More confusion over extra powers as Darling concedes there will be ‘compromises’


  By a Newsnet reporter
Better Together leader Alistair Darling has confirmed that the extra powers on offer from each of the three pro-Union parties in the event of a No vote, may be subject to compromise as part of the post referendum discussions.
Appearing on a special edition of Scotland Tonight, the Labour MP was facing questions from STV’s Political Editor Bernard Ponsonby.

Mr Ponsonby pressed the leader of the No campaign on what would follow a No vote and asked the Better Together head if more powers, other than those already announced by the three main Unionist parties, would be devolved.

Mr Darling replied: “The proposal is that you bring together the three sets of proposals made by the Labour Party, the Liberal Party, and the Conservative Party and the first part of the process is that they go into a discussion and there will have to be compromise I suspect from more than one party to that in order to get an agreed package.”

The Labour MP then appeared to suggest that, despite any agreement, the package may in fact be amended further after consultation.

He added:

“It could be during that process that there are other things, that people haven’t so far tabled,”

The comment will fuel speculation that none of the three individual packages of powers being offered by each of the main pro-Union parties will end up being devolved.  With any leverage Scots had gone with a No vote, there may in fact be temptation on the part of London to include only the weakest proposals from Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems.

Mr Darling’s confirmation of a consultation will also cause concern as to whether powers may in fact be removed from the final package from organisations that may object to the devolution of one or more powers.

The Better Together leader also appeared to rule out any participation from the Scottish Government in the process, restricting it to Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives.  This was at odds with comments from several of Mr Darling’s own Better Together colleagues who have publicly called for the SNP to commit to taking part in the process.

One Week

The issue of more powers has become the central thrust of the pro-Union campaign as we approach one week to go.  Three recent opinion polls have indicated that momentum is very clearly with the Yes campaign.

Today the three leaders of the London parties will arrive in Scotland in an attempt at persuading Scots to reject independence.  David Cameron will be joined by Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg.

With both campaigns now effectively neck-and-neck there are few political commentators prepared to call the result of a referendum, which only two weeks ago looked to be in the bag for the No campaign.

However, following a live televised debate in which Better Together leader Alistair Darling struggled badly and was forced to concede an independent Scotland could use the pound, momentum and support for Yes has steadily grown.

The visit by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband caught everyone by surprise, with Cameron and Miliband revealing both had agreed to suspend their weekly Prime Minister’s Questions appearance in order to visit Scotland.

Commenting on the extraordinary development, First Minister Alex Salmond said:

“The No campaign is in complete and utter disarray, and they are making this farce up as they go along.

“Together, David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg are the most distrusted Westminster politicians ever – and their collective presence in Scotland will be another massive boost for the Yes campaign.

“In trust ratings, David Cameron is minus 50 in Scotland, Ed Miliband is minus 44 – and Nick Clegg is off the the scale at minus 59. They are minus more than 150 together.

“The message of this extraordinary, last minute reaction is that the Westminster elite are in a state of absolute panic as the ground in Scotland shifts under their feet.”

Mr Salmond highlighted the Prime Minister’s reluctance to take part in a live TV debate and a recent refusal to face questions from undecided voters in an STV special.

He added: “The No campaign think that they are losing this campaign – and these hugely distrusted Westminster leaders trooping up to Scotland is only going to boost that process.

“The No campaign are making blunder after blunder, but this is by far the biggest yet.

“While No continue to get it badly wrong, Yes will continue with a campaign that is energising Scotland and galvanising support the length and breadth of the country.  We need to vote Yes to put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands – not the hands of a discredited, distrusted Westminster establishment.”