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SNP veteran pushes for Scottish Speaker’s convention

30 July 2007

Gavin Yates (Edinburgh, GYMedia): Alex Neil the SNP MSP has had a busy weekend briefing his vision of a Speaker’s Convention to newspapers. The idea is for a constitutional convention based upon the Westminster model of the Speaker’s Conference aimed at examining gaining extra powers for Holyrood on a cross party basis. This would be short of full independence but could be less politically difficult to achieve considering the unionist majority at Holyrood. The current Presiding Officer, Alex Ferguson (a former conservative MSP that gave up his party allegiance on taking on the role of PO) has not ruled out chairing such a conference.

The news comes after Chris Thomson posted on OK about a new Scottish Constitutional Convention that he and others have called. Perhaps both organisations could support each other’s work. Neil’s vision is different, it is for a speaker’s conference that would comprise cross-party representatives and civil society. He pointed out that in Wales, there has already been agreement between Labour and Plaid Cymru on additional powers for the Welsh Assembly.

He said: "I'm suggesting that we should follow suit in Scotland and within a year to 18 months at the most, we should try to have agreement by the parliament based on the recommendations of a Presiding Officer's conference." The SNP’s current position is based upon the white paper that I posted about a few days ago. It remains to be seen if this is Alex Neil ‘freelancing’ or providing a tidy back-up plan for his party so it can gain more powers for the Scottish parliament short of a full-referendum.

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