Devo Plus unveil blueprint for Scotland to stay part of UK but have greater powers
21 Nov 2012 16:07
FORMER Lib Dem MSP Jeremy Purvis says his Devo Plus campaign offers the 'best solution' to independence by making Holyrood 'more accountable' instead.
Jeremy Purvis wants Holyrood's powers extended
A BLUEPRINT for an alternative to independence has been unveiled by a group hoping to capture the "middle ground" of voters it thinks are likely to vote No in the 2014 referendum but want constitutional change.
Devo Plus aims to persuade political parties to sign up to its "statement of the new union", which outlines how the Scottish Parliament should become more accountable in areas such as taxation.
It suggests a "permanent" form of governance for Scotland as part of the UK after more than a decade of evolving devolution.
However, there is no cross-party consensus on what opposition parties will offer to voters in the event that independence is rejected in two years.
The SNP said the Devo Plus group is well intentioned but argued that only independence will give Scotland power to build on Parliament's achievements.
Former Liberal Democrat MSP Jeremy Purvis launched the Devo Plus paper in Edinburgh and said: "We believe it is necessary that the public can understand what the consequence of the vote will be.
"We believe the case has to be supplied by those that favour independence, and we take them at their word when the SNP say they will publish their proposals for what they mean by independence.
"Equally, the public should have a clear understanding, if they vote No in the referendum, what that means."
His proposal calls for cross-party agreement on the blueprint, which would be reflected in party manifestos.
Devo Plus would give Holyrood and Westminster "accountability" for raising what they spend in Scotland.
Taxes transferred to Holyrood would include income tax and corporation tax while Westminster would retain VAT and National Insurance.
The launch was supported by Labour MSP Duncan McNeil, Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott and Conservative MSP Alex Fergusson.
Mr McNeil said: "All the polls I see show that the middle ground is about making progress and modernising and updating our devolution settlement.
"Any political party that would say that simply winning a referendum is an end in itself, without seeking out that middle ground, or speaking to it and giving voice to it, would be pretty foolish."
Mr Fergusson conceded he does not speak for his party leader, Ruth Davidson, who previously drew a "line in the sand" to suggest devolution should go no further.
He said no party considers that a No vote in 2014 will be for the status quo.
"I'm here on my own basis but I argue strongly for Devo Plus in the conversations that are happening in my party," he said.
"My party does recognise the line in the sand, as Ruth Davison always said, lasted to the referendum and that thereafter the line will have been washed away."
Mr Scott's party recently published a paper on "home rule" for Scotland, which envisages a federal UK.
He said: "I think there is a straight-up political vacuum about genuinely talking about real options for the future.
"The Scottish Government haven't published anything worth discussing yet.
"They struggle to get any basic positions out on the future of the country in terms of the proposition they want to put to the people in two years' time.
"We're not promised that any time before next autumn, whatever autumn means in civil service language these days.
"I would strongly argue that as part of creating a strong, positive and progressive movement for change in Scotland right now, in terms of how our Parliament develops, it is at the heart of what Devo Plus is."
Responding to the launch, an SNP spokesman said: "The inescapable fact of the matter is that despite the best intentions of the people involved in the Devo Plus group, the No parties are refusing to set out any vision of what Scotland would look like if they got their way in 2014.
"Even the Lib Dems are refusing to back the recommendations that have been drawn up by Jeremy Purvis, one of their former MSPs.
"Without a vision that they can put to people in Scotland, it is clear that all the anti-independence parties have to offer is the dismal prospect of a Scotland where the progress that has been made by the Scottish Parliament since 1999 - such as free personal care and no tuition fees - is rolled back.
"We need the power to protect the achievements that have already been made and build on them, and only a Yes vote in 2014 for an independent Scotland will secure that opportunity."