Don’t leave our future to Westminster - McLeish

FORMER Labour first minister Henry McLeish has said the legacy of the independence referendum was that Scotland’s future should not be determined solely by Westminster.
Henry McLeish said the referendum legacy is vitally important. Picture: JPHenry McLeish said the referendum legacy is vitally important. Picture: JP
Henry McLeish said the referendum legacy is vitally important. Picture: JP

At the Scottish Green Party Conference in Edinburgh, the former MP and MSP also called for as many people as possible to engage with the Smith Commission

“The legacy is vitally important, and that’s why I would like to say let’s not leave it just to Westminster,” McLeish said.

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“Why is it you can have 97 per cent of people registering to vote, 85 per cent of people voting, then the day after we leave it to three unionist parties at Westminster to decide our future. How ridiculous.

“To make the legacy enduring we have to retain ownership of our own future. Civic politics, civic Scotland, including the trade unions, the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government and all of us should participate in the next bit of developing Scotland’s future.”

He continued: “I plead with you not to give ownership of this important issue to Westminster solely, that would be squandering the legacy and with Scotland working together we can achieve a great deal more.”

McLeish said while he had been a “product of tribal politics”, the degree of “hostility” between his party and the SNP was “not good for Scottish politics”.

“If you look at the issues, including the policies between the two parties, they often share a great deal,” he added.

McLeish warned that giving Scotland more and more powers was a “dangerous recipe” which could eventually lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom. He said: “My worry is if we continue just to look at Scotland and get more powers, and powers and powers, we get no codified constitution in the UK, no solution for England, and Wales is dangling.

“That is a dangerous recipe because Scotland will be going further and further out on a limb, and maybe the only thing that could happen then is for that limb to break off.”

In the wake of last month’s referendum, which has resulted in a commission being set up to look at more powers for Holyrood, he said: “Now is the chance not to rush through some changes about tax and policies, but for Scotland to say ‘what is it we really want’?”

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He stressed any changes should not be rushed through, despite the tight timetable that has been set for the Smith Commission.

McLeish argued it was important to “think twice” about the country’s constitutional arrangements, stating: “I want to see the next step being really important to Scotland. And I suggest to you the next step will be the final step before something more dramatic.”

The former first minister, said: “My point about the Smith Commission, while I have great respect for Lord Smith, he has got to make sure that we don’t end up running too fast and end up backing legislation which is not in the long-term interests of our country.”

He went on to call for parties to work together more on the issues where they agree.