Conference on the new Scotland will help heal referendum divisions

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie will this evening say that the Conference on the New Scotland will aim to bring the country together if Scotland votes No in September.

Speaking at a Road to the Referendum event in the Scottish Borders hosted by local Liberal Democrat MP and former Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, Mr Rennie is expected to say that Liberal Democrats are committed to building a stronger Scotland in the UK in the event of a No vote, with work beginning straight away through a Conference on the New Scotland.

The Conference was announced by Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael earlier this year.

Mr Rennie will say:

“This referendum has sometimes been a divisive experience that has split the country, families and communities. It is important that we come together after so that we can maximise the opportunities and deal constructively with the consequences of the result.

"Alistair Carmichael's Conference on the New Scotland will be an opportunity to heal the divisions by bringing together everyone with an interest in moving our country forward. It is such a good opportunity as he is planning to hold that Conference within thirty days of a no vote.

"People can be confident that a No vote in September does not mean no change. Scottish Liberal Democrats were the first out of the blocks with Sir Menzies Campbell’s plans for home rule in a federal UK.

“Since then Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives have set out their plans for more powers. And since then we have stood on a joint platform committing to deliver more powers in the event of a No vote some weeks from now.

“Scotland’s home rule journey is gathering momentum. With a No vote we can get on with building a stronger Scotland within the UK.

“We can continue to be part of a strong and resilient economy that provides stability and opportunity to people and businesses in Scotland.

“Working together to create better opportunities and more secure jobs in Scotland.

"We can share money and ideas with people from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

"With no borders and no barriers. That is what a No vote means – it means a vote for a stronger Scotland in the UK. It is a vote for positive change.

“With all parties committed to more change, Liberal Democrats are once again prepared to be first out the blocks as we look to deliver.

“Just like your MP Michael Moore did as Scotland Secretary. Delivering the largest transfer of borrowing and tax raising powers in 300 years with the 2012 Scotland Act. Just like Lord David Steel did in co-chairing the Constitutional Convention which led to the Scottish Parliament.

“Liberal Democrats will grasp the growing momentum for more powers to Scotland within the UK. With that we will guarantee change.

“Earlier this year I asked Sir Menzies Campbell to produce a second report – the Campbell II report - to set out a clear path for radical change in the event of a No vote. I accepted his seven recommendations in full.

“These recommendations would lead us to a formal agreement on the package of powers that will be put in place.

"Getting to that destination involves bringing together all of those who have engaged with this debate and produced ideas and contributions of their own.

“Sir Menzies Campbell’s fifth recommendation proposed that the Secretary of State for Scotland should convene a meeting of the Scottish parties – a Conference on the New Scotland - not more than one month after 18 September to begin the process of working together on more powers for Holyrood.

“Alistair Carmichael has accepted that proposal. And in the event of a No vote fewer than 50 days from now we will move swiftly to deliver that radical change that we know the majority of people in Scotland with to see.

“So we have set out our commitment to deliver more powers and we have set out how we will deliver upon our commitment. More powers are guaranteed.

“Our Conference on the New Scotland will harness consensus to lay the foundations of a stable home rule settlement.

"After a polarised and sometimes divisive referendum, this sentiment of consensus will be more important than ever before.

"It will be the forum for healing divisions which have too often cut deeper than other political debates.

"It will work in the interests of the people of Scotland, delivering more powers to Scotland within the UK and bringing people together in pursuit of that common endeavour."

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