The next two or three years are going to be fascinating for those concerned as the political and other interested parties gear up for the Scottish government’s (or – just maybe at the time of writing– the UK government’s) referendum on independence.  More will be written and said about it than most people will care for and I’m sure I’ll be contributing to the avalanche on the subject.  Here are my first thoughts.

It’s about one of the points of contention between the two governments – whether or not any referendum contains one or two questions.

For those who’ve been suffering a news blackout for the last few months the one or two proposed questions are (I paraphrase) along the lines of

  1. Do you want Scotland to be independent? YES/NO
  2. [Regardless of your answer to 1.] Do you want further devolution? YES/NO

The advocates of the second, additional, question say the Scottish electorate should be given the choice of expressing a view on whether they want further devolution short of independence – often characterised loosely as devo-max.  Most polls suggest many do, perhaps more than say they want independence.

The prime advocates of the devo-max question are the SNP (Scottish National Party) – the current governing party.

Before I decide how I voted on that question I would want to know the answer from the SNP to a further question

If a minority vote for independence but a substantial majority for devo-max will you accept that this is the settled will of the Scottish people and cease your calls for independence?

I think I know the answer because the SNP’s political credo begins with the definitive statement

The SNP is a social democratic political party committed to Scottish independence.

You see, I think the problem is that if they lose the first question this time round they will still NEVER give up their fight for independence.  For many Scots, devo-max may be an end point but for the SNP it will only ever be a step on the way to their greater goal.  So the constant bickering that characterises their relationships with the UK government will continue as long as they are in power in Holyrood and whoever forms the UK government.

Not a tantalising prospect.

Footnote for those unaware: the phrase ‘settled will of the Scottish people’ is one with considerable resonance in Scotland, used – optimistically – by the late Donald Dewar to characterise the current devolution settlement