Before the Edinburgh Agreement the alternative of a “devo-max” option was held to be acceptable to a very considerable proportion of the voters, and to the SNP. It was clearly seen as a third alternative, and was removed from the voting options by the Westminster government.
When the No option preferred by that government looked to be likely to be unacceptable to the voters of Scotland, they unilaterally re-instated the “devo-max” option but tied it to voting No (“A No vote will deliver faster, safer and better change” – for whom, unspecified). Put another way, the No vote came to mean two options at once – “No and devo-max”. Since “devo-max” was a popular, even dominant, preference, this late interference with options was an unfair and dishonest manipulation of the referendum. Therefore the SNP should have refused to accept it, as I do.
Sadly, the resignation of Alex Salmond as First Minister implied his acceptance of the referendum outcome – a mistake, as the outcome was faulty.
A Westminster government manipulated the 1979 referendum with a 40 per cent rule, never used before or since. We should not have accepted that result as it created a precedent. The “No + devo-max”, a late-entry composite ticket, is a modern equivalent of the 40 per cent rule and equally a fiddle. Acceptance of the result may be argued to be realistic – Scotland has no powers to do otherwise – but the result itself is not valid.
Westminster’s habit of delaying and preventing autonomy for the people of Scotland has been going on for more than 100 years: the 1914 Home Rule for Scotland Bill passed its second reading just before the War; the Labour promise of Home Rule for Scotland in 1945 was reneged on; the 1979 40 per cent referendum; 1999 – not a sovereign parliament, no fiscal powers despite a Yes for tax-raising powers, and a deliberately expensive, unusable, loss-making only, income tax varying power; and the Calman Commission could not consider full autonomy, made some weak provisions further enfeebled by rejections, and has not been implemented anyway.
The failure to honour the Edinburgh Agreement in this referendum continues the denial of democracy for the people of Scotland.