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Tory change of heart is welcome

Conservative leader Ruth Davidson was elected on a platform of taking devolution no further.

But her self-proclaimed line in the sand has been washed away by the tide of 'events'. It is not clear why Ms Davidson changed the views on which she built her leadership campaign just two years, but critics should think twice before condemning her outright..

While politicians who say one thing and do another are often rightly criticised, it is sometimes the bolder decision. There is nothing noble about consistency if it means clinging to a faulty position. Ms Davidson may have simply have rethought her earlier opposition to further enhancing devolution. She may want to help the No campaign by demonstrating the unity of support for giving Scotland further powers.

Alternatively, she may feel that the ability, for example, to offer tax cuts in Scotland is one way to protect the Conservative party in this country, and give voters a reason to support it. Whatever the reason, it is little surprise that the Scottish Tory leader has endorsed the suggestions made by the Strathclyde Commission that the party asked to look into extending devolved powers. Inevitable the decision may have been, but the central theme of the Tory proposals is surely also consistent with the party's wider beliefs. Giving Scotland the power to raise more of the money it spends as a means of encouraging fiscal prudence is surely Tory in spirit.

Ms Davidson argues delivering near-complete control over income tax will help do that. Holyrood will no longer be a "pocket money" parliament, spending its income without true responsibility. The commission also said there was a case for devolving housing benefit and attendance allowance if - and it is a major if - these elements could be disentangled from the troubled new Universal Credit benefit. If the package of changes proposed by Lord Strathclyde is adopted in full, just over 50 per cent of the money the Scottish parliament allocates, it will raise itself. This depends however on how the Conservatives deal with the idea that VAT be partially devolved and whether responsibility for air passenger duty is handed over too - David Cameron is not convinced the case for this has been made.

But importantly, with proposals already on the table from Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the pro-union parties can present a united front offering greater powers to voters, should they vote No in September.

While the Yes campaign continues to insist change is not guaranteed unless Scotland votes for independence, it is now clear the choice is not between Yes and no change. With such consensus among the key figures, Scotland will surely gain more powers beyond the referendum, even after a No vote.

The Yes campaign will continue to insist only it can offer real change, while Better Together points to the benefits of membership of the UK, as opposed to the risks of independence.

Voters will have to take their pick. But significantly, with Ms Davidson's announcement, a positive vision will now be on offer from both sides.

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