Jack McConnell warns of devolution ‘car crash’

Jack McConnell. Picture: Julie Bull
Jack McConnell. Picture: Julie Bull
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FORMER First Minister Jack McConnell has described the timetable for agreeing more powers for Holyrood as “a car crash waiting to happen”.

He said the commission chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin would find it hard to meet the expectations raised during the final weeks of the referendum campaign and warned that all the three main UK parties would have to change their stance.

The first cross-party talks called by Lord Smith were postponed yesterday because they clashed with a House of Commons debate on devolution.

The commission has been given until November 30, St Andrew’s Day, to produce an agreed package on more powers for the Scottish Parliament in line with a pledge signed by all three main UK party leaders during the campaign.

Lord McConnell launched his attack during a meeting of an all-party parliamentary group on devolution.

He said: “This timetable is a car crash waiting to happen. Either expectations will not be met or they will be met and the proposals will either be unworkable or they will be seen as inadequate.

“I think we have a real problem over these next few weeks to generate enough public debate to get a sensible set of proposals that could provide a long-term settlement.”

He criticised the way the pro-Union parties had reacted to polls in the closing stages of the campaign showing the Yes camp closing the gap or even ahead.

He said: “The panic was unnecessary, the level of expectation now set out is very hard to meet. but at least in some way the timetable and the expectation must be met.

“And that means trying to generate public debate between now and St Andrew’s Day, but also it’s going to mean all three main parties moving from their current proposals.

“None of the current proposals meet the expectation that was raised during the last ten days of the campaign.”

Former Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said there would always be demands for more time to reach agreement on big issues. But he said: “There has been a lot of advance thinking going on, the parties have set out their proposals.”

The three UK party leaders came under fire for failing to attend yesterday’s Commons debate, SNP Westminster Leader Angus Robertson said: “In the closing days of the referendum campaign they were happy to go to Scotland to make their solemn Vow when they thought they were losing.

“Now the ‘three amigos’ can’t be bothered going a few yards to the chamber of the House of Commons.”