Scots parliament wins cross-party backing

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The Independent Online

Political Correspondent

The blueprint for the Scottish parliament promised by an incoming Labour government will be unveiled on 30 November, St Andrew's Day, after being endorsed by all sides of the Scottish Constitutional Convention yesterday.

The 60-strong convention of representatives from Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the churches, trade unions and community groups unanimously accepted the plan at a meeting at the New Parliament House in Edinburgh where the new body, with powers over Scottish domestic affairs, would sit. The agreement came despite complaints from the Scottish TUC, which wanted the 129-member parliament to be bigger.

Despite claims from Michael Forsyth, Secretary of State for Scotland, of ongoing disagreements between Labour and the Liberal Democrats over whether the number of Scottish Westminster MPs should be reduced, the framework ranks as a significant example of inter-party co-operation after six years of deliberation.

At yesterday's convention meeting, members were urged to canvass support for the parliament from the public and to rebut the criticisms from the Conservatives and the Scottish National Party.

Mr Forsyth renewed Government attacks on the so-called "tartan tax" - a reference to the parliament's power to vary income tax up or down by 3p in the pound.

Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, said only a "real parliament, an independent parliament" would have the necessary powers to change Scotland for the better. "What Scotland needs for the new millennium is not a puppet assembly which can talk, but a powerhouse parliament which can act." George Robertson, shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, said: "This is not just some dry document representing a cold picture of constitutional change. It is a message of hope that democracy is coming back."