Devo-Max ballot veto may help Yes vote says leading businessman

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By a Newsnet reporter

Removing Devo-Max as an option from the independence ballot paper will increase those opting for Yes, according to a leading Scottish businessman.

Jim McColl, of Clyde Blowers, who is a supporter of Devo-Max, has said that if the option does not feature in the referendum ballot then he will opt for independence.

Mr McColl also said that he expected many other people to do the same, claiming: “If it’s just ‘are we independent or not?’ and the ‘not’ is just staying as we are, then I think you’ll find a lot of people will vote for independence so that they get some powers.”

Mr McColl, one of Scotland’s most successful entrepreneurs, said: “if the alternative was the status quo, I think it [independence] gives Scots the chance of a better future.”

The comments come as anti-independence parties – all of whom have promised more powers for the Scottish Parliament – are unable to unite around a proposed second question.

In January, UK Prime Minister David Cameron in a visit to Scotland implied more powers would be on offer if Scotland voted ‘no’ in the referendum.  Mr Cameron’s comments were at odds with Scottish leader Ruth Davidson who had previously described the powers offered in the Scotland Bill as ‘a line in the sand’.

Another who has promised more powers for Scotland is Lib Dem Leader Willie Rennie whose party established a Home Rule Commission before the Scotland Bill had even completed its passage through Parliament.

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont also recently announced the creation of a commission to consider new powers for the Scottish Parliament.

However, none of the parties have thus far offered any indication as to what these new powers might be, or whether they are willing to actually ask the people of Scotland if they want them.

Commenting, SNP MSP Linda Fabiani – who was Convener of the Scotland Bill Committee – said:

“Jim McColl is one of Scotland’s most successful entrepreneurs, and his vast experience clearly tells him that the status quo is holding Scotland back.

“Mr McColl – along with more and more people across Scotland – knows that Scotland badly needs a range of fiscal levers, which would allow us to support our key growth industries, attract international investors and create new jobs.

“The SNP recognises that there is support across Scotland – from individuals and organisations – for a ‘more powers’ option in the referendum, and we have always said that such an option could feature on the ballot paper if the opposition propose one.

“Indeed, politicians of all anti-independence parties have stated that they want the Scottish Parliament to have more powers, but Mr McColl’s comments show that people are not fooled by vague promises of jam tomorrow.

“So far, the anti-independence parties seem unable to unite around any alternative on the ballot paper, and in doing so they are pushing devo-max supporters from across Scottish society towards a ‘yes’ vote.”

Mr McColl’s comments come one day after another leading businessman, Sir Tom Farmer confirmed he would not support the status quo and re-affirmed his support for Devo-Max.

Former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish is another who is pushing for Devo-Max as an alternative to the current arrangement and independence.

Devo-Max is widely accepted to mean the return of all powers to Scotland with the exception of foreign affairs and defence.  Supporters claim that it allows Scotland more control over its economy and spending, whilst retaining the benefit of remaining in the Union.

Independence supporters however point out that Scotland will still be forced to keep nuclear weapons on the Clyde and will not be able to prevent its young people from being sent off to illegal wars.

Unionist parties are against adding the Devo-Max option to the ballot paper and are seeking a single question pitting the Union against independence.