2007 - 2021

Definitely Maybe

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.


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  1. David McCann says:

    Precisely. Vote No. Get absolutely nothing!

    1. Doug Daniel says:

      Well, you do get ONE thing – you get the pleasure of reliving the Thatcher years (or, like me, getting to experience them for a first time.)

      Yeah, thanks Johann/Dave/Whoever, but we’ll take our chances on our own…

  2. sneekyboy says:

    Spot on Doug.

    You wonder why, if they really are interested in further devolution or a federal set-up, Labour and Lib Dems wouldnt want it on the ballot so as to give them a mandate to campaign for it if it won…

    Clearly, they are all just wind and bluster when it comes to further powers for Scotland

    1. Hmm, ‘federal set-up’; good spot sir !

  3. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    Exactly, David
    “Vote No – Get Nothing”. I hope we use that

  4. Doug, David Mundell made a huge mistake; he proabbaly doesn’t know what it is yet, but Scotland’s First Minister will know!
    Mundell has shot his own fox!
    The Main-Stream-Media is Westminster’s propaganda outlet/machine, but recently it has also become a Westminster ‘Media-Mentoring’ service, trying its hardest to brainwash us with utter useless lies, misinformation, and distraction; this is the best example of my term Plying the masses with pretensions more’. In other words, the media is a pack of lies.
    And, you’re absolutely right about there being ‘no more devolution’, but, that’s the genius of Scotland’s (now certain) Independence!
    There’s actually three more Apocalyptic ‘worms’ in this Westminster Section 30 order, but I won’t be ‘airing’ them here; the Scottish Government will know what they are.
    Anyway, what a Calamity, Cameron !

    1. Doug Daniel says:

      Mundell is nicknamed Blundell for good reason, although I have wondered if he’s actually been told to leak this. Salmond says there are still a couple of things to be agreed upon, the main one I think being the spending limits. Now, we may have very generous donations from the Weirs and Edwin Morgan, and I suspect there will be no shortage of independence supporters putting their hands in their pocket to donate cash where usually they wouldn’t; but the fact is this will be the first time in British politics that the financial weight of the Tory non-dom billionaires and the Labour union funds will combine to fight for a cause.

      Could it be that Mundell was tasked with “declaring” an agreement before these things were fleshed out, in order to force the Scottish Government’s hand somewhat?

      Probably not, because he’s just a bit rubbish really…

      1. bellacaledonia says:

        Yes I wondered too. Not sure if they are that clever.

      2. James Coleman says:

        “… Could it be that Mundell was tasked with “declaring” an agreement before these things were fleshed out, in order to force the Scottish Government’s hand somewhat?….”
        I think we can be fairly sure it was agreed at the highest level to leak the details. But I don’t believe it was to force the Scottish Government’s hand on contributions, that is too important to be ‘forced’, but to give the media a chance to come out with the nonsense about Cameron ‘winning/both sides gaining’ before the ‘official agreement next week and to attempt to rain a bit on AS’s planned parade next week.

      3. An Duine Gruamach says:

        That could be part of it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was more a desire to get something out while the Tory conference was still on and before the SNP have theirs. It’s easier to make it look like a UK government breakthrough that way.

  5. Kenneth MacColl says:

    They lie to you. Once you have grasped that the contortions of the Scottish(sic) media become much clearer.
    I could see that the second question question was a hare set off by the First Minister when he announced this ploy last autumn and I am astounded that so many of our expert political commentators failed to grasp this – perhaps some did but know where their bread is buttered?

    Listened this morning to Lord Forsyth arguing against the vote being given to 16 & 17 year olds and could not help but wonder who voted for him. That will be yet another reason to vote yes.

    1. Doug Daniel says:

      I was perplexed to hear Professor Bogdanor – who claims to be in favour of reducing the voting age from 18 – arguing against doing so for this referendum because he thinks you either do it across the board, or not at all.

      I find this quite an astonishing line of argument, not least because it shows complete ignorance of the Scottish Government’s record for reducing the voting age where it has the power to do so. Just like the internationalists in Labour who claim you either reduce poverty across the whole of the UK in one go or you don’t bother at all, I fail to see how it can be bad to give people a chance to vote at a younger age in a referendum, which will only strengthen the argument for reducing the vote across the board. How long have Votes At 16 campaigners been trying to get the voting age reduced without any progress made, and why would they spurn the chance to force the issue into the public conscience?

      It’s simply not credible for these people to claim to be in favour of reducing the voting age in theory, but be against it when someone tries to put it into practice. Incidentally, it’s interesting how many Labour and Lib Dem MPs are against the voting age being reduced for a “one-off referendum”… But were also in favour of doing just that for the AV referendum – http://www.votesat16.org/about/supportive-politicians/

      Charlatans, the lot of them!

  6. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    I would add that in the event of a NO vote, there’s no guarantee that powers will not be removed from The Scottish Parliament.

    1. I think there have been very strong indications from all the unionist partiess that a NO vote will be interpreted as a mandate to roll back the devolution process.

  7. James Coleman says:


    “… 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? “

    I was one of those who would have liked a DevoMax (DM) question on the ballot paper as a back up for the SNP in the event of a NO vote. But after debating with you and others over many months I realised that DevoMax would indeed not be deliverable at Westminster. But a more important reason for going against it was the fact that a DM question could, probably would lead to the loss of the Referendum and we would end up with nothing but faux promises about more devolution.
    However if looked at from the Unionists side a DM question in the vote would be the last thing they would want. If the vote were NO to Independence YES to DM, which the Unionists currently believe WOULD be the result, then Westminster would be forced to spend lots of unproductive time thereafter dealing with an insoluble problem and the Scottish Independence/devolution pot would continue to boil merrily away. If the vote were YES to Independence then it would just be farewell and good luck.
    But with only one question YES/NO to Independence on the ballot paper, then if the result were YES, it would be farewell and goodbye again, but if the result were NO it would subdue if not kill Independence aspirations for a long, long time depending on how close the vote was. A single question would also allow the Unionists to make faux promises about more devolution in the run up to the vote as they saw how polling was going in the run up to the vote.

    1. Alex Buchan says:

      You are absolutely right, of course, a majority vote for devo max would have been a massive headache for the UK parties. Everyone knows that, except it seems people who subscribe to Bella. The BBC knows it and the press knows it. Yes the SNP have never said they wanted devo max, but it was Alex Salmond, not David Cameron, who suggested it should be on the ballot. Now, that may have been a very clever rouse by Salmond, but the UK parties are not stupid. They know that a yes vote in the referendum is, at best, a long shot, and, as I point out below, they have their own game plan for what happens after Scotland votes no.

  8. pmcrek says:

    As they claim this is a victory they cannot now also deny that they are responsible for removing a popular constitutional option from our referendum ballot.

    1. Peter says:

      They could still deny it by saying something like “the proposed wording of the option was biased and so could not be supported by a responsible Government”. Who could dispute this type of comment if the Newspapers present it as sensible?

  9. Alex Buchan says:

    The Telegraph had an article on this a couple of days ago. It said Cameron has been taking soundings about setting up a Constitutional Convention to cover the whole of the UK if Scotland votes no. The article said the LibDems are keen, but Labour are not.

    My off the cuff interpretation is that they want a tighter constitutional settlement. The article was quite blunt saying it was designed to stop Scotland being a special case. Reading between the lines, we can expect new rules governing referendum in any part of the UK, effectively ensuring the SNP can’t repeat its present coup of forcing the UK government to negotiate with it. Talk of more powers is really a foil for what would be quite obviously Westminster’s attempt to use the immediate aftermath of a referendum defeat to gain greater constitutional control over Scotland. This is pretty clear from the Telegraph article.

    On federalism: all the UK parties know this is a non-starter because of the disparity in size between England and the other nations. The Tories are totally opposed to English regions. Labour would prefer English regions to English Votes for English Laws or an English Grand Committee because they know that would make it harder for them to govern at Westminster, hence their opposition to Cameron’s Constitutional Convention. However, Labour are stymied because there is considerable hostility in England to regional devolution.

    The article said Labour preferred to obstruct such a constitutional convention in the hope of winning the general election in 2015 and trying to forge their own solution. Any constitutional convention, if it ever came about, would likely try to strengthen the UK by making Scotland part of an overarching constitutional settlement, including new rules governing secession, resulting in uniformity of powers between the three smaller units and any new powers having to be for all rather than just one. The Westminster Parliament would continue to govern England, using English Votes for English Laws or an English Grand Committee.

    So don’t expect more powers, expect to be roped into a new more restrictive constitutional set up.

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