There is a long way to go, and there may well be a few twists and turns before we count the votes, but the last 48 hours in Scottish and UK politics has been quite remarkable. The trigger has been the opinion polls catching up with the shift in the mood of Scottish voters.
The performance of George Osborne on Sunday was astonishing. His reputation as a strategist was always a bit inflated, as was shown in his shambolic 2012 budget. But who would have believed an opinion poll would have had him rambling about how powers had to be given to Scotland because that was clearly what Scottish people wanted. A Westminster Tory concerned about what Scotland wants? The sands seem to have shifted under the Tories and their line.
Then on the Sunday Politics Scotland we had Alistair Carmichael reprising his goldfish impersonation. Either he was out of the loop on what was being cobbled together or he did not recognise George Osborne’s description of it. On balance he probably realised that Osborne had exaggerated the new powers when all that was coming was a timetable. When the Daily Record turns on how ridiculous the panicked reaction is with their, “Hear no Devo, See no Devo, Speak no Devo,” front page Better Together should have known the game was up. When Gordon Brown made his profound announcement on Monday even the best efforts of the BBC could not make it sound more than a damp squib. St Andrew’s day and Burns’ Night, it will be the White Heather Club next. Brownhog day indeed.
What limited substance there was has already started to unravel, it was in no sense Devo Max, it was a mild rehash of the existing proposals to make the Scottish Parliament “more accountable.” It is a clear indication of lack of substance when the “news” is supposed to be the timetable. And then Ed Balls denies there will be any joint commitment. Liam Kirkaldy described it as, “the policy equivalent of warming up cold soup and leaving a note to suggest what time someone should eat it. In fact given he is not in power, he can’t even ensure we will get the soup.”
Any serious proposal of federalism or devo max would see Scotland serious economic powers and a radical recasting of the UK. It would require the consideration and agreement of the other constituent parts of the UK. It is not something you can cobble together at the 11th hour when postal votes have been cast. The fact that the BBC presented it as a serious proposal of more powers says more about the BBC than the offer.
In another significant move Labour blogger Ian Smart has revised his prediction of a Yes vote up from 28% to 40% although he still thinks “true” support for independence is lower, but a number of Scots have been conned. I don’t think it is ever a good idea to tell 50% of the population they are stupid, but Ian also thinks the problem is that the scare stories on the economy have not been scary enough.
My prediction 6 months ago was that the unionists would panic and offer a share of oil revenues, maybe 25%, when they fell behind in the polls. It seems they have not panicked that much yet. They haven’t panicked enough to offer us control of corporation tax, or the crown estates, or the right to veto fracking, or energy policy, or broadcasting, or income tax bands. And that is before we consider whether we can put up with Trident and the Tories taking us out of the EU. Ukania is in meltdown, but it clings on to the belief that Scottish voters can be bought with trinkets and coloured beads.
PS As of Tuesday lunchtime we now know that the Saltire will fly over Downing Street and David Cameron and Ed Miliband will make a joint visit to Scotland. I can’t get the image of Sir Walter Scott managing the visit of George IV to Edinburgh out of my mind, surely Dave and Ed will wear kilts?