Max-Headache for the Unionist Parties

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By Dave Taylor (with thanks to scottish_skier)

The Times continues to drip feed the results of individual sets of questions from Ipsos MORI’s January Scottish poll.  [1]

Unionist parties continue to insist that they can’t discuss greater powers until after a single question referendum on independence.

However, the January poll makes it clear that a huge majority of Scots (71%) want at least “the powers of the Scottish Parliament to include more laws and duties and control of most taxation”.

88% of independence supporters would support “Devo Max” as an alternative to the status quo, as would 53% of those who wish to remain part of the UK.

89% of SNP supporters, 62% of LD supporters and 59% of Labour supporters support at least “Devo Max”. Even 38% of Tory voters support it.

It is apparent that this isn’t uninformed opinion. 72% had heard of “Devo Max” and 55% wanted that option to appear on the ballot. Critically, for the Unionist parties, 46% of “No” supporters want a “Devo Max” option to be available.

Labour have no role in deciding anything on the referendum issues. Out of power in both Westminster and Holyrood, all they can do is snipe from the sidelines and try to ready themselves for when the big players – SNP and the Tory/LD coalition – make real decisions. For them, that must be the equivalent of a constant migraine.

The Tories and LDs have different headaches. The same poll puts their support for the constituency vote in Holyrood at 12% and 10% respectively – their combined score, half that of the SNP. Their hopes for power are focussed entirely on Westminster. The Tories don’t need Scotland, the LDs may still have some hope of retaining Westminster seats if they can keep their remaining Home Rule supporters on board. If they block the additional question, how much of that support will remain?

As Mark Diffley, Research Director at Ipsos MORI Scotland said:
“While the Scottish and UK governments continue to disagree over the number of questions to be included on the referendum ballot, the public is in favour of including a second question.

“This may be because ‘Devolution Max’ is the position that currently represents the views of the majority of Scots. In our most recent poll, support for independence falls short of a majority but there is clearly an appetite to move away from the status quo and devolve more powers to the Scottish Parliament and voters feel they should be given the opportunity to express that view in the referendum.”

While Diffley misrepresents “Devo Max” as the “views of the majority Scots”, it is simply the option around which most can coalesce, the choice for the Tories and LDs is whether to block the position held by most Scots.

[1]While the responses quoted in this article are of those “certain to vote”, the tables also include the numbers for all respondents