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Inserting steel

Brian Taylor | 12:53 UK time, Thursday, 5 March 2009

More, much more, today on the constitution. In the longer term, less, much less, on the topic of independence, If opposition parties have their way.

So what's moving? As I disclosed this morning, the Liberal Democrats want far greater powers for the devolved parliament.

That includes control of issues like energy, drugs and firearms - plus a significant basket of new tax powers.

They're trying to insert a little steel into the Calman Commission (or should that be Steel, reflecting their own commission under their former leader which advocated substantial financial powers.)

More immediately, again as noted here, MSPs will vote tonight on a Lib Dem amendment which argues against an independence referendum during the current economic crisis.

Labour's justification for backing this? At FMQs, Iain Gray said Scotland needed a referendum now "like a hole in the head". Assuming that Mr Gray is averse to cranial cavities, that would be a no.

So what's happened to "bring it on"? According to Mr Gray, that was an offer for an early referendum, with wording rather different to that proposed by the Scottish Governemnt.

Conference date

The SNP, according to Mr Gray, had declined to take that chance.

Circumstances, particularly in the economy, had moved on - so a referendum was no longer warranted.

Might he change his mind again, as Alex Salmond wryly suggested? Team Gray say no.

That means no referendum during the present parliament - not opposition in principle and for all time. Broadly, that is the position advocated by the Lib Dems too.

PS: Will John Farquhar Munro be in the chamber to watch his LibDem colleagues vote against a referendum?

Will he pursue his own support for such a plebiscite? No. He is attending a conference, keeping a long-standing engagement. In Frankfurt.


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