No Devo-Max says Cameron – even if Scots vote for it

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By a Newsnet reporter

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has flatly ruled out any extension to tax raising powers for Scotland beyond the proposals contained in the Scotland Bill which is currently going through the Westminster Parliament. 

The Prime Minister also refuses to consider devolving any part of the benefits system to Holyrood, according to reports in today’s Scotland on Sunday.

By a Newsnet reporter

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has flatly ruled out any extension to tax raising powers for Scotland beyond the proposals contained in the Scotland Bill which is currently going through the Westminster Parliament. 

The Prime Minister also refuses to consider devolving any part of the benefits system to Holyrood, according to reports in today’s Scotland on Sunday.

According to the newspaper, a spokesperson for the Conservative Prime Minister has described additional powers for the Scottish Parliament as “inconsistent” with remaining a part of the United Kingdom.

If Scots desire greater control over their own affairs, they will have no option but to choose independence.  The UK government believes that a single UK tax and benefits system is the “heart” of the UK, and will not countenance devolving any of these powers to Holyrood.

A Westminster source quoted by the newspaper said: “There are certain levels of autonomy that are inconsistent with the UK.  A unified tax and benefit system is at the heart of a united country.  If you start dismantling the tax and benefit system then that is inconsistent with a single country.

“Nobody is pretending that we can make people stay in the Union.  If it is more important to people that they have a certain level of autonomy on certain issues, rather than having the economic security that the UK brings to Scotland, then there’s little you can say.”

The move from Westminster is a serious blow to the Devo-Max campaign which is to get underway tomorrow.  The campaign is aimed at persuading the Scottish Government to include the third option, alongside independence and the status-quo, on the ballot paper in the historic referendum planned for Autumn 2014.

On Monday a group of organisations, headed by Henry McLeish and Canon Kenyon Wright, representing ‘Civic Scotland’ will attempt to initiate debate in an attempt at securing a ‘middle-ground’ option for people who do not support the status quo or full independence.  It is expected that a final definition will offer Scots the opportunity to seek the return of all powers with the exception of Foreign Affairs and Defence.

The group includes the Scottish Trades Union Congress, the National Union of Students, the Institute of Directors, think-tanks Reform Scotland and the Scottish Centre for Public Policy.  The campaign also includes representatives of the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations which recently called for welfare powers to be devolved to Scotland.

The move has support from figures within the Labour party in Scotland including MSP Malcolm Chisholm.  However the option is opposed by Labour’s Scottish leadership, headed by Johann Lamont.

The campaign was announced only days after First Minister Alex Salmond launched the Scottish Government’s consultation on the referendum.  The SNP leader specifically refused to rule out including a third option on the ballot paper, saying that to do so would be undemocratic.

However, now that the current Westminster Government have closed the door on any extensions to Holyrood’s powers, Scottish voters are effectively being told by Westminster that it will not consider the option of Devo Max even in the event that a question makes it onto the ballot and achieves majority support. 

Supporters of Devo Max will now question whether they can be satisfied with the proposals offered in the Scotland Bill, regarded as insufficient and damaging by leading academics, or whether they will instead support independence.

The announcement by the Tory leader will be seen by many as yet another attempt by London to dictate the terms of the independence referendum.  It is also a significant blow to the Tory’s coalition partners, the Lib Dems, who are currently engaged in an internal discussion aimed at defining their own long term policy of home rule, which is expected to closely match Devo-Max.

Bruce Crawford MSP, the SNP minister for government strategy, said: “We believe independence is the best future for Scotland, but we support the right of people to advance the case for a ‘devo-max’ option in the referendum consultation.”