Voters favour middle way instead of status quo or independence – Scotsman

By Tom Peterkin

FEWER than 30 per cent of Scots believe Scotland should become independent, according to a poll that suggests most people believe increasing Holyrood’s power within the UK is the best option.

The IPSOS Mori poll found that 41 per cent thought that Scotland should remain in the UK but be given enhanced powers as defined by a devo-plus settlement.

The proportion of the sample backing devo-plus exceeded the 27 per cent backing full independence and the 29 per cent favouring the constitutional status quo.

Devo-plus would see Holyrood get control over all income tax, corporation tax and have a geographical share of oil revenue. Westminster would retain power over National Insurance and VAT. Devo-plus differs from so-called devo-max in that the latter would see Holyrood becoming responsible for raising all income from Scotland.

Arguments over the merits of devo-plus and devo-max are seen as being crucial in the debate for Scotland’s constitutional future.

The Scottish Government has said that it is willing to consider the merits of a two-question referendum ballot with an enhanced devolution option.

Many believe that Alex Salmond is keen to produce a ballot paper with a devo-plus/devo-max second question, because he is unlikely to win a single-question vote on outright independence.

Last night Bruce Crawford, cabinet secretary for parliamentary business, said: “We are very confident of achieving a Yes vote for an independent Scotland in the autumn 2014 referendum.

“Nonetheless, the Scottish Government recognise that there is support in Scotland – from individuals and organisations such as the STUC and the chief executive of the SCVO [Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations] – for a “more powers” option in the referendum, and it is important that this issue and all the other aspects of the consultation are given proper consideration.”

The poll was commissioned by the economic think-tank Reform Scotland, which has been at the forefront of developing the argument for devo-plus.

The survey also found that two-thirds of Scots agreed that those who wanted to remain within the UK should campaign for more powers for the Scottish Parliament as an alternative to independence, while 61 per cent believed the Scottish Government should be responsible for raising most money spent by Holyrood.

Only 29 per cent thought the Westminster government should be responsible for raising most of the money spent by Holyrood.

Ben Thomson, the Reform Scotland chairman, said: “This poll is further proof of what we have suspected for some time – the current debate on Scotland’s constitutional future is not adequately serving the people of Scotland because it is largely ignoring their preferred way forward.

“It’s time for the parties to lay their cards on the table. It’s time people know exactly what they’re voting for, and if nobody is offering devo-plus – the most popular option – the question must be: Why not?”

The UK government and the pro-Union parties priority is to secure a single question independence ballot to avoid the confusion of a second constitutional option.

Labour’s constitution spokeswoman Patricia Ferguson MSP said: “This poll really makes the case for devolution.”