By a Newsnet reporter
The man described as the ‘Godfather of devolution’ has said that he would vote for independence if the anti-independence parties fail to offer a clear and binding consensus on what a No vote would mean and what further devolution measures they would introduce.
In an interview with the Daily Record newspaper, Canon Kenyon Wright, who headed up the Constitutional Convention which formed the blueprint for devolution, said that he would have preferred to vote for enhanced devolution. However he added that if the No campaign does not produce “clear binding promises” on future devolution, he would vote for independence.
Canon Wright, who now lives south of the border for family reasons so will be unable to vote in the referendum, said that “people with a long memory” have suspicions about vague promises made ahead of the referendum, after such commitments made in 1979 were abandoned following a No vote.
The anti-independence parties have all stated that proposals for further devolution can only be settled after a No vote in the independence referendum. The Conservatives have apparently ruled out even discussing further devolution before the referendum, while both the Labour party and the Lib Dems have promised to produce their own devolution plans. There have been hints that Labour’s plans will see some powers being removed from Holyrood.
There has been no attempt from the No campaign to put forward a co-ordinated devolution policy supported by all three of the main anti-independence parties, creating great uncertainty about Scotland’s future should it remain within the UK.
Critics fear a No vote would remove any sense of urgency from the anti-independence parties’ devolution plans, and the matter would be put on the back burner as it was after the 1979 Home Rule referendum. If the Conservatives are returned to power after 2015, it is unlikely there will be any progress on further devolution.
Canyon Wright said:
“I would have preferred to have been able to vote for something between the two. But if the No campaign do not produce clear, binding promises as to what they would do should they win, then I would vote for independence.
“One thing that has to happen is for the Yes to independence campaign to develop a written constitution for Scotland or at least the principles of one that covers human rights, the rights of the Scottish people and what kind of society is being created.
“The Scottish people have to know what an independent Scotland would look like.
“At the same time, an equal challenge has to go out to the No campaign to spell out – before the referendum – what the implications for the future will be if Scotland votes no.
“What are we going to have then – more devolution? Are we going to have recognition of Scottish autonomy? There have been hints – and people with a long memory, like myself, have suspicions about promises like that.
“When the first referendum failed in 1979, at least one of the arguments put forward by Alec Douglas-Home was, ‘If you vote against this proposal, we will produce something better.’ Of course, the Tories retreated from that.
“That’s why I would like to pin them down to lay out their stall clearly now so people know what they promise to do afterwards.”
Commenting, SNP MSP Bruce Crawford – Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s new Referendum (Scotland) Bill Committee – said:
“Canon Kenyon Wright is one of Scotland’s most respected figures, and the man who led the campaign for Devolution.
“There are many people in Scotland who want to see significantly more powers for the Scottish Parliament – a Yes vote is currently the only way to achieve this.
“Canon Wright is absolutely correct to say that supporters of independence should spell out what we believe Scotland could and should achieve with the opportunities of independence – and the Scottish Government will publish a detailed white paper with its vision next year.
“But equally, the anti-independence parties need to tell the people of Scotland what voting No will mean for them – vague promises of jam tomorrow are just not good enough.
“Some things are already certain about a No vote. With the anti-independence parties now all firmly signed up to implementing Tory cuts in Scotland, a No vote threatens to roll back the achievements of Devolution such as free personal care and free tuition.
“Only a Yes vote will guarantee that the Scottish Parliament obtains the key job-creating powers that will allow Scotland to truly flourish.”