Clegg To Address Party Conference

Unionist parties are coming closer to broad agreement on more devolution for Scotland as an alternative to independence, according to the Deputy Prime Minister.

Nick Clegg is expected to claim there is an ``ever hardening consensus'' between Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Conservatives, when he addresses his party conference in Aberdeen today. 

The referendum on September 18 is about capturing imaginations, he will tell the Scottish Lib Dem conference. 

``Just as it is right that we must explain the risks and consequences of Scotland voting to leave the union, we must also set out the opportunities of voting to stay,'' he will say. 

``The prospect of remaining in the UK must be just as thrilling as the drama of leaving it. 

``Rejecting independence will not be choosing the status quo. It must, I believe, be a giant leap towards our long-held liberal vision: home rule. 

``The debate over Scotland's future has meant the opportunity to deliver it has never been greater. 

``There is now an ever-hardening consensus between the Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Conservatives over greater devolution to Scotland.'' 

The comments come one week after Scottish Labour held its conference with a focus on plans for greater devolution. 

The Scottish Conservatives are currently putting together their plan. 

Mr Clegg's next autumn conference is due to be held in Scotland just two weeks after the referendum. 

``I hope, and I believe, that when we meet on the Clyde six months from now it will be to celebrate the affirmation of our UK family of nations, and Scotland's place within it,'' the Lib Dem leader will say. 

``That decision is of course one for people in Scotland to take. I'm not here to hector, or lecture or frighten people, much as the SNP will doubtless want to claim that I have. 

``But I will say this: In our competitive, fast-moving, interconnected world, we are all stronger together and poorer apart.'' 

Chief Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander will also address the conference today. 

He will compare independence with the split between actress Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin. 

The pair announced the end of their 10-year marriage this week - which they termed a ``conscious uncoupling''. 

Mr Alexander will say: ``I love Scotland and I love Britain - we must defend against any conscious uncoupling of that great relationship. 

``Make no mistake, in terms of the history of our country, we are at five minutes to midnight. So, it's timely that we are gathered in Aberdeen. 

``Our resolve to keep Scotland a strong part of the United Kingdom must be as solid as the rock from which this great city is built. 

``There has never been a more important time for liberalism to come to the fore in our national life.''