Ed Jacobs writes about the latest opinion polls showing a plurality of support for Devo-Max, and a majority of support for some sort of constitutional change in Scotland. He also covers the election of Ruth Davidson to lead the Scottish Tories.
In a sign of the volatility of public opinion over the future constitutional status of Scotland, new polling for the BBC’s Politics Show in Scotland has indicated that in the event of a multi-option referendum, more power for the Scottish parliament would be the favoured choice of voters, an option just short of the full independence supported by the SNP.
In the survey by TNS-BMRB, 33 per cent of Scottish voters indicated support for the option often known as “devo-max”, 28 per cent of respondents supported full independence with 29 per cent backing no further constitutional change.
A similar poll in England indicated 24 per cent backed Scottish independence, 14 per cent “devo-max” and 40 per cent no change.
The figures come just weeks after polling by ComRes indicated majority support for full independence, a sign of the volatility of public support and follows indications that Alex Salmond would be willing to accept a multi-option vote.
Responding to the poll, the first minister sought to criticise Westminster for failing to provide the Scottish parliament with the powers the public wants within the Scotland Bill currently going through parliament.
Speaking to the Politics Show in Scotland Alex Salmond argued:
“The vast majority of the people of Scotland, by two to one, want to go much, much further than the Tory-Liberal coalition at Westminster are proposing. And that’s the reality. The appetite for change in Scotland is substantial and it’s growing.”
However, speaking on the same programme, outlining his opposition to the idea of so called “devo-max”, the Lib Dem Scottish Secretary, Michael Moore commented:
“It’s ill-defined, it is something the first minister talks about without really telling us what he means – although that’s not surprising, he doesn’t tell us what independence means either – and until we get that clear then the people of Scotland can’t be expected to make an informed decision.“
Labour, however, in the midst of its leadership contest, remain in a state of uncertainty over whether the option favoured by the public would be a good idea or not, with divisions clearly described recently by Iain Macwhirter, political columnist for the Sunday Herald.
Meanwhile, just days after Ruth Davidson was victorious in her bid to become leader of the Conservatives at Holyrood, the party has been subjected to stinging criticism from the former justice adviser to former leader Annabel Goldie. Resigning his membership of the Conservative Party, Paul McBride QC declared:
“It had nothing to do with Ruth winning. I resigned over their performance on criminal justice, in particular their approach to the Offensive Behaviour Bill. They are the most moronic, dysfunctional, introspective bunch of MSPs I’ve ever seen. They have no interest in the people of Scotland.
“Their only interest is their careers. I’m joining the 87 per cent of the population who don’t agree with a word they say.”
His comments came as Davidson, first elected to Holyrood just this year, used her first press conference to put some distance between her and Westminster explaining in no uncertain terms:
“While David Cameron is my prime minister, when he comes to Scotland he’s not my boss – we’re colleagues.“
Using an article for Scotland on Sunday meanwhile, she warned her party of both “painful” and “radical” changes ahead if the party is to regain the trust and confidence of the Scottish electorate.
The Sunday Herald however is not so sure about the vision that she has, using a comment piece to argue:
“The Tory brand remains as toxic as ever, and there has been no electoral bounce since David Cameron became prime minister, despite the apologetic noises he made over the Tories’ policies in the past toward Scotland.
“Davidson may be a fresh face but it remains true she has been offering very little that is new. Her line is “thus far and no further” as far as powers for the Scottish parliament are concerned.
“At the last election, the Scottish Tories promised to restore prescription charges and reintroduce student fees in Scotland. These were profoundly unpopular policies, yet we are not clear whether they will remain under Davidson’s leadership.”
Scotland on Sunday meanwhile has carried an ominous warning for the new leader, concluding in its leader column:
“The election of Ruth Davidson as leader of the Scottish Conservative party looks more like the beginning of her problems than their resolution.
“Although she writes optimistically in Scotland on Sunday today “My fellow candidates… are not my opponents. They are my colleagues”, the reality, so far as Murdo Fraser and his supporters are concerned, must be very different.
“The arithmetic of the election told its own story, with Fraser securing 2,096 first preference votes to Davidson’s 2,278. But this was not just a close-run election between rival individuals; the Fraser camp represents an alternative political party.
“As such, how can its supporters remain within the Scottish Tory party which they sought to dissolve? How can Fraser credibly represent at Holyrood a party he has denounced as “toxic”? It is difficult to see how he and his supporters can now stay in the party.
“But considering the paucity of her support among MSPs, such a departure could leave Davidson leading a mere rump at Holyrood and all sorts of problems. Her perceived position as the preferred choice of the London leadership may also disadvantage her at a time when right-of-centre politics is striving for a Scottish identity in confronting the SNP’s drive for independence.
“It is lucky the new Scottish Tory leader is a fighter. When it comes to leading a united party she may have a bigger fight on her hands than even she is prepared for.”
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• Gray warns Scottish Labour successor of “poison” being levied at them – Ed Jacobs, October 30th 2011
• AV, Europe, Scotland… Where’s Cameron’s consistency on referendums? – Alex Hern, October 24th 2011
• Salmond tells Westminster it’s time to end interference in Scotland – Ed Jacobs, October 24th 2011
• Former Army chief: SNP needs to be “honest and transparent” on defence policy – Ed Jacobs, October 19th 2011
• Scottish Labour needs to wake up to the threat of independence – Ed Jacobs, October 17th 2011