Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Alistair Carmichael pledges devolution talks

Scottish parliament Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Lib Dems and Labour have already set out proposals for increased devolution in the event of a "No" vote, with the Tories due to unveil their own plans soon

A conference on new devolved powers for Scotland would be held within weeks of a "No" vote in the independence referendum, the Scottish Secretary has said.

Alistair Carmichael said all of the country's major parties would be invited to attend, including the SNP.

The meeting was first proposed by Mr Carmichael's Liberal Democrat colleague Sir Menzies Campbell.

The SNP said only independence would deliver the powers Scotland needs.

The referendum on Scottish independence will be held on 18 September, when voters will be asked the Yes/No question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

In a report published in March, Sir Menzies said the Scottish secretary should invite politicians to start the process of agreeing more powers for Holyrood not more than a month after a "No" vote.

Mr Carmichael will confirm his intention to host what he described as the "conference on the new Scotland" when he speaks at the Scottish Engineering annual dinner in Glasgow on Thursday.

He is due to say: "People are, of course, asking what will be the consequences of a No vote this September. They are right to ask.

"When people go to cast their ballot, they should understand the consequences of either outcome.

"In the event of a No vote, change will come. Scotland will have more powers. Getting to that destination involves bringing together all of those who have engaged with this debate and produced ideas and contributions of their own."

Mr Carmichael said it was important that differences were set aside and consensus reached on a "package of powers around which Scotland can unite" if the country voted to remain in the UK.

He added: "People do need to know that the invitation will be put, and that regardless of whether the SNP accepts it, the process will move forward."

Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond has previously said he is in the process of setting up a Team Scotland of experts and politicians from across the political divide to negotiate the terms of independence if there is a "Yes" vote.

SNP MSP Linda Fabiani said the party was "entirely focused" on achieving a "Yes" vote in the referendum, adding it was "confident of doing so with the polls showing Yes well within reach of success in September".

Ms Fabiani continued: "The fact is that only a Yes vote can guarantee the powers Scotland needs to be a fairer, more prosperous country - the No parties have nothing substantial to offer Scotland.

"David Cameron has totally refused to confirm what, if any, powers might be devolved after a No vote. And as Professor John Curtice has said, Labour's Devolution Commission proposals fall well short of the powers the majority of people in Scotland would like.

"Mr Carmichael's party have been promising Home Rule for over 100 years, yet as recently as 2011 the Lib Dems had the chance to beef up the Scotland Bill with a raft of new economic powers that they had previously supported - but they reneged on their previous commitments."

Business leaders

She said the "broken promises" of Westminster were "one reason why senior Lib Dems - such as Andy Myles and Denis Robertson Sullivan - have come to the conclusion that only a Yes vote can deliver the powers Scotland needs".

Earlier this week, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told business leaders in Edinburgh that the Lib Dems were the "guarantors" of more powers for Scotland.

The party wants Holyrood to raise half of its own revenue and set its own rates of income tax, capital gains tax and inheritance tax.

Labour has also set out plans for further devolution while the Tories' commission on more powers is expected to report back soon.

Any final settlement would have to be negotiated with the other pro-UK parties, businesses, and wider civic Scotland, Mr Clegg said.

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