Before going in to address a class of first year law students at Aberdeen University, last November, the head of the Law School took me aside and said, “Just to be aware. Most of your audience can’t remember a Scotland without a Scottish Parliament.” And, of course, these students were only about four years old, when the first elections to that Parliament were held fifteen years ago last week.
To those of us who campaigned so long and hard to create the Parliament, it doesn’t seem so long ago. But that a new generation of young Scots takes the Parliament’s existence for granted is a welcome affirmation that we achieved the permanent legacy of a transfer of power that has brought government closer to the people of Scotland.
For those who have always known a Scottish Parliament, they have lived in times when we have had the best of both worlds. A strong Scottish Parliament which shapes our domestic agenda while working together across the UK to unlock shared economic and social advancement.
Before the creation of the Scottish Parliament, much of the constitutional debate had been around which powers should be transferred from Westminster, not how they might be used. The devolution settlement put that issue to bed for a time. As a member of the first coalition government in Scotland, I was one of those grappling with the question of what we did with those powers.
As Liberal Democrats, we know that that power is not an end in itself. It is a means to deliver the kind of social change and Liberal reform that Scotland needs. It is through the exercise of power that we can support individuals and families, help businesses and build a fairer society – that is what we sought to achieve in government.
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