By Martin Kelly
A new poll published on the eve of the launch of the No campaign indicates that support for a so called second question on the independence referendum ballot is now running at seventy per cent.
The MORI poll, commissioned by the Civic Scotland campaign “Future of Scotland”, showed that seven out of ten people in Scotland believed that the ballot paper should include a Devo-Max option.
The Future of Scotland campaign is an alliance of civil society organisations and includes the STUC, the Church of Scotland and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO).
The survey will put pressure on the anti-independence parties to reconsider their opposition to a second question as they prepare to launch their own campaign in favour of the status quo.
Thus far all three parties have indicated that they will offer more powers should Scots vote no in the referendum, however neither Labour, the Tories or the Lib Dems are prepared to define what extra powers would be offered.
The No campaign will launch on Monday under the banner ‘Better Together’. There has already been controversy over the choice of slogan after it emerged it is already being used by the Scottish NHS.
The new poll comes only days after it emerged almost two thirds of members of the Unite union also supported the inclusion of Devo-Max on the ballot paper. Devo-Max would see all powers, with the exception of foreign affairs and defence, returning to Scotland.
Former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish, a supporter of Devo-Max, has already urged Scottish Labour to change its attitude towards further powers. Earlier this year Mr McLeish called on Scottish Labour leader Johann to “lead the debate”.
He said: “We should be less concerned about whether it’s devo-plus or devo-max, but Labour has to lead the debate on the future for Scotland, which is neither independence or the status quo.
“Labour is the party that delivered devolution in 1997 and the party now has to embrace devo diversity and see how we can lead and develop the debate.”
Commenting on the survey results, Martin Sime, the chief executive of the SCVO, said: “It is pretty clear that people want some kind of home rule. There’s a strong majority against defence and foreign affairs, but people want control over domestic policy.
“People don’t want a yes-no question. They want a more inclusive debate.”
However Mr Sime was attacked by Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie who suggested the SCVO Chief was working to the SNP’s agenda.
Willie Rennie said: “I think Martin Sime has overstepped the mark and I think there is a danger of threatening the independence of the SCVO.
“There are increasing suspicions that he is working closely with the Scottish Government on this agenda.”
Mr Rennie’s claims were dismissed by Mr Sime who insisted he was “not a cheerleader for the SNP” and added: “The politicians ought to keep all the options open, rather than rushing into their yes/no camps.”
The imminent launch of the No campaign brought calls for a mature debate and away from ridiculous scaremongering.
Speaking ahead of the launch of the official ‘No’ Campaign on Monday, SNP Referendum Campaign Director Angus Robertson today appealed for an end to the ‘scaremongering silly season’ on Scotland’s constitutional future.
Calling for a grown-up and honest approach from the anti-independence campaign, Mr Robertson highlighted some of the what he described as the “more ludicrous scare stories” that had been peddled over recent months, including:
- – Claims by Lord Fraser, the former Tory Solicitor General, that England could have no choice but to bomb Scottish airports in order to defend itself from attack if Scotland became independent.
- – Claims by Tory Education Secretary Michael Gove that an independent Scotland would no longer have a National Health Service.
- – Claims by Home Secretary Theresa May that passport checks would be issued at Scotland’s border with England.
- – Questions published by the Westminster Scottish Affairs Committee querying if people could still buy wine form The Sunday Times Wine Club or whether the school curriculum would include ‘English’?
- – Claims that the Westminster Government would seize custody of the giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo post-independence.
Mr Robertson said:
“I hope the launch of the ‘No’ campaign will bring an end to the scaremongering silly season which we have seen over recent months.
“While of course people have legitimate questions, some within the anti-independence camp have been guilty of the most ridiculous scaremongering. They have treated people like fools with bizarre claims that, for example, the NHS would cease to exist, that ‘English’ would no longer be taught on the school curriculum or that there would be a custody battle over the pandas at Edinburgh Zoo.
“In contrast, the Yes campaign is rooted in a positive approach that represents all of Scotland’s communities – job-creators; labour movement figures; civic Scotland; the Arts; urban and rural Scotland; young and old; north, south, east and west.
“Part of the job and the process of the Yes campaign is to answer all the questions, and explain all the benefits and merits of independence – and that is exactly what we are doing. It contrasts with the confusion and negativity of the Tories and other anti-independence parties.
“They are confused, because they are either unable or unwilling to spell out to the people of Scotland what their alternative to independence is. So far, the anti-independence parties have not been able to answer any questions about their constitutional proposals.
“And they are negative, because in the absence of a positive alternative they are consigned to negativity about independence.
“Instead of more scare stories from the anti-independence parties, we need an honest and grown up debate on Scotland’s constitutional future.”
However the signs were that these stories will continue, with a press release from Lib Dem Treasury Chief Danny Alexander claiming that independence would see Scottish mortage costs increasing.
Today Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie has also claimed that anything other than a straight Yes/No question on the ballot paper would result in the referendum outcome being mired in “legal chaos” as people challenged the result in the courts.