I always supported a third question on the ballot paper. I thought it was just the right thing to do if a feasible option could be worked out. My view is that the Scottish people should always be given the constitutional future they want and whilst I would campaign for independence, I would respect that if this is what our fellow Scots want, then this is what they should have.
The UK Government, though, insisted that no such option should be allowed anywhere near a ballot paper. They were happy to concede nearly everything else – the question, the process and the management of the referendum, but there was to be no talk whatsoever about a third question. This is because the UK Government sees itself as the gatekeeper of further devolution in the United Kingdom and it will never concede this to an exclusively Scottish process. This is what happens if we vote no. We leave any further constitutional progress up to Westminster. For all the talk of further ‘more powers’ following a no vote, the unpalatable truth is that it will be up to the majority of those who inhabit the green benches on the banks of the Thames. Decisions about whether Scotland secures further constitutional progress would be taken out the hands of the Scottish people and probably end up in the hands of the Westminster Tories.
This is your real leap of faith, and it is almost endearing to believe that a future majority Westminster Government would give us more powers just because the Scottish Liberals want them. If we vote no, Westminster would rightly believe that Scotland has had its chance and it is now their turn. Their agenda will be about resolving issues such as the West Lothian Question (which they hate) and ensuring that the Barnett Formula is reviewed to Scotland’s detriment.
What about Labour you might fairly ask? Well, the Scottish Labour MPs see themselves (probably rightly) as the success in the Labour party in Scotland. It is they who have the massive majorities and it is they who win elections. Yet, it is they who are asked to give up more responsibilities to the almost dysfunctional ‘losers’ in the Scottish Parliament. ‘No more’ will be their call following a no vote and it is likely they will want to see some powers returned to their House in London, just as they argued in the last Scotland Act.
The simple fact is that no means no means no. Worse than that, it could possibly mean that some of our constitutional progress could be reversed. If Scotland votes no, it means we willingly submit ourselves to being ruled by Westminster and we allow our nation to be governed according to their priorities. A no vote means we accept it is they who are in charge and we will have to accept what they believe is in the best interests of our nation.