Page last updated at 15:07 GMT, Sunday, 15 March 2009

Scott: 'End independence panto'

Tavish Scott
Tavish Scott wants plans for an independence referendum dropped

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott has demanded the Scottish Government ditches its planned independence referendum.

Mr Scott told the SNP to drop the "independence panto" and focus on tackling the recession.

At the Scottish Lib Dem conference, he branded the SNP government's planned Referendum Bill a waste of cash

Mr Scott said economic recovery was his party's top priority, and called for more powers for Holyrood to achieve it.

Attacking the SNP in his first Scottish conference speech as leader, Mr Scott said: "You cannot waste taxpayers' money, government time and parliamentary debates on a cause that the country doesn't want and the economy can't bear.

Nothing has made me angrier than to see jobs and businesses threatened on such a scale by the banking crisis
Tavish Scott
Scottish Lib Dem leader

"Ditch the referendum. Forget the spin and politics of the independence panto. Put the needs of Scotland before the interests of the SNP."

Mr Scott's address to delegates in Perth came a day after he told BBC he could never fully rule out a referendum, which the Scottish Government currently does not have enough parliamentary support to stage.

Hitting out at "greedy bankers", Mr Scott went on to say the economy had been "brought low".

He added: "The recession is not an economic theory but a brash reality for every business, home and citizen in Scotland today."

The Lib Dem leader accused the prime minister for "fixing" the takeover of Scottish-based bank HBOS by Lloyds, when he said it should have remained independent.

He added: "The country knows the banking shambles is Labour's shambles. Gordon Brown's shambles."

Mr Scott said the financial crisis had also shown shadow chancellor George Osborne to be "useless".

He added: "A man who thinks a bank crisis is when you forget the pin number on your Coutts gold card.

'Practical help'

"Nothing has made me angrier than to see jobs and businesses threatened on such a scale by the banking crisis - yet the Tories have nothing to say."

Mr Scott urged Liberal Democrats to respond to the crisis, as he described a world where people were worried about keeping their jobs and homes and making ends meet.

"This party will work every hour on the needs of people, businesses and families," he said.

"We will work every day to build practical help for people now, when they need it most.

"Liberal Democrats are ready to rebuild the jobs, homes and hope destroyed by this recession."

Mr Scott said the Scottish Parliament needed more devolved responsibility from Westminster, such as cash borrowing powers, to get Scotland "back to work".

He also said the Scottish Government had adopted the Lib Dems' economic recovery plan, while the party had convinced Holyrood ministers to build new schools and work with the Calman Commission, which is investigating devolution, 10 years on.

Mr Scott also said more must be done to protect vulnerable people, following the death of Brandon Muir, the 23-month-old boy who was killed by his mother's boyfriend in Dundee.

"No government can be indifferent to a 23-month-old boy left by his mother at a drug-crazed party, sick and dying, while she works the streets as a prostitute to earn money, not for that small life, but to feed her heroin habit."

"Thousands of young Scottish children grow up in drug-fuelled families. We need to do better - a society, a caring Scotland, a Scotland where local people do ask, do care, don't ignore - a Scotland where those young lives, our country's future, are first in our thoughts and our actions."

Mr Scott also defended the decision for UK Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg not to attend the Scottish conference, after recently becoming a father again.

Politics were vital, said Mr Scott, but family came first.

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