Rennie fears ‘sinister’ SNP domination

SCOTTISH Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie today warned of the “sinister” signs of how the SNP could centralise power in an independent Scotland.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 8th October 2011, 5:39 pm

He hit out at “creeping political control” of the civil service and accused the Nationalists of intimidating businesses and charities to adopt their views.

Mr Rennie was using his first party conference speech as leader to outline concerns about the SNP’s “domination, control and manipulation”, claiming it gave an insight into what independence could be like.

He was due to tell delegates in Dunfermline this afternoon: “We remember the fears that people had about devolution – that it would result in Labour domination and ‘Strathclyde writ large’.

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“Who would have imagined that it would be an SNP Government that exerts such domination, control and manipulation? That is why we are right to make sure that communities and individuals have more control over their local areas.

“We’re prepared to be awkward because concentrating power at the centre corrupts.”

Mr Rennie was outspoken earlier in the week over comments made by Scotland’s top civil servant Sir Peter Housden on an internal civil service website about the country’s constitutional future.

He was expected to say this afternoon: “We’ve already seen that creeping political control over our independent civil service – Scotland’s Permanent Secretary expressing overt political opinions in a drift from impartiality; government agencies being used to make a party political case for the ruling party; and intimidation of business and charities to adopt their view of the world.

“This is a sinister development that threatens and gives an insight into what an independent Scotland may look like – and it isn’t pretty.

“Individual Scots have more opportunities to achieve all they can – in work, education and quality of life – because of the UK.

“For all the opportunities there are for Scots across Britain, we still have a government in Scotland that wants to put up a barrier.”

n The head of the UK civil service has said Sir Peter Housden’s comments on the constitution in the wake of the SNP’s election victory were not inconsistent with the code of conduct on impartiality.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Sir Gus O’Donnell has made clear that it is entirely appropriate for the Permanent Secretary to explain and contextualise government policy to staff.”