POWER BOOST FOR HOLYROOD; PM 'Open' to Further Devolution

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Byline: Alan Roden Scottish Political Editor

DAVID Cameron last night paved the way for a cross-party deal to hand sweeping new powers to the Scottish parliament.

He said he was 'very open' to further devolution and said opposition parties would be invited to join him in talks.

But the Prime Minister insisted the issue could only be discussed following a No vote in next year's independence referendum.

That appeared to place him at odds with Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, who has promised that proposals for more powers will be on the table before the vote. However, a senior Downing Street source last night said the party would press ahead with its own ideas - and a final decision on the devolution settlement would be agreed by the Government after the referendum.

Scotland Office Minister David Mundell also waded into the debate at the party's conference by insisting that Holyrood must be more responsible for the money it spends.

New powers must be sufficient to 'eliminate the danger' of another referendum on independence following a No vote, he said.

The future of the UK will take centre stage in Manchester today, where a 'Stronger Together' rally led by Miss Davidson will be held on the main stage minutes before Mr Cameron's keynote speech.

All three main Unionist parties now officially support more powers, meaning a No vote is almost certain to reduce Westminster's role in Scottish politics.

Many Tories have grave concerns about further devolution and some Labour MPs are also alarmed, but party strategists believe the offer will help to crush Alex Salmond's dream of separation.

Opinion polls repeatedly suggest there is widespread support for more powers and anything other than a huge victory for the No campaign could put independence back on the agenda within years.

Speaking to STV yesterday, Mr Cameron said: 'I am very open to those suggestions [on more powers]. But I think we have to hear the answer about whether Scotland wants to stay or go first.

'If Scotland wants to stay, I think there then is an opportunity for all parties - Labour, Conservative, SNP, Lib Dem - to look right across the United Kingdom [and ask] how do we make our UK work better? …