Next steps towards a Scottish referendum

Make of the Sunday Telegraph ICM poll what you will.  43% of English voters approve of Scottish independence at  this particular moment, but only ( only!) 40% of Scots. Of the three potential questions 26% of Scots voters prefer independence, 26% more tax and spending powers and 37% the status quo.

How did we get to this point? Outsiders may well be rubbing their eyes in disbelief. In a  neat synthesis of apparently irreconcilable ambitions, veteran Scots commentator on Europe and the wider world Neal Ascherson in the Observer usefully traces the development of the Scottish debate

It’s really quite simple. The Scots want to run their own country as other small nations do. Most of them want to stay in the Union. They want a Scottish government that is not bossed about by London, and especially not by English politicians in parties most Scots did not vote for. As David – now Lord – Steel said a few years ago: “No self-respecting parliament can exist permanently on a grant from another parliament.”

Former Chancellor Alistair Darling, much talked about as a potential leader of an all- party pro-Union campaign warns of the “huge risks” of independence.

Against this background the Observer reports that (Lib Dem Scottish Secretary Michael) Moore, who has suggested a meeting on Thursday with Salmond, said: “We want to have this referendum made in Scotland and we can start the work in the nation’s capital this week.”

The Scottish secretary will address the CBI in Edinburgh on Monday and the advocate general will set out the legal situation with the referendum at Glasgow University on Friday.

Amid all the legalistic  manoeuvring this week will bring, I guess the next big discussion point of substance will be the extent of devolution powers both sides might have to agree on to make the devo max option coherent on or off the referendum ballot paper,  and the consequential future of  Westminster’s Scotland Bill, which the SNP government is quite legally blocking, as it requiree Holyrood’s consent.  The pro Union parties north and south of the border are in a muddle, so don’t expect a resolution anytime soon.

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  • In order words Scottish support for independence has grown to 40% with only 43% opposed (or 48% and 52% without the don’t knows). My my…

  • DougtheDug


    I guess the next big discussion point of substance will be the extent of devolution powers both sides might have to agree on to make the devo max option coherent on or off the referendum ballot paper…

    It’s not actually as discussion the SNP will get involved in. The SNP want independence and have left the unionist parties and organisations in Scotland to define the executive, legislative and financial powers that devo-max will have.

    Because only the unionist parties can take devo-max as a bill through Westminster then they have to define it either alone or in partnership with other unionist organisations in Scotland so they can bring their MP’s on board to pass the bill in Westminster.

    The problem with Labour, the Conservatives and with the Lib-Dems is that none of them are at all keen on giving more powers to Scotland and since devo-max can be defined as the maximum extent to which London will devolve power to Holyrood we may in fact already be at devo-max in Scotland.

    Even if organisations in, “Civic Scotland”, such as the Scottish Trade Unions Council (STUC) can define what devo-max means then without endorsement from either Labour or Labour and the Lib-Dems there’s not much point in putting it on the ballot paper as it will never get through Westminster.

    What Salmond has done is told the unionists in Scotland that they are the ones to define what devo-max is and if it doesn’t appear on the ballot paper it will either be because they can’t decide on a definition or that the Labour party, with or without the Lib-Dems, has refused to endorse it.

    In either case the failure to get devo-max on the SNP controlled ballot paper will be the fault of the unionists and the only option for change will be the option of independence.

    I very much doubt if there will be a devo-max option defined far less endorsed by Labour in the next two years.

    If devo-max is not on the ballot paper it will be dead. If there is a yes vote for independence then devo-max is redundant. If there is a no vote for independence then without the threat of independence the chances of Scotland gaining any more devolved powers will be zero.

  • Drumlins Rock

    I Approve of reducing VAT to 15%, should it happen now? no of course not, it would have to be in the right circumstance.

    In the right circumstance I would approve a United Ireland, but I cant see that happening.

    In other words it is a leading question, probably if you asked “do you like the idea of breaking up the United Kingdom” the answer could be rather different.

    Thats before you even consider one question has pro Independance at 40% and another in the same survey has it at 26% !!! umm Hello reality check needed.

  • Neil

    In other words it is a leading question,

    I don’t see how ‘approve or disapprove of Scotland becoming independent’ could be described as leading. It’s the simplest way of asking the question that’s being asked, i.e. do you want independence for Scotland or not? Compare that to:

    “do you like the idea of breaking up the United Kingdom”

    Which is 100% certainly a ‘leading question’ and a rather arsy and obtuse way of asking the question ‘do you support Scottish independence’ (IMHO).

    Thats before you even consider one question has pro Independance at 40% and another in the same survey has it at 26% !!!

    No reality check required DR, allow me to help. Imagine being in a restaurant that has two options for entree. Let’s say soup and prawn cocktail. 40% of people like the soup, and 43% like the prawns. Then along comes the chef and tells you that today’s special includes Pate which can also be ordered for entree. The numbers then change to 26% liking the soup, 37% like the prawns and 26% now want Pate.

    Now replace soup with full independence, prawns with the status quo and pate with devo max and you’re there. Basically what’s happening is in the first question there are two options and in the second there are three. Obviously when the number of potential responses change so too do the percentages.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Neil, lets pretend the first choice was 40% for Soup of the Day, and 43% for the regular menu, which actually includes Pate, (we shall say 17% dont do starters) but all of a sudden when the Soupers spot Pate on the menu 13% decide they did really want Soup after-all. Prawns get 37%, but What if Salad was added, how many would go for it too?

    As for Approve v Want, I approve of Jaguars, but I don’t Want one today as I cant afford it.
    I Approve of reinstating the railway to Tyrone, but know its not viable so I don’t want it now.
    I Approve of Ireland rejoining the UK, but dont Want it against the peoples wishes.

    There is a big big difference in the two words.

  • galloglaigh


    Why do you think the SNP want three questions, and unionism wants two?

  • JPJ2

    Unionists (Scottish version) want to portray Independence as something totally different from Devolution Max/Full Fiscal Autonomy (presumably because in spite of the supposed fundamental difference they see that the first might very soon follow the second 🙂

    In a sense it is different (as per “power devolved is power retained”) but that will not be a winning approach for the unionists by reminding Scotland that legally any power under a devolved situation can be pulled back by the Westminster government.

    Nationalists on the other hand see Independence (the transfer of ALL powers) as being on a continuum which includes Devolution max/Full Fiscal Autonomy (the transfer of MANY powers) as the immediately preceeding point.

    The second view is likely to prevail in Scotland, and either Devo Max etc will not be on the ballot paper, irritating many in Scotland and resulting in blame for the unionists, and more votes for independence, or it will be on the ballot paper, and if the winning choice, will indeed (as nationalists believe and unionists fear) lead to independence.

  • Reader

    galloglaigh: Why do you think the SNP want three questions, and unionism wants two?
    Not sure that SNP will admit to wanting 3 questions, as they are arguing for independence, and an independence referendum was what they put in their manifesto. Of course, now that a vote for independence is looking unlikely, they would like unionists to request the third option, but the Scottish unionists don’t seem to want to play.
    I admit to being entertained by all the spinning.

  • galloglaigh


    Vote splitting!

  • JoeBryce

    There will never be a United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    Change within the Union will wreak changes within Ireland that the failed Provo campaign never could, and given its inherently sectarian nature, never should.

    People of the PUL tradition should seek:
    1. A new Ireland based on a secular pluralist constitution;
    2. A regional assembly in Belfast representing ideally the 9 counties of historical Ulster and governing on the now well-established consocial model; FM & DFM rotating every 4 years between the traditions;
    3. A new all-Ireland capital at Armagh; a new flag and a new anthem;
    4. A special relationship between Armagh and Edinburgh.

    The new Ireland will be a Republic, not what I want but the meet verdict on our thrawn refusal to accept Home Rule from the 1880’s. We might if we were very charming get the whole island into the Commonwealth.

    There needs soon to be a constitutional convention for the archipelego as a whole.

  • Reader

    galloglaigh: Vote splitting!
    Whoever is in the driving seat for a 3 way referendum, there won’t be vote splitting. It would either be composed as two separate questions, or as a preferendum.
    If they were mad enough to go for a 3 way vote, the argument over the result would last longer than the union has so far.

  • HeinzGuderian

    There will never be a United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.


    Every Poll from the good people of Scotland would confirm that view !! 😉