To be or not to be – that is the only question worth asking

The fact that nationalists have never supported a referendum on any form of devolution in the past should serve as a warning to Labour supporters of “Devo Max”, warns TOM HARRIS


During the recent Scottish Labour leadership contest, a friendly journalist asked me my views on so-called “Devolution Max” or, as I had dubbed it in the House of Commons last October, “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Independence”.

Devo Max is a mirage, I pointed out; undeliverable and undefined, it finds support in opinion polls because it can be whatever the respondent wants it to be. “But surely, if you’re not offering an increase in powers for Holyrood, people will be more likely to opt for independence?”

“If that’s the case,” I asked him, “why do the SNP want a Devo Max question so badly?”

And they really do. Salmond’s recently-launched consultation on the referendum is being engineered, it seems, almost exclusively to give him some justification to include a third option on the ballot paper. How odd that, having won a resounding victory at Holyrood and the right to dominate the political agenda in Scotland ever since, the SNP are trying to promote a policy they have never supported.

Let’s be quite clear about this: not only does no party have any kind of mandate to ask Scots to offer a view on Devo Max, the SNP have never supported a referendum for anything less than full separation. In 1996, when Tony Blair announced he would put Labour’s plans for devolution to the Scots in a pre-legislative referendum, Salmond excoriated him. When the Calman Commission delivered its conclusions about the next tranche of devolution, the SNP did not insist that they be put to a referendum before they were enacted.

Crucially, and most importantly, the SNP’s own winning manifesto from last May promised a referendum on independence and committed the party “… in the meantime, (to) make the current Scotland Bill better” by arguing for full fiscal autonomy (or Devo Max). So, even the nationalists, as recently as last year’s Holyrood elections, rejected the idea of a referendum on any form of devolution.

So why have they now performed a 180 degree turn on this? You would have to be incredibly naive to believe that this is a position of principle, that it is based on a desire to offer self-determination to the Scottish people. If it were, why have they only supported such self-determination for less than a year?

And now, having switched from opposing a referendum on any form of devolution to supporting one, the SNP are publicly contemptuous of anyone who doesn’t agree with their new position. If you agree with last year’s SNP manifesto, you’re apparently anti-democratic and trying to deprive Scots of their right to self-determination.

Even for the SNP this is cynical beyond anything most of us have ever encountered in politics. It should serve as a warning – though I fear it won’t – to Labour colleagues who have fallen into the separatists’ trap of supporting Devo Max.

The logic is straightforward: the SNP have spent a great deal of money in polling to prepare the way for their referendum; if the evidence they have gathered as a result had indeed concluded that, deprived of a third option on the ballot paper, Scots will opt for separation from the rest of the UK, then not a single member of the SNP would be supporting that third option.

So there’s the challenge to Alex Salmond: stand by your own manifesto commitment and ask the Scottish people to give a straight yes or no to separation. I will abide by the result. Will Alex Salmond? 

Tom Harris is the MP for Glasgow South.

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57 thoughts on “To be or not to be – that is the only question worth asking

  1. Yawn. The SNP manifesto (page 11) promised a referendum on “full economic powers”. However many times you assert otherwise, that (doubtless deliberately) ambiguous phrase is what was actually in there.

    1. Page 11 on my copy is all about industrial policy. Which line/paragraph are you referring to?

      1. You’re quite right, I got the page number wrong. But here’s the page in question:

        “And we will bring forward our proposals to give Scots a vote on full economic powers through an independence referendum.”

        As I noted, it’s certainly ambiguous (and no doubt deliberately so). But it can certainly be interpreted to easily allow for more than a single question. An “independence referendum”, particularly in the light of the immediately preceding words, can plainly and legitimately mean a referendum on how much independence we want – some (as now), more or all.

        And incidentally, this is also startlingly untrue:

        “the SNP have never supported a referendum for anything less than full separation”

        The SNP campaigned actively for a Yes/Yes vote in 1997.

        1. There is nothing ambiguous about the SNP’s 2011 commitment to an independence referendum – no-one seriously believes the absurd spin that it can be interpreted as a commitment to a referendum on “how much” independence scots want.

          And yes, the SNP campaigned for a Yes/Yes vote in 1997, having vociferously condemned Tony Blair for promising a referendum a year earlier.

          1. “no-one seriously believes”

            Not for the first time, Tom, you’ve mistaken “I believe” for “everybody believes”. It’s not so much “spin” as “English” – the commitment in the referendum allows considerably flexibility over the nature of the referendum, simple as that. You’ve chosen to interpret the commitment a particular way, which you’re entitled to do, but that makes you no less guilty of “spinning” it than anyone who chooses a different one. The words “full economic powers” are totally redundant in a referendum offering only complete independence.

            “And yes, the SNP campaigned for a Yes/Yes vote in 1997, having vociferously condemned Tony Blair for promising a referendum a year earlier”

            I’m sure you’ll be along presently with a quote from the SNP condemning any referendum being held, rather than condemning specifically a referendum that excluded independence as an option

          2. “…the SNP campaigned for a Yes/Yes vote in 1997, having vociferously condemned Tony Blair for promising a referendum a year earlier.”

            The situation has changed a great deal since 1997.

            Devolution has simultaneously given the SNP an opportunity to show they are capable of Govt AND downgraded their MPs in the UK Parliament to a second class status (ie not accountable to any voter on such crucial areas as Health, Education, Social Policy, Housing, etc, etc).

            Petard hoisted!

    2. Unless the SNP have a majority in Westminster, this means nothing.

      The decision for Scotland to stay in the Union is one for Scotland alone to make.

      The decision to change the terms of Scotland’s UK membership is one for the whole of the UK to take.

  2. The SNP don’t want a Devo Max Question.
    The SNP has repeatedly said that if a significant nunber of people want a Devo Max Question and they can define what they mean by that it could be on a ballot paper.
    A significant nuber of people want to have Devo max question including a number of prominet persons from the Labour movement.
    But agreeing what it means is almost impossible, which the SNP is very aware of. And the failure of this process will lead many waverers to the independence position.
    That’s the game and you’re getting the runaround.

  3. I suspect the SNP have looked at the numbers and they aren’t sure they can win. Thus the long delay, and thus also the sudden enthusiasm for ‘Devo Max’.

    For the SNP, the possible consequences of an in/out referendum are absolutely seismic, win or lose. For the Unionists, only one result is at all seismic, as victory for the Unionists, even if it’s a very close victory, is a validation of the status quo. Only in defeat is our position at all changed.

    Victory for the SNP results in seismic change, as they will then have to prepare Scotland for full secession from the Union, which is a monumental undertaking.

    But defeat for the SNP is a defeat for their entire raison d’etre and takes the prospect of Scottish secession from the Union completely off the table for at least a generation or two.

    Thus, in many ways, the referendum is not just win or lose for the SNP, it is win or lose for the main reason for their existence.

    Faced with that kind of monumental fallout, it is perhaps unsurprising that the SNP are playing for time (To allow the idea of secession as a good thing to build) and also trying to hedge their bets as much as they can.

    With any three way choice in a referendum, you can bet not enough people will vote for any one option to make for a clear and outright victory. This would almost certainly result in no outright vote for secession, but at the same time it could not be said to be a complete rejection of the idea, either.

    The way I read it, a three question referendum would thus be far more about not losing than it would be about winning.

    This is not in any way to say that Unionists should get complacent or consider the Union safe. It’s far from that. There is still a debate, and it’s a debate we need to win.

    1. I disagree.

      Devo max is a tool to split the unionist vote. If it’s allowed the Independence vote will come out on top. The SNP will campaign for this option to be allowed right up until the last minute where they will ‘allow’ themselves to be pushed into a position where it’s a straight yes/no vote (Possibly in return for powers for a legally binding referendum) Then they’ll campaign for a yes vote on the basis of the Unionists removing Devo max and the only way to have more powers in Scotland will be independence. Many devo Max supporters will flock to the SNP and it’ll be a landslide for independence.

      For the SNP, the consequences of a loss are simply another 40 year setback, like we’ve had since the last referendum. Don’t expect them to disappear anymore than you expect pro union Labour to disappear in an Independent Scotland. (I actually think Labour will return to proper socialist politics in an independent Scotland and freeing Labour from London will be good for it.)The SNP will put enough spin on a No vote and accuse Westminster of interference. Ultimately, for the Union to remain and the SNP to cease to exist it will take decades of FAIR government from London, and frankly, that’s never going to happen. More likely Scotland will continue to be treated as a vassal state which will cause resentment to continue to grow. The unions best bet here is that by the time we get around to another referendum the oil will have run out in the North sea. (Cross your fingers Scotland can’t get any from the North Atlantic!) But by then Scotland wioll probably be a world leader in renewable energy from the vast waves around it as well as the wind.

      An independent Scotland might actually be more likely to bring about the end of the SNP.

      At the moment there is only one party out there with the interests of the Average Scot at heart. But once they have independence the SNP might very well Schism. Under the banner of independence left wing and right wing political views rub shoulders. (Much like the they do under the banner of the Union) Once the main SNP goal is achieved they might very well split, or lose people to other already existing parties. There is much opinion that the SDA will begin putting candidates forward for election and only don’t at the moment because they do not want to dilute the Nationalist vote. Along with a resurgent Labour party that Scots can believe in again and some form of new right wing party, (Because a lot of right wing voters are disenfranchised by the tories) perhaps led by Murdo Fraser, Independence is a much bigger threat to the SNP than remaining in the union is.

      1. Right now the SNP have more of their ducks in a row than they have ever managed to get before. Not just a very able and highly respected leader in Alex Salmond, but also a clear majority in the Scottish Parliament.

        The wider UK economy is in a state of disarray (Whoever one may or may not blame for that, it is so) and the seeming death throes of the maddened and dying Euro are making things far worse than they need to be for everyone. The Prime Minister not only holds the post despite having almost no mandate whatsoever in Scotland, but is also widely despised and distrusted.

        Indeed, the only real rival Salmond has as a leader of any political party in the UK as a whole is Nigel Farage, whose influence is less than negligible in Scotland, leaving the field utterly clear of any real danger to SNP dominance.

        If the SNP cannot win under these most optimum of conditions, it must surely be a body blow. At the least they are bound to lose confidence. It will be pretty clear that the people of Scotland trust them to run the country well and to do their best for the Scots people, yet have no real burning desire to secede from the UK.


        I definitely agree with you that the Scottish Labour and Scottish Conservative parties need to get their houses in order, though. As indeed do their UK equivalents. All are coasting along on empty and in bad need of a major shake-up. One of the major reasons I like Labour Hame is that it seems to be at least trying to kick that process off, at least with regard to Scottish Labour 🙂

        I think Murdo has the right idea for the Tories, but sadly his own party wasn’t listening.

      2. An excellent comment. I agree that the SNP will probably split after Independence. And I’ll tell you something else – I voted Labour from the age of 18 up till Mr Blair took control, after that it was the SNP for me.
        I dearly wish for Independence so I can join a truly Scottish Labour Party, free from the apparatchiks and political wonks who are in thrall to the City of London.
        Imagine such a thing – a Scottish Labour party true to the ideals of Keir Hardie. Wouldn’t it be great?

  4. Tom has a point, but not quite the one he is making…

    Alex Salmond understands that most people in Scotland want ‘nearly all powers’ but are not quite ready for independence. Therefore he raises this option as a possibility in the knowledge that he will not be allowed to have it on the ballot paper. Result…he can then use the refusal to argue that the choice is now all or nothing because the Unionists are not willing to let them vote on for preferred option.

    Game, Set and Match to Alex Salmond…

  5. Given what Cameron had to say, it appears that the status quo is the question most likely to fall off the referendum ballot.

  6. Could labour just once offer leadership? Scotland is not the SNP or Labour, there are the best interests of a nation at sate.

  7. Firstly, you have your basic facts wrong. People have actually been talking about Devo Max for a number of years and the SNP made it clear that it could be included on the ballot paper after the consultation on the first draft referendum bill. The one which most Labour people didn’t bother reading.

    Secondly, Devo Max will not be included on the ballot paper unless it is clearly defined and unless there is a significant body of support for it. capable of forming and funding a campaign in its favour. The SNP will not be part of that.

    Thirdly, in the event that there is no political support forthcoming for Devo Max it will mean that the devolution settlement as it is represents Devo Max – the maximum amount of devolution that Scotland can have. It is not credible to argue, as various unionist politicans are, that devolution can be expanded if the people of Scotland vote no without a single detail of that being put on the table.

    If devolution can be expanded what can it be expanded to include? Welfare? Tax? Pensions? Specifics are needed. At present the Unionist tactic is to demand that the SNP explains absolutely everything that could happen with independence while at the same time expecting people to buy the line that devolution can be progressed after a no vote although absolutely no detail – even in broad brush terms – is provided. Voters will rightly conclude that such talk is meaningless.

    Fourthly, it’s pretty clear that neither the Scottish Labour Party nor the Scottish Conservative Party are really in control of the campaign aagainst independence – mainly because it is suggested that some “big boys” are needed to take on Alex Salmond. And there are, apparently, no “big boys” available locally. This creates a problem however as the big boys won’t be out chapping doors and persuading voters – it will be the foot soldiers who will be doing that. And how motivated are they likely to be if they are excluded from helping to form the campaign strategyas well as implement it? Just how keen will Labour members be to go out and campaign for a save the union strategy devised by David Cameron? Compare and contrast with the SNP where everyone has a copy of the same hymn sheet and members are fully involved in the campaign.

    Taking all those things into consideration I think you would be rash indeed to put your money on a no vote.

    1. Indy

      I think that you have just highlighted one of the many problems that Labour have with their present position in the independence debate.

      No matter the spin that will be put on it, every Labour atavist campaigning for a no vote will be campaigning to support David Cameron, and his position as UK Prime Minister.

      With the way the opinion polls are at present, where Labour should be out of sight at this point in the election cycle, it likely that Cameron will be well in the lead come 2014. Will Labour be happy campaigning for Scotland to “enjoy” another five years of Cameron and his cronies.

  8. or are the SNP simply wanting the discussion on DevoMax, or Devo+, because the more its discussed the less plausible it becomes. The more its examined the more difficulties there are seen in trying to implement it. The more its discussed the more it becomes clear that the real choice is between Independence and the status quo.

  9. Its my clear recollection that the SNP DID campaign for devolution in the 1997 referendum and that Donald Dewar approached Salmond for a shared platform campaign which was successful. I cannot understand why the Unionists are opposed to the Scots electorate having a say in their own future constitution. Isnt that the basis of democracy? Federalism would satisfy most peoples aspirations but it would seem that Westminster will never give up its political and economic hegemony in the UK. So much for a Union of equals. The Unionists dont like the concept of Devo Max on the ballot not because its not been defined( it would be easy to put flesh on these bones ), but because it forces them to a defined position on the constitution-for this or against that. Whatever we vote for will be a vast improvement on the friendless Scotland Bill, which is fiscally illiterate and damaging to Scotlands interests. There are too many Scots at Westminster, more bothered about losing their cushy job in London than about Scotlands best interests.

    1. Its my clear recollection that the SNP DID campaign for devolution in the 1997 referendum…

      Your recollection is clear, and you will notice that I said nothing to the contrary. The SNP supported a Yes/Yes vote in 1997, but they opposed the principle of a referendum when Tony Blair proposed it in 1996, and at the time called for Labour to implement its manifesto commitment without a referendum.

      1. For Tom Harris:

        The “need” for a referendum looked to me then (and still does) as a way of getting round the diehards in the Labour Party who STILL opposed a Scottish Parliament if they thought they could get away with it.
        As to holding a referendum, the Labour Party had deemed it unnecessary in the 1980s and 1990s until 1996. Why did they have that sudden change of mind and was it unreasonable for the SNP to object to the sudden policy change by Labour?

        It is no secret that Blair (apparently an Englishman born in Scotland, by his own self-identification) was much less enthusiastic for devolution than the late John Smith.

        Why on earth should the SNP have campaigned for a referendum before 1996 when no-one else did?

      2. “but they opposed the principle of a referendum”

        Did they? Or did they oppose the principle of a LIMITED referendum not offering the option they believed in? Labour always want to restrict the people’s choice, the SNP always want to let the people decide. In 1999 Labour offered devolution or status quo, no independence. In 2014 Labour want to offer independence or status quo, no devo max. Same old story. Always scared of the people’s voice.

      3. The past is another country. In 1996 it was perfectly reasonable to argue that no referendum was needed to implement Labour’s devolution plans since there would have been a pro-devolution majority among Scots MPs. That was then, this is now. Now people expect referendums and no longer accept the myth of parliamentary omnipotence. Perhaps in the long run that will be Blair’s most enduring legacy.

      4. “Let’s be quite clear about this: not only does no party have any kind of mandate to ask Scots to offer a view on Devo Max, [b]the SNP have never supported a referendum for anything less than full separation.[/b]”

        Make your mind up Tom. Either they have or they never have. Just saying something factually wrong over and over doesn’t make it right.

  10. I think most folk engaged in this process have the gist of it. Soosiders post says it all very eloquently. The unionists are getting the runaraound. This because, in football terms, their defence is completely unco-ordinated and they appear to have no strikers.

  11. Nobody can doubt that the SNP and the vast majority of pro-independence people in Scotland (sorry, separatists) favour maximum devolution over the status quo. Surely nobody can be surprised at this? Your point then seems to be that because they haven’t always campaigned for referenda to devolve more (or the maximum) powers, they somehow are being morally bankrupt and cynical by considering a question on this. In your view Tom, are the SNP ever allowed to support a referendum on devolution without being cynical?

    I agree that Devo Max needs to be ‘fleshed out’ before it’s put in the referendum but it’s hardly as if it’s a concept which is very difficult to grasp. The basic idea is that the Scottish government is given maximum fiscal autonomy and power. Surely it’s OK to talk about this concept before a detailed description is put forward and we vote (or not) on it?

    There’s a long time before the referendum. Plenty of time for people who support the concept of devo max to articulate precisely what it means. You seem to be suggesting that because the SNP want this on he ballot paper, Labour supporters and unionists who also support Devo Max, in principle, should argue against it’s inclusion just because the SNP also want it to be an option. And you accuse the SNP of being cynical?

    You talk about positions of principle but just what is Labour’s ‘position of principle’ on the constitution? We know they’re against full independence. Are they ‘line in the sand’ devolutionists like Ruth Davidson? Do they think the Scotland Bill is enough? Are they open to discussing what powers could and should be devolved up to and including full fiscal autonomy? Do they think there should be a referendum on this and if so when? As an outsider looking in, it seems to me the Labour party are simply against anything which might be supported by the SNP. Against independence, OK we all get that but shouldn’t the Labour party be looking to develop a coherent position of it’s own to let us all know what they are ‘for’ rather than simply what they’re against so that the people of Scotland can have a real discussion about the way they want their country to be governed. Because ultimately that’s what this is about. It’s not about the SNP or the Labour party, it’s not about independence, devo max, Calman or the status quo, it’s about recognising that we’ve reached a point where we have a real opportunity to discuss what Scotland’s best options are and where our future lies and how we want to shape it. No party or group should be afraid of what the people might choose, they should all be looking to tell us what they think and what they believe in and be willing to give the people the chance to tell you all what we think and what we believe in. So far Labour’s “strategy” seems to be all about fear of what might happen if we have this discussion and therefore an attempt to reduce the scope of what can and can’t be offered and what can and can’t be talked about. Have some vision, some ‘cojones’ and engage with the people of Scotland on what is possible, what is best and have the confidence in yourselves to support discussion on what you might not, personally, agree with and some confidence in us that we’re capable of judging all arguments on their merits and that we will be able to see through cynicism (on both sides) and make the correct decision once all options are up for debate. In the past Labour were seen as a party of vision and principle. Rightly or wrongly, people don’t have that impression any more. It’s not too late. Have some vision and look to take part in this debate and let us all take part, rather than trying to stifle it. People talk about the Scottish Labour party losing touch with the electorate and failing to communicate. I think that’s because we’re lost faith in each other. Regain a little of that faith in us, we might surprise you.

  12. You say no party has a mandate to ask Scots to offer a view to Devo max, why ? With the SNP having a clearly elected working majority of MSP’s in goverenment surely that is enough of a mandate, and if there is clear support from the people of Scotland to have a Devo-max question in the referendum are you saying they do not have that right ???
    What I dont understand is labour claims to be the party of devolution, and yet Devo-max is devolution and you won’t support it. What is the problem ?

  13. Surely if Devo Max is what the people want it’s no bad thing to make it happen.

    Regardless of who is, in fact, putting it forward and there reasons for doing so.

    Yes the SNP, Labour, Tories etc may become the champion of it. They may be doing it for a wide range of reasons. But if it’s what the people seem to want let’s just do it.

    I would imagine that Devo Max is quite a radical shift for many. It can be said that the people have already voiced there opinion on devolution and clearly demanded it and therefore there’s no need for Devo Max being on the ballot paper. I would agree if the parliament just took it forward now and did it. Then the choice would be between the new status quo (a popular Devo Max) and full independence. The worry I have is that Westminster has no intention of constituting devo max despite the wishes of the people. Therefore, I think it may be required on the ballot paper simply to force Government to act.

    The Unionist parties need to get away from this idea that they can’t give any ground on the constitution for fear of giving the SNP credit. I couldn’t care less about who gets credit for this. What matters is that the people get what they want. It seems that people would like to see Devo Max.

    1. “Surely if Devo Max is what the people want it’s no bad thing to make it happen.”

      Yes, I was under the impression that the role of representative democratic government was to implement the policies wished by the electorate to the maximum extent that is practically possible. The fact that ~7 in 10 Scots want Devo Max/FFA yet the UK government/Unionist parties are not putting this on the table effectively means we are not living in a democracy, but a form of elective dictatorship. I find this very disturbing.

      Labour – serve the people, offer them what they wish, champion FFA. Don’t just try to tell them what is best for them; continue doing that and the electoral wilderness awaits.

  14. To be honest I don’t understand your point here. It’s interesting to suggest that talking about something might, by itself, make something less plausible but I’ve yet to see that in practice.

    Really the status quo is the least logical set up and now seems like a dugs dinner. It seems to me that the original Scotland Act was constituted in such a way as to make it relatively smooth for those governing originally and to get the Parliament through the first wee while without too many teething problems. Essentially the powers aren’t much different from the old Secretary of State, few added extras and the daft wee three pence tax gimmick.

    The fact that the block grant is vastly still derived from British (English, English & Wales, EWNI) governmental sections expenditure plus the old baseline is utterly farcical. It means that money we get has little bearing to policy decisions in Scotland. This means we have little ability to improve the size of the grant by way of good decisions and no responsibility when the Scottish Government makes bad ones. The latter makes it somewhat difficult to really nail a Scottish Government for parties in opposition (As can be seen from the poor performances in Holyrood). A fantastic leader can by sheer charisma win the day because there’s little expenditure wise to hold them to account for. It becomes a game of “what your spending the money on?” rather than “is it responsible to spend that money?” “will it increase economic output?” etc. There is just little to grab them by economically. With that there is little accountability. This may well seem good for SNP people, at the moment, but not for good governance long term.

    By not being able to really change the size of the cake there is little to really stimulate the Scottish Government to drive the country forward as the proceeds are still going to head south.

    Because the grant being all about incremental increases from a culmination of government departments from England it dramatically restricts the ability to deviate in policy terms.

    I just can’t get over that the Barnett consequential payment hasn’t been totally revamped. How can anyone seriously think that the money we get should be the subject of increases/decreases in England by a Secretary of State down there with no thought for the needs up here. It’s almost like the original Scotland Act people forgot to come back after lunch and finish the other half of the job (i.e. how the Parliament raises it’s money)!

    Whatever people say Devo Max is far more clean and less muddled than now. It offers all the levers for the Parliament to function for the needs of Scotland whilst allowing Scotland to remain part of the UK (giving both EWNI and Scotland security). If Scotland raises all of it’s own money and spends it according to it’s needs (with some financial discipline installed from London) and pays a proportion for the biggies (Defence and Foreign Affairs) I can see no more clean and straight proposal. Obviously this throws up some questions about Foreign policy but I doubt it’s beyond the wit of man to come up with some compromise.

    Devo max is not the best hope for Unionists to stop independence. It’s just the right thing to do.

  15. Alex Salmond not only wants a Devomax question, he will campaign for it, even though it is a vote against independence.

    “The Scottish Government would campaign for a ‘Yes-Yes’ vote in the referendum – ‘yes’ to more responsibilities for the Parliament, and ‘yes’ to additional powers to enable independence to be achieved.””

    The net result of Cameron raising this issue is that the SNP are now restricted to exclusively talking about voting NO to independence.

  16. Tom, are you suggesting that the SNP could state in its manifesto that it was campaigning for Independence, win a majority of seats, then implement that commitment WITHOUT a referendum?

    1. No Tom is pointing out the hypocrisy in the SNPs position. He doesn’t say anywhere that he agreed with the SNP in 1996 did he?

      1. What “hypocrisy” is that, exactly? I’m still waiting for Tom’s quote for when the SNP actually opposed a referendum, rather than saying that it should offer more options. You’re more than welcome to provide it instead, though.

  17. The issue should not be about the number of choices but about what the option other than Independence is. There can be no “status quo” because we don’t know where the Scotland Bill is going and nobody seems to agree on what the alternative should be. Personally I think that we should look at the most popular position is in the opinion polls is and put that as the other option to Independence. Surely its up to the Scottish unionists to decide what the non-Independence option should be. Seems Alistair Darling thinks it should be “Devo Max.”

  18. Tom

    Your point about Alex and the snp grasping onto the Devo-Max question in recognition of the fact (the snp leadership fully accept) they will lose the vote for separation.

    is quite clear to all and any normal fair minded person its only the snp supporters with their mind twisting delusional contortions who deny this truth. But then they would wouldn’t they.

    1. Nico… Why don ‘t you ever supply reasons/ facts as to why Scotland should continue to be governed by Westminister. All of your posts are simply insults, slurs or outright nonsense.

      1. Why? to keep people like your good-self at bay

        ‘All of your posts are simply insults, slurs or outright nonsense.’

        I can assure you I am not now nor have ever been a members of the snp

      2. What slur or insult or nonsense has Nikostratos made in his comment?

        Why do you use the term ‘governed by Westminster’ to imply that we are controlled from afar with no input.

        It is not the case that Westminster governs us in the way you imply with that comment. WE govern Westminster, as do the English, Welsh and the north of Ireland. WE send our representatives there, democratically, to represent us and control the powers reserved at Westminster.

        Why is it more important to nats WHERE the power lies and not HOW the power is used? It is clear from all the back tracking being done by Salmond that not very much would change if we became independent (apart from losing power of the BoE for example) therefore all he wants is to have the power. He won’t do anything differently; he just wants the power.

        He has history with this which proves he’s just after more and more power. He has undermined local democracy to centralise power (he also wanted to implement LIT which was the antithesis of ‘local’).

        His argument isn’t really that SCOTLAND doesn’t have the power over X, Y and Z – no his gripe is that HE doesn’t have the power over X, Y and Z.

  19. A couple of questions for you Tom. Does any government have to have a mandate to hold a referendum? Is or not reasonable to suggest if they feel there is a reasonable strength of opinion for something then ask the question to find out.

    My other question for you is, if you are against independence and believe the extra question will hurt the yes vote, then why are you not for the extra question? Are you nervous about what that would bring. Your dream result is one question with a no result then business as usual for Scotland.

  20. Oh! Dear Mr Harris, are you perhaps hard of reading? Is it perhaps hard of thinking? Nah! It must be hard of comprehension of what you read. Now I’m not in the habit of questioning people’s powers of though and believe we all have freedom of thought but is it not rather streaching things a bit to claim the SNP WANT a Devo/anything on the paper? At no time has that ever been their position. Their only claim was that they believed in the democratic rights of someone else to *** define and pose another question? Can you actually deny that?

    Facts are simple for anyone with a little deductive powers to figure out. It is nothink like the proverbial, “Rocket Science”. It is this NO ONE but the sitting government are in any position to put another question on the paper for the simple reason that NO ONE else can make good the answer to the question. Labour are not in power so any Labour promise is an empty promise as they cannot honour ANYTHING they promise. ONLY the ConDems can define and set that second question as only they can back it up. Furthermore, the Scottish People will not vote again for Pie in the sky by and by when you die. Once bitten … … …

  21. Gavin

    A number of countries (The Baltic states for instance)in recent years have become independent on the basis of a parliamentary majority for it. It is the commonist way to achieve independence.

  22. Tom, The SNP have done the unionists up like kippers and that’s what devo max is all about. They have you guys arguing among yourselves before you have even bagan your united unionist campaign.
    Over the weekend we had the prime minister contradicting his newly elected Scottish leader, followed by an article condemning the prime minister by arch unionist and Ruth supporter lord Forsyth. The labour party has been marginalized in the debate, with a former first minister supporting devo max and a well respected labour politician saying that he and a number of labour MSP and supporters will vote for independence if they are given the choice between independence or the status quo !

    And this isn’t even an SNP policy !!!!!!!

    The debate has only began and your all falling out in the unionist camp and the polls show a constant trend for a rising support for independence.
    Labour have panicked and this has resulted in this London lead purge, the result of which we have only saw ‘the tip of the iceberg’ over the past few weeks.

    I believe we are finally seing the labour party in Scotland’s ‘Downfall’ and with their latest polling running at %23 support we may soon be seeing the almost unimaginable scenario in which the labour party polls lower than the tories who have tended to score about %17

    Just another %6 drop and this will become reality.

    Doesn’t this make labour people on this site think that maybe your party needs to stop whingeing about the SNP and Alex Salmond and start looking at themselves ?

  23. “Devo Max is a mirage, I pointed out; undeliverable and undefined, it finds support in opinion polls because it can be whatever the respondent wants it to be.”

    If you believe that the status quo is not the answer, then surely it’s up to YOU to define Devo Max and to sell it as the alternative to independence? I mean, you lot managed to define Devo Mk1, would it really be beyond you to define Devo Mk2?

  24. Tom with regards referendums, the 2005 Labour manifesto included a referendum on the EU but when they came to power they reneged on that commitment. So Labour do not have a record you can trust when it come to that particular subject.

  25. Tom, whatever the arguements from the past show we know that Devo Max or Federalism has been around for years, I met Ming C. when I was a young boy and it was their policy, and I’m almost 65 now, but the important thing is that Cameron’s statement has changed everything – the genie is out o the bottle, Labour have to define their vision before he does. They must not be afraid of this and they should include it as an option or second pass in the referendum, more importantly they need to get involved in positive proposals.

  26. Tom, a very good post and sums up exactly what the SNP are attempting to do here. It is clear the SNP would lose if Devo-max is off the ballot.

    If it’s on the ballot they hope for one of the following:

    1. That a split devolution vote will result in independence squeaking through.

    2. That in the event of a failure to deliver independence they can claim they have delivered further powers for Scotland.

    Why don’t they finalise the Scotland Bill and advocate a referendum on it as it enhances devolution? Are the SNP saying we need a referendum everytime we wish to change the devolution settlement?

    I think there is a limit to what devolution can achieve in its current format. To change that devoltion would be required across the UK. You can;t have devo-max without it being maximum devoltuion across the UK. THAT would require a referendum as it would affect all the nations of the UK.

  27. The fact that nationalists have never supported a referendum on any form of devolution in the past should serve as a warning to Labour supporters of “Devo Max”, warns TOM HARRIS

    Why indulge in untruths.

    The SNP supported both devolution referendums in 1979 and 1997.

    The problem for Labour is the recent revelations that many high profile Scottish Labour politicians both in 1979 and in 1997, inside and outside of the Cabinet, argued against devolution and sought to block it.

    There are still many within Scottish Labour who are still opposed to devolution.

    1. OH NO!! There was a recent revelation that Labour members have minds of their own??

      Whatever shall we do!

      I’ll ask Eck – he’ll know.

      (Catch a hold of yourself)

  28. jack Straw – inveterate opponent of personal civil liberties and democratic reform and a rich barrister to boot.
    If he’s against the European parliament, maybe it’s not so bad as we thought?

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