It seems to me that the opposing parties are tying themselves in unnecessary knots over whether there should be one or two questions in the independence referendum ("Cameron agrees Salmond summit", The Herald, January 16).

The answer is simply to follow the precedent of the 1997 devolution referendum, when there were two questions, the result of the second contingent on the outcome of the first.

The first asked the Scottish people: "Do you agree that there should be a Scottish Parliament? Yes or no", and the second: "Do you agree that a Scottish Parliament should have tax-rising powers? Yes or no".

It was explained and clearly understood that the result of the second vote would only become relevant if the answer to the first question was positive. In the event both questions produced a clear majority in favour, although later when in government neither the Labour/LibDem coalition nor the SNP minority exercised their power to raise or lower the basic income tax rate.

So in the forthcoming referendum, the two questions should not be presented as an either/or choice but in sequence. The principal question would be to ascertain if the Scottish people wanted Scotland to be independent, and the second whether they wanted the Scottish Government to have the full range of fiscal and economic powers. Obviously if the response to the first question supported full independence, the second question would become irrelevant because future Scottish governments would have all these powers and more.

But if the independence option was rejected, the second vote would then determine the settled choice of the Scottish people between the status quo or maximum devolution, with substantially increased control over both the raising and spending of all taxes, and only defence, foreign affairs and currency remaining as a UK prerogative.

The Scottish electorate has already shown itself to be sophisticated and able to understand and cope with such voting arrangements. But if a single question referendum is held and independence is narrowly defeated, any further Scottish devolution will be delayed for at least another generation, which is not what anyone but a few conservative dinosaurs really wants.

Iain AD Mann,

7 Kelvin Court, Glasgow.

Unionist politicians and self-determination sceptics have been repeating their somewhat tired argument that a multi-option question would automatically run the risk of returning an ambiguous result and would be challengeable in court.

I simply cannot see where these concerns come from; an unchallengeable two-option referendum would surely be easy enough to frame.

Question one: "Do you want Scotland to become a sovereign independent nation outwith the United Kingdom? Yes or no."

Question two: "If the Scottish electorate, by majority, votes no to Scotland becoming a sovereign independent nation outwith the United Kingdom, do you want the Scottish Parliament to be given full powers over all matters, with the exception of defence and foreign affairs which would continue to be reserved to the UK Parliament? Yes or no."

While the wording of the above questions could be refined and the definition of devo max might need to be supported by a White Paper, this would facilitate a clear answer to a multi-option referendum.

Importantly, question two would only come into play if question one returned a negative result and, while Unionist doomsayers may continue to argue to the contrary as part of their political posturing, it would provide a decisive result.

David Balfour,

Craobhraid na Coilltich, Inverness.

Scotland is still part of the UK, and while it is certainly true that Scottish residents, as opposed to the Scottish people, appear to have given the SNP an overwhelming mandate to negotiate for independence, it is for the democratically elected UK Parliament to decide the terms on which this independence can lawfully be granted.

Only once these terms have been agreed can a referendum be put to Scottish voters, and in my view there should be only one question on the ballot paper.

This is not a case of Scotland being dictated to by a government in London of whatever political hue, but the elected representatives of the people of the United Kingdom, after appropriate consultation, deciding the terms on which independence can be contemplated.

Duncan MacLeod,

Monkredding House,


In October last year, delegates at the SNP annual conference supported a motion that called on the Government to consider an opt-out system of presumed consent with regard to the posthumous donation of our organs.

To be consistent, will they similarly argue for an opt-out system for the proposed referendum and conclude that, unless voters specifically vote to leave the Union, they should be deemed to have given their consent to its continuation? Will they, rather, revise their previous decision?

Professor Hugh V McLachlan,

Glasgow School for Business and Society,

Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow.

Several politicians and commentators, Andrew McKie being the latest ("A pick'n'mix referendum must not be on the menu", The Herald, January 16), have put forward the false premise that a clearly defined third option as an alternative to independence or the status quo has yet to emerge.

In fact, Reform Scotland published last September Devolution Plus, a fully researched and detailed proposal that would give the Scottish Parliament control over sufficient tax and borrowing powers to meet its spending commitments, removing the need for the block grant.

Specifically, Devolution Plus would leave Westminster with responsibility for VAT and National Insurance and devolve most other taxes to Holyrood, where the majority of expenditure takes place. In addition, Devolution Plus sets out a proposal for transferring to Holyrood additional powers over social protection, including welfare benefits.

The fundamental defect of the current devolution settlement is the lack of financial responsibility it gives the Scottish Parliament. Of course, one way to remedy this would be independence.

However, Devolution Plus is a credible and fully thought through third option that seems to be in tune with what opinion polls suggest most people in Scotland want.

We believe it is the best way forward and that it should be a central part of the debate on Scotland's constitutional future.

Ben Thomson,

Chairman, Reform Scotland,

North St David Street,


Kate Devlin, in her article on MPs' voting rights, refers to the term West Lothian Question being coined by Tam Dalyell ("Commission's review could restrict Scots MPs' voting rights", The Herald, January 14).

While the idiosyncrasy was identified by Tam Dalyell, the term was in fact coined by Enoch Powell.

Another phrase coined by Mr Powell was: "Power devolved is power retained" – somewhat topical in the light of the present stramash.

David SW Williamson,

49 Pinnaclehill Park,


If Michael Moore is going to serve David Cameron well as Westminster's man in Scotland, he will have to up the ante in his scare stories. He states that there is a danger in (an independent) Scotland using the pound without influence over issues such as interest rates ("Moves expected 'in the coming days'", The Herald, January 16).

Currently Scotland has no influence on sterling as it stands, so what is the difference?

We have no members on the Bank of England committee, the late Eddie George (when Bank of England boss) seemed to think that unemployment in north England/Scotland "was a price worth paying" and the British central bank had so little regard for the bolt-on parts to England that it couldn't be bothered to change its name to take account of all the UK. Funny the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man (non-UK states) seem to manage with this arrangement.

Thomas R Burgess,

53 St Catherine's Square, Perth.