Salmond dismisses promises of further devolution

With just 100 days to go to the referendum, 100 Yes Scotland volunteers gathered in Edinburgh. Picture: PA
With just 100 days to go to the referendum, 100 Yes Scotland volunteers gathered in Edinburgh. Picture: PA
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Alex Salmond has rejected the prospect of beefed-up powers being handed to the Scottish Parliament by pro-Union parties as the referendum campaign enters its final 100 days.

Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have all out set out proposals for enhanced devolution – in varying degrees – and insist this is now a clear alternative to independence on the referendum ballot paper.

But the First Minister said the pro-Union parties “have form” on such pledges and urged Scots not be taken in. “I think the only guarantee of getting more powers is to vote Yes on 18 September,” he said.

“Anything else is in the grace and favour of the unionist parties, and they have got form in these sort of things.”

Mr Salmond pointed to the 1979 devolution referendum, when Scots voted in favour of a Scottish Assembly but not in sufficient numbers, and instead got what Mr Salmond described as “18 years of Margaret Thatcher’s government”.

He added: “Having had that experience, we would be very foolish to rely on promises from unionist parties and far better to take the matter into our own hands on 18 September.

“We shouldn’t rely on pre-referendum promises by parties which are under pressure. They are under pressure because we have that referendum date, we have the ability on 18 September to take the decision for ourselves, and I think it would be wise for us to do so.

“There is no doubt the Scottish Parliament has, since 1999, accumulated substantially more power and that has been a good thing for Scotland, and I think you complete that process by having an independent parliament.

“You might actually argue that we have had a 100-year process of power being devolved to Scotland, and perhaps in the next 100 days we can complete that journey.” Speaking yesterday, Mr 
Salmond also revealed he was surprised by US president Barack Obama’s intervention in the independence debate last week, when he said he wants to ensure the UK remains “strong, robust and united”.

He said: “It was certainly surprising because the American government had made it very clear that they were staying studiously neutral in the democratic referendum that is taking place in Scotland.

“But of course David Cameron has been begging everybody internationally to say anything to help him in his travails at the present moment.”

A series of events are taking place throughout the country today which marks 100 days left of formal campaigning, while tomorrow will be 100 days until the vote.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is to chair a women’s Cabinet event in Edinburgh as the Yes campaign attempts to address its problem attracting female votes.

But the Better Together camp said the Nationalists are running out of ideas, and insist that further devolution is now a clear alternative to independence on the ballot paper. Better Together chief Alistair Darling will today launch a campaign on the pro-Union side to mark the 100-day countdown in Glasgow.

He will insist that the ground has shifted under the Nationalist case for breaking up the UK.

“It is now clear that a No vote will bring more powers to Scotland within the UK,” Mr Darling will say. “All three main Scottish parties backing a No vote now have broadly similar proposals in place.

“There is much that divides us on other issues. But on the constitution – the framework within which legislation is made – we are all now pretty much on the same page.”

The pro-Union parties have come under fire for failing to agree a joint-deal on more powers for Holyrood ahead of the referendum, insisting the timescale is too tight.

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael has pledged to stage a Conference on the New Scotland within weeks of a new date aimed at hammering out a deal on more powers.

Mr Darling said the countdown period should now be used to bring most Scots around a “common vision” for the country within the UK.

“I want to use these 100 days to plan for Scotland’s positive, possibility-rich future as part of the United Kingdom with 
substantially enhanced powers for the Scottish Parliament,” he said.

“I want every voter to understand that within the United Kingdom change and progress is coming to Scotland, underpinned by the commitments of all three parties.”

The Nationalists’ record on constitutional change came under fire from Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie. “Alex Salmond is on shaky ground when he says Scottish voters would be foolish to believe proposals for more powers,” he said.

“On the great devolution moments of the past the Nationalists refused to put their 
shoulders to the wheel preferring to sit it out.”

The Nationalists quit the Constitutional Convention in the 1990s which helped bring about the Scottish Parliament and were not involved in the Calman Commission seven years ago which expanded Holyrood’s powers, Mr Rennie said.

“The Liberal Democrats, Labour and even the Conservatives have a better track record on delivering powers than Alex Salmond’s Nationalists.

“It is now inevitable that the detailed plans we have all set out to create a fully fledged home rule parliament within the United Kingdom will be delivered. The plans are credible which is why Alex Salmond is seeking to undermine them.”

Ms Sturgeon will host the first ever all-women Cabinet event for representatives from 130 female stakeholder organisations from across Scotland at Our Dynamic Earth in the capital today.

She said: “Women are 52 per cent of our population and it is vital women’s voices are heard.”

The event will see the Scottish Government’s female ministers quizzed about issues such as female representation on boards, the improvement of childcare and employment law. Polling evidence suggests support for independence is lower among women than men.

Meanwhile, it emerged at the weekend that a senior civil servant, Sir Nicholas MacPherson, who advised against the coalition backing a currency union with Scotland after independence, had said that Scotland will still be “prosperous” if there is a Yes vote.

The mandarin admitted that the Treasury had “mis-briefed” on the start-up costs of an independent Scotland after a Yes vote, but insisted currency union would be a big risk. “You could envisage circumstances where you don’t want to be holding Scottish bank notes the day after [independence],” he said.