The SNP has insisted a vote for independence would trump potentially wider support for “devo-max” in a two-question referendum.
The party attempted to make its position clear after concerns were raised by Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie. He envisaged a scenario where 99 per cent of people could back a “devo-max” option but end up with independence, even if that separate option is backed by just 51 per cent of voters.
A spokesman for First Minister Alex Salmond said: “The powers of independence encompass everything that would be delivered by ‘devo-max’ – plus the vital additional powers that only independence offers, such as the ability to remove Trident nuclear weapons from Scotland. Therefore, a majority for independence on a straight Yes or No question will deliver independence.”
Mr Rennie said: “The SNP are showing an astonishing disregard for democracy. This is election jiggery-pokery.
“No democrat would think it right that the most popular option in a referendum loses.
“Independence and devolution max are two separate stand-alone propositions. That’s why the Scottish Government consultation proposed that they be on two separate ballot papers. But, under the SNP, independence wins even if it significantly less popular than devolution max. That cannot be right.”
Labour leader Iain Gray said there should be a single question on independence or the status quo He said: “Alex Salmond can delay all he likes on naming the date for the referendum and spend huge sums on propaganda, but he cannot be allowed to rig the vote.
“That’s why there should be a single question asking Scots if they reject the idea of breaking up Britain.”
Tory spokesman David McLetchie said: “The Scottish people should be asked a straightforward question of whether they want Scotland to be an independent country or remain part of the United Kingdom.”