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.

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