By a Newsnet reporter
The SNP has claimed that the Liberal Democrats have “lost their way” following comments in a speech by Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore in which he argued against devolution of key economic powers for the Scottish Parliament.
In the speech to the David Hume Institute in Edinburgh, Mr Moore resisted calls for the devolution of powers, despite them being previously supported by his own party in Scotland.
He also implied that the UK government would ignore any decision taken by the Scottish parliament to resist the Scotland Bill and suggested Westminster would force it through. The dumping of the bill “is not something we are willing to contemplate”, he said.
The SNP and many respected academics have insisted that the bill, in its current form, will damage the Scottish economy.
The nationalists have blasted the senior LibDem and accused him of contradicting the stance of Scottish colleagues in order to pursue Tory pledges.
The Liberal Democrats in Scotland have already called for the powers of the Scottish Parliament to be extended even further than had been initially suggested by the Calman Commission. Previous Scottish LibDem leaders – Nicol Stephen and Tavish Scott – have spoken in favour of more power for the Scottish Parliament and against the return of powers to Westminster.
Commenting, SNP MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford, a Member of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee, said:
“The Liberal Democrats have totally lost their way. Instead of obsessing about the SNP, Michael Moore should focus on delivering the additional levers Scotland needs to improve the economy.
“Michael Moore’s position is all the more ridiculous given that delivery of these powers was previously supported by the Liberal Democrats in Scotland.
“In evidence to the Calman Commission, outgoing Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott called for the powers of the Scottish Parliament to be extended but now Michael Moore is calling for the opposite.”
Dr Whiteford questioned why Moore was attacking the Scottish Government and why Holyrood leader Willie Rennie remained silent.
“Why is Michael Moore talking down the Scottish Government when he should be speaking up for Scotland? And if Michael Moore has forgotten his party’s policy, why isn’t Willie Rennie reminding him?”
The speech also saw Mr Moore accuse the SNP of being “obsessed” with pursuing more powers for the Scottish parliament. The Secretary of State also claimed that the SNP were pursuing an “insidious” campaign of “picking fights” with Westminster under the guise of standing up for Scotland.
The LibDem MP urged the SNP to hold an independence referendum sooner claiming that any delay will “undermine public confidence and sap investor confidence”. Mr Moore claimed that the SNP’s recent election win “was not a rise in support for Scottish independence” and urged the Nationalists to answer more questions about the form independence would take.
The SNP has insisted that it will stick to its manifesto pledge to hold a referendum in the second half of its term in office.
A spokesman for the First Minister said: “This is an embarrassing and confused speech from Michael Moore.
“First he said the Scottish Government was talking too much about the constitution, now he claims we are not saying enough about the urgent need for more powers for our national parliament.”