Two things about the independence referendum that haven’t made me want to punch a pillow or hide under the duvet

It’s not been a great week in the Scottish independence referendum. The Codswallop Quotient has gone through the roof since word got out last Tuesday night about George Osborne’s plan to rule out a currency union with an independent Scotland.  If the CQ has a similar effect on the human body as the pollen count, there will be lots of people sneezing across the country this week.

It was a huge gamble on Osborne’s part and it will be a while before we know whether it’s paid off. I’m still not getting any sense that it’s doing any more than reinforce the choice of the already decided.

But after a week where the trenches got deeper, there are two signs of signs of hope, both of which could lead to more intelligent discussion. The first is Scotcen research showing a consistent 57% of respondents oppose independence, a consistent 31% of people favour independence but 32% of people are more in line with Liberal Democrat thinking, favouring a so called “devo max” option.  That basically means that Scotland decides everything for itself except defence and foreign affairs. Nearly 3/4 of people put deco max as one of their top options. The question that needs more work is how many of these people would vote yes rather than continue with the status quo if there is no pathway to greater devolution.

Willie Rennie said:

This yearly survey once again confirms that the majority of people agree with Scottish Liberal Democrat home rule to build a stronger Scotland within the UK. Sir Menzies Campbell’s home rule report showed how a permanent transfer of powers could improve the accountability of the Scottish Parliament whilst continuing to pool risks and rewards across the broad UK shoulders.

We can shape our destiny on the domestic agenda whilst working with the UK family on pensions, foreign affairs and defence. This report puts petrol in the tank of our Campbell II plans, which will lead the way in bringing together an overall consensus on more powers. With Labour and the Conservatives to set out their plans for more powers in the coming months it is clear that a No vote in September opens the door to further change across the UK.

The second promising thing comes from our former Secretary of State Michael Moore. He’s going back to political campaigning basics and has arranged a series of discussion meetings between nest week and early September. His Road to the Referendum series will see him chat to local people in his Borders constituency, answering their questions. He says:

The question facing the people of Scotland on 18 September is the most important one in our lifetimes. There can be no going back from independence, and as a passionate supporter of Scotland remaining within the UK I am determined to play my part in helping people get access to the information they need to make up their minds. I know from my growing postbag that local people want answers to the important questions raised by independence, and that is why I have decided to hit the road around my constituency to discuss these important issues directly with my constituents. Anyone can attend these public meetings whatever their views, and I would encourage them to bring their family, neighbours and friends. I will endeavour to do my best to answer any questions posed by my constituents, and look forward to interesting discussions with them.

 I’m going to try and crash one of these events once the weather gets more hospitable at night. Knowing Mike, they will be interesting and informative and genuine discussions. What’s not to love?
This final point isn’t strictly speaking to do with the referendum, but it is a reminder that Mike Moore as Secretary of State worked a miracle to get the Scotland Act 2012, through. At one point, it looked as though the bill was dead in the water as Labour in the Lords were being mischievous, the Tories were agnostic and the SNP described it as a dog’s breakfast. Mike patiently built the consensus around it to get it passed through both Westminster and Holyrood. The borrowing powers it contained are about to come into force. Together with a 10p tax varying power, the Scotland Act, which everyone seems to have forgotten about, is still a very significant step forward. Mike always said it was a stepping stone and he wanted to see further powers in the future.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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29 Comments

  • Gwyn Williams 19th Feb '14 - 10:06am

    Is “deco max” the same as devo max ? Or have I missed something? Our Party has policies on everything but interior design…….?

  • Paul Pettinger 19th Feb '14 - 11:11am

    Danny Alexander aspires for Europe, including the UK, to share a currency, yet gleefully tells the SNP that Scotland couldn’t share a currency with the rump UK, ignoring that he is repeating a fundamentally Tory attack line that undermines his own cherished cause. Little wonder that not very nice songs get sung about him at Glee Club.

  • I thought “deco mac” meant getting your interior design done on an apple mac.

    There’s no real difference to the outcome, but you can pay three times as much for the privilege and then bang on about how much better the result is without ever being able to back up your assertions with facts.

  • “It should have read Deco Mac, a reference to the policy of having all public buildings designed according to the principles of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.”

    Brilliant! 🙂 Can we award Jim Forrest an OBE for humour.? Made me laugh out loud.
    I have obviously spent too much of my time as an english visitor to some of Glasgow’s tourist attractions.

  • “the majority of people agree with Scottish Liberal Democrat home rule”

    Seriously? Did he actually write that? “Scottish Liberal Democrat home rule”?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th Feb '14 - 11:51am

    I love the idea of Deco Mac. It should certainly become a thing. I have of course now changed the post so none of the above will make sense:-).

  • Just asking ... 19th Feb '14 - 12:32pm

    So, why did Liberal Democrats not ensure that the “devo max” option be included on the ballot paper?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th Feb '14 - 1:08pm

    @justasking: Because numerous constitutional experts, including the SNP’s expert of choice who they were found out in trying to erroneously quote, said that a multi option referendum could lead to an inconclusive result.

  • There was no reason that a second “devo max” referendum ballot could not have been held in the same day. It is presumably safe to assume that the voters of Scotland could manage to decide both issues on the same day without getting too confused about there being two questions!

  • Just asking ... 19th Feb '14 - 3:15pm

    Was it not the Conservatives in particular who pressed for a binary choice in the referendum? Why did Liberal Democrats accept this?

  • Caron, I am concerned with current Lib Dem strategy. I am surprised that Danny Alexander joined with Osborne and Balls to refuse any possibility of fiscal union. Clearly the risks are much less for Osborne’s party as the Tories have little to lose in Scotland. Danny Alexander has a lot to lose by contrast.

    Fiscal union, however is a technical matter. Barroso’s intervention is quite different. Insisting that Scotland and its people must be out of the EU against their wishes would run counter to the concept of the EU. I cannot understand the Lib Dem response to this.

    The way the campaign is evolving suggests that the SNP may well lose the referendum amid an onslaught of threats and dire prognostications. In such circumstances I would expect a strong backlash that would favour the SNP at the expense of other parties. Although Lib Dems have championed devolution and try as we might to advocate further devolution, our association with the Conservatives and how the Conservatives had campaigned could be particularly damaging. I am surprised that Scottish Liberal Democrats and the UK party are not doing more to dissociate themselves from the scare tactics. We could at least voice a strong position on the place of Scotland in the EU, whatever the outcome of the referendum.

    Caron, you are there and directly involved in the campaign; could you explain why my fears are groundless?

  • Tony Greaves 19th Feb '14 - 3:41pm

    There are two distinct issues which have been muddled by Osborne’s clumsy intervention.

    (1) is there a currency option (if Scotland becomes independent) that is better (or not worse ) than the existing arrangements?

    (2) if Scotland becomes independent, what is the best (or least bad) option?

    The first is an argument to vote NO (if you think the answer to the question is “no”), It is a fair and honest argument.

    The second is not an argument to vote YES or NO and to lay down a decision on it now is not credible and indeed is dishonest, since everyone knows that if independnece happens the quesiton will have to be faced afresh based on the circumstances at the time..

    Tony

  • The Deco Mac option shines like a Lighthouse through the murk of this independence debate.

  • David Pollard, I am no expert on the history of Ireland, but I think I remember that the Republic of Ireland continued to use the pound for the first fifty years of independence.
    Can someone confirm this? Did Ireland not adopt its own currency until the 1970s?

  • Yes just checked and Ireland carried on using the pound until March 1979, more than fifty years after Independence.

    If you want a very detailed history it is at —
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_pound

    Strangely the unionist parties in Scotland nowadays seem to like to ignore this fact. Inconvenient I suppose.

  • Robin Bennett 19th Feb '14 - 11:48pm

    An independent country will be in a stronger position to negotiate Devo Max and its alliances in fields such as currency, macro-economic policies, defence, the EU, border controls, broadcasting and financial services regulation, than have them decided by Westminster. Jo Grimond said as much in his “Personal Manifesto” of 1983 (page 54)

  • Paul Pettinger 20th Feb '14 - 12:35am

    Latest survey shows ‘Yes’ closing gap to 9% – apparently voters north of the border don’t like bullying tactics by Westminster politicians – who would have thought it. Well done Danny.
    http://www1.politicalbetting.com/index.php/archives/2014/02/20/the-first-indyref-conducted-after-osbornes-intervention-is-out/

  • Paul in Twickenham 20th Feb '14 - 7:47am

    @john tilley – yes, I grew up in Derry in the 1970’s just across the border from The South and the punt and the pound were pegged at 1:1 for most of that time. The two were freely interchanged and when we travelled across the border we would simply use sterling. When the peg was broken the punt floated down to about 90p and shops in Derry would advertise “punt=pound” to attract cross-border trade,

    Perhaps more I interesting is that The South had much lower petrol duty than The North and so people would drive over the border to fill up. This led to the closure of almost all the petrol stations in Derry.

  • Yes, I believe Michael Moore has much to offer the rest of the UK – if we can get a no vote. A no vote must lead to further constitutional reform, first devo max (although I also love the deco mac brought up here) for Scotland … which will then force the pace for the necessary constitutional devolution to the other 3 nations in the UK.

    I still worry alot that Yes will prevail … I am a born optimist except for 2 areas – sport (I almost have to close my eyes when British athletes perform, fearing the worst) and politics! (it is tough being a Lib Dem … and we lose things, such as the AV referendum , which logically should never have been lost).

    Seeing our wonderful GB (and yes Scottish) men’s curling team snatch victory from the jaws of defeat made me feel yet again that we can achieve so much more together … celebrating both our differences and our togetherness (this is in fact a large part of what marriage is about) – so please Scotland please vote to stay in the UK, we love you, we need you to stay to help us reform the UK and make it a 21st century fit-for-purpose unique state for the benefit of all 4 nations!

  • Charles Beaumont 20th Feb '14 - 9:31am

    Isn’t the problem with Devo Max rather the same as per the currency union? Which is to say, if Scotland gets itself into a dodgy fiscal position ultimately the UK would be the guarantor of Scotland’s debt repayments, but would not be in a position to dictate the economic policies necessary to get out of that position (unless you’d ended up with a Greek style bailout).

  • But the Scottish Liberal Democrats do not support Devo Max. To quote Willie – “that’s just independence by another name”.

    Devo Max is full fiscal federalism with all taxes raised in Scotland and the elected government then passing the cost of central services to Westminster (or it’s equivalent).

    What we support might be better described as Devo Plus except that we are supposed to support federalism which is decidedly not “further devolution”

  • Mason Cartwright 20th Feb '14 - 10:32am

    There are legitimate points to be made by the “No” campaign but very careful consideration needs to be given to how this is communicated.

    At present most of the issues raised seem to be delivered with the diplomacy of a meat cleaver and they come across as threats rather than thoughtful interventions.

    To make matters worse the delivery boys tend to be Tories and it is difficult to imagine a more inappropriate spokesperson model when dealing with Scotland.

    I sometimes wonder if the Tories are actually trying to encourage a “Yes” vote because this is textbook “how not to run a campaign”

  • Paul in Twickenham 20th Feb '14 - 12:06pm

    @ian – yes the closure of petrol stations in Derry was a post-unpegging phenomenon so presumably duty increases in the UK were no longer mirrored in The South. It would be interesting to know what analysis has been done on the size and direction of cross-border trade if Scotland had (say) a different VAT rate or different duty on petrol compared with England.

  • @Paul in Twickenham. Significant difference. Not many people live near the England Scotland border. When Grena played in the SPL briefly it was pointed out that the town’s entire population would not fill the away allocation at most grounds. Citizens of Alan Beith’s constituency may prosper but most people would be too far away to make it worth driving to fill up with petrol.

  • Mason Cartwright 20th Feb '14 - 1:48pm

    When we are faced with the potential breakup of the UK what are Lib Dem Voice talking about?

    Petrol prices.

    Give me strength.

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