Leader: ‘Devomax’ will never satisfy Nationalists

In the bitterly divided world of Scottish politics there is one thing upon which all sides agree: Scotland is stuck. Ten years since Alex Salmond and David Cameron fired the starting gun on the 2014 independence referendum, the nation is as polarised as ever on the constitution.

As Nicola Sturgeon works towards another legal referendum – perhaps a purely consultative exercise on whether her government should seek to begin negotiations with Westminster – a senior Labour figure has voiced a familiar refrain.

Former deputy Scottish Labour leader Alex Rowley MSP suggested that extending the option of “home rule” through the devolution of more powers may help bring an end to Scotland’s “constitutional stalemate”.

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Labour spearheaded the creation of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 assuming it would take the wind out of Nationalist sails, but there were dissenting voices, such as the late Labour MP Tam Dalyell, who described devolution as a “motorway with no exits”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is seeking to hold another referendum on Scotland's place in the UK before the end of 2023. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Many on both sides of the debate believed it was a mistake for Mr Cameron not to accede to Mr Salmond’s demand for a third option in 2014. A late surge for “Yes” prompted a “vow” from the “No” side that extra powers would be devolved to Holyrood after the vote.

Responding to Mr Rowley’s comments yesterday, SNP MSP Rona MacKay repeated the often heard complaint that the “vow” has not been honoured.

Yet, in the wake of the referendum result, the Smith Commission led to the creation of powers for Holyrood over taxation and welfare. Indeed, the Scottish Government will this week begin the rollout of its new adult disability payment.

It is axiomatic for the SNP that nothing short of independence is acceptable. Whatever Mr Rowley or anyone else means by “home rule” or “devomax”, it will never suffice. Only access to the full gamut of “levers” will do.

SNP and Green ministers routinely respond to critics by claiming they could do so much better if only their hands were not tied by Westminster. Opponents should accept Nationalists will always demand full independence, and focus their efforts on taking ministers to task for failing to make good use of the powers Holyrood already has.