Calls for Rennie to clarify LibDem stance on devolution

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By a Newsnet reporter

Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie has been called on to clarify his position on devolution after remarks he made in a radio interview appeared to contradict recent statements he made in the Scottish parliament.

Mr Rennie, who leads the Lib Dem group of five Holyrood MSPs, was responding to a question on Radio Scotland when he claimed that yet another commission being proposed by his party would take forward proposals contained in the Steel Commission.

Speaking on Good Morning Scotland he said that Lib Dems were the party of home rule and that the new commission would seek to enhance the Scottish parliament’s powers by taking forward the conclusions reached in the report published by Lord Steel in 2006.

Asked to clarify what ‘home rule’ meant Mr Rennie said it meant that “Roughly the money that we spend in the Scottish Parliament we would raise … The Steel Commission was the principles, it set out fiscal federalism was the official title for it, but it set out the principles behind home rule.”

One of the key proposals of the Steel Commission’s report was the devolution of taxes including corporation tax.

The Commission concluded: “… there is a strong case for devolving direct taxes, such as income and corporation tax, alongside those which can act as policy levers, such as climate change levy and landfill tax.”

However in Holyrood last week Willie Rennie referred to “the benefits of having a unified corporate tax regime throughout the UK”.

The Steel Commission also suggested that there may a case for a specific tax sharing mechanism for North Sea oil revenues, something ruled out by the Calman Commission whose findings underpin the Scotland Bill.

Responding to Mr Rennie’s call for a new constitutional commission SNP MSP Maureen Watt said:

“If Willie Rennie believes in full fiscal federalism then why was he attacking the SNP for our support for financial powers only last week.  The Lib Dems are twisting and turning in a Tory trap.

“People have learnt to judge the Lib Dems by their actions not their words and at the moment their only contribution to constitutional change is to block every proposal put on the table, even the ones they claim to agree with.

“If the Lib Dems really want to be the party of home rule – then Michael Moore must stop saying no and start saying yes to changes to the Scotland Bill.  Do they favour home rule or Moore’s rule?

“As Tavish Scott so rightly said, the people will not understand a ‘political party saying one thing in Scotland and another in London’, their policy on the constitution is utterly incoherent.

“If the Lib Dems genuinely support home rule and the devolution of further powers to the Scottish Parliament then they should take the opportunity presented by the Scotland Bill, work with the SNP Government and deliver more powers for the Scottish Parliament.”