The news that the main opposition parties at Holyrood will issue a declaration on extra powers for the Scottish parliament should be viewed as another sign that Better Together has got its act together.
The news that the main opposition parties at Holyrood will issue a declaration on extra powers for the Scottish parliament should be viewed as another sign that Better Together has got its act together
Last year I wrote about the need for the three main parties within the Better Together campaign to come up with a united front as part of their offer to Scotland in the event of independence. At last we may be getting somewhere.
The polling is clear. Most Scots prefer the option of so called ‘Devo-Max’, handing Holyrood vast swathes of powers such as over tax and welfare whilst retaining Scotland’s place within the Union as the best vehicle to pursue its international and defence policy priorities.
When the Scottish government was drafting its question to be put before the people of Scotland in September’s referendum, the debate raged over whether such a proposition should be on the ballot paper. I argued at the time for its inclusion as an opportunity for Better Together to be able to campaign for something positive rather simply opposing independence.
In the end this view failed to secure enough traction to turn it into an option for voters in Scotland to put their cross against. This has led to a conundrum for those wanting to see extra powers for the Scottish parliament within the UK.
For the nationalists, they argue that such voters should opt for independence on the basis that only they are offering the radical alternative that voters are seeking, whilst retaining close ties to the UK by continuing to use the pound and keeping the Queen as head of state. It is essentially a strategy which claims that independence will change everything yet at the same time change nothing.
For Better Together, however, the challenge has been to step up to the plate and provide the assurances that Scottish voters have been seeking: that whoever is elected in 2015 the UK government will deliver a radical boost to the powers enjoyed by Holyrood.
What we have so far had is differing proposals from Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Conservatives. While all positive stuff, the reality is that although the principles remain the same, the exact powers that each party will be offering to Scotland in 2015 would be different, raising substantial confusion about what Scots could expect.
With a coalition government of one form or another now a distinct and perhaps likely possibility at the General Election, what Scotland needs as a repost to the Yes Scotland campaign is a single, clear and detailed proposal from all three parties to provide clarity about what they could expect if they reject the idea of Scotland going it alone.
The news therefore that the main opposition parties at Holyrood will today issue a joint declaration on extra powers for the Scottish parliament and government is to be welcomed as another sign that Better Together has got its act together.
Coming on the back of opposition to independence being expressed by progressives such as Barak Obama and Hilary Clinton, today provides yet another opportunity to sap life out of the Yes Scotland campaign as the only campaign offering any radical, positive alternative to the status quo.
In providing a united declaration of further powers, the parties opposing independence really will understand that on this as in so much else things really are Better Together.
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