U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron appears to be attempting a last minute reversal by sneaking “Devo Max” — the option of devolving a maximum number of powers to a non-independent Scotland — into his “No” campaign. He had previously ruled out a devo max option.
With the result on a knife-edge only eight days to go before the vote, Cameron tried to pluck at the heart-strings of Scottish voters with a passionate plea in the Daily Mail today for a No vote in the independence referendum. “We desperately want you to stay,” he writes. He appealed to a shared history that, he asserts, includes bringing democracy to “the world”, abolishing slavery and defeating fascism:
The United Kingdom is a precious and special country. That is what is at stake. So let no one in Scotland be in any doubt: we desperately want you to stay; we do not want this family of nations to be ripped apart. Across England, Northern Ireland and Wales, our fear over what we stand to lose is matched only by our passion for what can be achieved if we stay together.
The Prime Minister also praised the “special alchemy” of the United Kingdom (perhaps an unfortunate metaphor given the limited success enjoyed by actual alchemists in their attempts to turn base materials into gold).
What the article makes clear is that the vote on September 18th is no longer between independence and the status quo, but independence and further devolution. As he writes:
A No vote doesn’t mean a vote for the status quo — No doesn’t mean no change. It means significant further devolution for Scotland — major new powers over tax, spending and welfare all being passed to Scotland.
Two years ago, Cameron himself ruled out further transfers of power from Westminster to the Scottish parliament. In 2012 Cameron was reported as saying that further devolution of powers would be “inconsistent” with remaining part of the UK. Now he is travelling to Scotland to pitch for a No vote as a vehicle for change rather than the status quo.
This is perhaps unsurprising as the so-called Devo Max option, whereby Scotland gains maximum autonomy over tax and spending policy but remains within the Union, has been comfortably leading full independence in the opinion polls. Indeed Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond was previously in favour of including a Devo Max option on the ballot paper — no doubt in order to paint either result as a win for the nationalists.
Cameron claims that the vote “is about two competing visions of Scotland’s future.” Increasingly, however, it looks as if both sides are arguing for the same thing.
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