Clegg hints at devolution consensus

Times Series: Nick Clegg will tell the Scottish Lib Dem conference that there is an 'ever hardening consensus' between his party, Labour and the Conservatives on devolution Nick Clegg will tell the Scottish Lib Dem conference that there is an 'ever hardening consensus' between his party, Labour and the Conservatives on devolution

Unionist parties are coming closer to broad agreement on more devolution for Scotland as an alternative to independence, according to the Deputy Prime Minister.

Nick Clegg is expected to claim there is an "ever hardening consensus" between Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Conservatives, when he addresses his party conference in Aberdeen today.

The referendum on September 18 is about capturing imaginations, he will tell the Scottish Lib Dem conference.

"Just as it is right that we must explain the risks and consequences of Scotland voting to leave the union, we must also set out the opportunities of voting to stay," he will say.

"The prospect of remaining in the UK must be just as thrilling as the drama of leaving it.

"Rejecting independence will not be choosing the status quo. It must, I believe, be a giant leap towards our long-held liberal vision: home rule.

"The debate over Scotland's future has meant the opportunity to deliver it has never been greater.

"There is now an ever-hardening consensus between the Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Conservatives over greater devolution to Scotland."

The comments come one week after Scottish Labour held its conference with a focus on plans for greater devolution.

The Scottish Conservatives are currently putting together their plan.

Mr Clegg's next autumn conference is due to be held in Scotland just two weeks after the referendum.

"I hope, and I believe, that when we meet on the Clyde six months from now it will be to celebrate the affirmation of our UK family of nations, and Scotland's place within it," the Lib Dem leader will say.

"That decision is of course one for people in Scotland to take. I'm not here to hector, or lecture or frighten people, much as the SNP will doubtless want to claim that I have.

"But I will say this: In our competitive, fast-moving, interconnected world, we are all stronger together and poorer apart."

Chief Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander will also address the conference today.

He will compare independence with the split between actress Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin. The pair announced the end of their 10-year marriage this week - which they termed a "conscious uncoupling".

Mr Alexander will say: "I love Scotland and I love Britain - we must defend against any conscious uncoupling of that great relationship.

"Make no mistake, in terms of the history of our country, we are at five minutes to midnight. So, it's timely that we are gathered in Aberdeen.

"Our resolve to keep Scotland a strong part of the United Kingdom must be as solid as the rock from which this great city is built.

"There has never been a more important time for liberalism to come to the fore in our national life."

Blair Jenkins, the chief executive of the pro-independence Yes Scotland campaign, said: " This week, we have welcomed former Scottish Lib Dem chief executive Andy Myles to the ranks of Yes, and also Denis Robertson Sullivan - a former party treasurer who is still a Lib Dem member.

"Frankly, if Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander cannot persuade Liberals of the calibre of Andy and Denis to vote No, they have precious little chance among the people of Scotland generally.

" We would encourage other Liberal Democrat rank and file members and supporters to join us in the Yes campaign, as we believe their policies and values would be far better promoted in an independent Scotland than can ever be the case at Westminster."

SNP MSP Chic Brodie said: "As Lib Dem delegates gather in Aberdeen, many will have already decided that they will vote Yes in September. This weekend's conference is the perfect opportunity for those who have made up their minds to share their views with fellow delegates.

"For many Scottish delegates, the actions of the Lib Dems in coalition with the Tories at Westminster will be causing deep dismay as they watch their party prop up a Government responsible for pushing up to 100,000 more children in Scotland into poverty.

"For delegates who want to see further powers and a fairer Scotland, many of them will be coming to the realisation that a Yes vote is the only way to make this a reality. Making their voice heard among their colleagues will help others see that Scotland can, should and must become independent."

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