With Alex Salmond having made clear his desire to see a second question on “devo-plus” included on the ballot paper when Scots vote on whether to become an independent nation, further divisions emerged over the weekend with an attack on the Yes to Independence campaign from a former SNP deputy leader.
Speaking to Scotland on Sunday, Margo MacDonald, now an independent MSP, argued that the idea of a second option featuring on the ballot paper should be dropped altogether, as it would need the approval of English as well as Scottish voters and politicians.
“Ditch the second question, because you can’t deliver it. The only thing you can deliver is independence.”
Amidst criticism from the pro-union camp that Yes to Independence remains vague on an independent Scotland would look like, MacDonald took a broader swipe at the campaign as a whole:
“It’s got no shape, no boundaries, no premise. In short, I don’t think we’ve had a debate, I think we have had a lot of noise.
We should have already had the information stage. We should be at the stage now of arguing what is the best way. But we don’t have an agreed premise.”
Her comments come just weeks after Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Green Party’s co-convenor, took a swipe at the Yes to Independence campaign, arguing that it had effectively been hijacked by Alex Salmond and the SNP.
Scottish Labour’s external affairs spokesperson, Patricia Ferguson, said of MacDonald’s intervention that:
“Margo is well-respected in Nationalist circles and her intervention will come as a hammer-blow to Alex Salmond’s approach. There is now growing consensus that there should be one, straightforward question. In that sense, Margo is merely agreeing with the SNP deputy leader, the chair of the independence campaign, and its director.”
Meanwhile, following last week’s revelations from Scottish Labour that SNP ministers and officials have not had a single discussion about the consequences of independence with any of the UK’s ten major government departments, the Herald reported this weekend that Whitehall – concerned that the SNP administration is dragging its heels on the issue - is considering taking control of the referendum.
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The paper quotes what it describes as a “senior coalition source” as saying that “this is a scenario he [David Cameron] may have to face.” A second source told the Herald that “Salmond is dragging his feet and it seems to us pretty clear why. It may well be the PM might have no choice but to make the decision himself.”
Commenting on the possibility, the Herald’s Martin Settle and Kate Devlin observe:
“Such a move would be fraught with political danger as it would leave Mr Cameron open to accusations from Nationalists that he is trying to hijack the process they feel is Holyrood’s preserve.
Ideally, the PM would not want to go down such a difficult path, but Whitehall sources have made it clear that, having come so far, Mr Cameron feels the people of Scotland deserve a “fair, legal and decisive” vote and that if only Westminster can facilitate it, then so be it.”