Miliband promises home rule for Scotland while Sturgeon puts her foot down

Rebuttals abound in the discussion on home rule

Ed Miliband will today pledge a Home Rule Bill for Scotland within 100 days of a Labour government being elected in May.

As he campaigns alongside Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy in Glasgow today, the Labour Party leader will also announce plans by Labour to force a vote in the House of Commons next month for powers over the work programme to be devolved immediately to Holyrood.

In his first visit to Scotland since Jim Murphy’s election, Miliband will say:

“We will put the Home Rule Bill before Parliament in the first 100 days of the next Labour government.

“This bill will give Scotland the powers that were promised over jobs, welfare and tax.

“But we want to go faster. Scotland needs the job creating powers that the Smith Agreement promised. And Scotland needs them now. Next month, Labour will force a vote on our bill to pass these powers now.

“If that’s not accepted, we will devolve control over the work programme immediately on taking power.”

But the SNP, whose support Labour will in all likelihood need to secure the keys to Downing Street, sought to rubbish the commitment as “laughable”.

Picking up on recent comments made by Lewis MacDonald, shadow minister for business, energy and tourism at Holyrood who earlier this month seemingly denied that Labour had ever spoken of home rule, the SNP’s deputy leader Stewart Hosie said:

“Trying to claim that this is home rule could be reported under the Trade Descriptions Act for being completely untrue.

“Recently, Lewis MacDonald MSP specifically denied that Labour had ever talked about ‘home rule’, which renders the claims of Ed Miliband and Jim Murphy laughable.

“The reality is that, with 70 per cent of taxation and 85 per cent of welfare spending staying under Westminster control, Labour and the other UK parties are offering Westminster rule not home rule – and it is embarrassing for Mr Miliband to try to pretend otherwise.”

Noting Ed Miliband’s poor standing in the eyes of Scottish voters, he continued:

“People in Scotland don’t believe Ed Miliband – who has achieved the extraordinary feat for a Labour leader of having even worse poll ratings in Scotland than the Tory prime minister.

“The way to achieve the real powers of home rule is to vote SNP in May, for a strong team of SNP MPs holding the balance of power at Westminster.”

Meanwhile, Scotland’s first minister has asserted her authority by insisting that she will personally lead any negotiations over the SNP’s support, or otherwise, for a potential minority government after the General Election.

In what will be seen as somewhat of a snub for Alex Salmond who had hoped that a return to Westminster would put him at the heart of the action, after being asked in London who would lead the negotiations Nicola Sturgeon has responded:

“Me, I’m party leader. I am the party leader, Stewart is the deputy and we will lead the position.

“If Alex is elected, and I would be fairly confident in predicting that, he will be a key part of the team and will of course have a key part to play.”

Meanwhile, with the Conservatives making hay over a Labour government potentially being propped up by Scottish votes, Alex Salmond has sought to portray himself as a self-styled anglophile.

Asked during an interview with the International Business Times if he had an “England problem”, Salmond replied:

“As probably the most avid practising anglophile in Scottish politics, I don’t see that at all.

“I can only go on the reception I got when I did Question Time in Liverpool recently. If the audience had been polled, actually they were polled if I remember rightly, immediately afterward… if I was standing for Liverpool Scotland constituency, as opposed to Gordon, then I would maybe not rate my chances as highly, but I would be in with a fair shout.”

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.