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Last Updated: Friday, 29 February 2008, 17:12 GMT
Scots Lib Dems 'can be different'
Nick Clegg at conference
Mr Clegg said the Scottish party could be different

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has given his blessing to Scottish colleagues to have different policies from main UK party.

He also set his party the task of doubling its current tally of 12 Scottish MPs within six years.

Mr Clegg set out his vision in a keynote speech at the Scottish Liberal Democrats conference in Aviemore.

It was the first since the Lib Dems lost power at Holyrood in last May's Scottish election.

Mr Clegg also claimed it was his party which was the leading force in the previous eight years of coalition government with Labour at Holyrood.

'Tall order'

He said the Scottish Parliament was established to hand power to those who knew how best to use it.

Mr Clegg said: "Does that mean that our Scottish party might have different policies from the Welsh party or the English party?

"Yes it might - and that's fine by me.

"That's what our vision for home rule is all about. The principles that guide our party are universal but the circumstances that shape our politics are not."

The big ideas, the big achievements, of the first eight years of devolution were Liberal Democrat ideas
Nick Clegg

On the call for 24 MPs in Scotland, Mr Clegg said: "It's a tall order and it won't be easy, but we can get there.

"We can only shape the future if we push our way to the centre of power, elected on a mandate for change."

Mr Clegg went on to claim Labour had run out of steam, adding: "The big ideas, the big achievements, of the first eight years of devolution were Liberal Democrat ideas - each and every one of them.

"And they were not achieved because of the Labour Party - they were achieved in spite of the Labour Party."

Mr Clegg went on to claim that the Tories, "which never wanted a parliament in the first place", "now hangs around at the feet of (first minister) Alex Salmond in the desperate hope of scraps from his table".

And less than a year after the SNP took power in Scotland, he added, there was barely an idea, policy or commitment that the party had been unwilling to sling overboard.

"In government, they have found that reality bites," said Mr Clegg.

"Bluster, hubris and spin have been their cover for a record of broken promises and over-centralisation."



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