Lord Smith of Kelvin told Scotland on Sunday he was “pleasantly surprised” by the appointments the party leaderships had made to the commission with four former party leaders and a former Scottish Secretary – a member of the UK cabinet until last year.
However, just days after the opening session of the first talks the peer issued what appeared to be a veiled warning to the leaders of the main parties not to attempt to control the process or to try to force a back room deal.
Lord Smith, who chaired Glasgow’s 2014 Commonwealth Games organising committee, told the party leaders to let their nominees negotiate a deal and “leave them to it”.
The Glasgow-born businessman also suggested a failure to agree solid proposals could see him forced to “step in” and tell the parties to find a way forward. In a further hint the parties will be expected to agree a solid way forward, Smith went onto warn he would introduce proposals made by voters into the talks.
Smith insisted the process would not be allowed to descend into a Holyrood “bubble”, as he said ideas given to him during a tour of Scotland would be fed to the politicians.
“With politics sometimes it’s possible to live in a bubble and after arguing for the devolution of powers you can start from a narrow area,” he said. “It’s a big opportunity and if people come up with ideas, I’ll put them to the parties.”
He added: “At some point I may have to say [to the parties] that’s where the future lies. Someone is needed to facilitate and step in and say I think we’re coming around here.”
Smith praised the Labour, SNP and Tory leaderships for their appointment to the commission, who include former Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, former Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie, former Scottish Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott and Labour’s former Scottish leader Iain Gray, as well as John Swinney, who led the nationalists before Alex Salmond.
“Let them get on with it. They should leave them to it” he said as he prepares for the second of the weekly talks involving the parties that run until the end of next month.
Smith added: “I’m seriously impressed by the calibre of people put up by the parties. I couldn’t ask for better quality people, which is a signal that the parties want to do something. I believe the people sat around the table take the decisions – that these people are entrusted. That they are empowered by their party leaders. “They are people who know they have authority to do this.
“We’ve got people who led their party and who have been a Secretary of State. These are high-quality people.
“I was pleasantly surprised the people are all political heavyweights, who can all contribute. It’s a joy to work with people of such quality.”