Voluntary Sector Chief calls on Unionist parties to spell out independence alternative

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By a Newsnet reporter

The Chief Executive of the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) has called on the anti-independence parties to come clean on what ‘more powers’ they would offer the people of Scotland.
 
Speaking after an Edinburgh conference on the referendum yesterday, Martin Sime also insisted that the best way to ensure enhanced powers came to Scotland was to have the option on the referendum ballot.

Mr Sime said:

“The best way to get more powers is to get it backed in a referendum.   A popular mandate would be so much more difficult for a UK government, of whatever stripe, to avoid.”

His comments were welcomed by the SNP with Margaret Burgess, SNP MSP for Cunninghame South and member of the Welfare Reform Committee, saying:

“Martin Sime’s comments are a positive and welcome contribution to the debate. They rightly recognise that the Tories and other anti-independence parties’ promises of jam tomorrow lack credibility.

“The SNP is totally committed to having a fully-informed debate on Scotland’s future – which is why we will continue to set out the benefits of independence for people, jobs and business in Scotland.

“In 2013 we will publish the full prospectus for independence in plenty time for the referendum.   What is entirely lacking from the UK Government and the other anti-independence parties is any clarity about what their alternative to independence is.

“These are all matters to be decided in Scotland, and the SNP also strongly agree with the STUC’s position that the UK Government should not seek to impose ‘pre-conditions’ on the people of Scotland’s referendum.”

Mr Sime’s comments followed backing from the STUC for 16 and 17 year olds to be allowed to take part in the ballot.

The organisation also backed the SNP’s proposed timeline for an independence referendum saying there were advantages to a 2014 date and described moves to rule out a third option on the ballot paper as “inappropriate”.

STUC General Secretary Grahame Smith, said: “Our response recognises the enormous value of clarifying through legislation the right of the Scottish government to legislate for an independence referendum.”

He said: “STUC does not oppose a 2014 referendum and sees some advantages to this timescale which would allow for the resolution of all matters of process, for ensuring the proper legal basis for the referendum is clearly established, and for ensuring that the people of Scotland are able to engage in the widest possible debate on the constitutional future of our country.

“Whilst recognising practical difficulties with respect to extending the voting age to include 16 and 17 year olds, STUC supports in principle the view that 16 and 17-year-olds should be entitled to vote.”

Meanwhile the Conservative’s Scottish leader Ruth Davidson has been accused of causing further confusion over her parties stance on more powers for the Scottish Parliament.

In a speech in Aberdeen Ms Davidson said that her party would offer “real devolution” to the Scottish people.  However she appeared to rule out devo-max and devo-plus, the two options currently battling it out for the middle ground spot.

Claiming she wanted to put the choice in the hands of the people, Ms Davidson said: ““I want to talk about devolution – not devo max or devo plus, or devo mix, or I can’t believe it’s not devo – but real devolution from Holyrood to people and communities across Scotland.”

Having previously insisted that the current legislation contained in the Scotland Bill was a “line in the sand”, Ms Davidson’s has now muddied the waters between her preference and that of her leader, PM David Cameron who indicated recently his preference for ‘further devolution’.

Commenting on Ms Davidson’s remarks, SNP MSP Jamie Hepburn said the Tories were at sixes and sevens on the constitution.
 
Mr Hepburn claimed her comments put her at odds with the Prime Minister who has made the vague promise of additional powers for the Scottish Parliament – a position which former Tory MSP Ted Brocklebank has said has “destroyed any remaining shreds of her credibility”.
 
Mr Hepburn, MSP for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth said:
 
“Echoing Michael Forsyth’s policy, which saw the Tories lose all their MPs in Scotland, only puts the Scottish Conservatives into an even more ridiculous position.
 
“The Tory Party in Scotland are now at sixes and sevens on the constitution with their leader caught between playing to the reactionary element of her party and the ever-changing instructions from her boss in Westminster.
 
“Her comments about the Scotland Bill being a ‘line in the sand’ were clearly out of sync with the thoughts – if not outlined policy – of her boss David Cameron.  Now taking up Michael Forsyth’s failed position of the 1990’s not only makes the Scottish Tories out of touch but out of date.
 
“It all makes one wonder if the Tories actually speak to each other.
 
“Only the SNP will stand-up for the people of this country by putting forward positive policies which will move Scotland forward.”