottish Campaign for Home Rule is calling for a “credible, sustainable and authoritative alternative to independence” – saying that, otherwise, any new deal brokered by the Smith Commission on more powers could unravel.
The campaign was unveiled amid concerns that the Smith Commission process may be hijacked by “horse-trading”.
Former Labour first minister Henry McLeish, and ex-MSPs Andrew Wilson (SNP), Margaret Smith (Liberal Democrats) and Derek Brownlee (Conservatives) are backing the campaign.
They said political leaders must step back and set out an “agreed set of principles” before any detailed proposals are implemented.
The campaign wants to see the Scottish Parliament becoming responsible for raising the £38 billion it currently spends on public services through taxation. Scotland should also get “substantial new powers” over welfare, it says.
Mr McLeish has called for a “written codified constitution” for Holyrood to entrench its place in the UK political set-up.
Scotland was given more powers in 1999 and 2012, and more are looming in 2015. Mr McLeish said there was a “danger of Westminster running out of more powers” to devolve and that politicians must “stop reacting to mood”.
He went on: “The point there is we need a credible, sustainable and authoritative alternative to independence. It’s powers with a purpose, not in any abstract sense about tax or whatever. Adding powers is not a vision, and, without the vision, adding powers might serve a political purpose but won’t serve the needs of Scotland.”
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
The Smith Commission was set up after David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg vowed in the run-up to the referendum that there would be further substantial devolution if Scotland rejected independence. It includes representatives of the five main political parties in Scotland and aims to secure a deal on more powers by the end of this month, with draft legislation produced by the end of January.
But critics have said the process is too rushed, and Lord Smith himself has admitted the time-table is “challenging”.
The Very Rev Dr Alison Elliot, a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, who is in the home rule campaign group, warned Scotland currently “isn’t doing devolution properly”.
She said: “We’re in a position now where we’re being drip-fed a whole lot of powers which are a reflection of the preoccupations of people in Westminster and horse-trading amongst the people in Scotland. That’s not the way to do it.”
Mr Brownlee, a former Conservatice party finance spokesman, said: “We’ve talked about having a stable constitutional settlement in Scotland for many years, but it’s been anything but a settlement … Getting something stable that allows people to move on to the bread-and-butter issues is fundamental.”
He added that making Holyrood responsible for its spending decisions would see MSPs held “better to account”.
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS