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Powers talks appointments unveiled

A "contentious" academic, an ex-Scottish Secretary and two former party leaders have been unveiled as the first political appointments to a cross-party commission on more powers for Scotland.

The Conservative Party has appointed Professor Adam Tomkins and former Scottish Conservative leader Baroness Annabel Goldie as its representatives on Lord Smith of Kelvin's Scotland Devolution Commission.

The Liberal Democrats have put forward former Scottish Secretary Michael Moore and ex-Scottish Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott to advance their vision of home rule within a federal UK.

Prof Tomkins, from Glasgow University's school of public law, was a controversial figure during the independence campaign, publicly clashing with SNP MSPs on Holyrood's Europe Committee.

SNP convener Christina McKelvie closed down a heated debate between Mr Tomkins and SNP MSP Willie Coffey, insisting it was becoming "contentious", despite Tory and Labour protestations that Mr Tomkins should be allowed to continue with his evidence.

Mr Tomkins emerged from the debate insisting that he felt he had been "told off" by the convener and went on to demand a formal apology from Mr Coffey for treating him with "disrespect".

Ms Goldie stood down as Scottish Conservative leader following the SNP's landslide Holyrood victory in 2011 and was later appointed to the House of Lords.

Current Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: "Adam and Annabel gave an invaluable contribution to the Strathclyde Commission on further devolution and I have full confidence that their engagement with Lord Smith's work will enhance this process."

The Lib Dems have welcomed former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown's recent conversion to federalism and the SNP's desire to use Mr Brown's prediction of "a modern form of Scottish home rule" within a federal UK within two years as a benchmark for its own devolution expectations.

Mr Moore said the talks must not result in "the lowest common denominator" of increased powers.

He added: "I want to see a federal United Kingdom. I'm not sure that we will quite achieve that in one bound, not least because it is also about how the rest of the United Kingdom wants to be part of that.

"We need to have the agreement of England, Wales and Northern Ireland to that process."

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie sought to quell concerns that Prime Minister David Cameron's desire to see English devolution to proceed alongside Scottish devolution would hamstring the Smith Commission.

He said: "He's been very clear that although the two processes might run in tandem they're not coupled, one is not contingent on the other."

First Minister Alex Salmond said he will stand "shoulder to shoulder" with Gordon Brown and Willie Rennie in their calls for Scottish home rule within a federal UK.

However, he questioned the Liberal Democrats' support for the Barnett Formula, the method for calculating Scotland's share of UK spending, which the SNP insists must not be scrapped.

The Liberal Democrats' Home Rule Commission, led by former leader Sir Menzies Campbell, said any future devolution must recognise "that the Barnett Formula was only ever intended to be a temporary measure".

Speaking at First Minister's Questions, Mr Salmond said: "I think Willie Rennie is at some stage going to have to clarify what exactly the Liberal Democrats are proposing."

He also said all of the parties' devolution proposals fall short of the full fiscal autonomy, known as devo max, that some No voters have demanded including Harry Potter author and Better Together donor JK Rowling.


From Belfast Telegraph