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Wings Over Scotland

Supping with the devil

Posted on November 28, 2012 by

The Guardian carries a rather provocative piece today, suggesting that the SNP and the other nationalist parties at Westminster might do a deal with the Tories to push through their controversial proposals on changing (or gerrymandering, as some would have it) the UK’s constituency boundaries, in return for a radical overhaul of the Scottish constitution which would hand an unprecedented package of powers just short of full independence to the Holyrood parliament.

The plans are generally presumed to be electorally advantageous to the Conservatives, who currently have to secure considerably more votes to form a majority than Labour do, and the Lib Dems have vowed not to back their coalition partners on the issue after House Of Lords reform was shelved, leaving the Tories in need of votes from the smaller opposition parties to have any chance of getting the legislation through.

We’ll put aside for a moment the unworthy notion that if the Lib Dems are vowing to oppose the changes then that almost certainly means they’ll end up voting for them, and concentrate instead on the broader plausibility of the story, which appears to be sourced solely from a single former Tory MEP. Would the SNP really enter such a Faustian pact with the Tories for the sake of devo max? Let’s delve into the detail.

According to the Guardian, the deal would involve a form of devolution so dramatic that Scotland would no longer return MPs to Westminster. Instead, Holyrood would handle all domestic matters, including taxation and welfare, and would consult with Westminster only on such issues as defence.

The superficial attractiveness of this arrangement to both the Tories and SNP is obvious. The Tories save the Union, rid themselves of a block of Labour MPs and solve the West Lothian question. The SNP, meanwhile, would secure a massive increase in powers for Scotland, delivering the constitutional solution still widely believed to be the preferred choice of the Scottish electorate. (Although in fact, polls have been fairly consistently putting devo max in a three-way tie with independence and the status quo for quite some time, when respondents are given a straight choice.)

But on closer inspection, the agreement would also create some serious potential problems for Alex Salmond’s party. Firstly, it would all but ensure defeat in the independence referendum – Scots would almost certainly take the opportunity to give the new settlement at least a trial period, seeing it as the best of both worlds as Scotland ran 95% of its own affairs and controlled all its own finances, but still with the “safety net” of the big UK state behind it.

Secondly, rather than being the body-blow to Scottish Labour that it would initially appear, the new devolution could signal a massive revival for the party. With all its best talent no longer being diverted to Westminster, the (let’s be generous to them) C-team currently occupying Holyrood seats would be likely to find itself hoofed out in favour of far more competent politicians capable of giving the SNP a much tougher run for its money in Edinburgh.

(This site is very much less convinced of the merits of the likes of Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander than the Scottish media tends to be, but there’s little point in denying that they’re at least rather bigger hitters than Richard Baker and James Kelly.)

For all the gains of devo max, the Nats could almost immediately find themselves in a very sticky spot. Attacked by their own fundamentalist wing for losing the referendum (and the chance to rid Scotland of nuclear weapons), unpopular for doing a deal with the Tories, and assailed by a now far stronger Labour, they could see their prize snatched out of their hands and Alistair Darling installed as First Minister in 2016.

In this site’s view, the deal outlined in the Guardian is simply much too big a gamble even for the famously flutter-friendly Salmond. We think he’d much rather take the all-or-nothing punt on the thing he’s campaigned for all his adult life rather than fatally wound its prospects in what might be the only chance it ever gets.

(Independence too, of course, would likely bring Scottish Labour’s best and brightest sniffing around Holyrood, but it’s hard to see the SNP losing the 2016 election if they’d won the referendum, given that the credibility of the Unionist parties would be in tatters after four years of bitter, negative and ultimately unsuccessful campaigning.)

We commend the Guardian on at least some interesting thinking outside the box in its political analysis. But if the events depicted in the story ever come to pass, we’ll buy all of you a packet of biscuits.

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    111 to “Supping with the devil”

    1. Cuphook says:

      Scotland would no longer return MPs to Westminster.

      Would that even be legal with regards to the Treaty of Union?

    2. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

      “no attributed sources”

      Former Conservative MEP John Stevens is cited as the source…

    3. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      Doh. Early-morning brain-fail. Corrected.

    4. Galen10 says:

      I’m not convinced by these somewhat far fetched scenarios; whether they are “real” trial balloons or just the fervid imaginings of a few overwrought policy wonks is hard to determine, but given the lack of quotes, attributions or even “usually reliabale sources close to….” angle, I just can’t see what is actually in this for the SNP in particular.

      The “devo-ultra” plan proposed here might have had some wings if proponents of devo had gotten behind it a few years ago, and actively pushed and developed it. Since that didn’t happen, I fail to see how it could suddenly be pulled out like a rabbit from a hat and presented to the Scottish people as a solution. Altho’ it answers the west Lothian question, it also begs another question; if there are zero Scottish MP’s in the commons, where are Scotland’s interests to be provided for in areas still reserved for the UK like defence and foreign policy? In the Lords?!

      No; this plan could not work because there is not the political will amongst the Tory and Labour parties/elites/MP’s in England to countenance such sweeping constitutional changes. They rather LIKE the fact that AV and Lords reform were defeated, and would prefer to bet the farm on indy being voted down in 2014 so they can continue tinkering around the edges of the whole rotten system, but basically keep it intact.

      As you (and others) say, even if the vote in 2014 is No, especially by a narrow margin, the unionists still face a major problem in making good their “jam tomorrow” promises. When they can’t do so, any temporary decline in SNP or pro-indy sentiment is likely to be reversed and lead to SNP gains in subsequent elections both Westminster and Holyrood.

      Nice try Guardian… but I don’t think we’ll be holding our breath! 

    5. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      ” if there are zero Scottish MP’s in the commons, where are Scotland’s interests to be provided for in areas still reserved for the UK like defence and foreign policy? “

      The piece says “Joint jurisdiction over defence and foreign affairs could be decided by ministers from both parliaments or representative Scottish MSPs coming to Westminster only when key defence or foreign affairs votes need to take place.”

    6. scottish_skier says:

      I wondered when this would start appearing on the radar.

      As a democratic party, the SNP should vote for the boundary changes as it will put Labour and the Tories on a more equal footing for Westminster. At the moment, Labour can pull off a majority on 35% with the Tories really needing 42%. This would be partly but not wholly corrected by the boundary changes.

      As for the Lib Dems, if they are both Liberal and Democratic, they should support the move too.

      If the current Westminster government wishes to agree to an advanced form of 95% Devolution to Scotland, then this would be them reflecting the will of the Scottish Electorate.

      I’ve said before things are being discussed behind closed doors. There will be a referendum, but I suspect it will be for something like the above; independence within a new currency and monarchial union with common defense pact.

      The SNP will not sacrifice on ‘sovereignty’, i.e. whatever we vote for. Scotland will be independent, just still with a good relationship with the UK. It will be like France, Demanrk etc in the EU (sovereign countries working together in a trade/currency union), with the jack becoming a bit like the european stars flag, rolled out for then Queen visiting.

      The referendum will be won by a huge share of the vote. There would be no point in holding one on ‘utter, total, separate from the rUK completely north korean style’ independence if we already have ‘modern day interdependence independence’ to vote for. Long term, Scotland would choose it’s own destiny as it would be free to do.

    7. Peter A Bell says:

      Reading that article I was prompted to wonder at what point speculative analysis becomes fabricated fantasy. There is certainly nothing in the piece to support the deliberately misleading impression given by the headline that a Tory/SNP “deal” has already been done.
      One of the (mostly unflattering) things I note about political journalists in the mainstream media is the evident difficulty they have with thinking outside the box of “traditional” party politics Westminster-style. They seem unable to appreciate either the fact that politics in Scotland is increasingly different from that in their village or that the referendum stands apart from politics as they know it.

    8. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

      This is an attempt to make the very probable push for “Jam Tomorrow” that will happen just before the referendum look plausible.

      “Look, its been the plan all along… we negotiated this with the SNP behind the backs of you all… honest. Just Vote no and it’ll happen, its all sorted out…”

    9. scottish_skier says:


       Would that even be legal with regards to the Treaty of Union?

      The existing treaty of union would be over. An independent, sovereign Scotland would be agreeing a new one covering currency, trade, freedom of movement and mutual defense etc.

      Some seem to think it is far fetched. It’s not at all. Far, far less risky for Westminster than gambling on a no vote.  

    10. Jim Campbell says:

      Interesting piece.

      I wonder where or who John Stevens got the idea from .
      Surely not our Ruth (and my next line in the sand is. . . .)
      scapegoat “leader” of the Scottish Tories.
      It sounds more like a rather sneaky Westminster trick by 
      the “no crowd” to stir things up with a giant bit of bribery. 

    11. Ronald Henderson says:

      Last time I heard something similar to this was when my grandson blew up a balloon and then let it go.

    12. Arthur Hotson says:

      If such a ‘deal’ were to be announced prior to the referendum, wouldn’t it be counter productive to the unionist cause in that Scottish Labour (and other unionist parties) would have no further incentive to campaign for the Union if they were no longer going to send MPs to Westminster?

    13. scottish_skier says:

      “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent [sovereign] country within the [currency and monarchical with a mutual defence pact] Union of the United Kingdom?”
      Result = >70% Yes

    14. panda paws says:

      I’ve already posted my two pence worth on the Guardian and was alerted that the Rev had a piece on it. I think they are flying a kite and smearing the SNP at the same time. It didn’t take long for someone to post “Tartan Tories”. I couldn’t agree more that it would backfire on the SNP big-time and be a boost for SLAB. And we’d still have Trident and potentially more illegal, costly wars in the future. If politically naive me can see that, then there’s surely no chance of the politically astute Salmond buying it.

    15. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

      Call me cynical…

      But would this maybe be a subtle Labour attack piece in the Gruan to put the SNP off voting in favour of the boundary changes so as not to give credence to the claims of a dodgy back door deal???

      Machiavellian maybe, possible though…

    16. Embradon says:

      Alternatively the SNP could take the pragmatic view that the proposed changes to constituencies are democratically justified (which I believe they are) and support them anyway. The present set-up is the unjustifiable result of historical co-incidence.
      If that results in another Tory government at  Westminster it would simply reflect the democratic will of the electorate of the UK. Surely no-one who considers that we are “better together” could argue with that.
      If the prospect of continuous Tory government in Westminster encourages Scots to vote “Yes”, so be it.
      Would any constitutionistas care to pontificate on the implications of Scotland returning a majority of its MPs in favour of independence? This used to be regarded, by unionists, as a hurdle the SNP would have to achieve to attain their goals – but that was when there was no likelihood of such a result.
      Has that goal been moved?

    17. gnohbdi says:

      One might oppose this if you see it as a local maximum that would make independence less likely, which I think is the main thrust of the blog post.

      Boundary changes, arguably, make an inherently unrepresentative voting system a little more representative by removing the built-in advantage to Labour. This legislation is fervently opposed by Labour supporters for that reason – OBVIOUSLY. Personally I have no objections to it.

      However, I think it’s all vanishingly unlikely, for various reasons.

    18. scottish_skier says:

      If the Lib Dems do back down on the boundary changes, I’d not be surprised if it went to a free, anonymous vote.

      I emphasize again; there is no way the SNP would sell out. What they will do is secure an independence that people will happily vote for. One that looks a lot like devo max but with bells (sovereignty) on. One that Dave et al. have agreed to beforehand as it’s a far less scary option than suddenly having Scotland just leave with ithe UKs WMDs etc, which is exactly what would happen if the Tories were looking good for 2015/won in 2015.

      People across the world are watching. Westminster does not want the humiliation. If it can pull off a situation where it looks to the English electorate and wider world that we have a new, amicable, agreed form of ‘union’ (currency etc) then that is what it will do. Tories win, Scotland wins.

      After that, long-term it’s up to Scotland whether it remains in the new ‘union’, leaves, re-negotiates etc.

      The Guardian have the right stick, but the wrong end of it. 

    19. KOF says:

      To me this whole story sounds like Unionist spin. They are subtle liars after all, they’ve had centuries to perfect it.
      IF, this is actually happens, if there is a deal where the “question” becomes something like – “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent [sovereign] country within the [currency and monarchical with a mutual defence pact] Union of the United Kingdom?” 
      Then, I for one would not stand for it.  (I would vote for it, something a bit better is always better)
      IF, this is the question and whether we win or lose, the result will be irrelevant. If the SNP do this, then they will be the greatest ("Tractor" - Ed)s to this country since 1603.
      There’s only one thing to do with ("Tractor" - Ed)s!

      I’m f**king furious about this! Which makes me almost certain it IS Unionist FUDism. I hate FUDism amd the fuds who start it. The sooner we leave these Unions, the better!

    20. Luigi says:

      In contrast to the heated arguments post 2011, about the timing of the referendum, a second question, voting age etc, the Edinburgh Agreement was signed off with friendly handshakes and very little fuss, much to the surprise of the Scottish MSM. Something has been agreed. Perhaps nothing as extreme as described in the Guardian article, but deals have been made. And you can bet that whatever happens now, Labour are completely screwed. Such is politics.

    21. Adrian B says:


      You are spot on regarding the boundary changes. The vote will happen at some point down the road – I would expect it sometime next year before the white paper is published by The Scottish Government. 

    22. douglas clark says:

      I am more than a little bemused by the Guardian’s article.
      What, exactly, is on offer here?
      Would there be inergovenmental discussions to agree things like, say:

      – sea bed boundaries
      – Trident
      – tax and spend powers
      – The position of the Crown Estates in Scotland
      – international representation
      – veto on leaving the EC
      – resolution of internal disputes between Westminster and Holyrood?

      I was more enamoured with a previous post by Scottish Skier that seemed to indicate that Cameron was quite happy to see Scotland set it’s own course.

      The relationship outlined here seems similar to the one between Greenland and Denmark.

    23. Macart says:

      We commend the Guardian on at least some interesting thinking outside the box in its political analysis. But if the events depicted in the story ever come to pass, we’ll buy all of you a packet of biscuits.

      Rev that packet of biscuits will never go round 100K+ visitors. 🙂

    24. B says:

      On first read I thought this story was a heap of mince. Having read SS’s analysis I am now not so sure. After all everyone’s a winner, the Tories get their boundary changes, Big Eck gets 95% of his lifetime’s ambition, wins with a massive YES majority and the Scottish people keep the perceived safety net of the Union. Although this scenario is not my preferred choice, (I want the full bhuna NOW!) I am beginning to think that this might be the way it works.

    25. Marian says:

      This article in the Guardian is no more than yet another feeble attempt by Westminster’s anti-independence spooks using the MSM to muddy the waters and cast doubt on the integrity of the SNP. 

    26. scottish_skier says:

      People are talking about betrayal.

      Would you vote for:
      – Scotland independent and sovereign
      – In full control of all its resources, taxes and revenues, welfare
      – The Scots £ being equal to the UK pound for the immeadiate future
      – An agreement on mutual defense while Scotland develops its own forces
      – Trident being moved out of Scotland in a reasonable timeframe (or scrapped)
      – Lizzie as zero-powers head of state until she meets her maker at least
      – Freedom of movement across the UK
      – Scotland still initially in the EU with increased MEPs as now independent
      – Scotland with a seat at the UN

      That’s not betrayal, but certain parts do require some sort of bi-lateral agreement. To appease certain people and help save face on the world stage, you could call this a union. Just like the European Union if you like.


    27. Bill C says:

      On first read I thought this story was a heap of mince. Having read SS’s analysis I am now not so sure. After all everyone’s a winner, the Tories get their boundary changes, Big Eck gets 95% of his lifetime’s ambition, wins with a massive YES majority and the Scottish people keep the perceived safety net of the Union. Although this scenario is not my preferred choice, (I want the full bhuna NOW!) I am beginning to think that this might be the way it works.
       I presume that this ‘deal’ includes oil revenues going to Edinburgh?

    28. Bill C says:

      Sorry folks the earlier post under B was obviuosly me!

    29. scottish_skier says:

      Ignore the Guardian.

      Labour are terrified because Scotland is going to be independent. The Guardian is bricking it.

      It’s not Devo bloody anything if there are no Scots MPs in Westminster. It’s independence! 

      At best you can call what’s going to happen as a confederation of the £-zone with a mutual defense pact between sovereign nations. 

      Westminster will no longer rule Scotland.

      The SNP will not settle for anything else and Dave has no choice but to back it really, not without making a gamble of ludicrous proportions and one he could only hope to win if he lost the much bigger prize in 2015.

      Have faith.

    30. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      The question basically boils down to how committed to the Union Tory MPs are. Cameron would have to get this “devo-ultra” proposal past Parliament, and for that he needs his own party with him. Would Tory MPs vote in self-interest to entrench themselves in England, or are a significant proportion of them actually genuinely committed to the UK, and opposed to the prospect of a de facto independent Scotland competing with EWNI on tax rates and the like?

      I don’t think that’s necessarily an easy question to answer either way.

    31. Macart says:

      On the evidence of Mr Cruddas, when caught with his pants down on vid, the Cons don’t appear that bothered at all about Scotland in or out. You do get the distinct impression that they have their own agenda in mind and that anything north of Watford is surplus to requirements.

    32. KOF says:

      Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent [sovereign] country within the [currency and monarchical with a mutual defence pact] Union of the United Kingdom?” 

      within the union of the united kingdom?”  Doesn’t sound like independence to me.

      Nae union, means nae union. 

    33. Bill C says:

      Rev – I suspect I am a lot older than you and with age comes (no not wisdom, not in my case anyway) cynicism. I think Tory MP’s would sell their granny if they thought it was in their interest.  I have thought for many years that the Tories would be glad to get shot of Scotland.  I think Thatcher was the last great Unionist Tory!

      I have a sneeky suspicion that there may be a bit of kite flying going on here to test the temperature on the Tory benches.  I think there is a definite element of truth in this story. 

    34. Juteman says:

      Federalism? No thanks.

    35. Jeannie says:

      So, if I’m understanding correctly, if the Tories get their way on the proposed boundary changes, then it would make it easier for them to win a UK election.  Since the SNP seem to be saying that Tory governments are a problem, why would they vote in favour of changes that would make a Tory win more likely? It would look very strange to portray the UK Tories as the enemy then support a measure that would help keep them in place. Sure, if Scotland is independent, then who is in power at Westminster becomes less relevant, but at the time this is voted on, no-one will know whether we will be independent or not.
      My gut instinct is that the SNP should stay away from this one.  If Cameron needs the Lib Dems to support him, then he should negotiate with them.  If the SNP votes with the Tories, they are inadvertently helping the Lib Dems out of a sticky situation, entirely of their own making and, at the same time, running the risk of looking like hypocrites.

    36. scottish_skier says:


      We can dump the queen at a later date. Until such time as Scotland chooses to become a republic, the United Kingdom(s) will presumably continue to exist as it did for 100 years before the union of the parliaments.

      Juteman. Loose confederation would be a more apt description. Unless Scotland plans to go with it’s own currency immediately, put up border posts and start from scratch defense wise, then some sort of confederal relationship is required.

      EFTA is a confederation. EU a confederation potentially becoming more federalised in the future. Countries are free to leave both.

      Jeannie – Tories are not the enemy. The enemy has red ties; well purple now. The Tories were defeated and ousted from Scotland a long time ago. The are the governing party of our directly neighbouring country and so the Scottish Government working with them in mutual interest is perfectly normal.

      There is also nothing hypocritical about voting to improve the democratic fairness of the UK electoral system. If the SNP did not do this, they’d be betraying their democratic principles. The boundary changes are not gerrymandering; they just make it more an even playing field. In fact Labour will still have an advantage over the Tories.

    37. zedeeyen says:

      Daft suggestion. What mechanism could be put in place to ensure that Scotland remained within such a loose new union? What would prevent the Scottish government from saying “thanks very much” and then issuing a UDI the very second they fell out with Westminster over something defense-related, such as funding for trident?

      To me it sounds like an idea that could maybe stave off full independence for an extra year or two at best, so the Tories would have to be absolutely certain they were going to lose the indyref to even consider it.

    38. KOF says:

      “We can dump the queen at a later date. Until such time as Scotland chooses to become a republic, the United Kingdom(s) will presumably continue to exist as it did for 100 years before the union of the parliaments.
      Juteman. Loose confederation would be a more apt description. Unless Scotland plans to go with it’s own currency immediately, put up border posts and start from scratch defense wise, then some sort of confederal relationship is required.”

      Queen Elizabeth will continue to be our queen on independence, I’d agree. I have no problem with that, at all, however… there will be no “United Kingdom”. She will become the queen of an independent Scotland, an independent England, Canada, Australia, etc. She will no longer be queen of any united kingdom, only a queen of many different kingdoms.

      Confederation, federation, union, it’s all the same to me. What you seem to be saying is what the Unionists say, “if Scotland becomes independent then there will have to be border controls”, “you would have to start with no defences” and such like. WE would still be inside the EU, I’m sure you’d agree.?  WE would get our fair share of military equip, etc?
      Once we have our independence from the British union, then we will deal with the European union. UK, EU, EFTA? They can all go and shove it, as far as I’m concerned.
      It’s better to starve on your feet, than be well fed on your knees. 

      Buaidh No Bas!

    39. Luigi says:

      It may frustrate some of you purists, but Indy-Lite (Queen, pound, NATO, social union) is what will be on offer in 2014, for the following reasons:
      1. A majority of scots prefer Devo max.
      2. Devo max is not on the table.
      3. The closest thing to Devo max will win the referendum.
      4. Indy-lite converges on Devo max (not much water between them).
      5. Status quo becomes jam tomorrow (Devo-plus) for the same reason.
      So, in 2014, it all boils down to:
      Indy-Lite or Jam tomorrow?
      Take your pick.

    40. scottish_skier says:


      Yes, people leave the EFTA and EU all the time. As soon as there’s the slightest disagreement, they’re off.

    41. Tamson says:

      IMO, this sort of scenario only becomes a slight possibility if
      a) the 2014 referendum delivers a narrow-ish No, and
      b) it looks like Labour might win the 2015 GE.
      However, the maths on the constituency boundary legislation don’t add up. Cameron has 305(?) MPs, the SNP 6. To get a majority Cameron still needs at least 14 votes.

    42. Doug Daniel says:

      Tamson – the idea behind this is specifically to get parties from all three devolved nations on board. Northern Ireland and Wales are apparently getting offered increased devolution anyway, so that’s to try and get Plaid and the DUP on board. Even if Labour and the Lib Dems are both against this, we know they don’t have enough to block it, because otherwise they would have formed the government in 2010 (well, maybe).

    43. dadsarmy says:

      I’m doing a lucky dip on the lottery tonight and on this Guardian planet I’m absolutely certain of winning.

    44. douglas clark says:

      Scottish Skier,
      You need to slow down for the rest of us! I am looking for a degree of clarification on your posts at 12:32 and 12:40.

      Are you saying, under the terms outlined, that we would be independent? You mention, for instance, that Scotland would have a seat at the UN. Only independent countries, as far as I know, get a seat at the UN.

      If Cameron can deliver that and claim a sort of mini EU for the UK…..


      I’ll need to think about that.

      I never saw independence as a withdrawal from multi-lateral arrangements, whether with England or the EU or the UN.

      You are right in identifying the lack of Scottish MPs (at Westminster) in this new arrangement as the end of the UK as we know it.

      The relationship would be closer to that between Dublin and London than the exant Holyrood – Westminster arrangement.

      I suspect that suits both the SNP and the Conservatives.

      Whether Cameron could actually make this stick with Westminster is probably why I am less than certain that this is not just a kite flying exercise.

      Anyway, you made me think!

    45. pmcrek says:

      This is may be a tldr post but nothing makes me laugh harder than this fallacious notion that the tories are hard done by in the electoral system.

      UK General ELection 2010:

      Party —– Seats —- % seats— % votes
      Tories —- 305 —— 47.1% —- 36.1%
      Labour —- 258 —— 39.7% —- 29%
      Lib Dem — 57 ——- 8.8% —– 23%
      SNP ——- 6 ——– 0.9% —– 1.7%
      Green —– 1 ——– 0.2% —– 0.9%

      So, the Tories got 11% more seats than they are due, Labour 10.7% more seats than they were due and not surprisingly everybody else gets far less seats than they are due to make up for it.

      While its clear the Tories won more seats than they were due than Labour did, what the Tories actually complain about, is that the rate of seats they get, that they dont actually deserve, is slightly smaller than the rate of seats Labour get, that they dont deserve.

      In other words, as Labour got 10.7% more seats than they deserve on 29% of the vote but the Tories only got 11% more seats than they deserve on a greater 47.1% of the vote, it means Labour get on average around 0.368% more seats than they deserve for every 1% of the vote (10.7/29). The Tories however only get 0.304% more seats than they are due for every 1% of the vote.

      So the Tories lose out on some 0.064% seats per 1% of the vote to Labour in the art of gaining seats neither of them actually deserve.

      This complaint is one of PROPORTIONALITY in what we are constantly told is a non preoportional system. What they actually mean by a non-proportional system is in reality a system that gives Labour and Conservatives proportionally similar levels of more seats than they are proportionally due and this is accomplished by changing constituency boundaries to ensure the Labour/Tory bias is equal.

      They also then have the cheek to call this system a “Democracy”.

    46. jon abroad says:

      @ scottish_skier
      I am always interested in your analyses of the situation but I think here we need to make a clear distinction between loose confederation and genuine independence.
      The Swiss cantons are all sovereign states but they are not independent – no representation at the UN, no embassies in other countries.
      Similarly, Greenland vis-è-vis Denmark, internal soveriegnty and recognition as an autonomous country, but still not independent. Ditto Curaçao, Aruba and Sint Maartin in relation to the Netherlands.
      If Scotland is tied to the rUK as far as external affairs are concerned, then it simply will not not be independent.

    47. molly says:

      KOF I’m with you -defence ?? One of the reasons I want Scotland to return to an Independent Country is because of defence. If anyone honestly believes Scotlands position would be considered when the next ‘necessary invasion ‘ comes up is living on a different planet.
      We now have a new highheid yin of The Bank of England,was any of the home nations even included in that choice ,although the decisions made there affect us all ,far less decisions regarding the defence (in James Bonds words ),of the Realm. 

    48. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

      It’s probably just the Labour supporting Guardian trying to smear the SNP’s integrity-yet again. Also trying to give the false impression that a NO vote would lead to greater meaningful devolution.

      Having said that it would make sense, but I don’t think the tories have the imagination nor the will to release significant fiscal power to one of  the colonies. 


    49. Doug Daniel says:

      There are lots of questions this article conjures up (how the shared defence & foreign affairs would actually be funded for a start), but the main one is that, if this is to all intents and purposes “independence” in all but name (it seems very similar to the Indy-Lite Jim Sillars was peddling a year ago), then why not just make it independence in name as well?

      It strikes to the very heart of the question that nobody can answer: what is SO GOOD about the union that it needs to be salvaged at all costs?

      This would seem to me about getting independence while sparing the feelings of unionists. Aye, guid een. Having battled this long to get Scotland independent, I think it’s only right that the independence supporters get their moment of glory. This would deprive us of that. It’d be like the time Scotland “beat” Estonia because Estonia didn’t turn up. Nobody likes winning by default, it leaves an empty feeling. I’m looking forward to the celebrations breaking out when the referendum result is announced, and having an official Independence Day to celebrate every year.

      Not just that, but this could deprive us of many of the benefits of independence. Scotland NEEDS a different immigration policy from England. We need to be able to opt out of illegal wars. How would either of these two things square with shared responsibility? Besides which, I’m actually becoming increasingly wary of the idea of a currency union, or at the very least wary of not making it more explicit that such a currency union would only be a temporary measure until Scotland had its own currency. I’m coming to think we’d be better just being pegged to Sterling (like the Irish Punt was for many years), rather than actually using it.

      Most of all, this just makes things even more volatile. Would it make a later independence referendum a mere formality, making it easier to say to undecided’s “look, we’re essentially independent in all but name already”, or would it make it more difficult because people wouldn’t understand what the point in changing it would be? 

      Nice try Grauniad, but I’m happy with how things are now (i.e. referendum on the way), and I just can’t see this happening anyway.

    50. Interesting piece but really still should be on the fiction shelf.It is an attempt to cause some discussion maybe to see if there are some who would sell out to a nearly independent state,but I still think fiction or a little bit of stirring.

    51. douglas clark says:

      Doug Daniel,
      Sure, I want 2014 to go down as the year we could ‘cry freedom’ from the rooftops. It is interesting though that we might be ‘allowed’ to have our freedom on the back of Tory self interest and an English media that allows Alan Cochrane to represent us.
      It seems to me that the English are being prepared, by the Tories, for the split, just as assiduously as we make our case for independence. They just do it in their usual, xenophobic way.
      Perhaps I am wrong, but that is at least a possibility. Has anyone calculated what the combined effect of the boundary changes and no Scottish MP’s might mean for the electoral prospects of the Bullingdon boys?
      These people only want power and they will do whatever it takes.

    52. KOF says:

      I just checked out the boundary changes link, in the Guardian article. The boundary changes seem to be ONLY in England, so with the SNP’s long standing (I think) stance on not voting on purely English matters, then they just wouldn’t vote on it. They would abstain.
      As I said earlier, more Unionist FUD-ism/ 

    53. pmcrek says:

      One thing to consider, wouldnt a UK wide referendum be required to make such a constitutional change?

    54. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      pmcrek: As the piece I linked to says, the very specific injustice against the Tories is that they need a lot more votes than Labour to get a majority. 2010 is a good enough example – with 36.1% of the vote they needed to go into coalition with the Lib Dems to form a government. In 2005 Labour got just 35.7% of the vote, but it got them a very comfortable majority of 60.

    55. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      “It may frustrate some of you purists, but Indy-Lite (Queen, pound, NATO, social union) is what will be on offer in 2014”

      It really won’t. What will be on offer will be the right to decide on ALL of those things. If the Scottish people want rid of the Queen, they will be able to decide that. The referendum isn’t an election.

    56. Morag says:

      The story seems to be saying that Cameron will put in place Devo-ultra, before the referendum, so that a “No” vote becomes a vote for devo-ultra (the then status quo), this securing a nominal No vote while still delivering almost-independence.

      This is absolute mince.  Cameron has repudiated that notion so often he couldn’t retain any credibility if he went anywhere near it.  It has also been repeatedly said that such a settlement would require a UK-wide referendum – which would be lost, because English voters would be incandescent at such concessions to Scotland.  How could the party which watered down Calman and spoke repeatedly about lines in the sand perdorm such a u-turn?

      And then we have the practical difficulties with the proposed settlement, such as RevStu outlines above, and others have discussed over on the Grauniad thread.  Also, it has the flavour of Cameron giving away the pass so he can claim he didn’t lose it.  Granting 99% of independence for the meaningless victory of a No vote in the referendum.  What’s the point?

      I wonder if Scottish Skier might be right.  They have the right stick but the wrong end.  Rather than a No vote being bigged up as a vote for Devo-ultra, it’s the consequences of a Yes vote that are being tailored to Indy-not-very-lite, in order to get out of this situation with as much dignity as possible, and a peaceful swift transition to where Scotland is quite clearly going within 20 years at the most anyway.

    57. pmcrek says:


      Sure I’m not having a go at the article, I’m having a go at the Tories and Labour by pointing out the actual maths involved and arguing the system is not even fptp but proportional gerrymandering.

    58. Squadrone Volante says:

      A sordid, tawdry little scam:
      Wee Eck in bed with Call Me Cam
      “Ye’ll stay the boss ‘doon sooth’ fer nae
      or else I cannae win an… AYE”


    59. James McLaren says:

      There are 2 or 3 seats which would go, none of them SNP held.
      The seat for the Ginger Minger Alexander is one of them which will be merged with that of Charles Kennedy.
      That could be why he has moved his family to London, in anticipation of being gifted and SE Tory seat.

    60. Cyril Matvech says:

      Scottish people should be informed that according to current voting polls, Labour can only form the next London government by entering into a coalition with UKIP (aka BNP). That should have a major effect upon wavering Labour support in Scotland?

    61. Actually I’m not against dealing with devil to further Scottish political objectives. I’d certainly carefully (very very very carefully…) consider such a deal if it actually existed  But it’s probably doesn’t. And even if it did, whatever UK govt takes over in 2015 is just as likely to renage on it or kick it into the long grass.
      Interesting scenario though ;-0

    62. scottish_skier says:


       It has also been repeatedly said that such a settlement [Devo super duper with icing and a cherry] would require a UK-wide referendum – which would be lost, because English voters would be incandescent at such concessions to Scotland.  

      Nail on head. Ongoing discussions between Scot and UK Govs are on what Scottish independence will be like in terms of relationship to rUK, not any devo thingys.

    63. Holebender says:

      KOF, the link is to the proposed English boundary changes, but that is only one of several documents which deal with the proposed boundary changes throughout the UK. Given the quality of the rest of the article, you surely didn’t expect them to tell the whole story, did you?

    64. KOF says:

      Ahhh! Cheers for that, Holebender. 

      Aye, the truth, the whole truth and nothing like the truth! 😀 

    65. Arbroath1320 says:

      Sorry I’m O/T but thought readers might be interested to know that Stuart Hosie has had a mini heart attack.
      He is expected to make a full recovery thank goodness.
      Also good news he is in Ninewells hospital in Dundee. At least he is being cared for ny an NHS that is NOT under threat of Westminster cuts as SG continue to do the best they can with extremely limited funds.

    66. Oldnat says:


      Slight correction. Its a TIA (or mini-stroke) not a heart attack. 

    67. Luigi says:

      I wish Stuart Hosie a full, speedy recovery. He is an excellent politician and a good man.

    68. jake says:

      Why would anyone sign up to a deal like this……after independence we can gerrymander or own boundaries rather than rely on Home County types doing it for us……. OR we might decide to break with tradition and have something approaching an actual representative democracy instead.

    69. douglas clark says:

      Scottish Skier,
      You say, in reply to Morag:
      Nail on head. Ongoing discussions between Scot and UK Govs are on what Scottish independence will be like in terms of relationship to rUK, not any devo thingys.
      I am having a moment.
      Whilst I would like to believe that. Yes of course I would! Do I believe that? No, I really really, don’t.
      That Scottish Independence is a ‘done deal’ and that we are just crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s now, I seriously doubt..
      So, no.
      There are less bends in a sidewinder than there are in Unionist Politicians.

    70. jake says:

      Yes…nothing less

    71. Arbroath1320 says:

      Thanks for correction Oldnat. 😀

    72. R Louis says:

      So, if this ‘deal’ were to happen, Scotland would be akin to a crown dependency, like Jersey and so on.  I personally can’t see it happening – this is more akin to the kind of nonsense they mutter about in the house of unelected and wholly undemocratic lords in London.

      On a related matter, it has been repeated over and over again, that on matters of the queen, currency, EU etc….  the big advantage of independence is that Scots will finally have a say in the matter, unlike at present where London decides.  I’m seriously starting to realise that even those who say they support independence, but then say they won’t unless the Queen goes or unless the pound goes, are really just mischief makers.  To say you support independence, but won’t unless the vote is also on removing the Queen is illogical.  Only independence will give us the FREEDOM to decide such things.


    73. douglas clark says:

      R. Louis,
      You are right.
      How often do you have to point out the obvious? For what you have to say is what this debate is about.

      Lets get them on to discussing our issues, not theirs….

    74. Ronald Henderson says:

      Oops! Stuart Hosie getting a T.I.A is a wake up call. Get well soon Stuart. Anent this, I have been concerned a little for some time now about the excess weight that Alex Salmond is carrying. He looks quite unfit to me. C’mon Alex, fewer big dinners and some extra miles walking please. For our sakes as well as yours.

    75. Tamson says:

      @ Rev Stu 3:02pm
      The situation in England alone in 2005 was actually an even better example of how the Tories are hard done by on the current constituencies. In the 2005 GE, they actually got 60,000 MORE votes than Labour in England, yet ended up with nearly a 100 less English MPs. Farcical.

    76. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      “Anent this, I have been concerned a little for some time now about the excess weight that Alex Salmond is carrying.”

      Aye, me too. He seems to be piling it on at a rate of knots. We don’t need him getting a triple bypass six months before the referendum. Easy on the pies, First Minister.

    77. scottish_skier says:

      @douglas clark

      It’s not a done deal – we still need to vote for it.

    78. Iain Gray's Subway Lament says:

      Boundary changes are simply a numbers game.
      Cameron doesn’t have the numbers. Even his own party has MPs who will vote against it.
      The story is nonsense.

    79. Boorach says:

      I can’t see AS doing any deal with the tories unless it is signed in blood (Camerons), been passed into law by wasteminster and received royal assent.

      He has been a victim of wasteminster perfidery before. I was serving in germany at the time in the days when BFBS couldn’t relay live news services ergo we had to make do with a précis version.

      It was in the days when Iain Lang had the Scottish office. The tories were desperate for SNP support to get a bill through. AS agreed thedeals, supported the bill and was duly rewarded with the metaphorical digits when he tried to collect on the deal.

      Once bitten ….. 

    80. Oldnat says:

      Seems Stewart Hosie is home. That’s an extremely good sign, as they must have identified the cause and treated it. Now do what the bloody doctors tell you, Stewart! We need you back in action – but not so quickly as to jeopardise your health.

    81. Alan says:

      Kite flying season. Independence from the evil of the London Establishment is everything!

    82. scottish_skier says:

      I don’t believe there is a deal being done on some form of devolution, no vote or not. However, there will be agreements being made on what happens if – or more likely when – Scotland votes yes. That is beyond doubt.

      The Tories will have commissioned polls and found – as expected – that Scotland will leave the union if they win the next GE/it looks like they will. They will also have noted that not even a Labour government might be enough to hold things together. The SNP and Labour will have found the same. We’ve only seen one where the ‘what if’ scenario was asked and it shows exactly what would be expected. There will have been many others we have not seen; this is normal for political parties.

      In light of this, a deal will be done on what happens in the case of a Yes. It has gone too far now and Britain no longer has the power/ability to stop it. The Tories don’t have the will and Labour are impotent. If it did not happen in 2014, things would continue to drag on in a messy fashion until it did. Nobody wants that.

      Scotland will have a new relationship with the rUK soon enough; one where it is an independent, sovereign nation politically. It will however, at least initially, have a close relationship based on a shared currency, monarch, and defence pact etc.

      A little patience is required in the meantime.

    83. Jeannie says:

      @Ronald Henderson
      Just had one of those awful moments when you realise you’re turning into your mother – was reading your comments re Alex Salmond’s health when I heard myself saying, “Aye, and he’s at a bad age as well”.  Seriously, though, I sometimes wonder if my own health will stand the strain for the next two years – I can’t imagine how the politicians cope with the amount of stress they must be under.
      Also, I hear what SS is saying and he may turn out to be right, but given that the pro-independence side is heavily criticising Labour for being in bed with the Tories with respect to the referendum, if the SNP MPs supported the Tories on boundary changes, it could weaken the strength of the SNP’s current argument and lay them wide open to accusations of being untrustworthy/changing sides, so I still think they would be better leaving it alone.  We haven’t won the vote yet.

    84. Marcia says:

      Get well soon Stuart, I heard about it yesterday. He went to his own doctors when he felt unwell who arranged an ambulance to Ninewells immediately after they examined him. A bit of a shock to us here in Dundee but from all accounts he sounds fine.

    85. Jeannie says:

      @scottish skier
      Oops, must have been typing my post while you were posting yours – crossover in the post, so to speak.

    86. Marcia says:

      I tried to correct my spelling but couldn’t – Stewart not Stuart Hosie

    87. scottish_skier says:


       if the SNP MPs supported the Tories on boundary changes, it could weaken the strength of the SNP’s current argument and lay them wide open to accusations of being untrustworthy/changing sides

      4 years of the Tories helping them pass budgets etc through didn’t seem to damage the SNP in May 11.

      If the SNP go into coalition with a Tory dominant minority and dump all their manifesto pledges for this, then that would be very damaging. Assisting the Tories in making the UK electoral system a little fairer whilst securing better things for Scotland is unlikely to have any impact. It’s not as if Labour would be disadvantaged, just made a little less advantaged.

      I suspect the Lib Dems will ensure the boundary changes anyway; a deal might help them survive utter wipe-out in 2015. Ultimately would make no real difference to any UK Gov / Scot Gov Yes vote aftermath agreement whether the SNP were needed or not.

    88. Arbroath1320 says:

      I wonder how this will go down in London. Not very well I reckon.

    89. clochoderic says:

      I am plodding through all the BTL comments on the article and I came across this analysis from the commentator called ” bitthick” which I think may ring some bells in the Curran, Murphy, Alexander, and Bain households
      “The problem the Tories, Labour & Lib Dems have with the West Lothian question is this: You can’t have (for example) a health minister who can’t vote on most of the NHS votes. They’d be laughed at whenever they stood up to make a speech. Same with transport, education etc.
      So it’s evident that MPs from Scotland will in effect cease to be eligible for loads of posts. You couldn’t ever have a PM from a Scottish or perhaps Welsh constituency (hooray! says England).
      So Westminster soon has second-class members of parliament. This lower caste are at best forever relegated to very narrow career streams within government (say Treasury, Defence). This makes reshuffling nigh-on impossible. In practical terms members from Scots or Welsh constituencies will become ineligible for shadow cabinet positions, or indeed any position of influence within any of the major parties.
      The knock-on effect is that Scottish and Welsh constituents can look forward to being represented by nothing but backbench MPs, whatever the party in power. Our views on defence, treasury, Europe etc become utterly and permanently irrelevant.”

       Given that the chances of another Scot becoming Prime Minister of the Uk are less than those of Gary Glitter becoming a foster parent in Rotherham, what exactly are the SLAB troughers actually hoping to achieve at Westminster? 

    90. Holebender says:

      Yes, I thought that was a very good analysis too.
      I expect what SLAB troughers want is an easy comfortable all expenses paid life with a golden retirement on the red benches at the end of it.

    91. Boorach says:

      @ clochoderic


    92. Holebender says:

      BTL = Below The Line (i.e. under the article). ATL = Above The Line (i.e. in the text of the article). Had me baffled for ages too!

    93. Boorach says:

      Thanks holebender

    94. Ghengis says:

      “This article was amended on 28 November 2012 to add a response from the SNP.”
      Boundary changes for devo max: the Tory-SNP deal that may reshape the UK
      An SNP spokesperson, however, said there had been no discussions and no deal would be done on the boundary review. “Given the fall-out and petty score-settling between the Tories and Lib Dems, people will wonder if this whole process has been a waste of time and waste of money. For the coalition to abandon its proposals, after spending £12m on this review, shows just how unreformable Westminster is,” the spokesperson said.
      This article was amended on 28 November 2012 to add a response from the SNP.

    95. Arbroath1320 says:

      Just a wee reminder for those wishing to participate in the decision about the 2014 referendum question then you can go here for further information
      If you want to participate then the e mail address is here, 2 days to go.
       infoscotland [at] electoralcommission [dot] org [dot] uk

    96. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

      This has been added to the end of the Guardian article:

      An SNP spokesperson, however, said there had been no discussions and no deal would be done on the boundary review. “Given the fall-out and petty score-settling between the Tories and Lib Dems, people will wonder if this whole process has been a waste of time and waste of money. For the coalition to abandon its proposals, after spending £12m on this review, shows just how unreformable Westminster is,” the spokesperson said.
      Needless to say, the hapless Clegg will be the last to be kept in the loop – while the biggest challenge lie with Ed Miliband, as the election hurdles are deliberately heaped ever higher for Labour.

      • This article was amended on 28 November 2012 to add a response from the SNP. 

    97. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:


      Yes, I came across that one too and thought she was bang on the money.

      It would make a good article but I dont know what she posts as elsewhere and dont know if shes on Wings to ask her.   

    98. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

      @Ghengis – Snap!

    99. Morag says:

      When did that appear?

    100. Oldnat says:

      Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) 

      It’s worth looking at the existing role of Scots in the Shadow Cabinet.

      Discount Curran and her colleagues Bain & Banks at the Scotland Office. Propaganda posts with no power.

      That leaves Douglas Alexander (Foreign Sec) and Jim Murphy (Defence) at Cabinet level – but there is no way that Lab MPs are going to allow these (or the Treasury) to be the exclusive domain of Scots/Welsh, and most other Departments are responsible predominantly for English affairs. The best that Scots might hope for normally, under the present constitutional settlement, is something like a minor post such as Jamieson (Treasury), McGuire (Work & Pensions) or Harris (environment).

      Not a great prospect for career politicians! 

    101. deewal says:

      SS wrote  “it’s a far less scary option than suddenly having Scotland just leave with ithe UKs WMDs”
      They are not the UKs WMD’s. They are the USA’s WMD’s on the UK’s mainland.

      Are we beginning to lose our nerve so soon ? Do we think we will lose the vote ?
      Independence NOW. We will never have the chance again.

    102. dadsarmy says:

      Thanks for the link to the EC consultation – done my fairly long boring response, just waiting to check it over before sending off!

      Regarding “bitthick” if I could be so bold – she’s an excellent poster, and does many well-thought out responses to both article (ATL!) and other posters (BTL!).

    103. John Böttcher says:

      The Guardian story is total mince: lifted almost entirely from a blog post I read a couple of months back. I can’t reference the article by memory, my RSS reader clears stuff after 4 weeks.

      Anyhoo, the speculative post suggested the Tories could make backroom deals with DUP/PC/SNP for maximum devolution for N.I./Wales/Scotland then listed at least half a dozen reasons why it could not happen.

      From memory – the Act(s) of Union would have to be ripped up for starters; it’d be illegal; it’d never get past both Houses of the Westminster Parliament; the change would be of such magnitude a U.K. – wide referendum would be required, etc. etc. etc.

      Lazy Guardian churnalism.


    104. Don McC says:

      clochoderic says:  what exactly are the SLAB troughers actually hoping to achieve at Westminster?

      What we have to remember is that the likes of “Do You” Davidson (but not in a sexual manner) took over £200 thousand from the public purse last year in wages and expenses.  His colleagues in the Put-Scotland-Down committee all received similar sums.

      What are the troughers hoping to achieve?  Thought that would be obvious by now.   

    105. Erchie says:

      I read a tweet today from Denis Skinner where he said Douglas Alexander was right to support the right of the Palestinians to self-determination.

      Quite right too.
      I wonder when these gentlemen are going to support that wonderful notion for Scotland

    106. douglas clark says:

      Does anyone else think that the sea change someone alluded to before on here is starting to happen?

    107. Commenter says:

      In all the comments discussing the above no person seems to have considered the possibility that the Referendum might be LOST. And it may very well BE lost. I’m sure that Alex Salmond has considered that in very great detail and what his and the SNP’s options afterwards might be. Thus there would be a lot of sense in the SNP accepting an Ultra Devolution settlement for a boundaries pact AS LONG as it was done and dusted before the Referendum. After all it seems to me that Scotland could just leave a set up as described above at a later date; and maybe that is being discussed too. I don’t think the SNP’s denial is of much consequence. It would say that.

    108. Nairn Clark says:

      The only reason to take such a deal would be to ensure a Devo Max vs Independence referendum in which Labour could support neither proposition, and would have to sit out the whole process, risking complete irrelevance in Scottish Politics.

      But is it worth that? They’re halfway to irrelevance as it is. 

    109. douglas clark says:

      I have yet to be convinced that any sort of ‘deal’ is on the table. It is interesting that a big majority of Scots, if you take the independence and the further powers groups together, make up a clear majority wanting change. This would be, from a unionist point of view, a way of appeasing them.
      I assume that Cameron would have to offer this right now? Or certainly well in advance of 2014. Otherwise we are simply being lied to. And I agree with others that this looks awefully like a kite flying exercise.
      I am not at all persuaded that their mutual disregard for Labour would see either party agree to a pact.
      This is a deflection from winning independence on it’s own merits. I think that we can, based on the current split between unionists and us. For it depends on the ‘break’ in devo max opinion, and what they actually do in the face of that ballot paper.

    110. Holebender says:

      Commenter, the referendum might be lost, but your suggestion would ensure that it is lost. Why would the SNP do something which would as good as guarantee that their life’s work would be lost?
      Fortune favours the brave, not fearties who prepare a detailed plan of retreat before the battle ever takes place. We’re going to win this thing, we have all the arguments for independence, not devo-whatever.

    111. Commenter says:

      Douglas Clark. I’m not convinced any deal is on the table either. But let’s be honest, it is the type of kite flying exercise that politicians use to suss out possibilities. 
      Holebender. I didn’t suggest anything. I just commented that ULTRA devolution as postulated in the article would be as as good as Independence to the majority of Scots and if offered and LAWFULLY AGREED BEFORE the Referendum there would be a lot of sense in the SNP accepting it.
      And all the best Generals weigh up the pros and cons of different strategies for before and after the battle. There’s not much good being a brave General if you not only lose the battle but the war with it too.

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