Sunday, September 04, 2011

Willie Rennie and the Great Power Giveaway

"A double whammy of Cabinet ministers heading north". That was how the BBC's Isabel Fraser described Mike Moore and Danny Alexander's comments on independence on Thursday's Newsnight Scotland.  Actually, they weren't just "heading north", they were heading home. They live up here. They are Scottish MPs. They go to London because that's where the Parliament is that they sit in. They don't come more Scottish than Mike and Danny.

Their comments on the dangers of independence, and lack of detail from the SNP on what it means are part of a much more rounded strategy by the Scottish Liberal Democrats, and one which I've been wanting us to take for a while. I'm fed up of hearing what we don't want without articulation of what we do want. That's why I'm delighted to see that Willie Rennie is proactively taking forward development of new policy, post Steel Commission.

This year's Autumn Conference will debate a motion, which I'll print in full at the end, calling for the establishment of a Home Rule Community Rule Commission. While I might hate the name, I love the idea. This isn't just about devolution of powers to Holyrood, it's about devolution of powers from Holyrood. The SNP will centralise anything it can lay its hands on, but Liberal Democrat DNA demands giving powers away to the lowest practical level. This Liberal Democrat move could provide the blueprint for something really radical and empowering for people and I think it's great.

It's all very joined up thinking because Mike Moore told me when I caught up with him recently that he's already thinking about what happens after the Scotland Bill.
I've been discussing this with Willie since he became leader and we support and understand that our approach and thinking towards devolution doesn’t end with the Scotland Bill. We want to take the work done by the Steel Commission, which set out some key principles for further devolution, to the next stage.
 Willie Rennie said:

"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.
"Nationalism is more suited to the 19th century and countries looking out in fear rather than hope.  The alliance with the rest of the United Kingdom has been good for Scotland but can be modernised further.
“This initiative will see Liberal Democrats make the case to control fully our home affairs in Scotland.
“The motion is about a long-term vision for a strong Scotland within the UK and powerful local communities in every part of Scotland.
“At the end of a week when the current Scottish Government has told local fire boards that they are being centralised and local police forces are about to be scrapped, it is right to show a better, more liberal, more local way forward.
"We want people to be given a chance to get up and reach their potential, look to the long term and support strong communities. Our plans for Home Rule in the UK family will help deliver those values.
“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.
“Liberal Democrats have been setting the pace and delivering more home rule for decades. We were central to the Constitutional Convention, critical to the campaign that won the referendum to create the Parliament, set up the Steel Commission, triggered the creation of the Calman Commission and, in Government, drove through the Scotland Bill.   I am proud of my party’s role.
“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.
“But 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.
“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.”
I think this is a really exciting development because it will bring the constitutional debate down to a really practical level. We'll have to look at the best way to run key services in health, education, transport, every possible domestic area of government. It'll take the constitutional stuff from the arid and dull to the relevant and radical. And the great thing is that it's not just going to be Liberal Democrats who are invited to submit ideas to the Commission. All "interested people and  civic bodies" are wanted too. I have a good feeling about this one.

Finally, as promised, is the full text of the motion we'll be debating in Dunfermline.

HOME RULE AND COMMUNITY RULE – proposed by the Policy Committee of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
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.


Douglas McLellan said...

The Home Rule part is already written. Its called the Steel Commission.

Community Rule is an interesting approach and if we can get some policy around it by Feb 2012 we might have something interesting to take to the Scottish electorate in the council elections in May.

Don McC said...

Does Conference also note that the ConDems are quite prepared to push the Scotland Bill through in the event that the elected government of Scotland rejects it, a move that is hardly liberal nor democratic.

That will stand as an example of how much the LibDems really value the idea of Home Rule. Scotland can have Home Rule as long as it's controled by Westminster.

No wonder, as a party, they are facing extinction. The sooner, the better.

Unknown said...

Douglas, the Steel Commission is a bit woolly. We need to pin it down to an actual plan. It's not as much of a blueprint as many people think.

cynicalHighlander said...

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.

There could be no question of applying double standards throughout Europe, and action had to be taken on Scotland, Wales, London and various other UK constitutional issues (appointment of judges, etc.). The conclusions arrived at by the CoE Committee of Ministers, from its first monitoring meeting in June 1996 onwards, had to head the new Labour government’s programme in 1997, or there could have been far-reaching consequences, incuding international sanctions under the existing rules.

Can you please start telling the truth.

cynicalHighlander said...

missing link


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