Nick Clegg urges 'no' to Scottish independence

 

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has urged Scots to say "No" to independence before working to achieve more devolved power within the United Kingdom.

His comments to the Liberal Democrat spring conference in Inverness echo a plea by David Cameron last month, when the Prime Minister promised to consider granting more power in return for rejecting independence in a clear Yes-No ballot.

Today, Mr Clegg issued his own plea, telling delegates that the four countries of the UK share a culture, history and identity.

"We live side by side in towns and cities across the British Isles," he said.

"Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Irish people are together every day, in offices and factories, school classrooms and playing fields.

"We have rallied together in hard times. Our forefathers fought together and died together, just as brave Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Irish servicemen and women are fighting side by side in faraway lands right now.

"For centuries we have crossed each other's borders, married each other, raised families together. What Scot doesn't have any English, Welsh or Northern Irish in their family tree?

"I believe the bonds that bring us together are stronger than the forces that would tear us apart."

He said the independence referendum, which the Scottish Government wants to hold in autumn 2014, must be made in Scotland.

But the UK Government has called for the date to be brought forward, possibly to autumn next year.

Mr Clegg said Scotland is stronger when London and Edinburgh work together, highlighting previous efforts to secure more devolution through the Scotland Bill.

The Lib Dems are looking at how to extend power further through the Home Rule Commission, headed by Sir Menzies Campbell MP.

Mr Clegg continued: "We need to settle the independence question first.

"But if the Scottish people decide they want to remain in the United Kingdom, then we can get on with the business of giving Scotland more power."

The Lib Dem leader, speaking on the first of a three-day conference at the Eden Court theatre, touched on the party's poor results in the Holyrood election last May. Just five MSPs were returned to the 129-seat Parliament.

Mr Clegg said the election was a "painful experience", but congratulated the Scottish Lib Dem group for "punching above our weight".

He said the party has defended the rights of Scots to go to the Supreme Court, fought for funds for colleges and promoted same-sex marriage.

At council level, he said recycling rates are improved and budgets have been brought back "from a cliff edge".

Referring to the SNP's landslide victory at Holyrood last year, Mr Clegg said the balance of power has altered.

Defending the 305-year-old political union between Scotland and England, Mr Clegg said: "My hope, and that of our party, is that the people of Scotland choose to stay in the UK.

"As an Englishman I believe that our countries are much stronger together than they would be apart.

"That Scotland, like the other parts of the UK, has fared better in this global economic crisis than many of our European neighbours because we are part of one of the world's strongest economies.

"That we have all been protected from the worst of the recession by the credibility and low interest rates the UK Government has been able to secure and maintain."

Mr Clegg, while focusing on the constitution, also referred to his ambitions for a "green economic renaissance" for Scotland.

"We have a real vision for Scotland's future. I want nothing short of a green economic renaissance for Scotland," he said.

"A Scotland where green jobs fuel a thriving economic future, dockyards reopened as wind farm factories, wind and wave power providing the green energy of the future, Scottish universities developing new green technologies for Scottish companies to export around the world.

"With Scotland's young people trained in the skills they need to be at the heart of our green economy."

He also highlighted pension increases and the pledge to raise the income tax threshold to £10,000.

Looking to the next council elections, he said: "So we go into this May's elections with our heads held high.

"A record of fighting for local communities in councils up and down Scotland. A record of holding the SNP's feet to the fire in Holyrood.

"And a record of delivering real help for Scottish people in Westminster."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future