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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