The independence campaign could be over now. The Yes campaign could be all but destroyed with six months to go before the vote. The unionists have it within their power to do this, yet they choose not to do so for the simple – and apparently intractable – reason of narrow party politics.
This morning the Lib Dem grandee Sir Menzies Campbell will unveil plans to try to forge ‘common ground’ between the three unionist parties on more powers for the Scottish Parliament. Sir Ming knows that if he can get Labour and the Tories to agree with him, then a tri-party agreement on more powers will effectively kill off the nationalist threat then and there.
Just look at the results of the TNS poll commissioned by Sir Tom Hunter earlier this year. Voters were asked to choose between three options: the status quo (which attracted 31 per cent support), full independence (24 per cent) and more powers for the parliament (35 per cent). The poll showed what has been the accepted wisdom for some time in Scotland: some form of ‘devo plus’ or ‘devo max’ is the best supported option in Scotland. That is what Scots want.
Yes, there is a hard core – about a quarter – of Scots who want full independence but, really, most would be happy to stay within the UK, keep the pound and everything that helps them along but have more power of tax powers and, possibly, welfare.
That’s it. It really is as simple as that. Scots want more powers for Holyrood but not full independence, yet that is the one option that is not on the ballot paper for September. Sir Ming realises this. That’s why he believes the three main unionist parties should come together and agree a common platform for more powers, setting out which ones they all agree should be transferred north.