POLITICS: Lib Dems lay out five steps to achieve a federal UK 

By Democrat reporter

Scottish Liberal Democrats have today (Monday) released a new report entitled Federalism: Still the best future for Scotland, outlining a series of radical proposals for reforming the United Kingdom.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie tasked former leader Ming Campbell with re-examining and refreshing the party’s approach to reform of the United Kingdom to address the failures of the status quo and give Scotland and the nations and regions of the UK a bigger say on the future of our joint endeavour to recover from the pandemic.

The report outlines five steps to a federal union:

  • Decentralise power to make real decisions in a wide range of policy areas from Whitehall and Westminster to the cities and regions of England.
  • Recognise that the Government of the UK must enjoy the support of the majority of those who vote in each UK General Election.
  • Create a United Kingdom Council of Ministers, to bring together the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland together with elected Mayors and regional leaders across England.
  • Pass legislation in which Westminster renounces the ability to unilaterally change the powers of the devolved parliaments across the UK or to pass laws in their areas of responsibility.
  • Establish a United Kingdom Constitutional Convention to bring together political parties, parliamentarians, local government and civic Society to address the alienation that exists and finalise and confirm the move to a federal union.

On Saturday 27th February, Willie Rennie wrote to the new leader of Scottish Labour pledging to work with them to deliver a federal UK.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said:“We need a new future for the United Kingdom where we reform to create a federal country. Power is best exercised when it is shared effectively. As we recover from the pandemic a federal UK would allow us to chart a course together that allows us to reflect our common interests and our more local needs.

“During the pandemic we have seen some of the benefits of devolution and joint decision making through the four nations approach. Bringing power together when necessary has enabled joint decisions and the flexing of that approach for each part of the country has allowed for a diverse approach when it suits the circumstances. Sadly, at the same time we have also seen damaging squabbles and point scoring between the Scottish and UK Governments.

“I believe that the United Kingdom will only be secure when its constitution clearly recognises the shared sovereignty of all four constituent parts of the union and finds a way to ensure that the UK Government, the governments of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the various parts of England can work together with rather than grandstanding for political advantage.

Lord Campbell of Pittenweem QC said: “We believe not in erecting borders but in dismantling them. We do not think the politics of nationalism, the politics of grievance, ultimately the politics of division, are any way in which to conduct truly progressive politics.  

“In the 1980s and 90s Scottish Liberal Democrats worked across party lines to build the case for a powerful Scottish Parliament and succeeded.  Holyrood has real power over almost all the key areas of domestic policy, schools, the NHS, justice and policing, social care, economic development, transport and taxation. Despite this powerful parliament the SNP seek to offer the people of Scotland a binary choice: the status quo or independence. As Scottish Liberal Democrats we reject that.

“This interim report asks what are the minimum steps that must be taken to ensure a stable, fair and cooperative future for Scotland in the United Kingdom.

“We welcome the thoughts and ideas of those in our party and outside it who understand the need for action and we plan to publish our final report in advance of the Scottish Parliamentary Elections in May.”

The interim report can be found here.   It will be discussed at the party’s spring conference on 5-6th March

This interim report builds on previous work by the party’s Home Rule and Community Rule commission published in 2012 and 2014, whose work fed into the cross-party Smith Commission and the additional powers for the Scottish Parliament delivered in the Scotland Act (2016).

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