23 Sep 2012

Salmond strong hint of one question referendum

The SNP strategists around Alex Salmond masterminded a plan that they thought would bring a “win-win” result in the referendum on independence now slotted for autumn 2014.

The wheeze was to have a second question put to voters that would be for a super-duper, turbo-charged version of devolution to be on offer along with independence. Voters, the logic ran, who fought shy of independence would vote for the (slightly) lesser option.

You’d be able to vote for both so the “indy” supporters could also lend their vote to “devo max,” and at the very least the SNP would enjoy a massive leap towards independence if not the promised land itself.

That dream now seems to have died.

The LA Times has interviewed Alex Salmond ahead of a trip to the US (thanks to David Torrance for spotting this) and here’s what the First Minister told the paper:

“Polls vary, but independence regularly is the most popular option of three options that are usually offered to people. One is no change from the current situation; second is what’s often called devo [devolution] max, or fiscal autonomy; and the other is independence….

But the U.K. government is clearly not willing to offer devo max or fiscal autonomy as an option. So I suspect … a lot’s going to depend on people who support economic powers for the [Scottish] Parliament but find that the U.K. government’s stopping them being able to move forward…. ”

Importantly, this not only suggests that Alex Salmond has given up on persuading Westminster (where reserve powers over a referendum still rest) to let him have the second question he wanted, but it seems to signal a readiness to proceed with the one question without going to court on the matter.

Some senior SNP figures were less keen on the second question, and there had been signs for some time that Westminster wasn’t budging on this one. Mr Salmond has moved his trusted aide Kevin Pringle to focus on the campaign and added it to Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s numerous responsibilities.

Alex Salmond won the date he wanted, there are continuing and tricky discussions about reducing the franchise age to 16 but in the biggest, most important pre-war skirmish it looks like London has won. There will not be a second question. A result that puts a broad smile on the SNP’s face gets a bit harder but they are mustering all they have to make sure that if they don’t win they run the “no” camp as close as possible.

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