Pasted below is a joint statement by the leaders of the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Tory groups within the Scottish Parliament. Jack McConnell, Annabelle Goldie and Nicol Stephen have come together to oppose
SNP plans to take Scotland out of the United Kingdom.
Former Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth has, however, called on Scotland’s Conservatives to call the SNP’s bluff and back a Scottish-wide referendum on independence. A poll of Scottish voters last week found only 31% support for leaving the UK. Lord Forsyth told The Daily Express:
“Saying to [Alex Salmond] we won’t have a referendum is just playing straight into his hands, because that’s what he wants. I think that’s a huge mistake. He is desperately hoping no-one will take him at his word. Mr Salmond and his colleagues want to delay a referendum because they think they will get a better vote than if they were to have a referendum now, so the unionist parties should call his bluff.”
A Scottish Tory spokesman told The Express that "continual referendums would be a road to continual uncertainty."
In June we reported a call from Tory candidate Richard Cook for Tories to back a referendum. A key advantage of holding and winning referendum would be the opportunity to build a more normal politics north of the border. Freed from the Unionist-independence debate the Scottish Tories could be freed to become the country’s leading party of small government, enterprise, public service reform and a tough approach to crime.
The Scottish Parliament Party Leaders of Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats
Joint Statement, Monday 13 August 2007
"In May the people of Scotland voted for a range of political parties none of which command majority support. The parties we represent – together representing 65% of voters in Scotland – believe that Scotland as a whole, and individual Scots, have the best chance of success and progress inside the United Kingdom. We therefore regret the fact that the minority SNP administration, representing less than a third of Scottish voters, will tomorrow publish a White Paper which is designed to further their party’s central objective to take Scotland outside the United Kingdom.
The SNP is squandering taxpayers’ money in pursuit of their own narrow and failed agenda. They have promised to build a consensus around the policies they will bring forward for debate in the Scottish parliament. But this white paper can only create division and uncertainty which will damage Scotland.
The SNP have spoken about a national conversation but tomorrow’s publication is about their nationalist crusade . We will listen, but we fear this will be less of a conversation than a one-way megaphone. We are deeply concerned that the proposals to be made by the SNP are only designed to drag the people of Scotland into a constitutional cul-de-sac. We will not give succour to those who want to end the Union.
Their objective is to end the United Kingdom whilst our parties want to see devolution succeed inside the United Kingdom. Our parties have differing views on how to reform, maintain, and strengthen the Union, but none of us want to see it ended. Reforming the Union is in conflict with ending the Union, so there can be no consensus around a minority obsession that will do great damage to Scotland.
In the months to come we will consider how best the interests of the people of Scotland can be served. Though we disagree about the means to achieve it, good governance and basic priorities should come first for Scottish Ministers. Sadly, tomorrow’s White Paper signals that the constitutional debate, and staging squabbles with Westminster, are the priority of the current minority administration.
We regret the fact that these divisive proposals were brought forward during the recess rather than when Parliament was sitting. We are willing to enter into debate jointly about the way in which devolution within the UK can best develop in the years to come and we believe that colleagues in Westminster have a role to play in that debate.
Before the Scottish Parliament reconvenes we will discuss together the best way to take forward this debate."
Jack McConnell MSP, Annabelle Goldie MSP, Nicol Stephen MSP