By David Torrance

After a typically assured speech at London’s UCL on Thursday evening, Nicola Sturgeon was asked to hypothecate about what form greater devolution for Scotland might take following a “no” vote. Obligingly, she set out three criteria: 1) that any proposals were “credible and meaningful”, i.e. encompassing 100 per cent of income tax and welfare, 2) agreed between the three Unionist parties, and 3) accompanied by a “clear timetable” for their delivery.

All three stipulations were perfectly reasonable, and indeed offer a pretty good guide for the three opposition parties as they formulate and co-ordinate their thinking on a beefed-up devo proposal. Asking the question was the constitutional expert Alan Trench (“I know who you are” quipped Sturgeon, with mock seriousness), who is currently helping the Scottish Conservatives fashion their devo scheme.

This commission, Ruth Davidson made clear in a thoughtful speech in Edinburgh the same evening, would report in May, a few months ahead of September’s referendum. Although the Scottish Tory leader said she didn’t want to second-guess Lord Strathclyde’s conclusions, she repeated her belief that “a parliament with little responsibility for raising the money it spends will never be properly accountable to the people of Scotland”. “We will,” she added, “deal with this.”

Now unless there’s a severe wobble between now and May, it seems likely the Conservatives – formerly the most grudging of devolvers – will come up with a credible package that includes full devolution of income tax and several other more minor taxes. The Liberal Democrats, to be fair, set out their federal scheme several months ago (Sir Menzies Campbell will soon come up with a timetable for their implementation, fulfilling one of Sturgeon’s criteria), which just leaves us with Labour.

The Scottish Labour Party, curiously, is both the strength and weakness of any package of further devolution. The Scottish Lib Dems might be consistent and radical but they’re also politically weak, and while the Scottish Tories are finally learning to love devolution they’re not exactly a powerful electoral force; therefore the credibility – and indeed credibility is key – of any devolutionary scheme rests with the main opposition party.

If they were unified on the way ahead, as they were in the run up to the 1997 devolution referendum, then the task of presenting a scheme and convincing voters it’s a goer would be relatively straightforward. But “unified” is not an apt description of where the party finds itself just months away from 18 September.

To be fair, the Scottish Labour devolution commission’s interim report published (perhaps unintentionally) about a year ago was pretty radical in scope and tone: proposing full devolution of income tax and a range of other well thought-through measures. But the response, a weird combination of silence from proponents and apoplexy from (largely Westminster based) opponents undermined any positive effect that might have.

Work is ongoing, with a final scheme due to be presented to the party’s spring conference in Perth, yet still dissenting voices prove destructive. Most recently it was the otherwise unassuming Labour MSP Ken Mackintosh who wrote in The Herald that he considered the devolution of income tax to be reckless. It’s widely assumed he was acting as a “cipher” for the Labour MP Jim Murphy, demonstrating that the party’s devo splits don’t run in neat lines between north and south, Holyrood and Westminster.

Also problematic is the authority of Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont, who has not exactly moved to silence these siren voices. In theory she is now leader of the whole party north of the border, rather than just its Holyrood group, but it seems clear certain Westminster MPs – and even some MSPs – don’t recognise this very seriously.

Now it’s possible this might change, that by the time activists gather in Perth the party’s proposals will be both ready and also enjoy the backing of most elected representatives (some, I suspect, are simply irreconcilable). But even assuming that is so, there remain difficulties in convincing voters that not only Labour, but all three Unionist parties, are serious about devolving more power to Holyrood in the event of a “no” vote.

Under questioning following her speech at the David Hume Institute, Ruth Davidson said she didn’t “believe there will be a detailed cross-party agreement before the referendum”. “None of the parties,” she added, “have ever said they would want to do that.” This is nothing more than the truth; even Unionists who think a common front is necessary ahead of the referendum acknowledge that it ain’t going to happen.

As Yes Scotland’s Stephen Noon tweeted in response to news coverage of Davidson’s comments: “If No parties can’t even do a deal, why would anyone believe they can deliver more powers?” And the trouble is, for as long as the Unionist parties lack a shared agenda on the devolutionary front, then they remain vulnerable to that very charge. Credibility, as I said earlier, is key.

Yet cross-party co-operation is clearly possible. As the SNP has pointed out, Labour, the Lib Dems and Conservatives carefully co-ordinated their “triple block” veto on the currency union – and it was all the more effective as a result – while back in 1997 the multi-party “Scotland Forward” pro-devolution referendum campaign impressed voters (most of whom were probably going to vote “yes” in any case) by setting aside their usual differences and urging Scots to back the creation of a Scottish Parliament with tax-raising powers.

In doing so, the Labour-Lib Dem-SNP troika fulfilled all three criteria on the Deputy First Minister’s list: the 1997 devolution proposals were meaningful, agreed in general terms across all three parties and bolstered by a clear timetable for implementation. As a result, a majority of Scots voted “yes” to both propositions. If Better Together is serious about obtaining a decisive “no” vote in this September’s referendum – as they frequently claim they are – then they ought urgently to revisit the summer of ’97.

David Torrance is a writer, journalist and broadcaster.
He is also author of ‘Salmond – Against The Odds’ a biography of Scotland’s First Minister


2014-02-15 04:27

David can we please devote some time to recognise that Westminster MP’s require to collectively endorse any enhanced devolution proposals. Do you seriously believe that whatever proposals the Scottish elements of the 3 Main parties suggest will receive majority support at Westminster. isn’t going to happen! Come on realism is needed.
Do you expect voters to believe more devolution can be agreed and delivered when an agreement on currency sharing apparently can’t be.
2014-02-15 05:45

Or, after a “YES” referendum, the SNP Government has a vote in Holyrood confirming Sovereignty. This is legal under international law, the treaty of union and the London agreement. No negotiation first, which brings immediate diplomatic and legal recognition by a swarm of UN members, and torpedoes “Project Fear”. Declare immediately, get international recognition then “discuss or dictate” the acceptable terms of a severance agreement. It’s a “Velvet” divorce, same model as the Czechs and Slovaks used, so it works 😉
2014-02-15 11:11

There are several models for a currency union but true to form Osborne decided to make political capital out of the issue by getting his “Yes Minister” mandarins to design a currency union model that he knew could be politically contentious. He then asserted he couldn’t recommend that currency union model but conveniently did not close the issue entirely so that he could agree to another model later.

With typical Westminster arrogance, Osborne has used the currency union issue to make an assertion that Scotland has no right to use the £ after gaining independenceto thus reinforcing the Westminster claim that rUK will be the continuing state and thus be able to dictate terms to Scotland after it votes YES to independence .

The Scottish Government should challenge the Westminster claim to be the continuing state otherwise that will enable Westminster to issue more threats during the debate and also seriously disadvantage Scotland in post YES vote negotiations.

2014-02-15 07:44

After the three wannabe chancellors stooges act this week, even if they pass a bill granting devo-max including the oil before Westminster’s summer recess, who will believe they’re trustworthy?
2014-02-15 07:46

Whatever proposals for further devolution are proposed by the Project Fear Troika either jointly or as individual parties and even if they are included in their 2015 General Election Manifestos (doubtful if we are daft enought to vote NO) it doesn’t detract from the fact that any proposals would have to be passed by a majority of Westminster MP’s and I think we all know what chance there is of that happening.

If we depended on The BBC and the rest of the MSM we wouldn’t have been aware of the reason for Nicola’s trip to London far less of any report of what she said – all we got were some of the usual cretins in Comments alleging that she was slaughtered on The Brillo Show.
2014-02-15 07:48


1) that any proposals were “credible and meaningful”

This is the criteria which any Labour proposal will fail on.

Thing is, any proposal which satisfies this criteria would (rightly) have to change the voting rights, or reduce the numbers of, Scottish MPs at Westminster.

As we have seen, Labour’s Scottish Westminster contingent will not stand for that. So any Labour devolution proposal will be a mirage.

Leader of the Pack
2014-02-15 08:22

Is Torrance seriously expecting us to believe that even he believes the Tories are capable or willing to even consider delivering something close to Devo Max?
As usual If you like your waters muddied read an article from Torrance.
We are only hearing mutterings regarding more powers because the no camp see their project fear campaign failing and support for Independence growing.
Get this absolutely straight there will be NO more devolved powers in the event of a NO Vote. We will be lucky to hang on to the little we have now. Not only that but the Scotland Act will be beefed up so another referendum will ruled out in Scotland alone. Any further referendum will have to be conducted UK wide.
Anybody believing or pretending to believe otherwise is either delusional or lying.
2014-02-15 08:34

I wonder David, if the following headline does not torpedo your entire thesis. In fact “torpedo” may to be an inappropriate metaphor; let us say eviscerate it.

“Scottish independence: [Ruth Davidson says]’No cross-party plan’ on devolution”

I doubt that outcome will be a surprise to anyone, save perhaps David. Certainty individual party proposals that come along can have no currency.

Davidson was beyond weak in articulating “What now?” for the Tories over devolution.

Going the opposite way, the mutterings on the right may foreshadow repatriation of key competencies to muzzle the SNP and do away with the Scottish Question for oh I dunno, a century . . .or two?
2014-02-15 08:36

I couldn’t care less about any devoMAX recipes they come up with. When the door was open to discuss and fomulate greater powers being devolved, every one of these parties fought to take the middle option compromise off the agenda. That was breathtakingly stupid, since without devoMAX on the ballot, they have nothing to entice the swithering undecided.
Their respective strategies towards the referendum were born from their hubris and disdain for the actual substance of independence.
More powers is a myth. They grudged the people of Scotland the very discussion of the principle in the run up to a constitutional referendum!!
If they want to discuss more powers, drag them by the nose to the BBC trough and have them acknowledge Scotland needs an honest broker for its news. That will reveal their true colours.
2014-02-15 09:03

Great post Breeks

The timing of David’s post says it all. If any of the three parties said Good morning to me I wouldn’t believe them. In the week when an unnamed source close to the PM has supposedly said a Yes vote doesn’t mean Yes who can trust them.

It is simply another attempt by the NO opponents to win over the still don’t knows and woo them away from the Yes side, and David Torrance knows it.

As for the BBC they have no credibility and this needs to be continually exposed as many more people are beginning to see for themselves how much of a propaganda machine they are for the State and the No campaign.

2014-02-15 08:45

David Torrance is deluding himself. It is not going to happen.

First and foremost the 3 London parties have only ever wanted to cede the minim they think they can away with in the longest time-frame. It has never been what Scottish people want or need. It is Dev Min not Max.

The Calman report was very clear that the 3 parties think that Fiscal control and accountability will lead straight to independence.

Lets See: Without changing any major powers why hasen’t Scotland already got a full set if Audited accounts as a country instead of guesswork as a region + Gers?

Instead Scotland should have accounting of all revenues and expenses and pay into the UK for Shared services instead of receiving a grant.

This would not last long as it would quickly show how much stronger Scotland is compared to the rUK average.

This is why its Independence or Dev Min/ Status Quo.
2014-02-15 08:45

This article is simply shoe gazing.
2014-02-15 08:47

I see those brave plans by the Lib Dems on recall of MP’s has been dropped. They were said to be unworkable and unlikely to have made it through parliament.
Easy to scupper any of these things Eh?
Any jam tomorrow proposed by Westminster will get the same treatment.
2014-02-15 08:55

The Westminster establishment does not want further devolution because it diminishes its ability to take money out of the economy. It is not dependent upon votes and it continues regardless of what government is elected. It works hand in glove with the people at the top of the political parties and it is in the interest of of everyone in the club to see that nothing changes. There will be no meaningful devolution. Don’t trust any offer.
2014-02-15 09:05

David starts his article by listing the three very clear criteria outlined by the DFM.

The rest of his article appears to miss the statements and actions by the No campaign parties that clearly demonstrate these criteria are currently not going to be met. Ruth Davidson has specifically ruled out criteria 2.

The commentators to this article seem more on top of actual events than David.

The example David gives about the unionist parties combining over currency does show how hostile they are to any thought of Scottish independence. They are prepared to combine to crush Scottish aspirations but are simply not prepared to combine to outline viable alternatives within the union.
2014-02-15 09:06

The horror and wasteland of Mordor lies beyond a NO vote.
2014-02-15 09:07

Labour will offer as little as they think they can get away with .They certainly won’t offer to scrap their precious Trident.Nor the House of Lords.Are THEY going to give US control over OUR oil and whisky revenues,which the vast majority of Scots want? With a supplicant press on board,they can big it up to far more than it actually is.But we’ll be going round the doors telling folk we need much better.What do you think,David? Can the weight of the media crush the aspirations of the people? A well written and thought provoking piece.
2014-02-15 09:14

Mr Torrances affinity with all things Tory a nd general credibility on ‘Scottish question’ is fading quite rapidly.

Noticed you were the only person on the video stream not clapping at the end Mr T.
2014-02-15 09:22

Nicola Sturgeon also stipulated that it would have to be GUARANTEED. The timetable will be clear from all parties with their proposed more responsibilitie  s (not powers), they will only be delivered AFTER a no vote, just like 1979 when they completely ignored what they had promised and went on to destroy Scotland. Fool me one once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.
2014-02-15 09:31

As a famous Holywood actor said,why settle for hamburger when you can have steak ?
Who needs devolution when you can have independence.
I do not expect any of the Devo+ proposals to include oil/gas revenues or anything else which brings in large revenues to the Westminster treasury.
Of course,devoluti  on leaves Westminster in charge of our affairs,does little to address the democratic deficit,and no written constitution to guarantee the continuation of our parliament or anything else of importance to us.
And then again there is the credibility issue.
With Westminster’s track record reneging on promises made to us,who would believe them?
Devolution is a device which suits the elite in Westminster but not the people of Scotland.
The fact that they have refused to put their proposals up along side the independence option should tell everyone that it is a poor choice for us.
Just say Naw.
2014-02-15 10:00

Travels through Nihilon ?

DEVO less ?
Flower of Scotland
2014-02-15 10:00

I don’t think that more Devo is worth thinking about . Labour are already talking about more powers to the councils to take power away from Holyrood !
No Barnett Formula , so reduced money from West Minster !
Vote for Indepenedence !
2014-02-15 10:15

David, a genuine question. “New” Labour had complete power in Westminster from 1997 till 2010. In addition they “ruled” Scotland (with their sidekicks the LibDems) for the first two Holyrood “Assemblies”. When it became clear – to quote Donald Dewar – that devolution was a process and not of itself an end point, just how much effort and thought did these two all-powerful administrations put into further powers?

I’ll answer for you – NONE. Suddenly poor councilors were in a more “august” body, and didn’t they love it?

So why all this talk of Devo-anything now? because the SNP backed by the Scottish voters in a system designed to prevent it, had a majority. If Scots vote NO, do you really think they won’t revert to type?
2014-02-15 10:21

I just don’t see where ‘devo-anything’ can be even a discussion item. The ballot paper has but the one question and no other.

Am I missing something?

A YES response will, the very next day, have Alex Salmond firmly in the driving seat and on Scotland’s behalf declaring that the sovereign will of the Scottish people demands full control of all and everything.

A NO response will do exactly the opposite and the Scottish people will be told that Westminster will decide on all and everything for Scotland. Devo-anything will not need to be considered, as if it ever was.
Peter A Bell
2014-02-15 10:24

Would somebody please tell David Torrance that there is no “devo-whatever” option on the referendum ballot.
2014-02-15 18:27

Quoting Peter A Bell:

Would somebody please tell David Torrance that there is no “devo-whatever” option on the referendum ballot.

Och YOU tell him Peter, you do it so much better.


2014-02-15 10:24

Oh David, David, David! You sound like a used jam salesmen and your jam is diluted and bitter. When are you going to be honest with yourself and honest with the people of Scotland.

All three Westminster parties have promised further austerity and probably further privatisation of public sector industries resulting in loss of revenue to the Scottish government. They do not want Scotland to succeed as it is in their very nature.

Devomax is Independence…now that is real sweet, fruity and very, very tasty JAM.
2014-02-15 10:33

What will happen after a No vote – we will be stuck with a load of ignorant neighbours like this,

“Scummond had better be careful that the the rUK doesn’t really start to get nasty,because he and the rest of the McBravehearts are deluded if they think a nation of 7million can win an economic battle against the other 55 million.”

Now I don’t know about the rest of you ,but I am more than tired of the media of Scotland and those who pretend to be Scottish , as in the Scottish Daily Mail , insisting that cybernats are anti English , racist bigots while merrily publishing comments of the nature above and worse.
To be fair that charmer was taken from the pages of the Daily Telegraph and he was far from alone.
2014-02-15 10:44

If anyone had any doubts as to what Thatcher meant by”Return to Victorian values”they will know exactly what she meant if there is a “No” vote.
2014-02-15 10:50

Slightly OT

There is a good piece in Bella Caledonia
called “The people versus the British State” Well worth a read as there’s more of this to come.…/…
2014-02-15 10:54

In a Free Scotland after Independence we will be citizens.

With a ‘No’ vote and with Westminster in control we will be ‘subjects’ of the British State.

What do you want Scotland, self determination or slavery?
2014-02-15 10:58

Every devolution scheme proposed so far has used exactly the same model which stays behind the red line of fiscal equality across the UK.

Scotland gets funded to the Barnett formula level (or whatever replaces it) and it can raise taxes above the UK rates to fund extra or better services.

I’ve read them all, Devo-More, Devo-Plus, the Lib-Dems effort and the draft Labour offering from last year and the differences are simply in what hoops they go through to try and disguise the fact that they are using exactly the same model as the Scotland Act 1998.

As others have pointed out what the Scottish region of a party offers means nothing until the full British party endorses it.
2014-02-15 11:11

… Furthermore, the Unionists can’t make a credible case for Union itself, nevermind any half way house of DevoMAX, and that is here and now, months before the independence referendum.

If they had ANY credible state of Union to appeal to the undecided voter, I rather suspect we would know about it by now. Why on earth would they be keeping it secret?

The truth is they are running on empty tanks and always have been, tanks not merely empty, but holed and split and incapable of filling.
Dundonian West
2014-02-15 11:18

Video:Nicola Sturgeon’s speech at University College London..
Great speech followed by Q&As.;…/
Suggest viewers scroll to 7:15 minutes when the London audience is finally seated.
2014-02-15 11:29

This is a good article David.

However, I think the problem is that anything that comes out of this process will be much too little, far too late. 6 months ago would have been the time for them to put something credible on the table. A lot of distasteful water has passed under the bridge since then.

The key issue here is that any truly credible proposals on further devolution would have to be irrevocable and I really don’t see that happening. The Tories do have an interest in making a reasonably credible offer but Labour absolutely do not, as they are much more dependent on the Scottish vote. In any case, I wouldn’t trust anything Labour said on anything anymore. As for the Lib-Dems, nothing they propose will matter anyway.

This would have been a vastly different debate had devo-max been included in the ballot from the start but, in their pig-headedness, Westminster refused it and so, here we are, left with only one real option.
2014-02-15 11:43

Look David, it’s simple.

Vote NO, get NOthing.

I know Hell did in fact freeze over recently but until it does so again, with pigs flying in formation against a blue moon, Devo-Max ain’t going to happen. We’ve been there, did that. It is nothing but a ruse.

And why settle for Devo-Max anyway when a YES result will give us Devo-Super-Max (DSM)? There is only one fully independent country in the world I can think of–N. Korea. But seriously–who would want the kind of independence ‘enjoyed’ by N. Korea?

With DSM we will have ALL tax powers. and the power to rid ourselves of that abomination on the Clyde.

The unionists have gone as far as they are prepared to go with devolution. If they wanted to go further and give significant extra powers then Devo-Max would have been on the ballot paper. It isn’t by THEIR insistence.

2014-02-15 12:43

For me, Devo Max is not on. We know that all the London parties all speak with forked tongue. Their promises are worthless: Viz their election manifestos. Furthermore, do we want to see another 30 years of oil wealth poured down the throats of Londoners with nothing to show for it but putting a brake on the madly increasing national debt? It’s independence or nothing
Marga B
2014-02-15 13:20

OT Just a note that Spain and the UK are uncannily shadowing each other.

Re. local power – Spain has just passed a Local Administrations reform law which centralises supplies/lawmaking, strips regions of power over towns, giving it to equivalent of Scotland Office agents (for you), compulsory redrawing of boundaries and privatisation of services, all on “economic logic” (never mind democracy).

In the UK, the Tories have stripped down public health without opposition, why not local government, including Scotland?

Also, Scotsmanc! you mention “People versus the British State” – here a killer critique of central govt. is “Madrid is an Island: The State versus the People”.

Lastly, after Call Kaye this week showcased Labour voter fury at Labour bonding with Tories against currency union, surely DAvid’s article has a different context? Have Labour supporters at last seen the light? What are people’s views?
2014-02-15 13:26

At the insistence of Westminster it was/is all or nothing,with a yes vote we dissolve the UK,seeing as two countries formed the United Kingdom and when when Scotland re-takes independence then no more UK it really is that simple.The problem with voting no means saying goodbye to having a country maybe we will have county status.David Cameron said all or nothing, no devo-max no independence-lite,either or,no halfway houses.As for Osborne and his joke about currency,just think it through,it is the currency of the United Kingdom and thus ours as much as theirs,but if Alex Salmond does say OK we will have a Scottish pound watch the international money markets for a falling Sterling,becaus  e you cant take that much away from a currency and not have fallout.Devolution is not forever its until the “big” government gets fed up with devolution and just decides to cancel it,because they can at any-time they want,the lords took away powers and it was not reported un-elected lords think what next
2014-02-15 13:35

Dundonian West , thank you for that brilliant stuff!
Such a pity it could not/would not be broadcast in full by a Scottish broadcaster.
Dundonian West
2014-02-15 14:13

UCL.Nicola Sturgeon speech with Q&As.You;’re welcome Diabloandco.It is an assured and wide ranging talk delivered in the centre of London.
I don’t think the Mods will permit me a re-post of the link,however it’s above at 11:18am.

Quite the contrary, it’s a great link…/

2014-02-15 14:05

“A Scottish MP has reacted with fury after the Scottish Parliament was stripped of a key energy power after a House of Lords amendment was backed by Unionist MPs.”

Above is a quote posted on Newsnet on 4th December 2013, about just what westminster can do regardless of a Scottish parliament. People are seriously mistaken if they think for one moment that any more so called powers are even being considered should there be a no vote. The masters in Westminster will give Scotland a hiding like never seen before. Scary stuff.
2014-02-15 14:29

short answer..ZILCH! no would not simply be no to independence but no to any further “devolution” of power from the centre. Having learnt a bitter lesson on how “things can go awry” for the establishment powers will most likely be clawed back. All Westminster parties are control-freaks now. Devo is hazardous material.
2014-02-15 16:32


We understand that you could never bring yourself to vote YES, but if you are serious about informing us about what’s going on in Union HQ, why not give us your own take on WoS Politician For…/ – from yesterday?

Your “between the lines” reading of the exchange is doubtless different to Rev Stu’s but would be enlightening to us oiks.
Mad Jock McMad
2014-02-15 17:38

Since Mr Darling is unlikely to answer these important questions – maybe Mr Torrance could?

2014-02-15 22:28

I don’t see the reason to consider Davids invite to consider Scotland after a NO vote. We are winning this. NO’s nervous blunders and the SNP’s refusal to play ball are educating Scots. A process that isn’t going to stop.
2014-02-16 20:01

David Torrance’s claim that the Scots Tories are Devo enthusiasts is miles from reality! Most Tories are actually Provincialists as they see no problem in Scotland’s subservient position in the UK. South of the border Scotland is just seen as “beyond the North”. For the Brit establishment the Empire still exists and London is it’s capital. Scots voters have never had the opportunity to vote for their freedom till now! Let’s grasp it wi baith hands! YES!
2014-02-18 22:43

In today’s SUN David deduces that as Alex Salmond had not planned to make yesterday’s speech on currency that Alex was on the defensive. So responding to Osborne’s speech means you are on the defence. He’s missed the posibility that Alex might have been attacking Osbornes threat. Gee Shucks.

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