The clock is ticking – Better Together needs a positive plan

A swing of 5 per cent could decide whether the United Kingdom 'is dismantled or saved', according to leading polling expert John Curtice.

The campaign against Scottish independence must outline a clear offer for further devolution if the electorate is to reject the SNP’s pet project, according to new data.

Polling conducted by ICM for Scotland on Sunday has revealed that when the ‘don’t knows’ and the ‘won’t says’ are taken out, the Yes campaign enjoys the support of 40 per cent of respondents compared to 60 per cent who reject independence. Given the prospect of there being no chance of Holyrood gaining powers over welfare and taxation, however – so-called ‘devo-max’ – and the position becomes increasingly tight between the two sides.

Analysing the results, professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University – a leading polling expert – explained:

“No less than 41 per cent of those who currently say they expect to vote No would like the Scottish Parliament to be primarily responsible for taxation and welfare benefits in Scotland, that is ‘devo max’. And of this group of current No voters, over one in four say they might vote Yes or are uncertain what they would do if they were to come to the conclusion that the Scottish Parliament would not in fact get any more powers in the event of a No vote.

“If these voters were to switch sides – or in the case of those who are unsure what they would do, abstain – then the Yes vote would increase from 40 per cent to 45 per cent. Although making a successful appeal to ‘devo maxers’ may not be sufficient to take Alex Salmond across the winning line, it could take him half way there.”

Warning of the dangers a 5 per cent swing could have on those seeking to retain Scotland’s place at the heart of the bigger and more powerful United Kingdom, Scotland on Sunday’s leader column yesterday declared:

“It could quite conceivably be the case that, come Scotland’s independence referendum in a year’s time, a swing of 5 per cent could decide whether the United Kingdom is to be dismantled or saved, and whether or not Scotland is to take its place in the United Nations chamber in New York, between Saudi Arabia and Senegal.”

Warning against compliancy the paper continued:

“This newspaper has, of late, been warning the No campaign not to be complacent. This poll finding is a perfect illustration of the reasons why. It is also a warning to those unionist MPs who would prefer to ignore the Scottish public’s undeniable desire for a stronger Holyrood. Such a bloody-minded attitude could carry a considerable political risk.”

Speaking on the Andrew Marr programme yesterday, Nick Clegg used his annual conference interview with the programme to admit that the choice that most Scots want, namely devo-max, isn’t on the ballot paper for the referendum now almost a year away.

In June, I wrote about the bizarre sight of all three of the main pro-union parties having separate commissions and working groups established to figure out what the future of Scotland’s devolved institutions should be. What should the voters make of the prospects of each party coming up with separate ideas? Which provides the definitive plan being advanced by Better Together?

Without the single united prospectus for a devo-max Scotland, Better Together will ultimately flop and sleepwalk to an Alex Salmond victory.

Time is ticking fast, and a plan is desperately needed to save the union and establish a sustainable future for Scotland in the union.

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9 Responses to “The clock is ticking – Better Together needs a positive plan”

  1. Peter A Bell

    Is any meaningful commitment to devo-whatever even possible? What would it look like? How might what Nick Clegg calls an “unambiguous commitment to a more powerful Scottish Parliament” be formulated so as to be absolutely binding on the British parties and on a future British parliament?

    More importantly, perhaps, how might it be possible for the British parties to persuade clearly very doubtful Scottish voters that they can be trusted to deliver?

    And, even if a “commitment” were possible, why should the people of Scotland settle for less than we might have?

    British Labour and their Tory allies have had ample opportunity to deliver the kind of meaningful devolution that the people of Scotland want. Not only have they consistently failed to do so, they have actively striven to minimise the powers granted to Scotland’s parliament through rigged talking-shops like the Calman Commission.

    They vehemently rejected the opportunity offered to them by the Scottish Government to have the devo-whatever they’re now so keen to talk about included on the referendum ballot. And let us never forget how hard these British politicians fought to prevent the people of Scotland ever having a say in the matter of our constitutional status.

    At every turn, the Tory/Labour/LibDem alliance has been opposed to devolution of the kind they would now have us believe they favour. Such powers as the Scottish Parliament has have been wrenched from the jealous grasp of the British state under the threat to its very existence posed by the rising tide of Scotland’s civic nationalist movement. Is it at all credible that they might relent once that threat is effectively removed?

    All the anti-independence campaign can offer is meaningless platitudes and empty rhetoric. The most they can put on the table is a tenuous assurance that devolution might get a mention in the British parties’ manifestos for the 2015 UK election. There is no credible process by which the British parties in Scotland can even agree on a common proposal, far less make that proposal binding on their masters in London. And no way even their masters in London can make that proposal binding on a future UK Government.

    There are always loopholes. But a devo-whatever promise is all loophole and no substance.

    Bear in mind, also, that the kind of powers the British parties are now talking about being possible candidates for future devolution are the very powers that they argue would lead to catastrophe for Scotland in the context of independence. This is one of the great inconsistencies of the unionist case. It is also typical of the patronising arrogance with which they treat the people of Scotland. We can have the British sate is prepared to grant, but only so long as the British state has us on a leash.

    There is no rational reason to trust the British parties and their patently feigned new-found enthusiasm for listening to the people of Scotland. But even if devo-whatever were a realistic possibility, why would we tempted by it? Why would we settle for something far less than second best? Having demanded more powers so as to loosen the grip of UK governments on Scotland, why would we then choose to wear Westminster’s choke-chain?

    We have a better option. We can bring Scotland’s government home. We can vote Yes next year.

  2. tadramgo

    “Time is ticking fast, and a plan is desperately needed to save the union and establish a sustainable future for Scotland in the union.”

    Now that LFF (or Jacobs) is confirming itself as firmly pro-Union, will it invite writers from a pro-Independence position o write articles?

  3. Proud Brit

    Let’s hope not. Progressive is not nationalist. Better together.

  4. Chilbaldi

    Its not the case that you must propose devo-max in order to present a positive vision for the future of Scotland. It is enough in my opinion to just champion the Scottish Parliament, highlight its powers, and champion its virtues.

    Negative campaigning also has its place in politics – and both the yes and no sides have been negative.

    The real action in this referendum will come when the nationalists present their full plans on the shape of an independent Scotland. Then we’ll see what Better Together come up with. If they just rubbish and ridicule the plans they may be in trouble. If they come up with positive alternatives to each, better. I can’t really see a forward strategy other than man-marking everything the SNP proposes.

    More also needs to be made of the historical links between Scotland and England, how much Scots have achieved in the UK, and how Scotland has enjoyed the most successful period in its history as part of the UK. Turn the tables on the nats who say England has sucked blood out of Scotland, and point out that in fact Scots in their millions have been able to use the UK on their own way up the greasy pole.

  5. tadramgo

    The irony: Scottish Nationalism (potentially: pro-welfare, defending the NHS, popularly socialistic) is negative while British Nationalism (anti-immigrant, rabidly pro-market, warmongering) is positive.

  6. franwhi

    Yeah I agree. I’ve long puzzled at LFF’s stance on the independence debate. How can a progressive left-wing evidence based blog just simply shut down and shut out arguments for change which come from a left-wing stance and a government which shows its clear left-wing credentials through its legislative programme and legislative power over devolved issues like free university tuition, free personal care for the elderly and free NHS medical prescriptions.
    Then there is the whole democracy issue and the clear democratic deficit here in Scotland which needs to be addressed. It’s entirely not about being anti-English and those who accuse YES votes of being anti-English are being both lazy and disingenuous. I wish only the best for my English neighbours, I hold no grievance against past perceived English/Scottish slights. It’s the 21st century for pete’s sake and I want my family’s future to be about routes forward rather than historical roots. Scotland is a country of growing but balanced diversity, a country that has grown in confidence and nationhood with having its own government. We just want to take the next step forward and LFF should be cheering us on and not engaging in tribal politics. Sack Ed Jacobs or at least allow more diverse voices on the issue of Scottish self-determination. Now that would be progressive.

  7. subtleknife666

    Mr Jacobs, please check your history book, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    The “United Kingdom” came into being when the kingdoms of Ireland and Great Britain were officially merged into a single kingdom in the early 19th century. When most of Ireland became independent but the unionists managed to hang onto six counties in the north of Ireland, the UK continued to exist despite that change; it merely added the word “Northern” to its official name.

    Therefore, if a smallish bit of Great Britain becomes an independent State, that will not result in the dissolution of the United Kingdom; there will be no need for the UK to change its name.

    On a related subject: it seems likely that during the next UK parliament there will be an in-out vote on the UK’s membership of the European Union. If the English, who overwhelmingly control what happens in the UK, prove to be so Daily-Mail-minded that they will take the idiotic step of leaving the EU, then there will be a perfectly legitimate reason for holding a second independence referendum in Scotland (assuming the one in 2014 has been unsuccessful, of course), and a positive result would then be much more likely!
    England outside the EU… well, perhaps the Daily Mail readers think that’s an attractive prospect; that’s their problem. But Scotland outside the EU is unthinkable; Scotland would then HAVE to leave the UK.

  8. uglyfatbloke

    Subtleknife…Sorry, but you are just plain wrong on the history. The Union with Ireland and the independence of Eire had no effect whatsoever on the Treaty of Union of 1707 – the Acts of Union did nothing more than abolish the existing English and Scottish parliaments. The ‘United Kingdom’ means the two kingdoms of England and Scotland, simple as that, so the dissolution of the 1707 Treaty (and whatever the gnats say that is their goal) will, technically, mean the end of the United Kingdom.
    Cameron -and others – blew it by not having a devo-max option on the referendum ballot; they played into Salmond’s hands because he can say he wanted it on (he did n’t really, but so what?) and that the Tories would n’t allow it.
    As things are going it does not look like the ‘Yes’ campaign will win the referendum,, but the more Cameron, Darling and co. put their foot in it, the more likely it is that Better Together will lose. Darling’s latest contribution is just embarrassing – ‘I talk for Scotland’ – does he really believe that any backbench opposition MP should have the same authority as the First Minister? We have to assume there’s no coffee in his office and that’s why he can’t wake up and smell it.


    Its beyond thinking that somehow the yes campaign will lose the referendum because current opinion polls say so (which is the current mantra of the main stream media) . The information which will come out shortly will persuade many don,t knows that the Union is a busted flush and Scotland would be better off out of it.

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