Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore has caused astonishment by claiming he is no longer a Unionist and that the centuries old constitutional agreement between Scotland and England is “horribly out-dated”.
The Lib Dem MP, who as Scottish Secretary will have a key role to play in arguing against independence, made the admission in an interview with political magazine ‘Total Politics’.
Asked about being a Unionist, Mr Moore said: “I don’t use that term to describe myself,” he also claimed that all of the Unionist parties had accepted the “old-fashioned centuries-old version of the UK is horribly outdated”.
Speaking to the magazine Mr Moore said: “Every one of the UK-wide parties, whatever journey they’ve been on, has recognised that the old-fashioned, centuries-old version of the UK is horribly outdated and we need to develop it.”
He added: “England, over time, will find its own voice and how it wants to see that develop, too”.
“Devolution is where it’s at … and nobody is thinking in terms of old-fashioned Unionism any more.”
The remarks are sure to cause anger amongst hard line Unionists, many of whom will view them as playing into the hands of the SNP. Prime Minister David Cameron has frequently made it clear he is proud to be called a Unionist as has new Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson who has given strong emphasis to the term in her party name.
The Lib Dem MP also dropped hints that his party were planning to propose even more powers to Holyrood than were currently contained in the Scotland Bill.
Mr Moore’s comments were described by SNP MP Stewart Hosie as evidence of the Lib Dem MP’s “confusion and contradiction” on the constitution.
Mr Hosie, said: “Michael Moore’s position on where he stands constitutionally has crumbled into a mess of confusion and contradiction.
“He says he wants home rule, yet opposes the option of taking up a devo max proposal in the referendum.
“If he genuinely supports home rule and the devolution of further powers to the Scottish Parliament he has the opportunity presented by the Scotland Bill to work with the SNP Government and deliver more powers for the Scottish Parliament.”
“The Lib Dems’ only contribution to constitutional change is to obsess about the SNP and block every proposal put on the table, even the ones they claim to agree with.”
In another surprise Mr Moore revealed that the role of Secretary of State is due to end and that Westminster will instead replace it with one Minister who will cover Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
However today the Lib Dem MP is already trying to backtrack on the remarks by claiming that he has been misunderstood.
According to the Herald newspaper a spokesman for Mr Moore insisted that the MP was still a firm believer in the Union but was merely unhappy with the way people understood the term ‘Unionist’.
“What he was saying was that he was not a static Unionist in that way. He was talking about being a federalist,” he said.
The spokesman added: “He supports the UK and he is a committed believer in devolution.”
Michael Moore is not the first Unionist politician to try to distance himself from the Unionist description. In a recent interview on Newsnight Scotland, Scottish Labour leadership contender Ken Macintosh also tried to insist he was not a Unionist but a ‘devolutionist’.
The attempts at distancing themselves from an historically accepted term is perhaps early signs that Unionist politicians are now viewing Unionism itself as a toxic brand.