Broken promises show Lib Dems can’t be trusted to deliver more powers

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Nick Clegg’s claims that the Lib Dems will act as the ‘guarantor’ of more powers in the event of a No vote are undermined by his party’s history of broken promises on the constitution, an SNP MSP has said.

Since entering the coalition with the Tories at Westminster, Nick Clegg’s party have broken a series of promises on enhanced devolution – leading to a dramatic fall in the party’s support which sees the Lib Dems fighting to finish in sixth place in this week’s European elections.

Commenting, SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing said:

“Given that Mr Clegg’s party have been promising Home Rule for over a hundred years, people in Scotland are unlikely to view them as the guarantors of anything – except continued Tory rule from Westminster.

“Let’s not forget that, as recently as 2011, the Lib Dems had the chance to beef up the Scotland Bill with a raft of new economic powers that they had previously supported – but they reneged on their previous commitments.

“Nick Clegg’s series of broken promises on the constitution are no doubt one reason why senior Lib Dems – such as Andy Myles and Denis Robertson Sullivan – have come to the conclusion that only a Yes vote can deliver the powers Scotland needs.

“If Nick Clegg’s empty promises can’t even convince respected Liberal Democrat figures in Scotland, how can he expect to convince the wider public?

“The Lib Dems are paying the electoral price for abandoning their principles and going into coalition with the Tories. They are currently fighting it out for sixth place in the European elections in Scotland, have just five MSPs and are facing the prospect of losing their only MEP – they are Scotland’s single-digit party.

“A Yes vote means we won’t need to rely on Nick Clegg to be the guarantor of anything – with independence will have all the economic powers we need to make Scotland a fairer, more prosperous country.”

Timeline of Lib Dem broken promises on the constitution:

In the 2011 election the SNP called for further powers to be devolved in the Scotland Bill. This is how the Lib Dems responded to those six asks on powers they themselves had called to be devolved in the past:

1. Crown Estates – In 1998 the Lib Dems proposed amending the Scotland Bill to devolve the Crown Estates to the Scottish Parliament. Michael Moore opposed this in the Scotland Bill.

2. European representation – In 1998 the Lib Dems proposed amending the Scotland Bill to allow Scottish Executive Ministers to have the right of statutory representation in the Council of Ministers. They opposed this in the Scotland Bill.

3. Corporation Tax – In his submission to the Calman Commission on behalf of the Scottish Lib Dems the then leader Tavish Scott called for corporation tax to be devolved with “all revenues accruing directly to the Scottish Parliament”. They opposed this in the Scotland Bill.

4. Excise duty – In his submission to the Calman Commission on behalf of the Scottish Lib Dems the then leader Tavish Scott called for tobacco and alcohol duties, along with fuel duty and vehicle excise duty, to be devolved with “all revenues accruing directly to the Scottish Parliament”. They opposed this in the Scotland Bill.

5. Broadcasting – In the Lib Dems’ Steel Commission it was said that there should be much greater accountability to the Scottish Parliament and regular reporting from the BBC with a formal role for the Scottish Parliament in the charter renewal process. No positive response to the Scottish Government’s similar proposals were received.

6. Borrowing powers – In his submission to the Calman Commission on behalf of the Scottish Lib Dems the then leader Tavish Scott called for proper borrowing powers for Scotland and said they “should not be a one-way process, imposed by the Treasury and the UK Government on the Scottish Parliament … [but] by agreement a new framework of rules as to how, when and to what extent, Scottish borrowing powers could be exercised.” In discussions around the Scotland Bill, the Scottish Government argued for a principles-based borrowing limit based on affordability and long-term fiscal sustainability, rather than an arbitrary 10% limit, but the UK government opposed it.