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Wings Over Scotland


The devolution reality check

Posted on August 14, 2012 by

The Scottish media is predictably excited about Gordon Brown’s latest intervention in the independence debate. Giving a speech at the Edinburgh Book Festival, the Kirkcaldy MP who’s barely turned up in Parliament to represent his constituents in the two-and-a-quarter years since being deposed as Prime Minister abandoned any pretence at a positive case for the Union and presented a doom-laden picture of a future Scotland slashing pensions, welfare and defence while increasing taxes.

The No camp’s united policy on the Scottish constitution, in so far as one can be ascertained at all, is that the Scottish people should reject independence and then rely on Westminster to give Holyrood more powers, though the campaign steadfastly resists any clarification on what those powers might be.

But the remarkable and eye-opening thing about the former PM’s dire vision regarding pensions, welfare, defence and taxation was that it professed – despite the Scotsman’s clumsily inaccurate headline and confused and contradictory text – to describe a future Scotland not under independence, but so-called “devo-max”.

So if we take Brown as an authoritative spokesman on Scottish Labour policy – and it seems eminently reasonable to do so – we can safely assume that the only other party with even a chance of power in either Holyrood or Westminster has no intention of devolving anything substantial to Scotland any time soon. The petty tinkering of the Calman Commission/Scotland Act does indeed appear to be the limit of devolutionary ambition. And if you think about it, it’s hard to see how it could be any other way.

Because the interesting thing about the “Vote No for more powers” line that the Unionist coalition is trying to sell the Scottish electorate is how quickly it falls apart under the slightest scrutiny. There is, as Brown revealed yesterday, no combination of future Westminster and Holyrood governments under which it’s plausible to envisage any serious transfer of powers. And to illustrate that, let’s take a quick look at the various possibilities following a hypothetical No vote in 2014.

(NB We’re assuming majority governments, but the scenarios are fundamentally unchanged in the event of a coalition or minority administration in either Parliament.)

——————————————————————————–

LABOUR WIN WESTMINSTER, SNP WIN HOLYROOD

As opinion polls currently stand, this will be the outcome of the 2015 and 2016 general elections on respective sides of the border. (In reality we don’t think there’s the slightest chance of UK voters choosing Ed Miliband as their next Prime Minister when it comes to the crunch, but this is a theoretical exercise.)

Hands up, then, if you can genuinely see a Labour government in Westminster handing fiscal autonomy, or anything remotely close to it, to a third SNP administration in Edinburgh. Exactly.

——————————————————————————–

TORIES WIN WESTMINSTER, SNP WIN HOLYROOD

Again, the notion of the Tories voluntarily surrendering serious powers to the SNP is simply ludicrous. Let’s waste no more time on it and move on.

——————————————————————————–

TORIES WIN WESTMINSTER, LABOUR WIN HOLYROOD

Let’s say the Tories hold Westminster because they’ve managed to bring some sort of stability to the economy in the next three years, or at least enough to keep the relatively comfortable swing voters of Middle England onside. And let’s speculate that defeat in the referendum has seen the SNP implode, perhaps rent asunder by a massive schism between fundamentalists and gradualists, and that Scottish Labour has seized its opportunity.

(We don’t think there’s even a ghost of a chance of that actually happening, but again we’re examining all possible theoretical combinations here.)

Once more, the reality of the situation is so stupefyingly obvious that it’s slightly insulting to intelligent readers like this site’s even to spell it out. David Cameron handing major financial powers to Johann Lamont? Yeah, right.

——————————————————————————–

LABOUR WIN WESTMINSTER, LABOUR WIN HOLYROOD

This, of course, is the Utopia that Scottish Labour is desperate to have the electorate believe in. But yet again, even if you accept the frankly demented notion of the people of the UK really choosing Ed Miliband and Johann Lamont as their dream team, the fantasy crumbles at the slightest touch.

Any halfway-attentive observer of politics already knows that Holyrood is the dumping ground of Labour’s B, C and D teams. Its MSPs are such a source of embarrassment to the grown-up London party that Miliband infamously couldn’t even name all three of its Scottish leadership candidates at the end of 2011. Does anyone honestly believe that if it managed to get the levers of British power in the House Of Commons into the hands of its A-team again, Labour would willingly pass control of any of them to the likes of Richard Baker?

——————————————————————————–

What Gordon Brown revealed in stark and explicit detail yesterday is that Labour considers the concept of any further degree of meaningful autonomy for Holyrood to be a nightmare scenario. (Probably at least partly for the reasons outlined in the paragraph above.) Of the four even remotely plausible outcomes of the next UK and Scottish general elections, three immediately rationally preclude any major transfer of powers, and Brown just unequivocally torpedoed the other one.

This won’t come as any surprise to most of us, and it certainly explains why Johann Lamont is so pathologically unwilling to specify which powers might be transferred to the Scottish Parliament after a No vote. But it’s not until you lay out the possible permutations of UK politics in 2016, as we’ve just done, that the “Vote No for more powers” pitch is fully exposed as the cynical lie that it is.

Let’s be clear, then: there is absolutely no chance of Scotland gaining any significant additional control over its affairs in the forseeable future if it votes No to independence. If anyone ever tries to tell you otherwise, direct them to Brown’s speech and then to the four scenarios outlined above, and ask them: which one would lead to London transferring worthwhile powers to Edinburgh, what would those powers be, and how likely it is that Westminster MPs will consider that MSPs would handle them better than they would themselves?

Doesn’t bear much examination, does it? That’s the real reason the Unionist parties won’t back an enhanced-devolution option in the referendum, and why there won’t be one. The choice will be between independence and the status quo, and the latter option will mean precisely that – the status quo, as it stands now, and will continue to stand for decades into the future. Take your pick.

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    The affordability of staying in the Union – part 2 | The Science of Independence

61 to “The devolution reality check”

  1. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

    This is the comment I left over on the Herald on this subject:

    “Mr Brown is set to follow up yesterday’s speech with a powerful critique of handing sweeping extra financial and economic powers to Holyrood. That race to the bottom will start even under devo max, he will argue.”

    And so the mask slips…

    This far and no further. The Unionists will not do anything to further devolution as they fear for their privelidge, gained from a system unfit for the modern world. The only offer is “Jam tommorrow” when tomorrow never comes!

    “No man has the right to fix the boundary of a nation. No man has the right to say to his country – Thus far shalt thou go and no further”Charles Stewart Parnell

  2. MajorBloodnok says:

    It will be interesting to see the results of the SG’s consultation on the referendum, which I am assuming will have a fair few wanting a ‘second question’ on devo-more/max.

    If the Unionists are so dead against devolution of any more powers (what they have convinced themselves that Salmond secretly wants, right?) and there will be nothing on the table at all for the second quesiton then the SG will, rightly. be able to blame the Unionists for letting down the third or so of Scots who currently want the Union but not the status quo.

    The lines will be drawn and it will then become a straight Yes/No fight – and a gift to the YES campaign, I think.  But still, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Unionists start offering vague promises of ‘we’ll see you alright if you only vote No’ at the endgame as they become aware that support for the Union has slipped away from them. But by then it will be too late!

  3. James T says:

    And slowly, it begins. So Gordon has appeared out of the ether to do what he did best before; negative campaigning. Going with the above photo (Darling, Lamont, Davidson), I’m waiting for the king of the rogues to appear ie Blair. I’m really hoping that once he crosses the border and by doing so, he begins tipping the scales and thus allow the %’s for Independence to creep up. I’m even hoping he will cross the border holding Thatcher’s hand!!
    In fact, if it was possible for the Unionists, I honestly believe the would dig the Duke of Queensberry up from his grave (the Scottish Duke who was the chief culprit from the Acts of Union, who lied and deceived, and made a helluva lot of money from it be deceit) and have him do his sly dirty work once again.
    I honestly believe that the people of Scotland should begin to demand, what new powers will be handed to us should the Scots ask for more powers in the 2nd Question (and make no bones about it…it WILL be on the voting paper (that will be added to the paper roughly six months before the referendum. All this posturing about whether we will get that question is just nonsense).
    I will be voting for Independence anyway. What I do want to know if all options are going to be on the table is…what powers will be passed to us through Devo Max. I want the Unionists to tell us (not us just guessing), and I want them to propose it, stamp a date on it, and then sign it.

  4. Peninsula says:

    Bang on. If you want real uncertainty – vote No.

  5. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “the 2nd Question (and make no bones about it…it WILL be on the voting paper)”

    I will happily bet you 20 quid here and now that it won’t.

  6. mato21 says:

    My take on Gordon Brown

    Gordon Brown popped up yesterday,  let hear what he says
    First take of your socks and count all yer taes
    Just don’t lecture Scotland, you don’t stand a chance
    John Swinney could teach you how to deal with finance

    They’ll put up your taxes, they’ll cut what you get
    This man from North Britain who seems to forget
    No more boom no more bust, were words from his mouth
    As we watched our resources all going down south

    He used smoke and mirrors as he strutted the stage
    From a man who’d be king, so lets turn back the page
    And see what he done as he let us all down
    Before  people were scunnered and he was run out of town

    This man who embraced PFI like a lover
    To clear up his mess we’ll be paying forever
    Putting in his expenses he was just like the rest
    Claiming thousands of pounds to feather his nest

    Then having to pay back as mistakes were found out
    That alone sealed the deal if there  ever was doubt
    That the compass he carried to show him the way
    Had broken forever and led him astray

    He’s still at it you know, this man knows no shame
    As he trails round the world he’s still able to claim
    That he’s an MP for Fife, so he takes what he’s due
    In pay and expenses, from me and from you

    We’ve listened real hard, we’ve heard what you say
    But the gravy boat’s sinking it’s well on its way
    To the foot of the Clyde, or the Thames,  if you’d rather
    You North British trougher, a husband a father

       

  7. TheMaganator says:

    Why does the SNP have no say in what the Devo+/Max option should be?

    We are perennially told that the SNP have the mandate for this Ref and no other parties offered anything – therefore the SNP should dictate the terms.

    Why are the SNP not saying what Devo+ should be? It is them who are considering putting it on the ballot – ever other party wants a straight YES/NO.

    If the SNP want a 2nd question – they should tell us what it should be – if the voters want it, they will get it.  

  8. Cuphook says:

    I watched the video of Gordon in action and when he was waving his hands about I expected Scooby and the gang to rush on stage and unmask him.
     
    I loved how he equated Scotland with an English county “The Olympics it is pretty clear – we managed to do it in cycling with pooled resources – if you had just divided the money and put a tenth to Scotland and a tenth to Yorkshire”. He’s one proud North Briton at the moment.
     
    That they’re actually hoping Olympic medals will spike the hopes of the independence movement shows signs of desperation. Why don’t the Unionists go on about the success of Scottish artists and authors? Lets base the future of our country on poetry. It makes as much sense.

  9. balgayboy says:

    And i’ll bet 100 quid (Scottish notes) that come Autumn 2014  the people of Scotland will vote YES to Independence. The anti-Scottish, pro unionist types are already shitting themselves with the nightmare of themselves being alone in their rump UK and the end of their fantasy empire.

  10. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “If the SNP want a 2nd question – they should tell us what it should be”

    The SNP don’t want a second question.

  11. TheMaganator says:

    They are the only party suggesting it. 

     

  12. redcliffe62 says:

    If the only offer is the status quo then that should be the question. Do you want the status quo for future decades with no further powers, or self determination through independence?

  13. TheMaganator says:

    …and I have been told on this blog that the other parties should have no say in this Ref as none of them suggested it – the Scottish people gave the SNP the mandate to dictate this Ref’s terms. 

    If the SNP are pushing for it on the ballot then it surely follows that they should tell us what it means. 
     

  14. Doug says:

    The SNP have made it clear enough. They will not push for a second question, they will not campaign for anything other than independence.  If, however, there is a demand for a second question (and someone is willing to elucidate what the ‘second question’ powers would be) then it would be considered.

    The only people that say the SNP wants a second question (or no question if you’re Ian Smart) are the Unionist parties.

  15. balgayboy says:

    heMaganator says:
    August 14, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    …and I have been told on this blog that the other parties should have no say in this Ref as none of them suggested it – the Scottish people gave the SNP the mandate to dictate this Ref’s terms. 
    If the SNP are pushing for it on the ballot then it surely follows that they should tell us what it means.  Aye very simple: the terms are that the people of Scotland decide what type of government that is democratically elected by the Scottish people that is subject to serve the people of Scotland, nothing more, nothing less. I reckon that is a fair assumption of Independence.

  16. TheMaganator says:

    “The only people that say the SNP wants a second question (or no question if you’re Ian Smart) are the Unionist parties.”

    You will probably find that a lot of people think that what the SNP want and what Salmond wants are two entirely different things. But that is for a different discussion. 

    None of the Unionist parties want a second question. It is not up to them to tell us what any second question would be. If the SNP want to listen to another group, then fine. People should stop calling for Unionists to set-out what the 2nd question should be. 

  17. Dal Riata says:

    Go on Mr. Broon, instead of your gloom and doom and the sky will fall doon if we vote Yes, do tell us what we’ll get for a No …
    …Can’t say? Going to keep it secret until after the referendum? Something shiny, like gold perhaps? Bought and sold for English gold maybe? … Hold on..Wait a minute …There isn’t that much gold left since you sold off 60% of the UK’s gold reserves when gold prices were at the bottom of the market – getting that period known as ‘Brown’s Bottom’ – and losing the UK about US$15.5 billion come 2011 prices, is there? Hhmm, can’t be that then.
    We’re all on tenterhooks here, Mr Broon.The excitement is palpable. Go on, do tell us what we’ll get for a No vote. You know you want to.

  18. Morag says:

    the Scottish people gave the SNP the mandate to dictate this Ref’s terms.

    If the SNP are pushing for it on the ballot then it surely follows that they should tell us what it means.

    I have to ask, are you being deliberately obtuse?

    The SNP cannot offer the people the choice of something it is not in their power to give.  (Or they can, but it would be empty, meaningless and deceitful.)  Holyrood can declare independence, if that’s what people vote for.  The SNP have a majority in Holyrood, therefore they can deliver independence if that’s what the people want.  Holyrood cannot alter the devolution settlement unilaterally.  Only Westminster can alter the devolution settlement.  The SNP do not have a majority in Westminster and can never hope to have a majority in Westminster (seeing as they only contest 50-odd of the 600-odd seats).  Therefore the SNP cannot deliver any form of “devo-max”.

    The SNP, being generally democratically minded, recognise that there are quite a few people in Scotland who would like devo-max, and are therefore calling on the parties which can deliver devo-max (that is, the parties that have power in Westminster) to offer this choice to the people.  They are saying that if these perties undertake to offer an enhanced devolution settlement and deliver if it gets the majority vote, they will include that option on the referendum.  They are further saying that since these parties keep hinting about some sort of “jam tomorrow”, they should step up to the plate and actually put their proposals on the ballot rather than hiding behind vague promises.

    What is it about this that you find so hard to understand?

  19. Doug says:

    “None of the Unionist parties want a second question. It is not up to them to tell us what any second question would be.”

    I’m not saying it is.  However, some are calling for more powers, some for no further powers. None are specifying what powers they want devolved (and which reserved) and most give the impression of reticence in this regard.

    Those that want Devo Max would need a coherent grouping, a ‘vehicle’.  It isn’t going to be the SNP.  If noone else will take on the mantle, ‘Devo Max’ will fall.  What will happen to the votes of those who would prefer Devo Max?

    Will they trust the Unionists to deliver such powers in the event of a ‘No’?  Or will they swing towards a ‘Yes’ as the best option in such a scenario?

    “You will probably find that a lot of people think that what the SNP want and what Salmond wants are two entirely different things. But that is for a different discussion”  – your point being?  He is the leader of the SNP and a very popular one at that.  But he is not independence, no one person is.

  20. balgayboy says:

    TheMaganator says:

    TROLL 

  21. DougtheDug says:

    TheMaganator:
    People should stop calling for Unionists to set-out what the 2nd question should be.

    The Unionists have to set out the second question if it is to be on the ballot paper because any additional powers it proposes for the Scottish Parliament will be granted via a Bill going through the Westminster Parliament.

    To get that Bill through Westminster the magnitude and definition of the powers will have to be acceptable to the bulk of the MP’s in Westminster and the bulk of the MP’s in Westminster represent English Constituencies. 

    A Bill for more devolved powers can only be put through Westminster by a party who has both a majority in Westminster and who can get their English based MP’s to agree to the Bill so they are the ones who have to define the devolved powers for the second question.

    Independence can be taken but devolution has to be granted.

  22. MajorBloodnok says:

    The fact is that David Cameron and other Unionists are on record as having trailed vague promises of “more powers” if we vote NO.  No doubt they didn’t really mean to give any powers to Holyrood and this was meant as a spoiling tactic and to draw votes away from the YES vote.

    However, that option is out there – suggested originally by Unionists, I repeat – and therefore the Scottish Government is currently willing to put that option to the people IF it can be defined by those that suggested it in the first place, rather than through some vague jam tomorrow empty promises.

    Categorically the SNP does not want devo-max, it wants independence, but the unionists raised devo-max so they need to put their money where their mouth is.  However, rather than do that they are now claiming that it is the SNP and Alex Salmond that want devo-max, as a back up plan to stay in power, and to ‘prove’ that even Salmond thinks that Independence isn’t a good idea.  And having constructed this false position for the SNP they are now attacking it – it’s a tactic they have tried again and again against the SNP and Alex Salmond.

    Overall, it’s a load of Unionist baloney, fully aimed at thwarting the democratic will of the Scottish people.

  23. TheMaganator says:

    Yes – questioning your views makes me an obtuse TROLL. 

    If the SNP put 2nd Q on ballot & get a majority voting for it – I cannot see WM saying NO to its terms. 

    @Doug – my point there was re your comments re Smart. Fairly certain he talks of Salmond not wanting the ref to go ahead, not the SNP. My point was that I, and others, think that what Salmond wants, and what the SNP Membership wants are two entirely different things.

  24. James Morton says:

    No offense to the sportsmen & women involved in the games, but do the unionists think that winning medals for the who can run faster in the fastest runner race is going to throw a spanner into the works? They said the Jubilee would do it and it didn’t, they said the royal wedding would do it and it didn’t.

    There will be no legacy, no one will remember the names of the olympians 2 months from now. There will be no bounce to the economy, no new business contracts signed. Osborne will be wheeled out to blame the olympics for the downturn as he has the Wedding, the weather, and the Queens Jubilee.
    None of this has anything to do with the price of bread – and it will come down to bread and butter issues towards the end. The games will be a distant memory, I am not so sure that the commonwealth games in Scotland will acheive anything of note as Salmond hopes. His best mode of attack will be issues effecting each and every one of us. Hopefully he will play the ball to use a sporting phrase, and the unionists will keep on playing the man.

  25. MajorBloodnok says:

    Good grief, are you really suggesting that SNP members have minds of their own and are not a telepathically linked hive, like Scottish Labour?

  26. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “People should stop calling for Unionists to set-out what the 2nd question should be. “

    Um, when has this actually happened? Not on this blog, that’s for sure.

  27. Doug says:

    @TheMagnator –  an interesting point of view, but one lacking in any evidence.  The FM has had many ‘interesting’ views ascribed to him (by others), but he is a man of principle and would not have stuck it out this long if he did not want independence.  What has he to gain from not going all-out for it?  His reputation, his life’s work, would be in ruins!

  28. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Yes – questioning your views makes me an obtuse TROLL.”

    In fairness, bringing this issue up for the 40,000th time when it’s been explained 39,999 times before does rather lay you open to that accusation. Let’s see if we can make it simple.

    1. The SNP wants a single question, because independence is unlikely to win in a three-way choice.

    2. The Unionist parties want a single question, because they don’t want to give any substantial extra powers to Holyrood, particularly when the SNP is in control of it.

    3. A very significant percentage of the public wants a devo-max option.

    4. The SNP is open to at least hearing and considering their opinion, the Unionist parties are not.

    5. If on the other hand you ascribe purely cynical motives to the SNP rather than a genuine regard for democracy, it will suit them just fine to be seen to be considering a devo-max option but to have that popular option blocked by the Unionists.

    6. In either event, it is not in the SNP’s power to offer a devo-max option. If the Unionists don’t, it won’t happen. Therefore the SNP cannot formulate one, no matter what the outcome of the consultation. (The idea that they could steamroller Westminster into accepting any devo-max proposal they concocted if people voted for it is utterly ludicrous and frankly beneath you. It would, for a start, be an outrage against democracy from the point of view of the people of the rUK.)

    Which part are you struggling with?

  29. Morag says:

    If the SNP put 2nd Q on ballot & get a majority voting for it – I cannot see WM saying NO to its terms.

    Sorry, but what are you smoking?  If the SNP unilaterally put Full Fiscal Autonomy (all taxes relating to Scottish endeavour including including all oil revenues, Crown Estates and so on to be retained by Scotland) on a ballot paper and it got 100% of the vote, there is still no way in hell Westminster would grant that.

    You’re effectively saying Salmond can write his own cheque short of independence, put it on a ballot paper, and Westminster has to pony up.  What planet are you on?

  30. TheMaganator says:

    @James Morton – No, I would be surprised if anybody changed their mind based on the Olympics, or the Jubilee.

    There will be those who will vote for Indy (and status quo) whatever the cost. For most, I think, it’ll come down to how either option will benefit them economically. For those who are not that engaged with the debate think it’ll come down to concern over their job and how their mortgage will be paid.

     

  31. Morag says:

    Aonghas Mac Neacaill said, the way we vote will depend ultimately on whether we are persuaded to hope or to fear.

    I vote for hope.

  32. TheMaganator says:

    “In fairness, bringing this issue up for the 40,000th time when it’s been explained 39,999 times before does rather lay you open to that accusation. Let’s see if we can make it simple.”
    I am saying that the SNP should lay out what the second question should be.

    I do not read every part of your blog but you should probably know that just because you ‘explain’ something does not mean what you are saying is correct – even if you are a very good ‘explainer’.

    Questioning it does not make somebody a troll.

  33. McHaggis says:

    “My point was that I, and others, think that what Salmond wants, and what the SNP Membership wants are two entirely different things.”

    Not quite…
    I would suggest its more probable that,
    “…what Salmond wants and what the SNP Membership (or sections of it) wants sometimes differ. In a democratic party, everyone has the right to put their own view over and the SNP regularly debate matters publicly that in truth, makes it appear to some (or more often than not, is reported) as ‘infighting’ . I realise this makes the gestapo led collective approach from London Labour to all matters ‘Scottish Labour’ appear strange and maybe quaint, but it is the way we like to operate.”

    Hows that?
    To me, its much nearer the truth.

  34. Morag says:

    I am saying that the SNP should lay out what the second question should be.

    Well, I reckon it should be, do you agree we should have sunny days all July every year.

    That’ll work, I’m sure.  What could go wrong?

  35. MajorBloodnok says:

    TheMaganator says:  for Indy (and status quo) whatever the cost. For most, I think, it’ll come down to how either option will benefit them economically. For those who are not that engaged with the debate think it’ll come down to concern over their job and how their mortgage will be paid.

    You’d be surprised how many people in Scotland reject such utilitarian notions and are prepared to vote for what is maybe not in their own direct financial interest but what would benefit others and society in general. It’s a concept that those on the right (by which I mean both the Tories and Labour) often have difficulty in grasping.  As Morag says, it’s about voting for hope or voting out of fear.  Let’s vote for hope.

  36. ronlad alexander mcdonald says:

    No Westminster government will give the Scottish Parliament real fiscal powers. The SNP know this. That’s why they invented the phrase Devo Max. It’s a ploy that  the Unionists   will enevitably confess to over the next two years. Hence their dread for a long campaign.

    The majority of Scots want our Parliament to have the normal fiscal powers of a Parliament.  Come Polling day Scots will realise that the only way to achieve this will be Independence.  It’s called educating the masses.

    Brown was quoted as saying that Independence will lead to higher taxes and cuts in public expenditure. That’s exactly what we have now and there will be more to come, as a consequece of the failed austerity programme.  With Independence we can choose a tax and benefit system that suits our needs, not one dictated to by the City Of London.     

        

  37. Kenny Campbell says:

    Can I offer up some sanity advice……Don’t try to argue facts with Michael McKeown in the Herald, he is as thick(on purpose) and obtuse a character as it’s possible to be. Even when you eventually box him into a corner with facts he just stops commenting and moves onto another thread. He makes up ‘facts’ off the cuff and will argue them till the sun sets.
     
    By his own admission he doesn’t support independence as his kids are in Scotland with long suffering ex wife and he doesn’t want to do 2 sets of books for his UK based ‘business’. That is all you need to know.

  38. Erchie says:

    manganator
    it is not for the SNP to lay out a second question.
    The SNP and Unionists both,for slightly different reasons, want one question.
    However, polls say DevoMax is popular and a group, called Civic Scotland, champions it.
    the SNP have said ‘if the other parties want to agree a second question and what it means, we’ll put it on the ballot, otherwise no 2nd question’
    So, it’s not up to the SNP to define such a question, it is for those parties wishing to retain Westminster control, as Westminster has to deliver it.
    and so, dear Manganator, your question is answered, you need wonder no more
     

  39. Kenny Campbell says:

    If Scotland votes NO to independence we can expect years if not decades of the efforts of Westminster and successive puppet governments at eroding Holyrood powers, since its got a bit above its station. Look at the cries we have seen already for a second chamber in Scotland……never mentioned while Labour were ruling the roost.
     
    This is a one shot gun, if we miss Scotland is fucked.

  40. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “I am saying that the SNP should lay out what the second question should be.”

    Why should, would or could the SNP be responsible for defining something they don’t want and have no power to deliver anyway?

  41. Dan Sutton says:

    The combination of a Conservative lead government in Westminster and an SNP government in Holyrood has led to a referendum on Scottish independence.
     
    I don’t see why the combination of a Tory government in Westminster and an SNP government in Holyrood necessarily couldn’t lead to a referendum on devolving additional powers to Holyrood. It might not but given the situation with the governments in London and Edinburgh and the independence referendum and what you are saying about the SNP considering a second question because there seems to be strong public support for one I don’t see why the suggestion that a Tory / SNP combination self-evidently can’t deliver significant further devolution.

  42. Morag says:

    Dan, that would require the Tories to want to deliver it, and to be in a position to deliver it after 2015 too.

    Do you feel lucky?

  43. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “The combination of a Conservative lead government in Westminster and an SNP government in Holyrood has led to a referendum on Scottish independence.”

    No, an SNP government in Holyrood with an absolute majority has led to that. If the SNP didn’t have a majority and we had a Tory government in Westminster, we wouldn’t be having a referendum.

  44. Embradon says:

    My preferred scenario would be for the SNP to say in 2014 –
    “We know from consultation that many want more powers but the Unionists won’t tell you what’s on offer. We say vote YES and we will negotiate for Independence but we will hold another referendum in Autumn 2015 to allow the Scottish people to chose between the independence settlement and any Devo (plus or max) the unionists might offer.” 
    That would allow supporters of further devolution to vote YES and force Labour, Tory and Lib-dem to put their offers on the table while they fight the Westminster election in Spring 2015. It would only be fair that they have to do so, as further devolution would require to be agreed by Westminster and should, therefore, be approved by the whole UK.

  45. scottish_skier says:

    Westminster Tories supporting Scottish independence?
    Sounds like a pipe dream. However, don’t be so sure. 
    The party with the most to lose in a devo maxed or independent Scotland is Labour. The Libs are screwed now. Many Tories see advantage in Scottish independence; just think how right wing they could push things!  
    And then we have the very interesting issue of Westminster boundary changes approaching. The current system is actually very unfair on the Tories; they normally need about 42% of the vote to get an outright majority. Labour can do this on 35%.
    The Tories, if they are to succeed in 2015, really need these boundary changes, especially with the UKIP vote erosion threat. The Libs are not playing ball anymore though.
    However, the Libs and Labour can’t defeat the vote alone. The Tories can rely on the DUP, Lab+lib on the SDLP and I guess the Green? Sinn Fein never turn up. Not sure about the 1 Ulster Alliance.
    So we’re down to the SNP and PC. Could be very tight…
    Will Dave C, leader of the English National Party, need to ask for help from the other national parties of the UK? How would the public react if the SNP/PC did help?
    Personally, I’d be fine with it – I believe anything that makes Westminster more representative should be given the thumbs up. If people in England want a Tory government that’s entirely up to them. I also think the Scottish public wouldn’t bat an eyelid either, no matter how much Labour ranted; who are we to deny people in England a fairer system. I imagine they might do a secret ballot anyway…
    As for Devo Max under the UK Tories. No chance; just wouldn’t work. Two diametrically opposing governments. AS et al. could probably sit around the table with DC and co but the back benchers and respective electorates would never have it. Tory majority in Westminster = Scottish independence; both the Tories and the SNP know this fine well.
    Only thing that would keep Scotland in the Union is Devoplus/max under Labour and that would only last until the Tories returned once more.

  46. Dan Sutton says:

    No, an SNP government in Holyrood with an absolute majority has led to that. If the SNP didn’t have a majority and we had a Tory government in Westminster, we wouldn’t be having a referendum.

    So, an SNP majority government is the key then?
     
    Or rather a majority government is the key?
     
    On the grounds that a democratic mandate is respected by any party that might credibly find itself in government at Westminster? (Which given the Tories approach to Scottish independence it is – but then again, looking at Lords reform it might not be.)
     
    In which case the SNP facing election in 2016 after a No vote in the referendum might well campaign on a more gradualist approach and follow up a defeat in the referendum with a manifesto calling for a referendum on a second round of further devolution.
     
    Or the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, seeing that the electorate of Scotland seem keen on the idea of further devolution might campaign on a ticket of further devolution – either sincerely or in a cynical  attempt to split the SNP vote a little and create a Lib-Lab collation with a referendum on further devolution as a joint manifesto commitment.
     
    In either case we end up with a majority government elected on the promise of holding a referendum on further devolution. Which any flavour of Westminster government might or might not support as a policy or might or might not allow on the grounds of a democratic mandate existing for the referendum.
     
    The Westminster government have allowed a referendum on independence. I think the idea of Westminster necessarily blocking a well-supported call for referendum on further devolution doesn’t fit well with the evidence of the independence referendum.
     
    Now you might argue that
    -the Tories aren’t keen on constitutional reform generally and specifically think that they believe that the current devolution settlement is perfect so they won’t be helpful
    -and Gordon Brown is a bell weather for the Labour party and suggest that if he’s against the idea then Labour won’t run on a Devo-More ticket.
    -that given the electoral fortunes of the Lib Dems anything they say is irrelevant for the next ten years.
     
    Therefore the chances of getting Devo More after a No vote are very slim and I’d say you had a point.
     
    But I don’t think that Devo More is logically impossible.
     

  47. MajorBloodnok says:

    Dan Sutton says:
    In which case the SNP facing election in 2016 after a No vote in the referendum might well campaign on a more gradualist approach and follow up a defeat in the referendum with a manifesto calling for a referendum on a second round of further devolution.

    On the other hand the SNP might campaign in the next SGE with a manifesto that says “Vote the SNP into power and we will unilaterally make Scotland independent.”  Remember that the opposition at the last SGE in 2011 were warning that a vote for the SNP was a vote for independence. So be it!

  48. Dan Sutton says:

    The SNP might well campaign on that platform.
     
    I’d expect them to modify that slightly and run on a platform of unilateral independence if the SNP win 50% of the vote. I genuinely think a unilateral declaration of independence on 46% of the vote is a recipe for, at the very least, extensive civil disturbance.
     
    I think it would harm their chances of ending up in government. Considerably.  It reduces the SNP vote to, at best, those who would vote Yes in an Independence referendum less the Greens and those voters in Unionist parties who are not Unionists. Which, if the No campaign had just won the referendum would be a minority of the population. It rejects voters, like me, who are open to the idea of independence and who think the SNP makes a competent left of centre government.
     
    I think, for the SNP, post a No vote the best thing to do would be to go the electorate saying “Okay, not quite ready for independence yet? Well, we think we’ve demonstrated the SNP can be trusted to run a devolved Scotland and we think, if we show you we can run a MORE devolved Scotland, we can persuade you that we can run an independent Scotland so vote SNP for more competent government and Demo Max.”

  49. Stuart M says:

    @Dan:
    I think you’re beginning to see how Salmond’s gradualist tactics are working. He knows that post the 2014 referendum, there will be 2 further chances to, at the very least, get a strong mandate for increasing Holyrood’s powers. So long as the referendum result is a close “No”, neither Labour nor the Lib Dems will be able to countenance going into the 2015 UK General Election, or the 2016 Holyrood election, without a firm commitment towards extending devolution. They will have been given a tacit warning that, if they don’t boost Holyrood, the next time round the electorate will say “Yes”. And they will put the SNP in a position to give them that opportunity.
    Of course, a “Yes” in the referendum frees us all from such tiresome political shenanigans, and we can all get on the the real issues Labour etc. are so fond of reminding us that we need to concentrate on.

  50. James T says:

    Hi Rev Stuart

    Apologies for the late reply, I’ve been at work most of the day since my wee post this morning.You never know, I may take you up on that bet. 
    For me, I am voting Independence anyway, so the 2nd question would be useless to me in this case.
    And Stuart, I don’t doubt your knowledge on these matters. I’ve been reading these blogs on your website for sometime, and to be honest, I’ve found this to be the most honest, down to earth site of them all. It’s a brilliant site if you need to just keep up to date with Scottish politics. Some of the sites like The Scotman is just terrible. you make a comment, and it turns into a slanging match. So, as said, great site this !!
    Going back to the wee bet, I just have this feeling that if it looks like the percentage for Independence really does creep up to the 50% mark, and if there is only a few months to go, then I think the Unionists will try the old British trick of divide and conquer. And if a 2nd option on the paper can do that, and thus keep Scotland in the UK, then I think they (the Unionists) will go for the lesser of two evils. If Scotland votes No to Independence, but a huge Yes to more powers, I believe the Unionists will look upon this as a victory; possibly a pyrrhic one, but a victory none the less. It means they can hold back ‘those powers’ for years as it is wrangled in the Commons, the Lords, and god knows what other kangaroo courts they can find. It means they can continue to bleed Scotland dry for years !! I hope your right, and it does come down to a straight question; that way, no messing, and no arguments over the final result….but I just have this feeling that this could be the wee joker in the pack for them.

  51. Jeannie says:

    If we were to assume (and we can’t) that Devo-Max is equated with Full Fiscal Autonomy, that is, that Scotland is responsible for raising and spending its own taxes, I’ve seen nothing to say that that would also mean that Scotland would have control of North Sea Oil.
    Somehow or other, I can’t see either the Tories or the Labour Party or the Lib Dems going to the electorate south of the border in 2015 and standing on a platform of giving up the revenues from the North Sea.
    Scotland needs control of this resource and I don’t think there is any chance of getting it unless there is a vote for independence.
     

  52. James T says:

    Jeannie

    Totally agree with you on that. I think the Unionists are looking at the ultimate nightmare in the face. Do they say ‘No’ to the Scots going into the Referendum in 2014 which could tip the result towards an Independent Scotland, or do they say ‘OK, we’ll give you this’, knowing that the South of England will erupt in anger (bloodlust fury more like) prior to the UK elections in 2015.

    A lot of MP’s, and MSP’s are going to have to have a good look in the mirror and wonder what they have to do… it could be the ultimate Catch 22 situation in political terms.    

  53. Jeannie says:

    Yes, I suspect that the part in Gordon Brown’s speech where he said that to maintain current spending in Scotland, either taxes would have to go up or benefits would have to be reduced, means that they did not count in North Sea oil revenues.
    So long as we remain a part of the UK, Westminster will see North Sea Oil as a UK resource and I would be surprised if they would agree to Scotland getting any more than, say, 9% to reflect the share of population.
     
    If we let this happen, we’ll be running the risk of giving away our children’s inheritance.  I can’t see any other way to safeguard this other than by independence.

  54. Jeannie says:

     
    Morag says:
    August 14, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Aonghas Mac Neacaill said, the way we vote will depend ultimately on whether we are persuaded to hope or to fear.
    Morag – I love that quote.  Hope comes more naturally to me than fear, so, like you, I dare to hope, too.

     

  55. Bill C says:

    Jeannie, spot on, your are right on the money literally. Forget the Jubilee, the Olympics and all the bittertogether hogwash, there is only one item on the unionist agenda and that is Scotland’s oil. Does anyone really imagine that the current debate on Scottish independence would be happening if the only harvest from the North Sea was fish?  If there was no oil, Westminster would happily issue a Section 30 order and campaign for Scottish independence. Bittertogether – Aye right, just as long as you’ve got the oil. 

  56. pa_broon says:

    I think the no campaign have decided that Devo-max is already on the ballot for 2014, to get it,  people can just vote no. But they’re hedging their bets by not outlining what they’d do after a no vote.

    This is telling, it shows a couple of things, firstly, if they ask the question out right, they know people will vote for it and they have no intentions of giving up any more powers. And, the fact that they won’t ask it shows them up for the cynical, dishonest rabble that they are.

    We’re told time and again the SNP are split over the independence question, that they ‘don’t really want it’. What utter tosh, its the unionists that are split, you have Brown and that gonk Ruth Davidson saying this far and no further then you have McLeish (who’s a blether) Cameron and others saying, ‘vote no and you’ll be given something, maybe…’

    Mean while, time and again, from the SNP you have the common refrain, ‘We’re campaigning for independence, but if there is interest in Devo-max, we’re open to offering it on the ballot, but we’re not campaigning for it.’

    I don’t agree with every thing the SNP do, but to suggest the unionists have anything approaching the merest sensation of a cogent argument in this issue, is a position that has no basis in reality.

    I think for some people (as demonstrated in the comments here,) if you had to explain, they’ll never understand.

    *Edit: I don’t care if the North sea is lined with cheese, I’m still voting for hope. Yes 2014*

  57. Holebender says:

    I just have this feeling that if it looks like the percentage for Independence really does creep up to the 50% mark, and if there is only a few months to go, then I think the Unionists will try the old British trick of divide and conquer. And if a 2nd option on the paper can do that, and thus keep Scotland in the UK, then I think they (the Unionists) will go for the lesser of two evils.
     
    James T, the problem with your scenario is that the SNP government will be in charge of the referendum. If “yes” reaches 50% in the polls why should the SNP snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by allowing the unionists to add a last minute second question to the ballot?

  58. Morag says:

    Given the unanimous unionist condemnation of a “second question”, its vehemence, and their having kept this up for well over a year, I find it hard to believe they could do a u-turn even now, never mind close to the poll date.

    Just today I heard someone dementing on that although “Alex Salmond” had a mandate for an independence referendum, he had no mandate to ask a devo-max question because it wasn’t in the manifesto.  So he could be legally blocked from doing it, or something like that.  They fail to remember that the previous SNP government was consulting about a two-question referendum in 2010, so it’s not as if it’s something voters could claim to have been completely unaware of.

    The idea that anyone could take legal action to stop a government from doing something, and succeed, just on the grounds that it wasn’t in their manifesto, is hilarious.

    The more I hear the unionists fulminating against a second question, the more satisfied my smile becomes.

  59. DougtheDug says:

    The reason the unionists are so desperate for the SNP to shut the door on a 2nd question right now is all to do with the timing of the analysis of the referendum consultation.

    If as expected a large number of Scots want devo-max or something like it in the consultation the SNP can then point to the LibLabCons and say to the electorate, “We’re always open to a 2nd question but these people won’t give you that choice now or ever. Independence is the only way to get change”.

    If the LibLabCons can get the SNP to bury the 2nd question before the analysis of the referendum comes out then they can point at the SNP and say, “The SNP won’t allow you to choose what you really want. Vote NO and we’ll give you devo-max in the future.”

    The unionists don’t want a devo-max independence killer question because they can’t promise to get it through a Westminster dominated by English based MP’s and they don’t want to loosen the apron strings anymore anyway. Therefore they want all talk of it stopped right now before publicly ditching it does them a lot of damage. 

    It’s a simple political dance. The unionists want the SNP to be the villain who refuses a 2nd question. The SNP want to keep the 2nd question on the table so it’s obvious that the unionists are refusing to define or offer it.



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