Peer plea on Scotland ‘revolution’

Published: Monday 11th May 2015 by The News Editor

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The Government needs to outline the pros and cons of devolving further fiscal powers to Scotland after the General Election “revolution” , a former Scottish secretary has said.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, who served in the role during John Major’s government, said a White Paper on full fiscal autonomy was needed in the wake of the SNP’s sweeping success at the ballot box in which they secured 56 of the 59 Scottish seats at Westminster.

He insisted the big advantage of an increase in powers would prevent SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon producing “fantasy manifestos” without raising the cash to pay for it .

Scots may also be less enthusiastic about independence if the potential damage to public services and beyond is demonstrated , Lord Forsyth added.

The Conservative peer told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “I think we have to recognise what happened in Scotland last Thursday was a revolution.

“The Conservative in me was full of joy for what David Cameron had achieved but the unionist is greatly dismayed.

“We used to say if the SNP won a majority in seats in Scotland then they could have independence.

“They got 50% of the vote and 95% of the seats and the reality is you have to respond to that and I think what the Government needs to do is produce a White Paper which sets out how fiscal autonomy, devo-max, call it what you will, would work in practice so people are aware of the advantages and the disadvantages.

“The big advantage being Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP would not be able to produce fantasy manifestos that promise the earth without having the responsibility of raising the money to pay for it.”

Lord Forsyth said Labour’s pre-election suggestion of a constitutional convention was a “sensible suggestion”, adding that the different parts of the UK needed to be treated fairly.

He went on: “We just can’t go on with this piecemeal additional powers and tinkering of the constitution that we’ve seen which simply feeds the nationalist tiger and has created the disastrous situation we have now where the unionist parties have a single MP in Scotland representing each of them.”

Former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling, who led last year’s campaign against independence, told the same programme: “I think the Smith Commission proposals have been completely overtaken by events.

“It won’t do the business for Scotland, it’s lopsided, therefore it is unfair on England – and if you compound that, as David Cameron has suggested, by saying that essentially English MPs will decide tax and spending, you are well on the way to breaking up the Union.”

Mr Darling added: “I think we’ve always turned our backs on a federal solution simply because of the fact 80% of the population lives in England but I think you can move towards that and say for Scotland, for Wales, Northern Ireland here are substantially more powers and responsibilities – critically they have got to be more responsible for raising the money to pay for things, but at the same time you remove this anomaly where, when I was an MP, I could vote for English education, but I couldn’t vote for Scottish education.

“That’s got to be dealt with, there’s no question about that. But I think if we’re intelligent about this we’ve got a chance for building a constitution for the 21st century.”

Published: Monday 11th May 2015 by The News Editor

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