Labour's Buddy Nicol Stephen - Still denying Scotland a choice on Union
Lib Dems flag up home rule block to SNP pact
DEPUTY First Minister Nicol Stephen has ruled out a coalition with the SNP if they insist on holding a referendum on independence. In an interview with Scotland on Sunday on the eve of this week's Lib Dem conference, the Scottish party leader issued a firm denial that he would agree to a referendum in return for a seat in an SNP cabinet.
Speculation has been mounting at Holyrood that the Lib Dems were considering a coalition with the Nationalists after next May's election. However, in order to do so, the two parties would need to agree on the SNP's plans to hold an independence referendum.
Stephen was believed to have been open-minded about the issue but he said: "We are clearly opposed to a referendum on independence. We are not a party that supports independence, and the only reason for holding a referendum would be as a first step to separation."
Aides said Stephen's opposition to a referendum was unbending. It leaves the prospect of an SNP-Lib Dem pact looking increasingly unlikely, and the likelihood of the Lib Dems once again heading for a partnership with Labour after next year's poll.
Talk of an SNP-Lib Dem coalition has been talked up following several polls over the summer which show the two parties gaining ground on Labour, suggesting they could gain enough seats to win a majority in the Scottish Parliament.
Stephen claimed the Lib Dems had a realistic chance of becoming the largest party in Scotland after next May's poll. As a result, he revealed that he intended to scrap the clause in the party's current constitution which states that after a Scottish election, it should speak to the largest party.
"We will delete the clause that says we must speak to the largest party because we believe we will be the largest party," he said.
Stephen's categorical opposition to an independence referendum was criticised by SNP leader
Alex Salmond last night. "What Mr Stephen should do is reflect on the fact that by a margin of more than two-to- one, Liberal voters support an independence referendum, and by a similar margin they oppose a continuing coalition with the Labour party," Salmond said.
"If they continue to stay in Labour's pocket, then they will be destroyed by the electorate. If the SNP win the election, then we will be entitled to ask for a mandate.
"That is the decision of the electorate and a party that tries to gainsay that will find themselves in desperate trouble with the Scottish electorate."
Liberal Democrats not democratic about Scotland
From: Letters (Glasgow Herald) September 25 2006
AS A former Liberal Democrat activist who returned my party card after 20 years in protest at the revolting coup which overthrew Charles Kennedy, I find little in Malcolm Bruce's letter (September 23) to tempt me back. Mr Bruce appears to echo the outright rejection by Nicol Stephen of an independence referendum as some sort of warped "principle".
As a Liberal Democrat I was never troubled by the idea of independence either way. I have certainly never seen it as "separatism" as Nicol Stephen claimed six times in a single interview last week, and there are, indeed, many LibDems within my former party who regard it as a positive move.
I can recall attending fringe meetings on behalf of democratic rights in such countries as Burma, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Tibet and Iran at Liberal Democrat conferences.
Why does my former party oppose the same rights for Scotland, and what are my former colleagues so afraid of losing if Scotland opts for self-determination? Their careers, perhaps? If that is all that remains of our once great party then there is precious little reason left to vote Liberal Democrat next year. With a lot of regret I now announce myself a first-time floating voter in 2007.
Pete Ellis, Marshall Lodge, Station Road, Coupar Angus
A LibDem voter’s reasons for not doing it again
September 26 2006
September 26 2006
TRY as I may, I cannot do other than deplore the LibDem decision to rule out any form of a pact with the SNP in the certain event of no party winning a majority of votes in the Holyrood election. The greatest thing the LibDems have done in recent years was to vote against the Iraq war. It was a stand that won the admiration of many of us.
Events have shown their principled and clearly thought-out position to be well founded. The war has exacerbated Iraq's problems rather than solved them. Now we have a situation in which more people are dying per month in Iraq than were killed in 9/11, torture is far more prevalent than in the days of Saddam and the country has spiralled into civil war. It was this stand that secured my vote at the General Election.
The LibDems now, however, have apparently jettisoned principle and are only too willing to jump back into bed after the Holyrood elections with the party whose leader, Tony Blair, led Britain into that war on a tissue of lies. Any attempt by the LibDems to argue spuriously that Labour north and south of the border are two distinct entities is farcical. Scottish constituency Labour parties not only send MSPs to Holyrood, they also send MPs to Westminster. And Scottish Labour MPs were among those who most vociferously lampooned Charles Kennedy when he attempted to put the case for not going to war.
Labour deserves to be punished north and south of the border but the LibDems are apparently not prepared to participate in its punishment. In fact, quite the reverse is true. It should be noted that the LibDems have not ruled out continuing in coalition with Labour. And Labour knows that only a big LibDem vote can cause it to retain control in Scotland. In short, yesterday's men and women of principle have, in effect, let it be known that they will be tomorrow's Labour fellow-travellers.
A B Robertson, Window Rock, Innellan.
Letter from Scotsman:
Points of view
The Liberal Democrats tell us that they will not enter a pact with the SNP unless the SNP drops its plans to hold a referendum on independence, which is about as silly a statement as insisting that they won't enter into a pact with vegetarians unless they drop their aversion to eating meat. Democrats? You must be joking.
David McEwan Hill Sandbank, Argyll