The Scottish Liberal Democrats have announced plans for a new commission to examine Scotland’s role in the United Kingdom, with leader Willie Rennie MSP calling for “fiscal federalism” and “Home Rule” for Scotland.
“Liberal Democrats and Liberals before have a long and proud history advocating Home Rule, not separation, for Scotland. Working with others our ambition has always been control over our own affairs but recognising that our destiny remains shared within the UK family,” Rennie said.
Subject to approval of a draft motion at the party’s conference in Dunfermline in October, the new commission would look at the potential for handing over more powers to Scotland than included in the Scotland Bill currently being debated.
“Now that the Scotland Bill, with its substantial transfer of financial powers, has almost completed its parliamentary passage I want to develop a blueprint for full Home Rule. This will build on the highly acclaimed work undertaken by Lord Steel in the Steel Commission – which established a framework and principles for Home Rule.”
Rennie added: “Liberal Democrats are ambitious for Scotland’s people and, with Home Rule in the United Kingdom, we can shape our own future whilst sharing risk, security and international relations in an uncertain world.”
The Liberal Democrats – who are currently holding their national conference in Birmingham – used the announcement of the proposed commission to attack SNP plans to centralise public services, particularly police and fire services.
“This blueprint will also look beyond Holyrood too. I am determined not to just replace central control from London with central control from Edinburgh. Liberals advocate radical distribution of power and control to local communities so that they can exercise control and authority to make decisions that suit them. We reject the one-size-fits-all approach and the centralisation that is swamping and constraining local services,” said Rennie.
“It is the right time to set out our vision for a strong Scotland within the UK and for strong, powerful communities in every part of Scotland.”
The proposed motion reads as follows:
“Conference reaffirms that the Scottish Liberal Democrats believe in federalism and that a federal political structure for the United Kingdom, including home rule for Scotland, offers the best way for people in all nations and regions to achieve their potential.
“Conference further affirms that more can be done to equip communities and individuals with the levers of power that will allow them to shape their local areas and have more control over their own lives.
“Conference welcomes the Scotland Bill, progressing through Westminster, which transfers radical new powers to the Scottish Parliament and considers it a political priority to secure the Bill onto the statute book.
“Conference notes that the Scotland Bill was introduced at Westminster at an accelerated pace after May 2010 because of the influence of Liberal Democrats, who had shaped the proposals through active participation in the Calman Commission.
“Conference further recalls that the 1998 Scotland Act and the establishment of the Scottish Parliament came after substantial work by Scottish Liberal Democrats, in partnership with many others, achieving consensus and agreement.
“Conference welcomes the initiative of Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie to establish a Home Rule Community Rule Commission to design and promote a precise federal approach to the future of Scotland within the United Kingdom; looks forward to receiving proposals from the Commission in the early part of 2012; and believes that this blueprint can build on the principles developed by the Steel Commission, will map the next constitutional steps after the Scotland Bill and provide an inspiring and positive vision for the future of our country.
“Conference welcomes the further task of the Commission to examine how power can be transferred to local communities, to start to reverse the centralising tendencies of Scottish Government.
“Conference encourages all interested people and civic bodies to engage with the Home Rule Community Rule Commission.”