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10 September 2014

Do the party leaders’ promises of more power to Scotland mean anything?

William Hague has told the House that the party leaders' indications of further devolution to Scotland are not government policy.

By harry harry

This post was originally published on our new elections site, May2015.com.

Gordon Brown has been joined in Scotland by David Cameron and Ed Miliband. Together the three are pledging new policies in a bid to keep the Union together. But who is in charge of the British government’s offer?

Is David Cameron? He is the only one with any formal authority, but his party holds just 1 of Scotland’s 59 seats, and he is the less trusted politician in Scotland, by those YouGov track.

Ed Miliband leads the party that controls nearly all of Scotland’s Westminster seats (Labour hold 40 out of 59), and are the only Westminster party with much representation in the Scottish Parliament.

But he has as little power in Scotland as he does in the House of Commons, and he is scarcely more trusted north of the border than Cameron.

Gordon Brown, still an MP despite appearances to the contrary, has stepped into this void. Over the weekend he seemed to take over responsibility for government policy, promising “nothing less than a modern form of Scottish Home Rule”.

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Scotland’s Labour and Conservative leaders, Johnan Lamont and Ruth Davidson, then endorsed the plan. As Davidson put it, “Gordon Brown outlined the way the plan would work last night, the Prime Minister endorsed it and I am delighted to stand here to welcome it.”

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But today William Hague, the newly appointed Leader of the House of Commons, reassured an inquiring Tory MP that:

“The statements by the party leaders made on this in the last few days are statements by party leaders in a campaign, not a statement of Government policy today but a statement of commitment from the three main political parties, akin to statements by party leaders in a general election campaign of what they intend to do afterwards.

It’s on that basis they have made those statements.”

In other words, the UK government does not stand behind anything the party leaders are saying.