Salmond needs to “get a grip” on independence debate

As MSPs return to Holyrood from their Summer break, Alex Salmond is being warned by his own side that he needs to “get a grip” of the independence debate.

As MSPs return to Holyrood from their Summer break today, Alex Salmond is being warned by his own side that he needs to “get a grip” of the independence debate.

This follows the release of polling which has found that the no to independence campaign has the largest lead than at any point since the Scottish Government released its proposed wording for a referendum question in January.

Polling conducted by YouGov for the Devo Plus group which campaigns for maximising the powers of Holyrood without Scotland leaving the union has shown that 59% of voters now reject the idea of independence, compared to 29% who said they intend to vote in favour of it. 10% of those questioned said that they remain undecided whilst just 2% said that they did not intend to vote.

Whilst the headline figures show little comfort for the Yes Scotland campaign, the survey comes also with a warning for Better Together, showing that voters are keen to gain much firmer information on the anti-independence camp’s vision for the future of Scotland within the union.

The poll shows that 16% of those voters not currently intending to vote ‘no’ are more likely to do so if their vote helps to deliver Devo Plus whilst what is described as an “absolute majority” of all voters want the anti-independence parties to set out their vision of more powers for the Scottish Parliament before the referendum. In particular, 58% of Labour voters and 65% of SNP voters want these powers set out before the referendum.

Calling on the parties to make clear their visions, in full, for Scotland ahead of next year’s vote, Ben Thomson, Chairman of Devo Plus said:

“Our previous polling on this issue showed that Devo Plus was the most popular option for Scotland’s constitutional future, and this poll confirms its popularity.

“What this poll clearly demonstrates is the widespread public backing for an agreement on more powers for the Scottish Parliament in advance of the referendum, and the impact that agreement could have on the result. Strikingly, for every person who believes an agreement can wait until after the referendum, there are five who want an agreement now.

“That’s why we are urging parties to sign up to our ‘Glasgow Agreement’. The Glasgow Agreement, based on our paper A New Union, will provide the foundation for further powers whilst maintaining an enduring relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK.”

Speaking over the weekend to the West of Scotland Lib Dem Conference in Glasgow, the party’s leader north of the border Willie Rennie, was seemingly ahead of the game, calling on party leaders to sign the Glasgow Agreement and to establish “a joint leaders’ statement before the referendum; a “declaration of right” or a “new claim of right”, committing parties to deliver reforms to bring a stronger, more accountable parliament.”

The polling has led one, unnamed nationalist to tell the Herald Scotland that “people at all levels in the SNP think the party hierarchy has to get a grip of Yes Scotland by the scruff of the neck.”

The pressure on the nationalists will be heightened still further by speeches to be delivered from two high profile political heavy weights on the subject this week.

Speaking later today, in his most high profile intervention in the debate so far, Gordon Brown will argue that remaining within the union is crucial to supporting the poor, asserting that it is about pooling resources and spreading risks to help the needy and boost the economy. Addressing a United with Labour event in Govan he will declare:

“The big idea behind the Union is a far bigger idea than independence: that by meeting unmet needs and using all the resources of the UK, and spreading the risks, we ensure the best deal for people in and out of work, for the elderly, for people in need of free health care and for economic prosperity.”

It is being reported also that the Treasury is preparing to publish, a paper which claims that real incomes in Scotland will grow by an additional 4% if it stays in the UK. According to the BBC:

“It suggests the total income figure for Scotland will be £5bn greater after 30 years than would be the case with independence.

“The Treasury calculates this as being an average of £2,000 per household.”

The analysis, to be published tomorrow when George Osborne addresses oil industry executive’s in Aberdeen concludes:

“Replacing the current relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK with a relationship similar to that of euro area member states would create significant headwinds to Scottish growth.”

In challenging the assertions made, Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon has responded:

“A majority of people in Scotland want to see economic decisions taken in Scotland for Scotland – not by Westminster governments that Scotland did not vote for.

“With household budgets expected to fall by £1800 in the next two years as part of the UK – and at least another 4 years of cuts to Scotland’s budget – it is only a Yes vote in 2014 that can deliver real opportunities for Scotland.

“These claims ignore both the reality of a modern single market and the very real damage Westminster decisions have done to Scotland’s economy.”

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by becoming a Left Foot Forward Supporter today.