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Time to make more devolution happen

Ben Thomson in The Scotsman

For those of us who want to see a more powerful and responsible Scottish Parliament within the UK, the interventions by Ming Campbell and, particularly, Gordon Brown are significant and not to be underestimated.

Brown’s speech, in which he called for a radical decentralisation of powers, was a further sign that those in the Labour party who are against the devo plus agenda are losing the battle to those in favour of it.

Campbell’s intervention represented the logical next stage in this process; that if we all agree on the basics of what devolution should look like post-referendum, then we should get together and say so.

All three unionist parties have been looking at proposals for greater fiscal powers similar to our Devo Plus proposal, which would result in Holyrood being responsible for raising at least half of what it spends.

These proposals should not be confused with Devo Max, a proposal put forward as an alternative to Independence which envisages all public sector revenue raised in Scotland with a fee being paid to Westminster for services such as defence and banking regulation. Such a proposal is not supported by any of the unionist parties and has the potential to create real conflicts with Westminster.

The Devo Plus group, which includes amongst its membership Labour’s Duncan McNeil MSP, Alex Fergusson MSP from the Conservatives, and Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott, has constructed a document – The Glasgow Agreement – which we believe can unite the parties. Furthermore, our polling makes clear that by uniting on a proposal for further devolution, the unionist campaign can significantly increase its referendum vote share.

It is inevitable that the pro-UK parties will not agree on every dot and comma of what powers should be devolved, but the Glasgow Agreement allows them to tell the people of Scotland the outline terms of what further devolution would look like.

The parties all say they agree with the principle of delivering more devolution – it’s time to make it happen.