Questions for Lib Dems as they announce ‘Calman mark II’ Home Rule Commission

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By G.A.Ponsonby

The Scottish National Party has called on the Lib Dems to clarify their position on the constitution after the party announced Sir Menzies Campbell MP is to lead a Home Rule Commission to look into more powers for the Scottish Parliament.

The new Commission follows on from the Calman Commission that was supported by the Lib Dems along with Labour and the Conservatives.  The current Scotland Bill is based on proposals included in the Calman Commission.

Responding to the announcement, SNP Treasury spokesperson Stewart Hosie MP said that if the Lib Dems genuinely supported home rule and the devolution of further powers to the Scottish Parliament then they should work with the Scottish government now to address the flaws in the Scotland Bill.

Mr Hosie said:

“Home rule for Scotland has been the Liberal Democrats policy for over a hundred years so it is a little odd that Willie Rennie needs a commission to work out what that means.

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

The Home Rule Commission will be the third such Commission to be headed by Unionists after the Steel Commission, chaired by Sir David Steel in 2006, concluded radical new powers should be devolved to Scotland.

Mr Hosie argued that additional powers are needed right now in order to grow the Scottish economy and protect jobs.   The SNP MP also highlighted the need to secure Scotland’s coastal resources for local communities and protect vulnerable members of the community from harsh welfare cuts from the UK coalition.

Mr Hosie added:

“The key question is whether this commission has the support of the UK Government and the Lib Dem Secretary of State who is standing in the way of more powers for the Parliament.

“After reneging on opposing accelerated cuts, higher VAT and increased tuition fees, people have learnt to judge the Lib Dems by their actions not their words.  Their 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.

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

The announcement is sure to spark speculation over whether the Lib Dems will seize the opportunity presented by the forthcoming referendum to include their federal proposals.  Media reports suggest that there is a split within the party over whether to push for a Devo-Max option in the referendum or continue to side with the more fundamental Unionism of the Conservatives and Labour.

This weekend, Labour MP and candidate for the Scottish Labour leadership contest Tom Harris argued that a permanent ‘Calman Commission’ should be set up to ensure devolution was constantly monitored.

Mr Harris insisted that such a commission should have a remit that would allow powers to be handed back to Westminster.