Anti-independence campaign in disarray as Labour’s Foulkes calls for Devo-Max

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By G.A.Ponsonby
 
The campaign against Scottish independence descended into further disarray with the news that former Labour MSP, Lord George Foulkes has lodged an amendment to the Scotland Bill calling for full financial autonomy for Scotland.

The news follows a statement yesterday by Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie describing the devolution of powers beyond those contained in the Bill as ‘Lib Dem policy’.

The SNP has responded to the announcements by challenging Labour and the Lib Dems to clear up their position on full financial responsibility for the Scottish Parliament before the Scotland Bill Committee publishes its recommendations tomorrow.

SNP MP and Treasury Spokesman Stewart Hosie said:

“Labour and the Lib Dems are increasingly confused.  On one hand they oppose any transfer of powers and on the other they are calling for all taxes to be transferred to the Scottish parliament.

“It seems Lord Foulkes has decided to take up the First Minister’s offer and draft a referendum question on devolution max.  The question is will the leadership of his party support him?

“Yesterday the Lib Dem leader said transferring all taxes to the Scottish Parliament was Lib Dem policy yet he repeatedly blocks efforts to do so.  Today a Labour Lord proposes devolving all powers whilst Labour’s leadership candidates are firmly opposed to it.

“Before the Scottish Parliament reports on the Scotland Bill tomorrow Labour and the Lib Dems must clear up their policy.”

Senior figures within Scottish Labour have already called on the party to embrace the so called Devo-Max option that would see all powers beyond foreign affairs and defence move to Scotland.

Both Malcolm Chisholm and former First Minister Henry McLeish believe the party must adapt to the changes currently taking place in Scotland following the SNP’s historic victory in May.

With Iain Gray finally stepping down after leading his party to their worst ever election defeat, the result of the contest to replace him as leader of Scottish Labour will be announced on Saturday.  However, neither of the two candidates still remaining have made it clear what their policy on the constitution will be.

Former contender Tom Harris, who dropped out of the race after receiving no backing from any MSP, took a swipe at Scottish party members calling them “backward”.

In a vitriolic outburst Harris questioned whether the Scottish arm of the party were capable of radical change and said: “The kind of change the party needs is not the easy or comfortable kind.  If our new leader implements change with which members are comfortable, then it’s either not enough of a change, or it’s the wrong kind of change.”