Crafty Alex Salmond has gone back to flirting with a multi option approach to a Scottish referendum next year. To try to stave off defeat in Holyrood where the combined opposition comprise a unionist majority, Salmond is prepared to include the Calman reports recommendation for more powers for the Scottish Parliament, as well as the minority SNP governments own bid for support to open negotiations for independence with Westminster. As the BBCs Scotland political Editor Brian Taylor says: “
This is deliberately sufficiently flexible to make it an offer which is, strategically, difficult to refuse.Programme for government.
As a result of the National Conversation there is now agreement among all Scotlands main political parties that the Scottish Parliament should have additional responsibilities. There is also now broad support in the Scottish Parliament in favour of a referendum to give the people a choice on Scottish independence. This is a once in a generation opportunity, and we will fulfil our manifesto commitment to introduce a Referendum Bill to allow a vote on independence to take place in autumn 2010. The Referendum Bill will provide the framework for the conduct and mechanics of the referendum itself.
More powers or independence? may be a deliberately confusing choice. Salmond seems to be calculating that if he can pressurise the unionist majority into holding a referendum at all, more voters than the polls suggest would plump for independence. But if a majority didnt, he would still have the fallback of stronger powers for Holyrood and after a lot of huffing and bluffing would end up well satisfied with that.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London