Constitutional Convention to take in ‘wider Scotland', says Mike Russell

Plans for a new Constitutional Convention are being drawn up which will include "wider" Scotland in the debate about the country's future, MSPs have been told.

Constitutional Affairs Secretary Michael Russell confirmed he is to consult with MSPs on the proposed new body - but insisted it would be open to the prospect of greater devolution as well as independence.

But the plans were dismissed as a "vanity exercise" designed to placate hardline Nationalists, by the Tories.

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The original Constitutional Convention the the late 1980s and 1990s was the driving force behind the creation of the Scottish Parliament.

Mike Russell says the constitutional convention will take in "wider Scotland"

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Mr Russell told MSPs: "I'll be inviting members to participate in a new Constitutional Convention which will aim to secure a consensus across Scottish society on Scotland's right to choose.

"I will consult with party leaders on the detail of this shortly."

The minister said it would be about being "open to to discussion."

But Tory constitution spokesman Murdo Fraser hit out at the idea.

"Doesn't, as every week go by, demonstrate this idea of a constitutional convention as just a back of a fag packet notion dreamed up to placate the pro-independence fanatics on the SNP benches."

He asked: "How much the tax payer is gonig to have to pay to fund this vanity exercise?"

Mr Russell insisted that the "expensive option" was staying with the status quo given the likely economic cost of Brexit.

Labour's Alex Rowley said the the new body should be ready to look beyond independence, including Labour preferred choice of a federalist approach to the constitution.

Mr Rowley said: "At this present time in Scotland, there is no majority demanding a second independence referendum.

"I have made clear that the right of the Scottish people to determine their own future is absolute and it's something that the Labour party will support.

"The discussion for me is how best do we move forward and in doing so if we reach a position in the future where there is clearly a demand for a referendum then that should not be denied.

"Is the cabinet Secretary more open to having that wider discussion and those of us who reject the status quo want to see far greater devolution take place - is that on the table for discussion?"

Mr Russell responded: "Yes of course it is on the table for discussion.

"I respect Mr Rowley's position as a democrat, he does not believe that independence is the solution at this time.

"That is precisely the type of thing that Scotland should be talking about, not narrowly among politicians but more widely. So what I will bring forward is a set of proposals that starts that process."