MARGO MacDonald has delivered an outspoken attack on the SNP’s independence campaign, claiming its tactics are wrong and that Alex Salmond should ditch plans for a second referendum question on “devo-max”.
In her strongest criticism yet about the shape of the nationalist strategy ahead of the 2014 referendum, the independent MSP said her former party has failed to set out a clear prospectus for leaving the UK, arguing that there has been “no shape, no boundaries, no premise” for maximising a Yes vote.
She called on Salmond to abandon offering voters a middle-way option of more devolution in the UK, which, she says, is a question not just for Scots but also for the electorate south of the Border.
MacDonald goes on to criticise what she describes as a “secretive strain” within the SNP camp over the pros and cons of independence. In an interview with Scotland on Sunday, MacDonald argues that as long as the issues are properly explained well before the referendum, more voters will be convinced that the country should sever its ties with the Union.
Her remarks come as the independence campaign, YesScotland, unveils its advisory team today, which includes a range of political and non- political figures ranging from Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to restaurateur Andrew Fairlie. Sir George Mathewson, the former chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland, is to become the honorary vice-president of the campaign.
However MacDonald – who was approached by the campaign to become its vice-convener – is not among the eight-strong team.
MacDonald claimed that the start of the campaign, which was launched in May, has failed to engage voters. “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.”
With polls showing support for independence below 40%, she said that the SNP had lacked conviction in selling the message.
She added: “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.”
In terms of a second question on the referendum paper, Salmond has hinted clearly that he may propose a “devo-max” option which would considerably extend the Scottish Parliament’s tax-raising powers while leaving the country within the Union.
But MacDonald, one of Scotland’s most popular politicians, argued that it should not be included because such a reform to the UK would require a say from voters in England as well.
“Ditch the second question, because you can’t deliver it,” she said. “The only thing you can deliver is independence.”
The decision on whether or not the referendum will be a straight yes-no, or one which involves a middle choice, is set to be taken by the SNP Government once it has studied the feedback from a consult- ation on the plans.
One of those who has joined the YesScotland campaign, musician Pat Kane, writes in Scotland on Sunday today that the Yes campaign will have to “raise a stramash” ahead of the 2014 referendum, setting out what choices the country would have to make when independent.
He writes: “A ‘Yes’ vote is not just about the self-evident truth that resident Scots, of all shapes and stripes, are the best people to fully determine their own future. It’s also a vote in our ability to come up with a progressive direction for our society – and a confidence about that emerging from honest and robust debate about economics, health, defence, education, housing, welfare, media and everything else.”
The other six members of the advisory board are Dan Macdonald, property developer and chief executive of Macdonald Estates, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, a solicitor and businesswoman. actor Elaine C. Smith, Colin Fox, national spokesman for the Scottish Socialist party and a former MSP, Pat Kane and Sarah Jane Walls, a businesswoman.