Lord Campbell makes maiden speech


Earlier this week, former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell was introduced to the House of Lords and made his first speech in a debate on the Scotland Bill. 

This is what he had to say:

Contrary to expectations this is not the first time that I have spoken in your Lordships' House. The last occasion was more than 30 years ago but I remember it well. Outside there was a most Indian of Indian summers. Inside the central heating was going full bore. I was dressed in full court dress including the necessary full bottomed wig. As if this was not sufficient I spent a whole day being eviscerated by the noble Lord Bridge of Harwich. He clearly did not care for my argument. I am hoping that today will be different.  I am encouraged by the protection which a maiden speech from the benches has when compared to one made from the Bar of the House.

Advice is clear. Be grateful. Be short. And don't be controversial.

I believe that I will be able to meet the first two of these but have some reservations about my ability to adhere to the third.

I am grateful to all those who have successfully piloted me through the necessary steps to enable me to come into your Lordships' House and I have little doubt that I shall be seeking their indulgence for sometime yet. Having left the primary school I feel like the new boy in the first year of the secondary school. 

As for being short I believe I can meet this requirement as in my previous life I never showed any enthusiasm for long distances or endurance events.

But it is the third of these pieces of advice of which I am less confident.

For this is a debate nominally about Scotland but by necessity about the future of the United Kingdom. In the febrile and sometimes intimidating environment of Scottish politics currently it is always necessary to state one's qualifications for joining the debate. 

I was born in Scotland. My parents were Scottish. I went to school and university in Scotland. I'm married to a Scot. I qualified in and practised in Scots law. And I'm the Chancellor of Scotland's oldest university. I believe I have the right to participate in the debate. 

But my pride in Scotland is not exclusive. I'm equally proud to be a citizen of the United Kingdom. At Murrayfield I cheer for Scotland, at the Oval for England and for Europe wherever the Ryder Cup is played. These are not competing but complementary affiliations.

So why should I be proud to be a citizen of the United Kingdom? Here are some reasons. This country has had no civil war since the last convulsions of Jacobitism in 1745. It successfully resisted the fascism and the communism which affected so many other countries in Europe. It invented the welfare state and created the National Health Service. Human rights are at the heart of our governance and we have a judiciary of enviable independence. Our freedom of speech, expression and assembly are admired by liberals everywhere.

We are permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations, of the G8, of NATO, of the European Union, and the Commonwealth. We have much to be proud of our unique contribution to international affairs.

And yet and yet our Union is under threat. I have no doubt that we are better together but following the events of the last few weeks I'm equally convinced that we are safer together. I simply do not believe that an independent Scotland would be capable of providing the level of security which is increasingly required if those in these islands are to live safely. 

If we are to preserve our Union I believe we need to legislate for a new Act of Union for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, setting out clearly the responsibilities and rights of all four nations. What form should a refreshed Union take? 

Until very recently the F Word was not mentioned in polite society and certainly not before the 9 o'clock watershed.

But now it is in common parlance. The case for federalism has never been more popular or stronger. This is not the occasion for detailed debate of a new Act of Union or indeed for the principle of federalism itself but I hope we shall return to these proposals in due course. 

 


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