Not a referendum, only a public opinion poll

Well, Scottish Nats in the 21st century are handling the politics of independence very differently from their Irish forebears in the 20th. Today, St Andrew’s Day with headline support for independence hitting new recent lows, Alex Salmond has revealed plans for a referendum on, not one, not two, not three, but four options. The cute one is devo max that would remove all powers to Scotland except – except – the monarchy, the army and foreign affairs. I’m with commentator Iain Mcwhirter when he says: You can’t have a referendum with four options”. When I put this very point to the SNPs Constitutional Affairs Minister Mike Russell recently, he said I was accusing him of being a snake-oil salesman. Not exactly Mike, more a huckster for a political Irn Bru.McWhirter goes on:

” Presumably, this inflation of options is an attempt by the SNP to confuse the issue; to turn the debate into a kind of constitutional soup into which all the options dissolve, allowing the SNP to get along with governing under devolution – which, until now, they had been doing very successfully. The “multi-option” option is a also a distraction from the inconvenient truth that Scots really don’t want to be bothered with constitutional change, at least not now. The latest Ipsos MORI poll suggests that support for independence is down to 25% and that only 20% of Scots want an early referendum.”

The Guardian’s Jackie Ashley sees traps in the Salmond scheme for David Cameron in government which Alex could exploit to win independence yet. She thinks Scottish resentment would rise along with Tory spending cuts and fewer Scottish seats at Westminster. But all this will take years, And anyway, find me the Scot who lights up at the prospect of paying higher tartan taxes.

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