SNP strategists believe there will be no need for a “devo max” option in the referendum if they can make independence appear as reasonable as possible.
Senior SNP figures have revealed that their plans for an independent Scotland – which will be published in detail before the referendum – will be deliberately moderated in a bid to appeal to wavering Scots.
The proposals will stress the continuation of many aspects of British life in an attempt to do away with any need to put “devo max” or “indy lite” on the ballot paper.
Alex Salmond has offered a three question referendum: independence, “devo max” and the status quo. And he has challenged his opponents to come up with a form of “devo max” which could then be put to the people.
However, Mr Salmond’s offer has been knocked back by all three main unionist parties, who believe the first minister is laying a trap for them.
They believe Mr Salmond only wants “devo max” on the ballot paper to give him a fallback position in case outright independence isn’t successful.
But it has now emerged that the SNP strategy will be to make independence appear to be reasonable, not only so that there will be no need for a “devo max” option, but also to win over all those Scots who might have voted for “devo max”.
Indeed, the version of independence that will be put to Scots will look remarkably similar to those versions of “indy lite” which have been trailed by the SNP in the past.
The plans will adopt a “best of British” theme. They will include:
● Keeping the Queen as Scotland’s head of state and the royal family.
● Keeping the pound as Scotland’s currency.
● Relying on the Bank of England to anchor for that currency.
● Allowing interest rates to be set by the London-based Monetary Policy Committee for the whole of the UK.
● Creating a new “social union” between Scotland and England to replace the existing parliamentary union.
● Keeping UK embassies as joint UK/Scottish bases.
● Keeping most BBC programmes in their usual places – so Scots can continue to watch EastEnders and their other favourite shows at the usual time.
● Allowing British defence forces to use Scottish bases and to work alongside Scottish service personnel.
● Setting up only the most minimal control posts on the Scottish–English border.
● Keeping the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency as the body organising driving licences for the whole of the UK, including an independent Scotland.
● Keeping the same sort of vehicle number plates in an independent Scotland as in the rest of the UK.
A key SNP strategist said: “People think we are being clever by allowing a second option of ‘devo max’ to be put on the ballot paper for the referendum, but they miss the point.
“Look at what we are saying about the currency, the royal family, the social union, the BBC and so on. We are going to present a view of independence which is so overwhelmingly reasonable that there will be no need for ‘devo max’.”
David McLetchie, for the Conservatives, said: “However the SNP dresses it up, separation is separation. It is the Nationalists who are scurrying around trying to find this way or that to sell the unpalatable. It won’t work. The SNP prescription of so-called independence in Europe – and the euro – is a recipe for ruin.
“The majority of Scots are content and proud to be Scottish and British. It is the way we are. Scotland is better off in Britain.”
And Iain Gray, Scottish Labour leader, said: “It is as if Alex Salmond is giving up on separation and trying to replace it with some kind of federalism, so he should be honest and admit it.
“His problem is he knows the majority of Scots oppose separation so he keeps trying to rebrand it in some watered down sense as ‘devo max’ or ‘indy lite’. But no matter what window dressing he puts on it he cannot escape the hard facts about what separation will mean and how the uncertainty over it already threatens investment.”
And Mr Gray added: “No matter how much the SNP try they cannot avoid key questions such as what would be the effect on pensions, benefits, tax rates and EU membership.”