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Cameron’s new offer for Scotland could mean a new offer for England

17 February 2012

9:26 AM

17 February 2012

9:26 AM

The consensus opinion across most of today’s papers appears to be that Dave done good in Scotland yesterday. And now the Prime
Minister’s cause has been helped that little bit more by the Lords Constitution Committee. ‘We are firmly of the view that any referendum that is held must be a straight choice between full
independence or the status-quo,’ says the committee’s chairman Baroness Jay. ‘A third “devolution-max” option is clearly something every part of the UK must have a say in as
it has the potential to create different and competing tax regimes within the UK.’

The strange thing is, a UK-wide referendum on ‘devo max’ could actually produce the sort of result that Alex Salmond would want. A recent survey for the IPPR found that 80 per cent of English people support
fiscal autonomy for Scotland — against only 22 per cent who support independence. But that UK-wide referendum is simply not going to happen as part of this Scottish independence referendum,
so it’s rather a moot point. For now, Baroness Jay’s words just add a little bit more weight to Cameron’s case for a straightforward, yes/no vote on independence.


But what this means for Cameron in the longer term is a lot more complicated. With him now teasing further devolution should Scotland vote ‘No’ to independence, those English views may
have to be taken into consideration in the future. And, that as Tim Montgomerie highlighted yesterday, means questions about the
Barnett Formula, about English votes for English laws, and about all the other constitutional qualms and cavils that surround devolution. That IPPR report contains much more on English attitudes,
and I’d recommend CoffeeHousers flick through it.

And, of course, the caveat that comes with most blogging on Scottish independence: nothing should be taken as definitive at the moment. For every Baroness Jay there will be a dozen SNP academics
arguing an alternative case, and that’s aside from the political — rather than legal — implications of Salmond just going ahead and doing his own referendum anyway. We hear again today,
for instance, that Trident could be jeapordised if Scotland goes it alone. Nothing is going to be simple, all is tangled.


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