Scotland Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:37 pm on 27th January 2011.

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Photo of Fiona O'Donnell Fiona O'Donnell Labour, East Lothian 2:37 pm, 27th January 2011

I expect that it is a reflection of what has happened to my life since coming to this place.

I begin, rather unusually, by apologising to Pete Wishart for my rather bad-tempered intervention. It makes me angry when I hear the SNP, given its record, complaining about the process that has brought us here today, and the Calman commission. It also makes me angry when the hon. Gentleman questions whether the Bill will receive due scrutiny. I hope that, now he has heard the comments of my hon. Friend Ann McKechin, he realises that Labour will give the Bill due scrutiny, and that he will also welcome the inquiry by the Scottish Affairs Committee, on which Dr Whiteford serves. That will give us further opportunities to examine the Bill.

I remind the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire that the Calman commission consulted the public, experts and interested groups at 12 local engagement events all over Scotland. It received 300 written submissions, and held 50 public and 27 private evidence sessions. That compares more than favourably with the national conversation. The hon. Gentleman asked my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North how much it had cost. A conversation among Unionists is a far bigger conversation than one just among nationalists.

I am particularly pleased to be speaking in today's debate because I follow in the footsteps of John P. Mackintosh. His approach was one of integrity and commitment, and he wanted genuine constitutional reform and the flourishing of the democratic expression of the Scottish people. I should like to remind Members who have visited the Scottish Parliament, and to inform those who have not, that the Donald Dewar room at Holyrood carries this quote from John P. Mackintosh:

"People in Scotland want a degree of government for themselves. It is not beyond the wit of man to devise the institutions to meet these demands."

Labour finally devised the institution to meet those demands and delivered on Keir Hardie's original aim of home rule. Another of my predecessors, John Hume Robertson, not only believed in home rule, but lived and breathed it as he served East Lothian in both the House of Commons and the Scottish Parliament.

Constitutional reform should rise above party politics. The SNP has shown throughout today's debate not only that its politics are separatist, but that its approach to politics-the way it does politics-is separatist. The Labour way is to work with other parties to achieve consensus, which is what it has done through the Scottish Constitutional Convention and the Calman commission. SNP representatives were absent from both, which must make theirs the longest political huff in history. They are less outside the tent than squatting on a different campsite altogether. Indeed, they have not been happy campers, although there have been an unusual number of references to caravans.

We today take Scotland forward to a new era. It is right and it is time that the Scottish Parliament takes greater responsibility for its expenditure and matches that with accountability. Of course, the Bill goes further than that in giving substantial borrowing powers to Scotland. I hope that we can now move away from a time when the SNP Government used every capital building programme as an opportunity to fight at Westminster, rather than as an opportunity to fight for Scotland.

SNP Members have still to tell us whether they will vote for the Bill or seek to wreck it today. They have an opportunity to see Scotland move forward, but they appear to be unwilling even now to rise to give us clarity on that question- [ Interruption . ]