Every now and again a former Labour adviser articulates well the dilemma the party faces over the independence referendum. Dr Andrew McFadyen did just that in his plea for Ed Miliband to promise to introduce a new Scotland Act after the 2015 general election (Perspective, 7 November).
But he failed to introduce that sense of urgency, the lack of which often plagues Labour on the question of the constitution.
It cannot afford to wait for a year or so for its devolution commission to report (and then entangle itself in a protracted and divisive debate).
It needs to spell out now just what measures it would introduce if it is returned to power in 2015. It needs to show now that a No vote would mean a positive chance for change. It faces an enormous task to make itself credible on the matter.
The late Donald Dewar did outline, just over 24 years ago, a positive case for a constitutional convention.
It took Jim Sillars’ famous victory for the SNP in the Govan by-election of November 2008 to kick Labour out of its complacency, however.
It even managed to wrong foot the Nationalists by making them look indecisive and unco-operative by its refusal to get involved in the new body.
Now, in the absence of a devo-max option on the ballot paper in the 2014 poll, it needs to inject new vigour into its case for Scotland’s future. Voters will have a real choice between a positive case for independence and a positive case for much stronger powers if they vote No and get a new government in the late spring of 2015.
Can Labour and any of the other unionist parties be credible on the issue? It all depends on whether Ed Miliband and Scottish leader Johann Lamont can make an exciting case now rather than wait another year and be seen simply to react to a more energetic case for an autonomous Scotland.
Ian Lewis (Letters, 7 November) is wide of the mark with both of his points in his response to my letter on Gordon Brown’s pro-Union speech.
My letter was clear in distinguishing between interest rates and mortgage rates. As Mr Lewis says, central banks are responsible for interest rates.
But the interest rate set by the central bank is only one of a multitude of variables to have a bearing on mortgage rates, which are set by mortgage lenders based on commercial factors.
Gordon Brown’s claim that, under independence, the rest of the UK would “set mortgage rates” in Scotland is therefore incorrect and misleading.
Mr Lewis then points out that Scotland is running a fiscal deficit, as if I had claimed that it is not.
In fact, I agree with him – Scotland and the UK as a whole both have fiscal deficits.
The point is that Scotland’s deficit is substantially smaller in proportionate terms than that of the UK.
In other words – exactly as I said in my original letter – an independent Scotland would be better placed than the UK to fund public services, despite Gordon Brown’s attempts to imply otherwise.