9 Sep 2014

Will ‘almost federal’ offer to Scots change votes?

The announcement of a speeded-up timetable for more devolution was meant to be a two-stage unveiling with the Scottish party leaders leading the field and Westminster leaders following the next day. Gordon Brown leapt in front and announced the whole proposal last night.

Tomorrow, the plan is that the prime minister, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg turn up to back the whole initiative.

Gordon Brown last night said what was on offer was close to a “federal” solution. A very different constitutional settlement could be taking shape in front of us.

In the event of a “no” vote the Westminster parties could find they lose a bit of control of the agenda, their fixed party positions on devolution yield to pressure and advance closer to devo max. Their positions could open up unimagined or long-resisted changes to other parts of UK governance.

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You find quite a few late-surge yes supporters saying they wish that devo max had been on the ballot paper. They say they’ve been forced to opt for independence because of the binary offer of, as they see it, change or no change. The last minute change of tactic by the no camp is an attempt to redefine that choice in voters’ minds.

They’ve definitely left it too late for quite a lot of non-SNP yes voters I’ve met, who’ve surprised themselves becoming at ease with the concept of independence. They speak of being ready for bumpiness it might involve.

But the no camp is hoping this offer will give “switherers” permission to vote no and not feel so bad about their actions.

The pro-union Scottish parties’ leaders will this morning try to puncture one of Alex Salmond’s most effective campaign weapons, the claim that the NHS will be cut back and chunks of it privatised¬† under pressure from Westminster.

Scotland, they’ll claim, would under the proposals Gordon¬† Brown rushed out last night be able to protect the NHS from any such pressures.

The latest poll still puts the two camps neck and neck.

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