MacNeil addresses Parliamentary Conference

Addressing a briefing for Commonwealth High Commissioners organised by the Academy for Parliamentary and Policy Studies yesterday (Tuesday), Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil set out the SNP’s vision of how an independent Scotland, would bring benefits beyond Scotland to both the Commonwealth and the wider world.

Mr MacNeil had been invited to speak about ‘developments in Scotland, governing with the first majority government and towards a referendum on independence’ at the conference on ‘Changes in the UK Political and Governance Structures’.

Speaking at the conference, Mr MacNeil said:

“On May 5, Scotland re-elected a Scottish National Party government that has an overwhelming mandate to improve Scotland’s status. The SNP governed successfully as a minority administration between 2007 and 2011, and has now been re-elected as the first ever majority party government in the Scottish Parliament - something considered impossible under the system of proportional representation.

“People vote twice in Scottish elections, once for a constituency representative and again for a list vote. On May 5 the SNP increased its share of the constituency vote by 12.5%, more than doubling our number of constituency seats. All the other parties lost ground. On the list, we took the majority of votes in 69 out of 73 seats.

“Labour, once the dominant party in Scotland, now holds fewer constituency seats than Margaret Thatcher’s Tories did in 1979.

“Legislation to transfer some new responsibilities to Scotland is currently progressing through the Westminster Parliament. The Scotland Bill was drawn up by the London-led parties who were defeated on May 5. It must be revisited and improved in the light of the election result as the SNP laid out in its manifesto. It is an insubstantial bill that does not meet the aspirations of Scotland’s people at this time.

“During the election campaign, the SNP pledged to improve this bill in order to speed up recovery from recession. We are prioritising job-creating measures such as gaining borrowing powers and control of corporation tax. As so many Commonwealth countries did in the past we are simply seeking the responsibilities to improve our country, just as they did by acquiring sovereign powers from Westminster.

“A crucial power we must also gain is responsibility for the Crown Estate - which means we can benefit from the riches of our own waters.

In particular we can licence marine renewable energy projects, both to stimulate green industry and to ensure that local communities benefit from natural resources.

“Control of excise duties would have major social and health benefits in relation to alcohol minimum pricing. In addition, we believe it is only fair that Scotland has more say in European policy, as key Scottish industries such as fishing are regulated from Brussels. And we think it is wrong and unbalanced that broadcasting is solely regulated from London in a post-devolution environment.

“These are our immediate priorities. But our ambition for Scotland does not end there. To achieve its potential, we believe Scotland must become a fully participating nation in the Commonwealth and throughout the world.

“An independent Scotland will be able to take forward initiatives with benefit far beyond our own borders just as so many of our Commonwealth friends have done over the past 60 years.

“Scotland has introduced world-leading Climate Change legislation, that commits us to an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050, and sets a gold standard internationally.

“Scotland has 25 per cent of Europe’s tidal power and 10 per cent of its wave power. We have the ambition to lead in marine energy and offshore wind technology - in the last year three of the world’s main turbine manufacturers, Gamesa, Mitsubishi and Doosan, have announced plans to site research facilities in Scotland.

“A sovereign Scotland will have no nuclear weapons, because we cannot continue to have Europe’s largest concentration of weapons of mass destruction in Scottish waters when the UK has an international obligation to reduce and abolish these weapons.

“And we can be a beacon for upholding the standards of international law. An independent Scotland would not be dragged into an illegal, immoral conflict such as Iraq and would emulate the respectful approach towards UN resolutions by many of our Commonwealth friends.

“The election result in May was an expression of self-confidence by Scotland. The London-led parties ran a scare-mongering campaign that claimed Scotland was too small and too poor to look after its own affairs.

“Our desire is simply for Scotland to co-operate with others on an equal basis, to be a good neighbour and a sovereign citizen of the Commonwealth and the world.”