GLASGOW Scotland (Reuters) - The British government on Thursday pledged to grant Scots more autonomy if they vote to reject independence and stay a part of the United Kingdom.
Scotland votes in a Sept. 18 referendum on whether to break away from the United Kingdom, and while polls show Scots remain doubtful about separation, the proportion of those supporting independence has increased this year. Many are still undecided.
In an attempt to persuade undecided Scots that they will enjoy greater autonomy if they preserve the union, Alistair Carmichael, the minister responsible for Scotland, promised talks on devolution within weeks of a vote against independence.
“In the event of a No vote, change will come. Scotland’s parliament will have more powers,” Carmichael, who was born in Islay in the Inner Hebrides, told engineers at a dinner in Glasgow, 350 miles (550 km) north of London.
“If Scots vote to stay within the UK family, as I believe we will, only then can we ask those who wanted to leave to set aside their differences with us, work together, and deliver a package of powers around which Scotland can unite.”
Scotland already enjoys a large measure of devolution. It has had its own parliament since 1999 with the power to legislate in policy areas such as education, health and the environment.
But polls have shown that many Scots would prefer a transfer of further powers instead of independence.
Politicians from across the spectrum, including Prime Minister David Cameron and his Liberal Democrat coalition partners, have already promised Scotland more, unspecified, powers if it remains in the 307-year-old union.
But the Scottish National Party (SNP) said that only independence could guarantee Scots the sort of powers the majority favour.
“David Cameron has totally refused to confirm what, if any, powers might be devolved after a No vote,” said Linda Fabiani, an SNP member of the Scottish Parliament, who added that Carmichael’s Liberal Democrat party had been promising devolution for a century.
“Only a Yes vote can deliver the powers Scotland needs.”
Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Gunna Dickson