Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie has argued extra powers both could and should be provided to Holyrood without the need for a referendum.
Announcing the veteran Lib Dem MP and former party leader Sir Menzies Campbell will next month be publishing the findings of his commission on Home Rule for Scotland, Rennie used the first day of the Lib Dem conference in Brighton over the weekend to argue:
“No matter what the result in the referendum, parties of all stripes need to work together to ensure Scotland doesn’t fall back but rather moves forwards to a future with more powers, more decisions, more responsibility at home. Home Rule for Scotland.
“And we don’t need a referendum to deliver it either. If we are able to build a consensus which is endorsed by the electorate at the general election we can promptly move to deliver those powers in the confidence that they have popular support.doesn’t fall back but rather moves forwards to a future with more powers, more decisions, more responsibility at home. Home Rule for Scotland.
“We didn’t need a referendum for the Calman proposals expertly piloted by Michael Moore through the recent Scotland Act and we won’t need a referendum now.”
His comments followed further bad news for Alex Salmond as polling revealed the extent of opposition among Scottish teenagers towards independence.
As the SNP leader used a rally in Edinburgh to declare “the momentum lies with the cause of independence and equality for Scotland”, polling by the Mail on Sunday Scotland revealed, in a survey of almost 2,500 teenagers who will turn 16 or 17 in 2014, just 26% said they supported independence compared with 59% who opposed it and 16% who did not know.
The findings are likely to disappoint the SNP which has repeatedly called for 16 and 17 years olds to be allowed to cast a vote in the referendum, something which reports indicate David Cameron might be willing to accept as part of a deal on the format, timing and wording of the poll.
Declaring the findings were likely to blow a hole in the SNP’s strategy, Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale responded:
“The SNP has desperately wanted to extend the vote to 16- and 17-year-olds, not to improve democracy but because they believed that they would vote for separation. This poll blows a massive hole in their strategy.”
In attaching a caveat, however, Professor John Curtice, the polling expert at Strathclyde University, cautioned against suggestions the SNP’s calls for 16 and 17 years olds to be included in the franchise was a ploy to gain more support for independence.
“It is too easy to extract the idea that lowering the age is some Machiavellian ploy to win the referendum rather than done out of conviction that the SNP believes this age group should be able to vote.”
A spokesperson for the SNP commented:
“While this in-house Mail on Sunday survey was not conducted by a polling company, and is not a representative sample, it’s great to see young people engaging in political debate, and thinking seriously about what kind of Scotland they want to live in – that’s precisely why the SNP believes that 16 and 17-year-olds deserve to be allowed to vote in elections.
“The SNP will engage positively with our young people ahead of the referendum, as we have a very positive message to communicate.
“It is only because many decisions are already taken in Scotland that we have been able to reintroduce free higher education, record numbers of modern apprenticeships, and a guaranteed job or training opportunity for all 16 to 19 year olds – and with the full powers of independence we will be able to achieve even more.”
Lib Dem Scottish secretary Michael Moore, meanwhile, will today meet Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s deputy first minister, for a third meeting to finalise a deal on the mechanics of a referendum which he is confident will result in a single yes/no question being agreed to. It is expected he will provide an update to delegates when he returns to the party conference from Edinburgh tomorrow.