Scotland politics

Scottish Lib Dem conference: Clegg says 'resist false patriotism' of SNP and UKIP

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Media captionNick Clegg spoke to Scottish Lib Dem delegates in Aberdeen

The deputy prime minister has urged voters to resist the "lure of false patriotism", as he drew comparisons between the SNP and UKIP.

Nick Clegg said both parties were seeking to "break apart" established partnerships between nations.

His speech to the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference comes ahead of the Scottish independence referendum.

Mr Clegg said a "No" vote on Thursday, 18 September, could see greater Scottish Parliament powers.

As well as the referendum in less than six months, there will be European elections in May in which UKIP is seeking to challenge the main UK parties.

Mr Clegg, who this week debated head-to-head with UKIP leader Nigel Farage, said: "In politics, there is always the temptation to overstretch an analogy, so I'm not going to claim that the SNP and UKIP are the same. Obviously there are very big differences.

"But they do both want to bring an end to a partnership between nations that has been forged over time and serves us well. And they both represent the same impulse: to pull away, to break apart."

The deputy PM said the Liberal Democrats would fight for "unity, togetherness and openness," adding: "We will give people a reason to resist the lure of false patriotism - wherever it rears its head.

"We will provide a positive vision for a prosperous future, filled with possibility - for every part of the UK.

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Image caption Nick Clegg spoke on the first day of the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference

"Britain is at its best when we are united, when we stand tall in our own backyard, when we are open, outward-facing and engaged - and that is the Britain we will protect."

Turning to the referendum, Mr Clegg said he believed supporters of the Union must set out both the risks of independence and the opportunities of voting to stay, like having a "strong and secure currency".

He said: "Of course the UK isn't perfect. Nor is Westminster. Nor is Brussels. Institutions, alliances, unions - by their very nature they are living, evolving things, in perpetual need of reform.

"But the response to imperfection is not isolation."

'Mix of identities'

Mr Clegg said the debate over Scotland's future was about more than numbers and economics, adding: "It's also about who we are: our bonds, our closeness, the ties that make us stronger in an uncertain world.

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Media captionNick Clegg mispronounced the word budget in his speech

"Like so many people across Britain, I know what it's like to be part of a family brimming with different heritages and traditions - that's what my family is like.

"And for me it has always been this mix of identities - distinct yet overlapping - that make our Union so great.

"Scottish. English. Northern Irish. Welsh. British."

The UK Lib Dem leader told the conference the campaign was about "capturing imaginations".

He said: "Just as it is right that we must explain the risks and consequences of Scotland voting to leave the Union, we must also set out the opportunities of voting to stay.

"The prospect of remaining in the UK must be just as thrilling as the drama of leaving it."

At the same time, Mr Clegg also insisted rejecting independence would not be the same as choosing the "status quo", arguing that his party, along with Labour and the Conservatives, were heading towards agreement on giving new powers to a devolved Scottish Parliament within the UK.

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Image caption Nick Clegg said a 'No' vote would spark a new chapter in Scotland

The Lib Dems' own devolution commission has called for cross-party support on increasing Holyrood's financial powers.

He said of a "No" vote: "It will be the start of a new chapter. A different era. It must, I believe, be a giant leap towards our long-held liberal vision: Home Rule.

"Liberal Democrats, the present focus on Scotland's future is huge opportunity. It means the opportunity to deliver Home Rule has never been greater - this must be the prize of this referendum debate.

"A Scottish Parliament that doesn't just spend the cheque handed over from Westminster, but which has the power to raise the majority of its budget too - creating greater accountability and the power to affect radical change here in Scotland.

"A Scotland that determines its own destiny, but is able to share some of the risk."

'Causing hardship'

In response to the speech pro-independence group Yes Scotland said the people of Scotland had heard the Lib Dem's "fine talk before".

Its chief executive Blair Jenkins added: "The evidence is clear that a discredited and dislocated Westminster system is simply incapable of delivering what Scotland wants and needs.

"As the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Clegg has to take his share of responsibility for that and acknowledge that it is the Con-Dem coalition's policies right now that are causing hardship and heartache for millions of people in Scotland and other parts of the UK."

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