Devo Max, Devo Plus or Devo Shshh. All are off the ballot. Doug Daniel surveys the landscape and asks why?
The framing of David Mundell’s premature enunciation of the agreement between the Scottish and UK governments in regards to the independence referendum tell us two things. Well, they probably tell us a few things, but two things in particular stand out. The first is that the vast majority of our mainstream media is absolutely useless when it comes to analysing Scottish politics, with a peculiar blind spot when it comes to the referendum. The BBC comes in for particular criticism here, with Raymond Buchanan confidently declaring that “both sides can claim victory”, as well as Brian Taylor espousing similar views on Newsdrive a few hours later. The idea is that, despite the concessions the UK government have made, they have come out of the referendum negotiations as winners because they’ve managed to ensure the referendum will be a single question. This is absolute nonsense, relying on an assumption that the Scottish Government wanted to come out of this with a two question referendum, thereby scuppering any chance of winning independence because when you give people a choice of three options, they tend to go for the middle option. I analysed this and other aspects of why the “devo max” option was just part of a genius SNP strategy 9 months ago, as have other fellow amateur bloggers and politics geeks – so why have professional journalists still not figured out what’s really been going on? Is it incompetence, or are they wilfully misinterpreting the situation in order to get a better story or, dare I say it, because of pro-union bias?
The second thing this tells us – and this is particularly important if you are someone who wants Devo Max rather than full independence – is that there will be no more devolution. “You’ll have had your devolution?” so to speak. Why do I say this? Well, look at what each side has gotten out of the negotiations. The SNP wanted votes for 16 year olds, they wanted control of the question, they wanted it held on their time-scale, and – no matter what any journalist tries to tell you – they only wanted ONE question (a fact they have cunningly hidden in plain view by admitting so every time they were asked). They have achieved every one of these objectives. On the contrary, Westminster wanted no change to the voting franchise, they wanted to control the wording, they wanted it held next year at the latest, and they wanted one question (actually, the reality is they wanted NO question, as can be seen from one Labour blogger’s continued insistence that there will not be a referendum, even now.) Now, even allowing for the fact that the people negotiating for Westminster were David Mundell and Michael Moore, it’s simply inconceivable to suggest that they would have let the Scottish Government get ALL their demands on timing, franchise and wording unless they were desperate to make sure it was a one question referendum. In other words, they were prepared to do anything, just to make sure Devo Max wasn’t an option on the paper, and this is why they think they’re the winners in all this, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Who knows, we may yet see David Cameron dressed in a clown outfit outside Bute House on Monday as a result of one of the Scottish Government’s demands for keeping it to a single question.
This begs the question: if unionists are so keen to continue devolving power to Scotland in the event of a NO vote, why have they capitulated completely to the Scottish Government in order to prevent the public being able to vote for it? Why have they not taken this opportunity to defeat independence once and for all by giving the public what the pollsters say we really want? You hear rubbish from unionists about needing to decide if we stay in the union first, or telling us that independence and devolution are two entirely separate things (they’re not – independence is effectively full devolution) and we can’t mix them up in the same paper. But when it comes to politics, you take the most direct route to your goal, or you risk never getting there. Why run the risk of Scotland deciding to become independent if you’re really so committed to further devolution… Unless you have no desire to devolve further powers anyway?
Keeping Devo Max off the referendum was so important to unionists because they don’t want to devolve any more powers. Perhaps the Lib Dems think they do, but they’re irrelevant now. Some in Labour clearly do (although don’t believe anyone that calls themselves a “devolutionist” – they have no interest in devolving power to Scotland), but such voices are drowned out by the likes of Alistair Darling pointing out that major powers being devolved simply isn’t going to happen (rendering Labour’s latest devolution commission moribund before it’s even convened), and their visceral hatred of the SNP means they’ll never allow major powers to be devolved until they’ve regained their “rightful” place back at the top of Scottish politics (or until Scotland wins the World Cup with Craig Levein playing an attacking formation – whichever comes sooner). As for the Tories, we need only look back to Alec Douglas-Home’s promise of a “better bill” if Scots rejected the devolved assembly in 1979 to know much worth to place in David Cameron’s promise of more powers if we vote no, and the UK is currently finding out to its detriment that the Tory party may have changed its logo since the 80s, but it’s still the same shower of bastards, if not worse. Besides, this is the party that didn’t back devolution, despite ironically becoming their only avenue for claiming to still be a major party in Scotland.
So Devo Maximists, the situation is clear. You won’t get to vote for more devolution in the referendum, and your only hope of getting it after a NO vote is if ALL the unionist parties agree on it, which isn’t going to happen, and even then it would rely upon asking the whole of the UK to go along with it – because it would require England to be devolved too, and the role of MPs to be totally changed. It’s relies on a very precise set of circumstances, which have no hope of coming together. Let’s face it, if you want more powers travelling up to Edinburgh, I’m afraid you only have one option – vote YES in 2014.