Liberal Democrats will secure Home Rule
I am writing this column at the Liberal Democrats’ Annual conference in Glasgow where delegates have converged from all over the UK.
Much talk was focussed on what the Liberal Democrats will do to deliver Hone Rule to Scotland through the committee headed by Lord Robert Smith. My own view is we need a settlement that will ensure that at least half of the Scottish Parliament’s revenue should come from Scotland’s own tax base. That would be the foundation of Home Rule which ensures that Scotland has real control and accountability for its own budget both in raising taxes and determining spending priorities.
At the same time it recognises that the majority of the people of Scotland have voted for a continuing relationship with the rest of the UK which needs to be balanced and constructive to last. As has happened before the Liberal Democrats will be the catalyst of securing a settlement this time with the added levers of being in Government.
Recovery delivered by Liberal Democrat measures
The Liberal Democrats are building a stronger economy and a fairer society creating opportunities for everyone. That is not a promise. It is a record of delivery. We said we would raise the tax threshold to £10,000. We have done that and gone further, taking it to £10,500 next year and cutting the tax of every standard rate taxpayer by £800 a year.
Liberal Democrats have delivered the biggest ever boost to pensions and introduced the triple lock to ensure that pensions rise by the highest of prices, earnings, or 2.5 per cent.
By entering the coalition Liberal Democrats have helped stabilise markets keeping interest rates low and reducing the deficit, boosting confidence leading to record employment, falling unemployment and the fastest growth rate in the developed world. The conference concluded for all these reasons and many more Scotland and Britain needs the Liberal Democrats.
Defending Iraq at its own request – not a second Iraq war
Once again Parliament was recalled from recess to take a decision about the employment of Britain’s armed forces.
Of course, it is nevertheless a difficult decision. We are all worried about the possibility of casualties among innocent civilians and the radicalisation of people on the ground. In 2003 I voted against attacking Iraq. Now I was being asked to help defend Iraq and support troops engaged in a desperate and brave fight to reverse ISIL’s onslaught. The motion was quite clear that our intervention was limited to air strikes in Iraq and would not involve our ground troops. For these reasons I supported the motion.
Loss of Virgin flights threatens Heathrow slots
I am extremely disappointed that Virgin have announced that they will be discontinuing their flights to Heathrow – not least because I worked to ensure Virgin had the chance to take over the former BMI slots after BA acquired them.
Coming after the BA decision to axe the London City route it seems that Aberdeen is losing out to services to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Manchester which have larger population catchments but less dependence on air travel given their rapid rail links. We know that once slots are lost they are hard to recover. Yet, if demand for Aberdeen-London links grows in future we do not want to be left at the mercy of one operator and restricted services.
SNP equivocation on Edinburgh agreement risks investment
There is some concerning fallout emerging as a result of the SNP’s failure to honour the Edinburgh agreement by recognising the result. We have already heard this could further delay the long promised long delayed Aberdeen bypass as potential funders consider withdrawing. I believe we have already had investment plans delayed or taken elsewhere. It was reassuring that some of our financial service companies who had said they would relocate in the event of a Yes vote have confirmed that they will not now do so. We need the SNP Government to forget their obsession with independence and tackle the crises in our health and education services and press ahead with our transport infrastructure with all possible speed. We have had enough distraction. It is surely time to deliver.