Monday, 29 June 2009

Yes to more powers, yes to a referendum, no to independence

If the poll commissioned by BBC Scotland is accurate, most people in Scotland back more powers for the Scottish Parliament, most people want to see a referendum on the issue, and most people oppose outright independence.

The detail of the poll is quite interesting, with a majority seemingly wanting to go beyond what the Calman Commission proposed, with about two-thirds wanting control of pensions devolved to Scotland.

There is reason for caution about that figure, as it's not clear whether people would support that idea if it meant greater running costs with Scotland and the rest of the UK operating different systems. I'm also not sure how it would impact on people and companies operating on both sides of the border. It's also not clear whether it would be just the pensions system, or whether the whole of the social security system would be devolved.

Nevertheless, that question does indicate that there is a real demand for the Scottish Parliament to have greater powers. The overall figures are pretty clear: 47% back a Scottish Parliament with increased powers but remaining part of the UK, while just 28% want complete independence. A referendum is backed by 56% of those polled, compared with 37% who don't want a referendum.

That means there's a real opportunity here for those who believe in increased powers for the Scottish Parliament but don't want independence - the position of all three parties who backed the Calman Commission. A referendum on the issue should be held as soon as is practical, with independence also on the ballot. I believe a more powerful Scottish Parliament within the UK would win a substantial majority and the issue would be settled for at least a generation. Let the argument begin!

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