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Civic group will launch campaign in favour of devo-max

Published on 27 January 2012

A CAMPAIGN will be launched next week urging more powers for Holyrood and a question to that effect on the referendum.

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The Herald understands a grouping will emerge making the case for greatly extended devolution short of full-scale independence – so- called devo-max – and arguing for this to be included on the ballot paper in autumn 2014.

"You can be certain a civic Scotland campaign will be launched next week," one source told this newspaper.

It was reported earlier this month trade unions, churches and voluntary bodies alarmed by a simple Yes/No referendum were preparing to get together to fight that prospect. Their campaign is now sufficiently advanced for the launch of a new umbrella body on Monday.

Also last night, a senior legal expert backed the Scottish Government's view it has the legal powers to hold a referendum.

The Emeritus Professor of Scots Law at Edinburgh University, Robert Black, says in a letter to The Herald: "The all-too prevalent view the Scottish Government is on shaky legal ground in claiming it already has the power lawfully to hold an independence referendum needs to be vigorously countered."

He claimed that while there might be a legal challenge, this would be "doomed to failure".

The emergence of a group arguing for more powers for Holyrood will delight Alex Salmond, who has been looking to put a devo-max question on the ballot paper, but he may find their stance less to his liking.

Some are saying they feel "bounced" by Mr Salmond's preferred alternative of devo- max, as the transfer of all tax and financial powers is seen as so close to full independence as to make no difference.

As John Downie, of the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations, put it recently: "The fact is that in key areas, such as employability and welfare, devolution isn't working as well as it could. Labour's position, of seeking more devolution in principle but talking about it after the referendum, simply isn't credible.

"For this discussion or the referendum itself to be shackled by an overly simplistic Yes/No approach would be a travesty for democracy. The referendum must include all the options."

MSPs last night re-affirmed their commitment to the Claim of Right, the assertion of Scottish popular sovereignty which underpinned the last campaign for constitutional reform.

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