Peer confident of agreement on devolved powers

Eshiels peer Lord Robert Smith has said he will give as much weight as he can to the public’s views on more devolved powers for Scotland.

He met businesspeople, academics and councillors at Heriot-Watt University’s Galashiels campus on Wednesday, before going on to Peebles to meet Citizens Advice Bureau staff and Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce.

Lord Smith talks to students at Heriot Watt University's School of Textiles and Design in Galashiels.

Lord Smith talks to students at Heriot Watt University's School of Textiles and Design in Galashiels.

Asked if he felt confident that the timescale for new powers for Scotland would not be delayed or derailed by arguments for more devolution south of the border, Lord Smith said: “My job is very clear. I have to get heads of agreement and more powers for Scotland, so I am not looking to the right, left or anywhere else. That is what I am concentrating on and I do not expect interference.”

With the five Holyrood parties having already submitted their proposals to the Smith Commission, Lord Smith urged organisations across the whole of Scotland to put forward their views by the deadline of October 31, as well as members of the public.

Lord Smith said: “We set up the website only 11 days ago and have had 5,000 emails from people, but I thought that I personally needed to get out and meet real people out there – just get the mood music, hear what is going on.”

Michael Moore MP is among the representatives of the five parties working with the commission to produce an agreement by November 30.

Lord Smith said: “I’m speaking to the five political parties, trying to get a consensus, and they are entering into the spirit of real co-operation, so I’m pretty confident we are going to get somewhere.

He added: “This is going to be heads of agreement, this is going to be five political parties at Holyrood signing up to new powers.

“I will then go to Downing Street and the three major political parties down there. We don’t know what the political shape is going to be come next May, but all those parties have said whatever we come up with here, if those five Holyrood parties agree, then that will be implemented in legislation, whoever is in government next May.”

On the importance of the public’s engagement, Lord Smith said: “This is going to be delivered through the five political parties. That is how we do things – we have to get these recommendations turned into an Act of Parliament eventually – but I will be saying to the parties: ‘This is what civic Scotland is saying, this is what the emails – perhaps tens of thousands of them by the time we get to the end of October – are saying, and this is what the people on the street are saying’.

“We have to take all of those views into account as well, so I will be giving them as much weight as I can.”