Alex Salmond is due to publish his white paper on Scottish independence tomorrow, but the the unionist parties have got their retaliation in first. Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have all signed a joint statement condemning the document which they have not yet read:
In May, the people of Scotland voted for a range of political parties, none of which command majority support. The parties
we represent – together representing 65% of voters in Scotland –
believe that Scotland as a whole, and individual Scots, have the best
chance of success and progress inside the United Kingdom.
We therefore regret the fact that the minority SNP
administration, representing less than a third of Scottish voters, will
tomorrow publish a white paper which is designed to further their
party’s central objective to take Scotland outside the United Kingdom. (BBC News)
In condemning the SNP for having the temerity to implement one of its manifesto commitments, the three parties have arguably played into Alex Salmond’s hands. It is surely a significant achievement to have polarised the Scottish political debate into the SNP v the rest, with the rest being the three biggest political parties in Britain.
The joint statement promises that the three parties
will launch their own debate about the future of devolution. Brian
Taylor suggests this is likely to mean a joint parliamentary review:
Labour, the Tories and the LibDems would take part – with, of course, varying degrees of enthusiasm for enhanced powers.
The LibDems have already set out plans for new tax powers. The
Tories have long nodded towards a review, 10 years on from the original
devolution white paper. For Scottish Labour, this is relatively fresh
territory. (BBC – Blather with Brian)
There is a particular onus on the Lib Dems here. They might well have been able to secure much of their agenda if they had entered coalition talks with the SNP, and blocked the independence white paper in the process.
Their refusal to enter coalition talks in Scotland was a failure of nerve parallel to the one identified by Anthony Barnett in his analysis of the emerging politics in Wales.
The Lib-Dems were the big losers, unable to make up their minds, often
disliking the mild nationalism of the agreements they were offered. A
tragic decomposition of Lib-Dem nerve and purpose is taking place, a recent article written
before Brown’s accession by Simon Kovar in The Liberal itself was
revealing in this respect. Now, the IWA analysis sets out what they
have done to themselves in the homeland of Lloyd George. They are
ceasing to matter, lacking all ideas. (OurKingdom)
If the Lib Dems fail to hold out for strong new devolved powers in Scotland, it will only strengthen the suspicion that Menzies Campbell has allowed Gordon Brown to neuter his party.