July 22, 2014 Leave a comment
Brian Walker explores whether the pro-Union parties can offer enough devolution to persuade voters Scotland will be given priority if they vote No.
On September 18 voters in Scotland will take a momentous decision based on two sets of uncertainty: on independence which is on the ballot paper and on more devolution which is not. A recent survey by the British Election Study suggests 74% of voters want some or a lot more devolution. Only 35% of them are Yes supporters. 57% of No voters actually want more devolution and 50% of all voters believe it will happen if No wins. This is a rising tide the pro-Union parties are desperate to harness.
And so to counter the clearer appeal of independence, the leaders of Scotland’s pro-union parties gathered on Calton Hill in Edinburgh on 16 June to deliver a joint promise of more devolution in the event of a No vote. David Cameron declared:
All the mainstream pro-UK parties believe in further devolution, so whilst we would want to build consensus for a set of measures and legislation, there is no reason why these changes shouldn’t happen early in the next Parliament.
Lib Dem peer Lord Jeremy Purvis, leader of the cross-party Devo Plus group, enthused that all of the major parties were now ‘clearly and unequivocally supporting a stronger Scotland.’
In early July Purvis joined representatives of the other two parties, Anas Sarwar MP, Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour and member of the party’s Devolution Commission and Peter Duncan, a communications consultant and former Scottish Conservative MP, for an Institute for Government debate: Scotland in a changing UK: Unionist visions for further devolution after the referendum. Is the impression of chiming pro-union agreement justified?