Salmond reveals new referendum option

Alex Salmond will unveil a new option for Scotland's future when he publishes his historic white paper on an independence referendum tomorrow.

The new option – dubbed "devo-max" – would see Scotland remain part of the UK, but hand the Scottish Parliament complete control over taxation and the nation's finances.

The First Minister will tomorrow put forward four constitutional choices: the status quo; more devolution along the lines suggested by the Calman Commission; the devo max option; and full separation from the UK.

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The strategy shift by Salmond will prompt claims the SNP has accepted the likelihood of defeat on independence and is preparing to settle for a beefed-up version of devolution.

Writing in Scotland on Sunday today, Salmond insists he will continue to make the case for full independence as the best way to restore growth and build success.

But he also acknowledges that "not everyone shares our view" that independence is necessary. The move follows a poll last week which found 57 per cent of Scots would vote against independence. Only 29 per cent said they would vote for splitting up the UK.

SNP sources last night denied they were preparing to water down the party's commitment to independence.

But the tactic has drawn a stinging rebuke from some in the party who argue that Salmond has failed to focus on the merits of independence, blurring the SNP vision.

Writing today, Salmond declares: "The White Paper (will] set out the options for Scotland as we move into the next decade of self-government. Those options, in short, are the status quo, the limited change offered by the Calman Commission proposals, maximum devolution including full fiscal autonomy, and independence."

He adds: "There is a new consensus emerging in Scotland. The argument is no longer between change or no change – it's about the kind of change we seek."

Salmond attacks the proposals laid out last week by Labour to make Scottish ministers responsible for 10p on the rate of income tax as recommended by the Calman Commission. He describes them as "at best half-baked, and at worst damaging".

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It leaves "devo-max" or independence as the only two options which the SNP believes will work, with full independence the preferred model.

However, Margo MacDonald, the independent MSP, said the SNP had failed to make the case for independence. "They thought we would get there by stealth. What we are asking the people to do is a big brave thing: it is not a stealthy thing," she said.

Tomorrow's white paper will see the SNP's Referendum Bill officially launched.

However, the bill stands no chance of being made law, as all three of the opposition parties have said they will vote down the minority SNP government's plan.

Meanwhile, Labour accused Salmond last night of running against the tide of popular opinion.

Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy said: "They have developed a peculiar obsession bordering on the unhealthy and it is time for them to get over this and get back to dealing with the recession."

Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott added: "The SNP are wasting 12 million on a pointless exercise."