Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP today said that the result of the referendum requires a bold approach to delivering further powers for Scotland in his party’s first submission to the Smith Commission.
In a letter to Lord Smith, Mr Rennie argued against timidity and set out the principles behind the radical proposals for constitutional reforms within the UK included in the report of Sir Menzies Campbell’s Home Rule Commission. The full text of Mr Rennie's letter is as follows:
Dear Lord Smith,
I welcome the invitation to submit my party’s proposals to your Commission.
This opportunity comes just a short time after the unprecedented demonstration of engagement, debate and participation of all sides in the referendum.
Millions of people voted. And two million people voted for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom. There is a clear desire to see Scotland take greater control of its own affairs within that United Kingdom.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats have worked and prepared for this moment for a considerable time.
‘Home Rule’ for Scotland in a federal United Kingdom has been our core objective for decades.
We have worked, whenever we have had the opportunity, to advance this principle. It has guided our work as a party and seen us participate constructively in cross-party work to create and secure a strong Scottish Parliament and to push for a reformed United Kingdom. The creation of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 and the enhancement of its powers in 2012 are testament of the power of cross-party work, with the support of the people, to achieve great things.
The result of the referendum on 18th September allows us to do more.
The political energy unlocked by the referendum and the desire for change now requires us to create a bold and entrenched settlement with a substantial package of powers for Scotland. Now is not the time for a timid approach, but one that seizes the opportunity we have for a principled, democratic transfer of power to Scotland within a rebalanced United Kingdom.
We understand the need to find common ground and we are committed to working to establish it within the Commission and more widely across Scotland. Scotland needs a settlement that commands wide support, which is truly cross-party, non-party and moves on from the Yes and No divide. We must establish a stable solution, which does not risk tipping Scotland into independence, given that was rejected by a majority in the referendum.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats appointed a commission in 2011, headed by Sir Menzies Campbell MP, to develop proposals for home rule for Scotland. The commission reported in October 2012. It provided a set of proposals for a stronger Scotland inside the United Kingdom. We now advance those ideas for Scotland, believing they are capable of extension to other parts of the United Kingdom to develop a federal UK. The report is called Federalism: the best future for Scotland and a copy is included with this letter.
The proposals reflect a clear set of principles:
- That the Scottish Parliament should be equipped with the fiscal powers to raise for itself most of the resources it spends: this gives it fiscal responsibility and the power to make a difference, to do things differently, to have a nimble and responsive government and one which can take significant decisions for the economy and for fairness.
- That the UK tier of government should retain the fiscal capability and responsibility to allow it to perform the functions best secured across the whole UK including defence, a unified international presence, fiscal transfers and solidarity, social protection and equity, and the macroeconomic foundations.
- That the Scottish Parliament should be entrenched to underline its permanent place in the constitution of the United Kingdom as a more equal partner.
- That we retain a single welfare system to make sure that people can save for retirement, receive a pension or look for work with the same support from the state wherever in the UK they chose to live, recognising people’s common rights to be supported at times of need.
- That we retain the unified, single market for business across the United Kingdom which is fundamental for prosperity, for economic resilience, for employment, for living standards and to support our place in the world.
Since publication of our commission's report we have committed to retain the Barnett formula.
Liberals and Liberal Democrats have always wanted the structures and powers of the state to be there for a purpose, from the five ‘great evils’ in the words of the great Liberal William Beveridge - squalor, ignorance, want, idleness, disease - to the modern challenges of climate change. Great challenges will not be met simply by the dry reallocation of responsibilities between layers of government but by the determined focus of every part of government. Our proposals allow greater partnership working, with strengthened powers across the UK for the benefit of all.
We are clear also that power should be dispersed further to communities and not hoarded either in Westminster or Holyrood. Communities in every part of Scotland should have more control over their own affairs and that should be an outcome from this great period of fundamental change in Scotland and in the United Kingdom. Although this is not the primary remit of the Commission we believe it is a critical element of the governance of Scotland and hope the Commission will develop thinking in this area.
The people of Scotland have set its politicians a significant challenge following the referendum: your Commission is crucial to our ability to rise to that challenge and I can assure you that the Scottish Liberal Democrats will work with you and the other contributors to ensure we meet it.
With kind regards.
Willie Rennie MSP
Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats