Home Rule INSIDE the UK: a fight worth winning

Lord McConnell

Last Tuesday was the 15th Anniversary of that amazing day when the first democratic Scottish Parliament was officially opened in 1999. It was a day I’ll never forget, so it seemed like the perfect moment to set out my views on the independence referendum that takes place here in September.

I was joined by former Liberal Democrat Deputy First Minister, Lord Jim Wallace of Tankerness, and that brought back memories of the years we spent together campaigning for Home Rule, designing the plans in the leadership of the Scottish Constitutional Convention, winning the 1997 Yes-Yes referendum and then in government making the Parliament work for Scotland.

The benefits of Home Rule within the UK, and the gains made under it, have not been emphasised enough in the referendum debate. Too much of the debate has been negative, too much based on assertion not fact, and too little on the principles of how Scotland should be governed.

The increasing polarisation between Unionism and Nationalism has come to dominate and distract the debate. I am neither a Nationalist nor a Unionist – I am a patriot, a democrat. I want a better Scotland in a better world.

And my view is clear: Home Rule for Scotland within the UK is the best and most positive system for us, and the system I will continue to fight for. We have autonomy to decide our own laws and strong powers to make our own decisions and change lives. And it allows the voluntary sharing of sovereignty with those who live in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the areas where we work best together.

Home Rule inside of the UK was never a soggy compromise – it was democratic and right for Scotland. It provided the Scottish nation with the crucial opportunity to change our country for the better, and the facts are that it has.

We are healthier with better health services and the ban on smoking in public places. We are cleaner, using powers on the environment to boost recycling and generate more renewable energy. We are more just, using powers to deliver victim’s rights, and other changes in our courts. And devolution has encouraged a cultural renaissance and created a new National Theatre for Scotland. We have more jobs, more people, more connections, more quality schools and colleges, more confidence. And we have the power to attract major events to Scotland like the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup. And to deliver them well.

We have transformed rural communities: abolishing feudalism and developing community ownership. And we have reversed Scotland’s historic population decline, building a more secure foundation for the future.

And we can still use the power and influence of the UK for Scotland’s ambitions, services, policies and status. In defence and foreign relations, in economic matters that impact beyond borders like trade we can be part of a bigger voluntary union, the UK.

We are not colonised, or forced into this Union. The question in September is not about ‘freedom’ from the English. And it is not about a dislike of Alex Salmond or David Cameron. It is not about where you were born or what flag you wave.

The vote is about how we choose to be governed: Independence outside the UK or Home Rule inside the UK.

I genuinely hope there will be a break in campaigning during the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July. We must use that time to show off Scotland at its best.

But the referendum can do that afterwards too, if the debate changes in the final weeks.

I urge those campaigning for an independent state, to set out the facts and highlight the consequences, to be open and honest, and to accept that those who disagree with you are patriots too. Respect the other side.

And to those who share my view that Home Rule inside the UK, our devolved Parliament, was worth fighting for and is worth fighting to save, I say run a more positive campaign spelling that out. Tell the nation how proud you are of Scotland’s achievements and why you want to save devolution.

Because that is why I will say No Thanks in September: we are better off when we have the best of both worlds.

10 comments for “Home Rule INSIDE the UK: a fight worth winning

  1. MilesJSD
    10/07/2014 at 8:26 pm

    There can never be “the best of both worlds”
    and both individual & collectivised “Home Rule”
    until every individual British citizen and Resident
    is engaged both in sustainworthy personal and mutual individual human development
    and in ecolonomicly-strategicly sustainable Participatory Democratisation.

  2. tizres
    10/07/2014 at 9:59 pm

    Lord McConnell, your repetitive use of ‘we’ seems, to me at least, at odds with the harmony you profess to have with the Union. That’s fine, given your political history, but suggesting Scotland has a choice of governance when Mr Salmond is only offering a divorce from the Union significantly undermines the problem Labour has created.

  3. maude elwes
    11/07/2014 at 6:11 am

    But, that is not ‘home rule,’ it remains rule by a conquering force. I feel the Scottish people are extremely fortunate to have the opportunity of a referendum on how and by whom they wish to be governed and it is a decision for all of them collectively. The rest of the UK should simply accept what Scotland decides and wish them well in their future.

    There is much for them to consider. If, as it appears we may, the Westminster set decide to pull out of Europe, for example, and it appears very possible come 2017, if not before, then is that something the Scottish want? Not to be part of Europe and taken more and more into the arms of the USA, as we are being told we will are going to be by Westminster.

    Notwithstanding the issue of being withdrawn from the Human Rights provisions. Do Scots want that part of Westminster rule, Trident being another? Not to mention horrific Westminster policies on driving poverty throughout the nation, whilst those with extreme wealth get more of the economic pie for sitting on their fat rumps as they bear down on those who have the least. Because that is what they will get under the policies of this group who rule. The pretense of the three parties having different ideologies is absurd, they are simply bad and badder from what I have been able to gather. And home rule is a smokescreen, they will remain an English colony and have to live with the rules they want them to, regardless of what they tell them.

    But then, of course, there is that old chestnut of ‘what will happen to me and my income’ for Scottish MP’s and those Scots in the Lords, should Scotland no longer be part of that establishment. For, I don’t believe there will be a Scottish House of Lords, do you?

  4. Garve Scott-Lodge
    11/07/2014 at 9:00 am

    “And it allows the voluntary sharing of sovereignty with those who live in England, Wales and Northern Ireland…”

    That’s a fascinating view of the current arrangements. As a Yes supporter, it’s a statement which, if true, might well tempt me away from voting Yes in September.

    But in the UK it is Westminster which is sovereign. It is Westminster which gets to decide which powers are devolved to Scotland and the other component parts of the UK, and which are reserved. It’s Westminster which has the power to change that in the future, not the devolved administrations.

    Your statement about ‘voluntary sharing’ would seem to imply a different settlement – one where Holyrood & the Scottish people (for instance) would determine which powers it holds and which it allows Westminster to exercise. That’s something I could support.

    However, I’m pretty sure that’s not what you meant. By Home Rule you seem to mean the continuation of the current arrangement, and poll after poll shows that a large majority of voters in Scotland are not happy with that, even if many of them are not yet ready to vote for independence.

  5. 11/07/2014 at 10:31 am

    I started writing a comment here but it outgrew the space so completed it on my own site instead.


    • MilesJSD
      14/07/2014 at 5:39 pm

      Hugh Wallace’s response contains a telling Scottish-governance microcosm
      of an irreversible English ‘oversight’
      that evidently ‘malfeasantly’ envelops and paralyses the whole world,
      and even The United Nations,

      ” … while health services in Scotland are doing well,
      the health of the Scottish people is not. …”

      The unfortunately shortsighted
      but real-on-the-ground error
      of the UK’s National Hospitals & Illnesses Sector
      being set in Constitutional Concrete as
      Britain’s ‘National Health Service’
      has become a Gordian-Knot, with the tail-wagging-the-

      The majority of clear-thinking Nations in the World Health Organisation declared the top-priority Need for
      the strengthening and ongoing building of people’s Health & Wellbeing by services outside of the Medical, Nursing, and Pharmacological [Alma Ata 1978 Declaration of Primary Health Care];

      but the leading nations [UK included] chose to sweep it all lock stock and barrel under their respective pre-existing monopolistic ‘Primary Medical Care [qua ‘Diagnosis & Treatment of Sick Patients’]’, nonetheless all the while re-shingling that primary medical care as ‘Primary Health Care’;

      the which the UN has been powerless to correct
      and thus in becoming by-default-complicit has become de-facto-supportive of this huge Dog-In-The-Manger
      ‘foreign-body’ sapping the Healh of the greater majority of Peoples all around the World
      but here especially of the British People and therein of both the English and the Scots.
      There are many other facts-of-the-matter for national-self-determination,
      but I would vote ‘yes’ upon that one “for the sake of All of the Peoples’ longest-term real health-building” ground alone.

  6. MilesJSD
    11/07/2014 at 1:29 pm

    The noble Lord McConnell begins here,
    in more than ten paragraphs,
    apparently totally supporting Independent Home Rule by Scotland;
    but namely within its existing ‘democracy’;

    and the noble lord does so without being clear
    that Scotland [and Wales and Ulster and All British Isles Peoples]
    should remain ‘overarchingly-governed’ within the as-it-were
    (‘)neighbourly-protective and cooperative shadow of the traditionally much greater and ‘capital-D’ Democracy of Westminster(‘)].
    A Roman Catholic Irish consultant psychiatrist Dr Gilroy, resident at Moorhaven near Plymouth ~1950 – 1970, taught that Independence is historically the fourth of five stages
    in both Nation-State development and in the maturation of the individual citizen, person, or patient.*
    * Those five stages are (1) Happiness (2) Responsibility (3) Efficiency (4) Independence (5) Freedom.
    Now according to Lord McConnell, Scotland is not entitled nor ready to progress even to that fourth stage, Independence,
    it would be ‘unheard of’ under true British Tradition;
    therefore Lord McConnell does not mention it as a factor, for the Scots and Scotland to be ready to go forward even beyond Independence
    and into the ‘crowning’ personal and collective human destiny, Freedom.
    Small wonder that a concerned British professor of Reasoning named Baggini recently published an affordable non-fiction paperback titled
    “Do They Think You Are Stupid?”
    and is ready to go into further editions}.
    Every one of our Peoples and their variously levelled Governments need to be sustainworthily Moving Forward,
    from Happiness
    through Efficiency,
    through Responsibility,
    through Independence,
    into true Participatory-Democracy’s Freedom.

    None of us really ‘need’ to be merely “Marking Time”
    nor ‘mindfully-meditating’ that
    “we also serve who only stand and wait”
    with Lord McConnell and other No-Voters.

  7. Gordon McVie
    11/07/2014 at 3:52 pm

    A few years ago I would have found myself going along with your viewpoint Jack, and I applaud you for eschewing the negativity of the Better Together campaign.
    However, having voted Labour in every local, general and Scottish election over four decades Blair got into bed with Bush and we ended up mired in Iraq and Afghanistan. I still voted Labour in 2005 fearful of letting the Tories in, but in 2007 I voted SNP and did the same again in 2011 as they had proved their competence in government.
    I will be voting YES in September for one simple reason – national identity. The UK remains what it has always been, the English State with a Celtic fringe, and as England moves further and further to the right and out of the EU that is not a country I want to live in.
    I think the NOs will win but I am compelled to do what I think is right, the real challenge after 18 September is whether Labour and the SNP can bury the hatchet for Scotland’s sake.

  8. maude elwes
    14/07/2014 at 10:27 am

    A thought came to me over this weekend about this Scottish issue and what it means to the people of that country.

    What they have to collectively ask themselves is this: A) Are they happy being ruled by Westminster? B) If not this will be the only opportunity for a very long time, if ever, they will have the chance to be rid of them and rule themselves as a mature State. C) If they don’t like the SNP and what it stands for, they can always elect an alternative party that will surely arise to counter the one they have presently, in their future. D) They will not have this freedom to find another solution to govern themselves if they vote to remain with UK rule now.

    I wish them all the best in their choice.

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