Campaign for indy ballot ‘third option’ set to launch


By G.A.Ponsonby
A campaign aimed at getting the Devo-Max option onto the independence referendum ballot, alongside independence and the status-quo, is set to be launched next week.
Church leaders, trade unions and elements of the third sector are to come together in a move that will see Civic Scotland present its case to the referendum consultation launched by First Minister Alex Salmond on Wednesday.

The campaign, to be launched on Monday, will bolster the Scottish Government’s stance.  The SNP administration has refused to rule out the prospect of Devo-Max (DM) appearing on the ballot, the SNP leader has insisted that to do so would be undemocratic.

Organisations involved include the Church of Scotland, the STUC, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and the think-tank Reform Scotland. 

It is unclear yet exactly what form the final definition of DM will be, but many expect that it will see the return of all powers to Scotland with the exception of Foreign Affairs, Defence and possibly elements of the Welfare system.

News of the development follows an announcement that the First Minister has invited leaders of all of Holyrood’s Parliamentary groups, including independent MSP Margo MacDonald, for referendum talks.

Thus far all three Unionist parties have resisted calls for them to embrace DM.  However some members of the Labour party are believed to support significant new powers and senior MSP Malcolm Chisholm has openly called on Scottish Labour to embrace the DM third option.

Former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish recently dropped hints that he may well head a DM campaign.  Mr McLeish has urged Labour to seize the opportunity that DM offers and warned that it would “vex” him if it was ignored.

Speaking in the Scottish Express, Mr McLeish said: “It would vex me and be quite remarkable if an option for the future of Scotland was actually ignored because we wanted to fight the old battles between Unionism and independence.  The gauntlet has been thrown down by Alex Salmond and the Unionist parties have to reclaim Scotland.”

Mr McLeish suggested that he would be playing a leading role in the campaign and revealed his own preference for a name for the third option – Home Rule.

He added: “We have three months in which that positive idea of Devo Max has to capture the imagination of the public.  It combines the idea of staying in the Union with maximum responsibility for Scotland. 

“I want to bring into life that campaign but, at the end of three months, the First Minister must be in no doubt of people wanting another option to be considered – let’s call it Home Rule.”

News of the campaign launch coincided with the backing by MSPs of a Scottish Government motion acknowledging the sovereignty of Scots to decide their own future through the endorsement of the 23-year-old Claim of Right.

Canon Kenyon Wright – who as a founding father of the Constitutional Convention which helped draw up the document – hinted he too would be joining the new campaign.

He said: “Of course, I believe a majority of Scots want that question on the ballot.  My one objection is to the expression ‘Devo Max’, which sounds more like a soap powder.  I am going to put forward as an alternative, the title ‘secure autonomy’.”

Westminster will seek to block any attempts at including the option on the ballot.  Lib Dem Peer Jim Wallace has refused to rule out mounting a legal challenge should the Scottish Government ignore the demands made by London.

David Cameron has hinted the he may be prepared to draw up an alternative ballot question himself.