Former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish has reiterated his support for a “devo-max” model of full fiscal autonomy.
The Times’ report that McLeish has urged his party to back greater financial powers, or a ‘devo-max’ option, for the Scottish Parliament in the referendum, has been welcomed today by the SNP.
McLeish has long been an open supporter of “devo max” and has written extensively on the issue in his Holyrood magazine columns.
In January 2010 McLeish wrote that Labour will need “a serious alternative to independence which moves them closer to a devo-max perspective.”
Then again in March last year he argued that voters want more, not less devolution; and said unionist parties in Scotland have a “real opportunity” to address the constitutional question and “evolve an intelligible and coherent alternative to independence”.
He explained: “This has to be a form of federalism. We need a solution for Scotland and not for any particular party; one that will secure all the practical benefits of independence while remaining within a UK union; will stop well short of independence as a political or constitutional reality; and offers the prospect of a radical reform of both Scotland and the Union.”
Progressive politics in Scotland should confront the SNP with a popular constitutional alternative, he said, adding that there are few in Scotland who still believe the current devolution settlement of the Scotland Act is an option. He argued that there are only two significant alternatives for constitutional change: devo max and independence.
“Devo-max represents an option which provides the maximum powers, some form of full fiscal responsibility and retains Scotland within the UK. Independence, in sharp contrast, transfers all powers to Scotland, with full fiscal autonomy and breaks completely the historic, constitutional and political link with the UK. There is now an opportunity for Westminster to join this new debate around a serious alternative. Federalism is the powerful alternative which will allow us to address the “England question” as well as the Barnett formula, the West Lothian Question and the unresolved reform of the House of Lords. After 300 years of the Union, there is no reason why it cannot be reassessed to give it a 21st century meaning. If the opposition parties in Scotland genuinely believe in the future of the Union and Scotland’s role in it, then there is some urgency in moving to a federalist solution.”
SNP MSP and Finance Committee member Paul Wheelhouse said today that McLeish should be “congratulated” for urging Labour to back a “devo-max” option.
Wheelhouse urged Labour to outline what position it will take during the referendum.
“The question that Margaret Curran, the new Shadow Scottish Secretary, has to answer is where Labour actually stand. At present, we have splits and division.
“In the referendum, will Labour stand with the Tories in rejecting any new powers for Scotland – or will they join with the vast majority of people in Scotland in calling for financial and economic clout for Scotland’s Parliament and Government?
“A series of media reports have cast confusion over Labour’s stance, and Margaret Curran surely owes it to her party and the people of Scotland to bring some much-needed clarity and detail.”
You can read the full articles here: http://www.holyrood.com/articles/2010/03/15/constitutional-question/ and here: http://www.holyrood.com/articles/2010/01/18/the-political-calendar/