A SECOND independence referendum could be triggered if the new powers coming to Holyrood do not meet public demands, the SNP’s deputy leader has warned.
The Scottish Government would also be ready to stage its own vote on leaving the UK even if it is not sanctioned by Westminster, Stewart Hosie has indicated.
Mr Hosie was speaking after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that the time-scale for a possible second referendum on independence will be set out in the SNP’s manifesto for next year’s Holyrood election. It will include circumstances under which another vote might be staged.
Opposition leaders hit out at the move, urging the SNP government to get on with using the powers it has at Holyrood to improve the lives of Scots. Mr Hosie said that if the Smith Commission powers do not deliver the “federal-style” set-up pledged by Gordon Brown, then Scots themselves could lead the push for another vote on leaving the UK.
This would happen if “the Scottish people felt they had been sold a pup – that they hadn’t got the promises kept that they’d been made,” he said. Mr Hosie added: “You remember what Gordon Brown said – ‘The closest thing to a federal state within one to two years’.”
The Prime Minister had also described the Smith Commission package as an “unprecedented package of devolution.”
Mr Hosie added: “Should the Scottish people take the view that they’ve not been given anything close to what was implied by those promises, then the public will determine that they want a second referendum.”
Asked if the current Evel (English votes for English laws) plans could be a potential trigger, Mr Hosie said: “We’ll have to see. What’s being proposed is unworkable.
“The example of income tax is a cracker. UK politicians say ‘You’re getting income tax’.
“No we’re not, we’re getting rates and bands. We’re not getting the definition of income earned or unearned, we’re not getting the allowances that go with it. That means we could be carved out of decision-making in Westminster which would actually change the forecast yield for the Scottish Government and there’s precisely nothing we could do about it.”
In a documentary to mark the first anniversary of the independence referendum, which is being shown on STV tonight, Alistair Darling, who led the Better Together campaign, will warn that Evel could be “fatal” for the union.
“Evel is a piece of nonsense and it should be rejected,” he will say.
The post-referendum package of enhanced devolution set out in the Smith Commission hands Scotland new powers over income tax and welfare. But nationalists say it falls short of “The Vow” made by the pro-union leaders in the days before the referendum.
David Cameron has previously warned he would withold legal authority for a second referendum. The power to stage such votes still lies with Westminster.
But asked if the Scottish Government would stage its own vote, Mr Hosie said yesterday: “I think if there was a mandate to hold a referendum at some point in the future – if the public had determined there was going to be one and there was a mandate for another referendum, I think any UK Prime Minister who tried to stand in the way of the Scottish people would be very, very, foolish indeed.”
The SNP has soared in popularity since the referendum, notching up thousands of new members and winning a landslide 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats in May’s general election.
Ms Sturgeon revealed at the weekend that the party’s manifesto will set out the circumstances and the timescale on which a second referendum would be “appropriate.”
She added: “It’s then for people in Scotland, whether it is in this election or in future elections, to decide whether they want to vote for our manifesto and then if there is in the future another independence referendum, whether that’s in five years or 10 years or whenever, it will be down to the people of Scotland to decide whether they want to vote for independence or not.”
Two recent polls suggested most Scots now back independence, although more recent surveys at the weekend put a No vote in front.
In the STV documentary tonight, called “Scotland, What Next?”, Ms Sturgeon will say she would only stage a fresh vote if she felt confident of a Yes vote.
“I don’t ever want to feel what I felt in the early hours of September 19,” she said.
“Immediately afterwards, the mood was one of utter devastation and I felt that personally. We were all grief-stricken. If we are going to have another independence referendum I want to know there is support in Scotland for independence that means that referendum is going to be successful.”
But opposition leaders hit out at the prospect of fresh constitutional upheaval. Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: “Most people in Scotland want to put last year’s referendum behind them and get on with life. It is now clear that Nicola Sturgeon wants to take Scotland back to a neverendum.”
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “A year after she promised us that it would be a once-in-a-lifetime event she is now putting her party first before the country by plunging us into another protracted campaign for independence.”