Why I am undecided


Ben Thomson in The Scotsman

So far, in the referendum debate, I’m disenfranchised. I believe the Scottish Parliament would be more effective if it had greater powers and was more accountable, but also that there are benefits to remaining part of the UK. For me this is not a compromise, but the ideal outcome.

The problem is that neither the Yes Scotland nor Better Together are offering me this option – yet! That’s a pity because opinion polls over the last year show this option, Scotland having greater powers within the UK, is far more popular than either of the options on offer.

On one hand, particularly if we are to share a common currency and a head of state, the current union is a tried and tested relationship that has broadly worked well for 300 years. What Europe has shown us is that a monetary union without also strong political and social unions will always come under pressure in a crisis such as the current one. The advantages of a stronger voice in foreign affairs and greater clout in defence is also a huge benefit of the union.

However, there is no accountability in Holyrood budgets being provided from tax revenues from Westminster, instead, it should be responsible for raising its own revenue to fund spending commitments. Giving MSPs real fiscal responsibility to match their spending responsibility will allow Scotland to stand on its own feet and give it the tools necessary to carry out its job.

What both sides of the referendum debate are now recognising is that the public want something like Devo Plus. The SNP are offering more and more unions as part of independence, whilst the Liberal Democrats have already reached the middle with Home Rule as Nick Clegg advocated at the weekend. Labour and Conservatives have also set up commissions to look at how far they will go on future powers.

I will vote for whichever side gets to the sensible middle option that I believe is best for Scotland, a union with much greater fiscal and welfare powers. It will be fascinating to see which side gets there first.