Call for indyref2 to include devo-max option branded ‘idiotic’

Some high-profile members of the SNP have rejected the suggestion from the party’s former policy chief Chris Hanlon.

Katrine Bussey
Wednesday 05 January 2022 13:19
A former SNP policy chief has suggested devo-max be included in the ballot in a future independence vote (Jane Barlow/PA)
A former SNP policy chief has suggested devo-max be included in the ballot in a future independence vote (Jane Barlow/PA)

A call for a second vote on Scottish independence to include devo-max on the ballot paper has been dismissed by several high profile figures in the SNP.

Scottish Government minister Kevin Stewart branded the suggestion – from former SNP policy chief Chris Hanlon – “idiotic, foolish, nonsensical”, while MSP Gillian Martin rejected it as a “con”.

They commented after Mr Hanlon argued that excluding the option of enhanced devolution from the ballot if there is a second referendum would be “just plain wrong”.

Writing in The National, Mr Hanlon, a former SNP policy development convener, said: “Devo-max isn’t my preference and maybe, given the changed circumstances, it might not be the choice of the majority of the people of Scotland.

“But part of me remains of the opinion that excluding it from the ballot paper is just plain wrong. The people must have the option of choosing the path the largest percentage of them favour.”

He accepted having a third option in any future referendum “risks not getting independence straight away”, but he added: “If that’s what the Scottish people want, that’s what they should get, and I’ll just have to lump it in the short-term.”

For a devo-max option to be put to voters, he said it would need to contain a “triple lock” of “three guarantees that increase the power of Holyrood”.

This would include a guarantee on the permanence of the Scottish Parliament so Westminster could not abolish Holyrood.

There would also be a guarantee of the supremacy of the Scottish Parliament on devolved matters, preventing Westminster from passing laws that affect Scotland in devolved areas without Holyrood’s consent.

Mr Hanlon also insisted there would have to be a “guarantee of the voice of the people of Scotland”, so “Holyrood can call a referendum by simple majority to amend the Scotland Act that is implemented based on a simple majority of the Scottish people approving it”.

Chris Hanlon suggested for devo max to be put to voters, it must contain three key guarantees for Holyrood’s powers. (Jane Balrow/PA)

This would guarantee that Scotland could “hold a referendum on whatever we want, whenever we want”, he added.

That, he said, would “create a path to independence that we can walk down at our own pace whenever we choose”.

Writing on Twitter Ms Martin dismissed the plan, saying that devo-max “was a con in 2014” – when Scots were promised enhanced devolution if they voted against independence – and “is a con now”.

Ms Martin declared: “I’ll be having none of it, thank you! The only way Scotland can really flourish is with full self government with ALL the powers. You know, like other normal countries.

“In fact I’d go as far to say that the very notion of ‘Devo-Max’ floated by certain players last time lost us our independence (and consequently our place in the EU). Nope – it can get in the sea.”

Glasgow SNP councillor Mhairi Hunter tweeted: “There’s no case to put Devo Max on the ballot paper because no-one knows what it is.

“Only logical course is to establish firstly if Scottish people want independence. If the answer is yes, Devo Max is irrelevant. If the answer is No, that is when you discuss reforming devolution.”

Fellow SNP councillor Michelle Campbell, who represents Erskine and Inchinnan in Renfrewshire, tweeted: “Devo Max doesn’t give any clarity. I say that having been for the union prior to Indy Ref 2014, and as a flip to independence voter at that time.

“The constitutional question and the outcomes must offer clear direction and decision. This can only be achieved with Yes or No.”

Julie Hepburn, who stood for the post of SNP depute leader in 2018, noted this was “not the first time a devo-max option has been floated as a suggestion”.

But she said this had been “rightly rejected” previously, adding: “Scotland needs independence, not fallback options.”

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