Unionists ‘may want to consider new devolution referendum’

UNIONISTS may want to consider another devolution referendum to secure decisive support for the Scotland Bill and end the ongoing manoeuvring towards independence, a leading political commentator has suggested.

Many Scots have already written off the Scotland Bill while talk of a second referendum has hit the headlines once again. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach

The UK Government has failed to generate enthusiasm for its so-called “enduring settlement”, with many Scots already writing it off as “inadequate” despite little knowledge, discussion or debate about its merits, according to Professor John Curtice.

Meanwhile, senior SNP MSPs have cited unionists’ failure to deliver on “the vow” of extensive new powers as possible grounds for another independence referendum.

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In this climate, Mr Curtice, a polling expert and professor of politics at Strathclyde University, has questioned unionists’ reluctance to put their proposals to Scotland in a poll.

The 1979 vote secured majority support for devolution amongst those that voted but fell on a technicality. Picture: TSPL

He said: “Quite why the advocates of more devolution in Scotland should want to eschew the possibility of demonstrating public support for their answer to the country’s constitutional debate is far from clear.

“Their reluctance certainly gives the impression that they are more interested in elite manoeuvring than in matching the ability of the SNP to develop a popular movement.”

He said last year’s independence referendum failed to deliver a decisive outcome, leaving the SNP room to manoeuvre for a re-match but a potential headache over timing.

“The fact the SNP could well win another overall majority presents it potentially with a dilemma,” he said.

“Should it or should it not suggest that if it does win a majority it will seek to hold a second referendum?

“Many of its Yes voting supporters will want it to do so, and their support might be at risk if they felt that the SNP was no longer pursuing the goal of independence as speedily as it might.

“But the party will also be aware that if it were to lose a second referendum then that certainly would prove to be ‘decisive’, and holding such a referendum on the back of polls that suggest the outcome would be something close to a 50:50 split would certainly constitute a considerable risk.”

Mr Curtice’s recommendations are published in a report entitled Scotland: One Year On, published today by the David Hume Institute (DHI) and the Strathclyde’s International Public Policy Institute (IPPI).

Scotland has already voted in two devolution referendums.

The first in 1979 secured majority support for devolution amongst those that voted but fell on a technicality requiring 40 per cent of the entire electorate to vote Yes.

The second in 1997 found overwhelming support for a Scottish Parliament with tax raising powers which led to the creation of Holyrood.