3 April 2013

The SNP: Choking on Tomorrow's Jam?

Political parties should beware their myths. I was in Old College on St Andrew's Day in 2007, when Wendy Alexander presented her "new agenda for Scotland". The event was overshadowed by the piffling financial scandal that eventually laid the lady low, but my abiding memory of her speech was the long byway it cut through the history of the Labour Party's attitude to Scottish home rule. 

Alexander clearly felt this was important material, and her gist was not difficult to discern. Drawing strength from her party's history, she hoped to locate her proposals - which would eventually spawn the Calman Commission - in the van of Labour's tradition, reasserting itself after the bruising 2007 election as the "party of devolution". To my twenty-one year old self, the address struck a tin note. Her potted party history felt inward-looking and self-indulgent, addressed more to blacksliding colleagues than persuading the interested punter at large.

This sort of preoccupation with your sectional history isn't a phenomenon unique to the Labour Party. Many and most institutions and organisations have their touchstone moments, their defining events and tales, held in cherished memory. The great mistake, however, is to assume that everyone else shares your backstory and preoccupations. I'm worried that the SNP and YesScotland are at risk of forgetting this elementary proposition. 

As we discussed on the most recent edition of the podcast, last week saw Ruth Davidson volte face on the constitution. There's no longer a line in the sand on devolution, she says. Let the constitutional debate continue. It remains to be seen whether she and Johann Lamont will pull on their wellies with Willie Rennie before 2014, and cobble together a convincing devosomething alternative to independence before polling day.  It's certainly a possibility.

Thus far, the SNP's response to these devolutionary hints has been to dismiss them out of hand. Perfidious Albion, like the leopard, doesn’t change its spots. Remember 1979! Jam Tomorrow! Remember Douglas-Home! "The UK’s ability to re-invent itself is spent!" Whatever Ruth, Johann or Cameron might say, their promises are moonshine. The thought might be developed somewhat, drawing inspiration from Tom Nairn's account of the sclerosis of the British state. And as I have argued here before, there are plenty of good reasons from the recent history of the Tory and Labour Parties to doubt the sincerity of their devosomething rhetoric. I'll believe it when I see it, and not before. 

That said, is it convincing that most folk will find it inherently implausible that devolution might be extended after a “no” vote? I think not. The problem with this otherwise charming Nationalist story is that it presupposes that people remember the events of 1979 more keenly than 1997. And while this might be a reasonable calculation amongst grudge-bearing Nationalists, suspicious of the British State in all of its manifestations, it's a startlingly unlikely account of what your average less-partisan Scot might make of the recent constitutional history of this country. It's the politics of the echo-chamber, with the sting that we're only fooling ourselves if we believe it. 

If you stumped up to many doorsteps and muttered darkly about promises reneged upon in decades gone by, many and most would likely retort, "who the hell is Alec Douglas-Home" anyway? This sort of patter may prompt a cheer from the crowd at the SNP conference. For them, the event may be written in fiery letters in the book of life. But most voters seem much more likely to take it for years-old grudge-bearing barminess, of remote pertinence at best to our current constitutional controversy. It’s the SNP version of Wendy Alexander’s dreary roll call of home rulers. 

Yes, the British state is given to unprincipled strategic trimming. Yes, the Tories exhibit no principled reason to support more devolution. Yes, the recent history of all three parties has exhibited considerable reluctance substantially to extend Scottish powers in areas of taxation and welfare, or to embrace some sort of settled federation. Yes, defeat in the referendum would go a long way to eliminating the "political need" for more devolution, weakening rather than strengthening any devosomething argument. 

But what are the advocates of independence to do if the three opposition parties - somehow - produce a compelling, reasoned, credible devolutionary alternative? The first answer is ornery cynicism, the Nationalist parallel to Johann Lamont's demands for absolute certainties about the character of an independent Scotland. Where are your guarantees? That might convince you, in your mistrust of the Better Together campaign. But you can bet your last shilling that there will be plenty of Scots who will want to believe that a credible, achievable, more extensive devolution of power is possible within the United Kingdom, who are willing to take the wager and vote "no". 

Here the pro-independence argument is in danger of planting itself in treacherous terrain, all the more perilous given its superficial fertility. As I read it, their reasoning goes something like this. We believe in independence, come what may. Most folk don’t. At least, not yet, and probably never a majority as a first order preference so soon as 2014. So what is the calculating nationalist to do? You look around and you notice, per the opinion polls, that this other nebulous creature – devosomething – seems to be the popular ticket. The challenge then becomes, how to mobilise that soup of pro-powers feeling in the service of independence? 

We might detect two moves in the SNP’s recent rhetoric around this. Firstly, find ways to represent independence as a logical extension of devolution, a way station of a "home rule journey" that leads to independent sovereignty for Scotland after 2014. While the idea of a spectrum of self-government is not trite, some figures in the party have recently taken the theme far too far. Just last week, Stewart Hosie MP put out a statement dismissing the possibility of Holyrood being invested with more powers, which argued that:  

"... it is absolutely clear independence is the only route now open for the devolution of any substantive powers to Scotland." 

Conceptually, this is a right muddle, a category mistake. Independence can’t be a route for devolution of power from the British centre to the Scottish periphery. The thought is incoherent, but Hosie’s conflation serves the obvious purpose of eliminating sharp distinctions between independence and devolution, of muddying the difference. 

The second rhetorical move has seen the Nationalists doing their darndest to frame the referendum in terms of change against the status quo, of more powers against no powers, dynamism against inflexibility. Sure, they say, independence might not be your instinctive or intellectual first choice, but look at the alternatives. If you favour more powers, independence is the only way to gain them. The message: if you are pro-devolution, vote for the referendum alternative which comes closest to your real aspirations. 

The petard-hoisting potential of this argument for independence supporters ought to be obvious. This contention only holds together so long and insofar as support for independence answers this conundrum, and seems to fit best with the hitherto frustrated preferences of supporters of greater devolution. Take us forward a few months. Say the Unionists distinguish their fundaments from their arm-joints and produce some adequately convincing devosomething offer. You may hae your doots about is credibility, suspect dirty tricks. But why the devil should we expect the Scottish people – hazy in any case about where power over a number of issues are situated – not to believe them? 

What’s the pro-independence argument now? “Pro-devolution? Er. Vote for independence because … um … well I admit, our ambitions are a bit different to yours and our opponents’ offer looks much closer to the sort of thing you want than independence but... Ah… Be a dear and just ignore what I’ve been saying for the last half year, could you?”

Instead of harping on the string that the Better Together campaign can't and won't adopt a credible pro-devolution position, shouldn't we evade the elephant trap of them actually producing one? Achilles didn’t send Paris a billet-doux and a bow and arrow before the battle saying “sir, kindly refrain from shooting me in the heel.” 

Instead of dredging up decades-old tales about faded patrician politicians signifying sod all to most people, hoodwinking ourselves with our cherished history and waiting for the snare to close about our ankles, why not anticipate this obvious development now, and start making the case why independence would be categorically different, categorically better than any form of devolution? Save for Trident, and their recent Iraqi invasion retrospective, the SNP has arguably declined to make this case in any sustained way.  

For your pessimistic independence supporter, who sees the result of 2014 as a forgone conclusion, this strategy is not without its attractions.  If the consequence of defeat is luring your opponents into extending the powers of Scottish democratic institutions, all to the good.  For the optimist, given to think that the 2014 poll is winnable, however, the way we're framing the pro-independence case at the moment looks decidedly precarious. There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about Better Together's amorphous constitutional promises without resorting to 1979, and to Alec Douglas-Home. The SNP are right to make that point, but let's not blunder into a rhetorical snare of our own making, and hew through our hamstrings in the process.


  1. GrassyKnollington3 April 2013 at 12:24

    It matters not a whit if the leaders of the Scottish branches of the Westminster parties come up with a template they all agree on for more devolution.

    Westminster would have to approve it and there is absolutely no guarantee that they would even give it the time of day.

    As there is also not a snowball in hells chance of London ever giving Scots control of oil revenues the most we could hope for is more cynical tinkering around with taxation.

    There would be no meaningful change
    or chance to make the country more prosperous. Devolution is and always will be power retained.

    The SNP are quite right to point out that Jam tomorrow is a pig in a poke. They should also highlight that a No vote will deliver something much worse than the status quo.

  2. I think it is a fairly safe assumption that, if Scotland remains in the UK, there will be no significant additional powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament until the Unionists are again faced with a real possibility of Scotland becoming independent. any talk, and even any promises, of additional powers will be merely to trick voters.

    As well as the reminder of 1979, there are other arguments which can be put forward to warn people who might fall for this.

    Firstly, the three main Unionist parties all have a proven track record of dishonoured pledges. For example, before the last election Cameron said that there would be no major re-organisation of the NHS, yet he started one within weeks of being elected. there is also the matter of university fees.

    Secondly, Labour will not want the Scottish Parliament to have more powers as long as it is likely to be controlled by the SNP whom they appear to hate. The Tories will be looking over their shoulders at the anti-devolution UKIP who seem to be gaining strength in England, and will not want to push voters over to them by making concessions to Scotland.

    Thirdly, even if the next UK government were to put the necessary bill before Parliament to implement whatever additional powers they might previously pledged, the chances of it being passed by both Houses would be slight. Remember how quickly the reform of the House of Lords got dropped when there was some opposition from backbench Tory MPs.

    Fourthly, recent talk about the need for for further devolution to be a part of more fundamental constitutional makeover of the UK means that it is likely that any additional powers would be part of a package of reforms which would require a UK wide referendum; I for one doubt if English voters would vote further devolution.

  3. It would certainly throw a bit of a spanner in the works if a "No" vote suddenly morphed into the equivalent of Devo Max. However, while I see why you're advising caution about the current approach, I think it's a safe gamble because, quite simply, the No campaign cannot offer as much devolved power as people want. We've even had it from the mouth of the main man himself, Alistair Darling, when he admitted in that Holyrood Magazine interview last year that "if you want anything more than a fairly minor change to the constitutional arrangement then at some point you are going to have to ask the rest of the UK".

    To effectively ruin the "Vote No, Get Nothing" narrative, the No camp have to adopt a unified programme of major devolution which is set in motion before the referendum takes place. That's the only way to prove more devolution will happen, and to the extent people want. While people may not remember 1979, they certainly remember the Lib Dems' "no tuition fees" and the Tories' "no top-down reorganisation of the NHS", so mere promises surely won't cut it. But that's all they'll ever be able to offer, because none of them have any true intention of devolving everything but defence and foreign affairs to Holyrood, which seems to be what people want.

    It worked with the "go on, we DARE you to ask for Devo Max on the ballot" strategy, and I think it'll work here as well.

  4. And let's not forget one of the reasons Labour folk gave for not supporting Devo Max on the ballot paper - that you don't need a referendum to devolve more powers. Well if that's the case, why aren't they doing it right now?

  5. If there is a No vote the SNP will fight for enhanced devolution but they won't do that in the runup to the referendum for obvious reasons.

    But what is interesting is the way th debate is increasingly becoming a straight one of left versus right. Not in an extreme way - Scotland is not full of rabid socialists yearning to overthrow capitalism. But Scots tend to be just a little bit more left wing than the English on almost everything and issues like welfare reform throw this into sharp relief.

    The struggle for Labour to reconcile an overtly left wing stance such as on the bedroom tax with increasingly Tory sounding rhetoric on universal services i starting to show. In fact, looked at objectively, Labour is beginning to look like a party in meltdown. It is riddled with inconsistency from top to bottom and not only will voters not wear that,neither will Labour members in the long term.

    And Labour are the standard bearers of the No campaign - they are the ones who give it credibility. Most voters simply do not trust the Tories and Lib Dems. They still trust Labour to some extent, they still identify Labour as sharing at least some of their values I should say. But the inconsistency of demanding that the SNP reverse the bedroom tax while simultaneously demanding that they reintroduce prescription charges for example is not sustainable because it makes no sense to anyone on either side of the debate. You could make an argument for both policies but the bedroom tax argument would be a left wing one while the prescription charges argument would be a right wing one. Makes no sense making them both together and voters can smell that kind of cobbled together bullshit a mile off.

  6. GrasskKnollington,

    I agree with that, and said as much here when Ruth first seemed to wobble on the constitutional question.

  7. Scaraben,

    Also recognise a lot of what you say. I stated my own position more fully in this blog from January. I'm not arguing that there isn't a calculation to be made that the Better Together parties' "more powers" riff won't amount to something substantial. On the current evidence, I'm very sceptical too. I've just begun to wonder - down the line - if there aren't perils as well as promise, down this particular path if we don't walk it gingerly, conscious of the perils.

  8. Doug,

    I cut a bit from the first draft of this making that point - is this not a reasonable calculation? What canny man wagers against the probability of factional bungling and incompetence? It's an understandable view to take, all things considered.

  9. GrassyKnollington3 April 2013 at 14:45

    The No campaign are very keen to cultivate the idea of a benign Westminster waiting fondly in the wings until we come to our senses and vote No. Only then will we get what we deserve.

    That will be the end of the Barnett formula and a demand that we become "accountable" through complicated but ultimately useless schemes for all the largesse they lavish on us. (In the form of our own taxes returned as part of the grudged Block grant).

    Giving any credence at all to the Jam tomorrow talk is misguided as far from granting us anything new or worthwhile, its advocates mean Scotland specific harm.

  10. Isn't the SNP's whole case on "independence" the very essence of "jam tomorrow"?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Yes. But it is real jam. Just like the jam stolen yesterday.

      That is the rather salient difference.

      Reality versus promises from the completely trustworthy Westminster pile of corrupta.

  11. Listening to our only living psephologist (apparently) Saturday's GMS, it seemed to me that he made a couple of interesting points. Here's what Curtice said (the discussion begins at about 54' 20"): "... if you look at what Ming Campbell came up with for the Liberal Democrats, given that he is not proposing to devolve welfare benefits, he is not proposing to devolve corporation tax, what is there going to be for Johann Lamont to disagree with next month when she comes up with her [inaudible] proposals? [Bateman talks over him] What is there for the Conservatives to disagree about? Now in an interview this week Ruth Davidson said 'We won’t necessarily come to agreement this side of the referendum and we may still end up with three different proposals'. Well the truth is I think we are going to struggle to find the differences between these three parties. In which case why won’t they talk to each other this side of the referendum rather than after, which is what Ruth Davidson seemed to be thinking about this week?”

    Does that mean that the Yes campaign should switch from saying that there won't be any jam to criticising the jam that might be on offer? A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. It's a quantum world, where cats are alive and dead at the same time, and where jam can exist and not exist. It doesn't seem unreasonable to me to doubt the existence of the jam while simultaneously criticising the way the jam would be - would have to be - if it did exist.

  12. Seriously folks if Devolution and independence are part of the same journey, as the yes people say here, http://www.yesscotland.net/_devolution_and_independence_are_part_of_the_same_journey ....why did the SNP oppose devolution?

  13. "But what are the advocates of independence to do if the three opposition parties - somehow - produce a compelling, reasoned, credible devolutionary alternative?"

    An interesting thought exercise but not one that will happen.

    If you use two simple measures to assess the devolution schemes which have already been implemented and also those that were proposed last year then there is no difference between them at all.

    The Scotland Act 1998, The Scotland Act 2012, the Scottish region Lib-Dems "Federalism: the best future for Scotland", the Devo-More report and the Devo-Plus report are all just the same.

    The first measure.
    How much money will the Scottish Government get to fund public services?
    In all these reports add together the mix of controlled taxes, assigned taxes and top up grant and Scotland will get funded to the Barnett formula level, just as it does now. (In fact that is being generous because all the new reports want Scotland to get less money than the Barnett formula currently gives.)

    The second measure:
    How can the Scottish Government raise extra revenue over and above the Barnett funding?
    The answer is of course by raising personal taxation just as it can now.

    So unless the Labour Party and the Conservatives do something really radical then it's not even a promise of jam-tomorrow but just putting a new label on old jam.

    Quite apart from the fact that all devolution has so far not deviated from the standard format of the Barnett formula plus personal taxation increases the three UK parties will not form a joint devolution front because if they did that the public would expect some form of joint declaration about a powerful, defined and promised scheme of devolution not some wishy-washy call for another commission and the unionist parties don't want and can't deliver that.

  14. @Braveheart. "why did the SNP oppose devolution? "

    Erm, they didn't. They refused to work with the commission as it would not consider Independence as an option. Seems fairly reasonable as Independence is the core policy of the SNP.

    Once devolution was granted by Westminster (and they can easily "un-grant" it at any time of their choosing), the SNP pushed for more powers, authority and responsibility for Holyrood. Hardly the action of a party "opposed" to devolution.

  15. As usual a reasoned argument...

    I reckon the YES side has 2 strategic options....obviously there's potential downsides to both

    1. 'Quit prevaricating and start legislating'

    Essentially call their bluff very very loudly....ideally this should be done by the non SNP element's of the YES campaign and ideally when it looks like YES at least has a chance of winning...

    Point out the problems the Northern Irish and Welsh have had in getting (especially the Welsh) modest reforms from Westminister...bring up the Douglas-Home quote....point out the SNP have been in power for 7 years and they've done nothing......and that they had a chance in 2012 to bring forward Devo-Something and did nothing...

    Then summon up Prof Devine's comments about the post 1979 trauma suffered by the nation and say they will not allow the Scottish people to be deceived again.....

    Then cheekily offer to delay the Referendum for 12 months to allow them time to bring forth the legislation....but they will then have to bring something forward or be exposed as snake oil salesmen

    Granted they may well do so.....but that's a long term win for the SNP as they can from that point on and from now until the end of time claim to be the party who always put the people's interests before their own.....and they were the ones who brought additional powers to Holyrood.

    The second is that beastly Blairite concept of Triangulation ...

    Obviously you canne make an apple an orange but YES Scotland could (and possibly should) pitch Independence as close to 'Devo Fitever' .....especially if it was pitched as being for the benefit of all in these islands.....including those in the Republic of Ireland.

    There are obviously areas even post Independence that close and formal ties with the rUK will both be desirable and practical (the Pound being the obvious one)......push these aspect right to the front of the campaign.

    And at the same time sell Indy as a chance for everybody in these islands....return to a theme often used by the First Minister (you could even cheekily refer to it as a 'New Union of the Islea' via the Council of the Isles....

    Talk of the 4 nations and the UK coming together as equal partners in matters of mutual interest but otherwise being free to ineract with the world as they saw fit...

    That's one helluva vision....especially when compared to a disfunctional Union.

    A third option of course could be to open a second front and start asking very loudly

    'Ok so when are the English people getting their devolution and their Parliament'....I suspect that one side effect of the referendum will be that support for an English Parliament will start to rise.......why not feed that ?

    It's low politics.....but it is underpinned with a reasonable and legitimate question about the glaring democratic defeceit of the Union.

    There's already an under current of resentment at the current constitutional settlement in England.....one can only imagine the reaction (especially in the North) if it appears the Scots, Welsh and Norn Irish are getting more and they get nowt.

    It would in effect keep 'Devo Fitever' honest and emphasise to Scottish voter it disnae matter what Wullie, Ruthie and Jonie say.....it's what Dave, Nick and Ed DO.....and if they are worried about upsetting the shires or the North 'Devo Fitever' can only be a weak package.

  16. Somebody point to me where the SNP "opposed devolution", OK?

  17. Rolfe, as Anthony says above, the SNP refused to work with the Constitutional Convention which worked for ten years to create the devolution settlement. Labour, the LibDems, the churches, the Trades UNions, the creative sector, many civic groups... all put in the hard graft. The SNP did not.

    The SNP did not cooperate on the drafting of the Scotland Bill and their MPs did not vote for it when it became the Scotland Act 1998.

    When Labour had delivered devolution, the SNP accepted it as a fait accompli (how could they not?) and even half-heartedly almost campaigned for a yesyes vote.

    Now they are claiming independence and devolution are the same journey ... puleeese.

  18. Rolfe

    To be clear here and not to be misrepresented by anyone, I stated that the SNP chose not to work with the constitutional convention as that "august" body refused to even consider Independence as an option for Scotland.

    Given that the SNP have been all out for independence, why should they debate a policy forum that won't even consider this as an option?

    Following devolution, the SNP were all for increased powers and responsibility. So they support devolution AS A ROUTE to full Independence. For the SNP, and any other Independent minded Scottish voter, devolution is a stepping stone. It is part of the journey not the final destination.

  19. Anthony, not sure who is misrepresenting you. You said they "chose not to" I said "refused" Semantic difference, same thing really.

    Your point about the SNP being for independence, not devolution is same as mine which I will restate...

    "Seriously folks if Devolution and independence are part of the same journey, as the yes people say here, http://www.yesscotland.net/_devolution_and_independence_are_part_of_the_same_journey ....why did the SNP oppose devolution? "

    We are agreed that the SNP opposed devolution, to the extent of sittting on its hands for ten years while everybody else delivered it. We are agreed that the Nats opposed devolution because independence and devoluton are not the same thing.

    So why are the Nats now claiming it is? And if it is, why did they oppose devolution before 1999?

  20. "We are agreed that the SNP opposed devolution"

    No we're not. When it was put to a vote, the SNP campaigned absolutely and unequivocally for a Yes/Yes vote, just as they'd campaigned for a Yes vote in 1979 (unlike large swathes of Labour). Piss away off with your troll lies, troll.

    With respect to the actual post, I wholeheartedly agree that reminding people of Alec Douglas-Home is NOT the way. Half of Scots weren't even born in 1979, and many of those who were had no idea who he was until recently. It's no more relevant than those Labourites who still whine absurdly about the SNP somehow being responsible for the election of Margaret Thatcher.

    Where I diverge from LPW's path is that there simply isn't one chance in a million of a plausible offer of more devolution being delivered before the referendum. Ruth Davidson couldn't even pledge that Cameron would make an empty promise of including any proposals she came up with in the Tory 2015 manifesto, never mind enacting them.

    The key is to keep battering away at the countless obvious and simple reasons why it'll never happen. Some have been mentioned above, some haven't:

    - if we don't need a referendum for more devolution, why isn't it happening right now?

    - when Calman was such a petty collection of meaningless fluff, what's happened to make the Unionist parties, who presented it as their definitive settled view barely two years ago, suddenly think Scotland needs lots more powers?

    - even the grandest visions of devo-max mean that Trident stays in Scotland, which appears to be the thing that unifies the greatest number of Scots AGAINST the Union.

    But the real heart of the matter is asking people how they think real, meaningful powers would be devolved. From a Tory Westminster to an SNP or Labour Holyrood? Yeah, right. From a Labour Westminster to an SNP Holyrood? Don't make us laugh. From a Labour Westminster to their diddy-team in Edinburgh? Ed Balls giving up financial clout to Ken McIntosh? That'll be the day.

    There is no combination of Westminster and Holyrood governments under which meaningful devolution will ever happen. Get that message across and the job's done.

  21. I'm concerned that if Scotland slides into "inverse currency" style posturing before the referendum, then a devo-something plan from the unionists will only add to metaphorical "first base" politics. This would spell trouble for the nats.
    For example, consider the situation where Sutherlandian economic positivism is successfully sold to the people. In that case, and forgive me for sliding into cliché here, the nationalist cake would very much be in the badger sett.

  22. The one thing that is obvious from recent, and older history, is the fact that the last people who would work towards constitutional reform in the event of a no vote are the SNP (as shown throughout the process of devolution, to this day).

    As such, I think that the SNP's approach to the other parties vague ideas on the subject are merely a reflection of SNP policy, ie. 'we have, and would continue to do nothing, so why would anyone else?'.

    However, that position doesn't really relate to reality, no matter how much of a fudge resulted.

    1. What are you on about? The only party working for constitutional reform are the SNP. They were elected in 2011 on a manifesto both to hold a referendum, and to fight for more devolved powers from Westminster. This they have been doing tirelessly, and have been being continually knocked back. Even on issues like Crown estates, which some Westminster committee did say ought to be devolved more, it was decided not to.

      What should not be expected after a no vote, however, is that everyone currently in the Yes campaign will carry on busting a gut fighting Westminster for a few more crumbs from the table. I'm sure the SNP will - they have for decades despite losses. Personally, I've been galvanised by the independence referendum and if there's a no, I'll consider it up to those who vote no thinking something better might happen to fight for it, and I'll wish them luck.

    2. Fergie "They (the SNP) were elected in 2011 on a manifesto both to hold a referendum...." Yep.

      "..and to fight for more devolved powers from Westminster..." Nope. Not true.

    3. I suggest you read the manifesto.

  23. anonymous 13:24

    What does this mean?

    Braveheart - no we are not AGREED that the SNP oppose devolution. It is not what they want, so why debate with a meaningless committee. However, as Rev. Stu put, far more ably than I was able to judging by your apparent misunderstanding,once devolution was proposed, the SNP campaigned vigorously for it.

    On the wider points in the article, I think that the main premise of a possible devo-whatever being offered the Scottish voters is highly unlikely. Quite simply, if the pro-Union wants to make this offer to Scotland, then what's stopping them doing so NOW?

    If devoJam was in fact Law, then that makes the referendum decision easy. The NEW status quo (with the backing of legislation ON THE BOOKS) or Independence.

    But I for one will, NEVER believe anything a pro-dependency politician says. I will judge them by their ACTIONS and not their words.

    1. Anthony, it's difficult to reason with someone who says that the SNP "chose not to" cooperate with the constitutional convention in setting up devoloution and "...we are not AGREED that the SNP oppose devolution. It is not what they want..." At the risk of sounding condescending, if something is not what you want, and you refuse to cooperate with others to deliver it, and you refuse to help with draftig the bill and you don't vote for it when given the chance, then you oppose it. QED.

      Quite who you are trying to convince by your convoluted "reasoning" I don't know. Probably yourself.

      As for calling in RevStu as witness.... really.... : ) .

    2. "...and you don't vote for it when given the chance, then you oppose it." Interesting glimpse into your mindset there, Alex. Those who don't vote are automatically against something? Is this you getting some practice in for September 2014, when you'll likely be claiming that those who didn't vote in the referendum "opposed independence"?

      The SNP were given the chance to vote for devolution on the 11th September 1997. They campaigned vigorously for it as part of the "Yes/Yes" group, so it's pretty safe to assume they then voted for it - certainly every independence supporter I know voted Yes/Yes.

      Of course, Labour have always been unified in their support of devolution, haven't they? Oh, wait a second, what's this? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/special/politics97/news/05/0515/whip.shtml


      I particularly enjoy this paragraph in that second link: "The Government was not helped by the extent of internal dissent within the Labour party. There was an active Labour 'Vote No' campaign in Scotland, of which Brian Wilson was Chairman, and Robin Cook a Vice-Chairman together with Tam Dalyell."

      Must try harder, Alex. At least Grahamski puts some effort into his trolling. Yours is just tedious nonsense.

    3. "you refuse to cooperate with others to deliver it"

      Campaiging extensively for a Yes/Yes vote seems a lot like "co-operating with others to deliver" it, Cllr Einstein.

    4. OK. I give in. THe SNP was always in favour of Devolution, George Osborne is favourite for the title of "Britain's nicest man" and Alex Salmond is slimmer of the year....

      Apart from that.....

    5. Braveheart, would it not be fair to say Labour were consistently ambivalent towards devolution prior to 1997 with great figures like Robin Cook and Brian Wilson campaigning against throughout the 1980's and rushed to support it following the moral bankruptcy of Thatcherism?

    6. Paul: that would be true, and therefore not fair to Scottish Labour at all.

  24. "It would certainly throw a bit of a spanner in the works if a "No" vote suddenly morphed into the equivalent of Devo Max."

    The chances of this are slim. As already said, if they were serious they could bring such powers forward right now. After a No vote there will be no pressure to do it, and Westminster is rubbish at any kind of reform - look at Lords reform or PR/AV. It simply won't happen.

    But also, there is only one question on the ballot paper: yes or no. If Better Together now tries to make this Yes or Devo-max, what will happen to the core of their actual support (not the undecided or the public, but those actually out arguing for them and funding them)? Most are Tories or UKIP types who want an end to devolution, or less of it, certainly not more. They could then claim to have been disenfranchised, with good reason.

    For the few remaining left wing types in Better Together, devo-max still means Trident, bedroom tax, no welfare powers etc. And for the right, it no longer means what they wanted. The campaign already looks on its last legs, in terms of boots-on-the-ground or actual arguments. So where is this togetherness on a form of devo-max to be put forward going to come from?

    I can see the media in Scotland happily trotting out any old nonsense they're told to by Better Together. But, even if people believe the jam tomorrow promises, I can't see anyone becoming enthused enough about them to be out there pounding the streets for them. So Better Together would be left hoping enough people are ill-informed and trust the media enough to trot out and vote "no" anyway, believing something better will magically emerge. In 1979, even without the benefit of social media, and historical memories of being shafted, that didn't happen - people actually voted yes.

    Ultimately, devo-max - even if genuinely on the table - doesn't give welfare, doesn't make Scotland a state with its own voice, leaves us with Trident, doesn't give us control of our own taxes and resources, and leaves Westminster with sovereignty over us, including the ability to abolish Holyrood if it chooses. Arguing for independence over that shouldn't be too big an ask, even if it was on the table. Given it isn't, and was removed by Westminster, it seems fair to argue Westminster parties are simply lying.

  25. There is no chance that Tories 1, 2 or 3 will gettogether with a common policy.

    Even if they did there would be no way it would be presented to Westminster for RATification.

    What will happen is that, having rejected Devo Max or even Devo Plus, they will come up with three different Devo Supers in an attempt to win the gradualist vote.

    If they succeed and there is a No vote, they will immediately kick it as far into the long grass (new Constitutional Convention) as they can.

    If it ever does manage to crawl back with a joint proposal it will be too late.

    The Scottish Parliament (if it still exists at all) will be so emaciated that they will never be able to hold another referendum.

    The election process will be 'modernised' such that it will (definitely this time) be actually impossible for a pro-independence party to gain a majority.

    Modus operandi and all that.

  26. Interesting article and gave me food for thought but Im still starving! The unionist parties would have to get something on paper long before the indyref, rushed through parliament and ready for a No vote. A sort of Jam Act 2014 that offered the fiscal levers we seek. But thats not going to happen is it.
    I will be voting Yes but did wish devo-max was on ballot paper so Scotland could walk before it runs.