Tom Peterkin: Will referendum poll offer one or two options
Salmond takes a back seat, but will the referendum poll offer one or two options – that is the question, writes Tom Peterkin
Given that Nicola Sturgeon has expressed her clear preference for a single-question referendum, it would appear to stand to reason that the big hurdle to getting the independence show on the road should be removed pronto.
In her new position as SNP minister overseeing the referendum negotiations, Sturgeon has already expressed her confidence that a deal can be done with the UK government.
There was similar mood music yesterday from the other side when the Scotland Office minister David Mundell met with Sturgeon.
So does this mean that all the chit-chat about a second question is to be cast into oblivion and, all of a sudden, there will be a straight fight on a straightforward question?
For those who are not obsessed by process and are unimpressed with the tedium of talks about talks, such a move would be welcomed.
The key figure in this, however, is not Sturgeon. Despite her move from health to take charge of the constitution, one cannot escape that Alex Salmond’s own view on this is still the one that really counts.
Salmond is limiting his contact with the UK government talks with David Cameron, a tactic that enables him to limit himself to discussions with a politician that he considers is of equal status to a Scottish First Minister.
But throughout this process, Salmond has been following every footstep religiously.
He may have been absent from UK government meetings that involved Sturgeon’s predecessor Bruce Crawford, but the meetings have always been attended by one of his special advisers, who has reported back every cough and splutter to the SNP leader.
Some detected, in a post-reshuffle briefing on Wednesday, the tiniest sign that Salmond’s second-question rhetoric has subsided a little bit. But, as ever, he took care not to rule a second one out.
However, some close to Salmond are now suggesting that the second question brouhaha was a bit of a distraction designed to make Cameron look unreasonable.
That is hardly a very realistic explanation given the tortured wranglings that we have seen on this question of questions.
A more realistic explanation would be that the much anticipated clamour from civic Scotland for a second question has simply failed to materialise.
Leaving that aside, there are now suggestions that the First Minister may well fall in behind the UK government’s insistence on just one question.
Convincing evidence of that theory comes in the form of the article by Jim McColl published in this newspaper today. The businessman and economic adviser to Salmond conceded that the full fiscal autonomy or devo-max option is not gaining enough support to be included on the ballot paper.
Could it be that the end of the phoney war is in sight?
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