Confusing messages from Rennie and Moore as both target SNP

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By G.A.Ponsonby

Lib Dem Holyrood leader Willie Rennie and his Westminster colleague Michael Moore have appeared to contradict one another over the issue of more powers for the Scottish parliament.

Speaking at the one day Lib Dem conference in Dunfermline, Rennie insisted that the Scotland Bill, being pushed by his London colleagues, needed to go further than Calman.

Mr Rennie described the Bill as “the biggest transfer of fiscal responsibility to Scotland for 300 years” but went on to call for it “to go further still”.  The Lib Dem Holyrood leader called for ‘home rule’ that would “give Scotland the choice on all its domestic policies.”

However in an earlier speech party colleague Michael Moore attacked the SNP for their request for more powers saying “for the Nationalists, more is never enough”.

Mr Moore, who as Secretary of State for Scotland is in a role he wanted abolished, claimed the Nationalists had wanted full fiscal autonomy prior to May’s Holyrood election and now “they want six amendments.”

Mr Moore also issued a plea to Lib Dem voters not to desert the party and join the SNP and said that Liberals and Nationalists were not the same.

In speeches that focussed on the SNP, Mr Rennie ignored the clarification from Sir Gus O’Donnell  and repeated allegations against Scotland’s Permanent Secretary, Sir Peter Housden accusing him of making “a party political case” for the SNP.

Mr Rennie suggested that an independent Scotland would be ‘sinister and threatening’ and business and charities would be intimidated into accepting an SNP “view of the world”.  Mr Rennie also criticised plans for a single police force claiming that the nation’s police would then be controlled by just one man – the Justice Secretary.

Mr Rennie said that he didn’t expect Ministers to “start to order individual arrests” but implied that such a situation could arise if Scotland experienced “major industrial strikes” or “there are riots”.

The Lib Dem front man, who heads up five Holyrood MSPs, then launched an unprecedented attack on the Catholic Church over its stance on same-sex marriage saying the threat of a ‘block vote’ protest may backfire.

Mr Rennie addressed the economy and described the UK’s debt problem as being at “Greek levels”.  He defended the economic decisions taken by the Tory-LibDem coalition, insisting he was “proud” of Lib Dem coalition Ministers Michael Moore and Danny Alexander.

Commenting on Michael Moore’s speech SNP, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch SNP MSP Dave Thompson said:

“The Lib Dems have been floundering in Scotland ever since Michael Moore and Danny Alexander made themselves the Scottish front-men for the Tory Government in London.”

“The present Lib Dem leadership, both at Holyrood and Westminster, has become Conservative with a capital C – exactly the wrong approach for Scotland.”

“Many former Lib Dem voters across Scotland supported us for the first time in May and many have now joined the SNP because they are far more in tune with the policies and aspirations of the SNP than with a Lib Dem leadership in Scotland that is increasingly indistinguishable from the Tories and has lost touch with mainstream Scotland.”

Commenting on Willie Rennie’s speech SNP MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford said:

“The Lib Dems’ continuing obsession with the SNP is plain for all to see.  By becoming frontmen for the Tory Government in London, their position on the constitution has crumbled into a mess of confusion and contradiction.”

“They say they want Home Rule but fail to support the extra powers the SNP propose for the Scotland Bill. Their position sounds as hollow as their pledges in 2010 to oppose increased tuition fees, higher VAT and accelerated Tory cuts.”

“Scaremongering against the financial and operational benefits of a single police force was at the heart of the Lib Dems’ disastrous election campaign in May – and they were rejected by the people of every single constituency in mainland Scotland: rural and urban, Highland and lowland, north, south, east and west.”

“They also promised 3,000 police officers in their 2010 election manifesto but since they have become Tory frontmen there are over 4,000 less police officers in England & Wales.  Another pledge as hollow as their stance on Home Rule.”