By Anne-Marie O’Donnell
Voters in Scotland may have been misled by indications that the Scottish parliament would be handed significant extra power following a No vote for independence after a key No campaign adviser dismissed some aspirations as “simply ludicrous”.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Professor Jim Gallagher said that Scottish devolution was “already very wide” and described notions that Scotland could ever obtain a version of devo-max as “fantastical”.
Professor Gallagher said: “Scottish devolution is already very wide. It is as wide in spending terms as devolution in any of the most decentralised federal countries. All domestic policy apart from social security is devolved, more or less. The idea that [after a no vote] a devolved Scotland would have some kind of defence role is simply ludicrous.”
The Telegraph added that Professor Gallagher was “equally dismissive” of potential changes to the diplomatic system of immigration controls, adding that any discussion of new powers would “largely be restricted to issues of tax”.
The news comes as politicians from Scotland’s pro-union parties claim they are working on the “bones of an agreement”, although Scottish Labour deputy leader Anas Sarwar admitted they were unlikely to arrive at the same position on the way forward for devolution following a No vote for independence.
Stewart Maxwell MSP, a member of the Referendum Bill Committee, said the comments showed that voters “can’t trust” promises of more powers made by the No campaign.
“Professor Gallagher’s candid remarks come as a blow to the No camp, who have been making various vague noises about a stronger Scottish Parliament but without any detail,” he said. “It’s vital to remember that the Westminster-led No camp point blank refused to include ‘devo max’ as an option on the ballot paper.
“The No camp change their tune when there are votes to be won – it’s like 1979 all over again. There were promises of better devolution then, and it took nearly 20 years to deliver the parliament we now have. There is a pattern emerging here and it shows that you can’t trust a word the No camp say.”
He added: “The fact is that only with a Yes vote can Scotland achieve the powers we need to build a fair society and strong economy. This fact has become even clearer as a result of Professor Gallagher’s comments”
The comments from Professor Gallagher prompted the latest in a series of blows for the No campaign, which has been accused of contradicting itself over policy in recent weeks. Just over a week ago, a blog post written by Professor Gallagher for Edinburgh University was uncovered in which he appeared to be at odds with the Better Together campaign’s line on the EU.
Better Together have previously claimed a Yes vote for independence would mean adopting the Euro, but Professor Gallagher wrote in his blog that an independent Scotland would likely be able to keep EU opt-outs, such as staying out of the Euro.
Meanwhile, earlier this month Dunfermline and West Fife MP Thomas Docherty contradicted claims made by former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown that Scotland’s devolved position would be strengthened under a future Labour government when he announced there wasn’t “any support at Westminster” for Scotland to receive more powers.
Labour MP Mr Docherty said: “I don’t believe there is any support at Westminster for Scotland unilaterally getting further devolution without changes to the current constitutional and financial agreements. The choice in September is between separation and the settled system of devolution.”
Just days later, leader of the Better Together campaign Alistair Darling created confusion after claiming the SNP’s plans for a sterling currency union with Westminster were “increasingly dead in the water” despite telling Newsnight Scotland a year before that it would be a “desirable” and “logical” step.