A package of reforms to the United Kingdom could help persuade voters considering backing independence and the SNP to instead support the Liberal Democrats, Willie Rennie has said.
He was speaking as he joined forces with Lib Dem veteran Sir Menzies Campbell before campaigning was suspended on Friday, launching a new report calling for sweeping changes to UK politics.
Sir Menzies warned that without reform the union between Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland would “become less and less cohesive”.
The former Liberal Democrat leader said: “The one thing I do believe is that the present system was going to bust, if not now then sooner or later.
“I’ve always been opposed to independence, but I have always been in favour of home rule.”
The Liberal Democrats are calling for the first-past-the-post system in Westminster elections to be ditched, and replaced with the single transferrable vote.
The Bring Our Country Together report also suggests that members of the House of Lords be elected using proportional representation, and that Westminster passes a law making it clear that the UK Parliament will not legislate in devolved areas without the consent of the parliaments in the other nations.
A UK Council of Ministers should be set up, bringing together the UK Prime Minister with the first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as the London mayor and others.
Speaking about the package of reforms, Mr Rennie said: “We need to have a better way of agreeing together across the United Kingdom in order to deal with the massive challenges we face.
“We’ve got the immediate one of the pandemic, the climate, the jobs crisis that has flowed from the pandemic, and there is many other challenges. If we work together we have got a better chance of overcoming them.
“We need to reform the UK in a progressive way in order to ensure we get the best out of the United Kingdom.”
He added that the proposals from the Lib Dems “contrast with the disruption that would come from independence”.
Mr Rennie said: “This is the kind of change that would be incrementally implemented and could be done in an orderly fashion, as opposed to the disruption of independence.”
The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, who was campaigning in Edinburgh, continued: “This is a package that could be attractive to those who have rejected the Conservatives, who are looking at independence but are not quite convinced yet, but they know they want the UK to change.
“And those people who might be thinking about voting SNP should look at these proposals, because they are substantial reforms that will improve the UK to meet their needs.”
Meanwhile Sir Menzies said the pandemic has shown how federalism could work “effectively” in practice across the United Kingdom.
The former MP cited how the devolved nations had adopted “slightly different measures” to curb the spread of the virus, while the UK had worked to procure vaccines.
He said: “The recent pandemic has shown how federalism could work effectively with devolved responsibilities for health protection, resulting in slightly different measures in different parts of the country but all governments working together on the rollout of the vaccine or the supply of PPE for example.”