I would consider leading Devo-Max campaign says Henry McLeish

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By a Newsnet reporter
 
Former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish has said he is prepared to consider leading a campaign that argued for the so called third option of devo-max and he would be “flattered” if asked.
 
Speaking on STV’s Scotland Tonight Mr McLeish argued that devo-max should be an option offered to the Scottish people in the 2014 referendum alongside independence and the status-quo.

By a Newsnet reporter
 
Former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish has said he is prepared to consider leading a campaign that argued for the so called third option of devo-max and he would be “flattered” if asked.
 
Speaking on STV’s Scotland Tonight Mr McLeish argued that devo-max should be an option offered to the Scottish people in the 2014 referendum alongside independence and the status-quo.

The former Labour First Minister has been an outspoken critic of his party’s stance in refusing to back a third option on the ballot paper, many polls show it to be popular amongst Scots.

He also recently attacked UK PM David Cameron’s intervention into the referendum debate when the Tory leader insisted on setting conditions for the referendum that included limiting the ballot to a single question, Mr McLeish called Cameron’s move “ignorant”, a “dangerous tactic” and “cavalier”.

Mr McLeish called the options argued by Westminster led Unionists and Nationalists, namely the status-quo and independence, “a rock” and “a hard place” and claimed that there was growing support for an alternative that went “much, much further” than the powers offered in the Scotland Bill and included full fiscal autonomy.

Mr McLeish when asked if he would like to lead such a campaign replied: “Modesty forbids but on the other had I want to be part of it I feel passionately that Scotland deserves another option, I feel passionate that we can stay within the Union, a changed union but still have far more powers …”

The former First Minister said he would be happy to be associated with other bodies like the STUC, Civic Scotland and the Churches who are calling for devo-max to be included on the ballot and argued that devo-max was a “ great opportunity” for the Scottish Labour party that he hoped they would embrace.

When pressed if he would accept the challenge of leading the third option campaign, Mr McLeish replied: “if I’m asked … I would consider”

Mr McLeish’s apparent willingness to head a progressive-Unionist campaign is indicative of a growing chasm between many Scottish based Unionists over the issue of who should lead the Unionist fight and whether devo-max should be on the ballot.

The Former First Minister’s comments came on the same day that another prominent Scottish Unionist, Lib Dem peer David Steel launched an attack on UK PM David Cameron’s intervention into the referendum debate.

Lord Steel urged the Tory leader to withdraw from the independence debate warning that his actions threatened to hand victory to the SNP.

Speaking in The House magazine Lord Steel described Chancellor George Osborne’s leadership of the current attacks on the SNP as “plain bonkers” and said that the case for the Union should be left to Scottish politicians.

“David Cameron has played into Alex Salmond’s hands,” he told the magazine.

“The problem with the Scottish issue is that most of the politicians here don’t understand Alex Salmond.

“I think I have the measure of him and know him only too well.  He is extremely sharp, witty,”

“The idea that George Osborne should take on a ‘no’ referendum campaign is just plain bonkers.  If I were Alex Salmond I would be rubbing my hands in glee at the thought,”

“It’s no good having so-called big guns flying in from down south, because Salmond will just dismiss it as London bullying, even though he does the bullying himself. It will just backfire,” he warned.