Scottish independence: Most Scots back ‘devo max’

'Devo Max' isn't an option on the referendum ballot paper but most Scots are backing it, according to new research. Picture: PA
'Devo Max' isn't an option on the referendum ballot paper but most Scots are backing it, according to new research. Picture: PA
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MOST Scots want Holyrood to be handed full control over tax and spending decisions - even though this option won’t figure on the referendum ballot paper.

The so-called “devo max” plan, which sees the Scottish Parliament running everything apart from defence and foreign affairs, is backed by 32 per cent of voters according to the latest Scottish Social Attitudes survey, with 31 per cent backing independence.

But the research shows when voters are asked to choose between independence and more devolution, 61 per cent would back ‘devo max’ and only 39 per cent independence. Equally in a run-off between ‘devo max’ and the status quo, ‘devo max’ would win by 62 per cent to 38 per cent.

The ScotCen research also shows 25 per cent back the status quo with taxation and welfare benefits still mostly be decided by Westminster, while 8 per cent do not want any devolution at all.

Professor John Curtice, Research Consultant at ScotCen Social Research, said: “Both Labour and the Conservatives have to decide in the next few weeks what proposals for more devolution they wish to bring forward in advance of the independence referendum.

“Doubtless supporters of the idea will note its apparent widespread popularity, while sceptics will point to the relative lack of enthusiasm for some of its consequences.

“But given that as many as 44 per cent of those whose first preference is ‘devo max’ have yet to decide how to vote in September, working out the best way of appealing to their sometimes seemingly inconsistent feelings and aspirations could well prove vital in determining the eventual referendum outcome.”

The Scottish Government had been open to the prospect of a third option on more powers for Holyrood being on the ballot paper, but this was ruled out by Westminster in the “Edinburgh Agreement” which was struck to stage the referendum.

All the three main pro-union parties - Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats - say they are committed to handing more power to the Scottish Parliament even after a No vote in September.

The research also shows half of Scots - 50 per cent - believe that the public services currently run by Holyrood should be funded out of taxes collected in Scotland, while 46 per cent feel they should continue to be paid for by a block grant from Westminster.

And although 48 per cent think that the revenues from income tax should only be spent in Scotland, 47 per cent believe they should be shared across the UK as a whole.

But a majority of Scots (52 per cent) say income tax should be the same, while 41 per cent said it is OK for the basic rate of income tax to be different from that in England.