Dunfermline MSP Welcomes Former Tory Chairman’s Plea for Scottish-led Referendum

Recent referendum comments by Peter Duncan, former Tory MP and Chairman, have been hailed by Dunfermline’s SNP MSP Bill Walker as “an attempt to raise the level of debate in the Conservative party”. Mr Duncan has called for the Tories to pursue the option of devo-max and has warned that London leaders should not dictate the terms of the referendum or take a prominent position in the campaign.

However, Mr Walker said that Mr Duncan’s comments were further evidence of disarray within the anti-independence parties.

Commenting on more powers for the Parliament, Mr Duncan said the Scotland Bill is insufficient, adding: “Our aim should be to move towards something like Devolution Plus… This could be as a third question”.

Mr Duncan’s remarks on who should lead the anti-independence campaign are potentially embarrassing for Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservative party, who supports Westminster’s leading role, as do the Labour and Lib Dem leaders:

“I suspect London will have concerns that its Scottish offshoot does not have the expertise or experience to run this campaign unaided, but it will have to suck it and see.”

On the terms of the referendum, Mr Duncan commented: “Don’t let these arguments originate in Westminster. We’ve been doing this for decades, and look where we are now!”

In another observation that will prove uncomfortable for the Conservative leadership in Holyrood and Westminster, he describes Tory arguments about Scotland’s economic and financial position as “more patronising than I’m able to put into words.”

Mr Walker said: “Mr Duncan has highlighted the disarray in the anti-independence parties when it comes to presenting a coherent and sensibly argued campaign. He is the latest to be at odds with his leadership by considering more powers for the Scottish Parliament.

“Ruth Davidson, Johann Lamont and Willie Rennie need to explain why they are so determined to not even consider giving the people of Scotland that very choice.

“Although my wish is, of course, for the independence of our country, I welcome Mr Duncan’s attempts to persuade his party to consider more powers for the Scottish Parliament, which could take the form of a devo-max question in the referendum.

“I also welcome his acceptance that the terms of the referendum are for the Scottish Government to decide and not for Westminster to dictate.”

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