Alex Salmond devo max stance muddies poll waters, say Unionists

Alex Salmond is under growing pressure to set out his “true intentions” for the independence referendum in 2014, after dropping his strongest hint yet that it could include an option of more powers for Holyrood.

The Scottish Government’s official position is that Scots should be asked a straight yes/no question on leaving the UK, but the First Minister has described the so called “devo-max” option as “very attractive”, it has emerged.

Unionist parties said it was evidence of splits in the independence movement after the new head of the official yes campaign said he was campaigning “only” for independence.

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Blair Jenkins, the new chief executive of Yes Scotland, said: “I’m leading the campaign – we will be campaigning for independence.

“We will only be campaigning for independence and that’s the campaign I’m leading.”

Mr Salmond has always said he wanted to keep the third option of devo-max on the table, but he said in a recent interview in the US that the prospect of this third option appearing on the ballot paper was “very attractive”.

He said: “The UK government, while they respect the ability of Scots to decide on independence, are not prepared to accept the right of the Scottish people to decide on devo-max.

“They say devo-max should not be on the ballot paper. My position is a bit different from that.”

Polling evidence indicates that a clear majority of Scots is in favour of beefed-up powers for Holyrood short of independence.

However, Tory leader Ruth Davidson claimed Mr Salmond was now at odds with Mr Jenkins and Yes Scotland chairman Dennis Canavan, the former Labour MP, who has also called for a straight yes/no question.

“Alex Salmond’s refusal to back both Dennis Canavan and Blair Jenkins and rule out having a second question is further proof that his attempt at presenting a united front within his separatist movement is unravelling by the day,” Ms Davidson said.

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“The SNP have been on manoeuvre to get a second question on the ballot paper for weeks since their campaign launch proved such a shambles and it is high time Alex Salmond was honest with the Scottish public about his true intentions.”

Richard Baker, a board director on the Better Together campaign, said: “When it comes to a second question it should be quite clear that the fundamental issue, which until recently all the main parties were agreed, was a clear single question on whether Scotland should be in or out of the UK.

“The reason Alex Salmond is changing his mind on that is because he knows he’s not going to get the answer he wants from the first question.

“So people will now be asking, including I believe in his own party, why he’s running chicken from the clear debate we should have in this country on the future of Scotland.”

The Yes Scotland campaign was launched at the end of May and although Mr Jenkins and Mr Canavan both attended, it was only last week that they were unveiled as the chief executive and chairman, respectively, of the campaign.

Former chancellor Alistair Darling unveiled the official campaign for Scotland to stay in the UK, titled Better Together, at Edinburgh’s Napier University a week ago. He was joined by the leaders of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties in Scotland.