Campaign For Home Rule Launched

3 November 2014, 12:32 | Updated: 3 November 2014, 12:34

A campaign for "meaningful and sustainable home rule'' in Scotland has been launched.

The Campaign for Scottish Home Rule brings together people from all five of Holyrood's political parties, alongside figures from the business community and civic Scotland.

Former Labour first minister Henry McLeish, and ex-MSPs Andrew Wilson (SNP), Margaret Smith (Liberal Democrats) and Derek Brownlee (Conservatives) are backing the campaign.

Other members of its steering group include former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland Dr Alison Elliot and former Olympic badminton player Susan Egelstaff.

The campaign has made its own submission to the Smith Commission, which was set up in the wake of the independence referendum to look at further powers for Holyrood.

At its launch in Edinburgh, campaign members said they believe the No vote in the referendum indicated there is a desire to see "meaningful home rule'' within the UK.

They said the campaign's core recommendation is for the Commission to require "clear underlying principles''.

These include ensuring that both Holyrood and Westminster are responsible for raising the money they spend, a presumption in favour of devolving responsibility to Holyrood, with Westminster required to make the case for retaining responsibility, and strengthening the mutual respect between the two parliaments.

The campaign states that where taxes are devolved to Holyrood, they should be devolved in full, to enable parliament to change, create or abolish the taxes for which it is responsible.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Mr McLeish said: "We had powers in 1999, we had powers in 2012, it looks like more powers in 2015.

"There is a danger that we will run out of powers at Westminster to devolve.

"But... we need a credible, sustainable, authoritative alternative to independence. Part of the home rule campaign is to try to discuss and develop with the whole of Scotland how that can happen.''

He added: "Once you have agreed a set of principles, you are actually in a better position to look at the detail.''

Mr Brownlee said: "If we want to avoid endless discussion of the constitution, and to focus on the other political issues which matter, we have to find common ground and build a genuine constitutional settlement which lasts.''

Mr Wilson said: "The whole country needs to come together and secure the highest common denominator that will unify the vast majority of us that want progress and a much more responsible Parliament. The twin goals of economic prosperity and social fairness must be pursued with the same passion and vitality that drove the referendum.

"This is a journey without end. But we must move at a pace that builds deep and wide foundations of support. Now it is time to build a bridge between the '45' and the '55', not dig a trench.''

Other members of the steering group are Matthew Benson, Hamira Khan, James MacKenzie, John Dunsmore and Richard Kerley.

It is chaired by Reform Scotland chairman Ben Thomson, who said the campaign aimed to establish principles.

He said: "What we seem to have at the moment is a process and a timetable, we have a few specifics that people are debating, but we haven't really got where it is we are trying to get to, what is the principle behind home rule.''