John Swinney seeks Scottish ‘home rule’ benchmark

GORDON Brown’s prediction that there will be “a modern form of Scottish home rule” within a federal UK is the benchmark the Scottish Government will aim for in the forthcoming negotiations over more powers, MSPs have heard.

Finance Secretary John Swinney (left) and Labour's shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexanderat St Giles Cathedral earlier this week. Picture: PA

The SNP will call on Lord Smith of Kelvin, who has been tasked with building a cross-party consensus on further devolution, to consider not just the unionist parties’ pre-referendum devolution manifestos, but also the statements of key figures which “go way beyond the proposals” set out on paper, Finance Secretary John Swinney said.

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Speaking at Holyrood, Mr Swinney said: “Lord Smith, I think quite fairly, said yesterday that his task is not an easy one.

“I think it’s important to consider at the outset of that process just the issues that Lord Smith has got to resolve.

“The Prime Minister said during the referendum: ‘If people vote No, business as usual is not on the ballot paper, the status quo is gone, the campaign has swept it away, there is no going back to things the way they were, a vote for No means real change’.

“Gordon Brown said: ‘The plan for a stronger Scottish Parliament we seek agreement on is for nothing short of a modern form of Scottish home rule within the UK’.

“He is also quoted as saying: ‘We are going to be, within a year or two, as close to a federal state as you can be in a country where one nation is 85% of the population’.

“Danny Alexander said: ‘Scotland will have more power over its finances, more responsibility for raising taxation and more control over parts of the welfare system - effective home rule but within the security and stability of our successful UK.’

“So, those are the solemn commitments that were made to people in the referendum last Thursday.

“What we are happy to be engaged in is a process of dialogue, over which Lord Smith will preside, to bring together an agreement that lives up to the expectations that were set out in all of those statements.

“Of course, those statements go way beyond the proposals and the propositions that were put forward by the unionist parties well in advance of the referendum.

“Indeed, Mr Brown’s comments, about taking us within a year or two to a position of being as close to a federal state, is dramatically different to proposals that his own party put forward prior to the referendum.

“I think it sets an important benchmark of the type of level of agreement that has to be secured if there is to be a faithful commitment delivered to those who, in good faith, voted No on the expectation that additional significant powers were to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.”