It’s an old proverb but a useful one, particularly so for those with an occasional or general sense of inadequacy.
I suspect Alex Salmond is not one to generally suffer from low self esteem but he is approaching the stage of his career where it is difficult to avoid wondering how you will be thought of.
Quite possibly not unrelated to that, the papers and Twitter streams are full of coverage of Salmond finding Devo Max “very attractive” and his insistence that Scots “have a right” to a second question. I find it intriguing, and not a little amusing, that it is the Telegraph of all papers that are warning Salmond that SNP supporters may be infuriated at this news. If wishing made it so.
As someone who intends to vote Yes in a one question referendum, I certainly have no qualms with voting Yes-Yes in a two question referendum.
Indeed, in my view, Salmond’s intention to have Devo Max on the ballot slip is simple game theory and quite contrary to ‘abandoning’ independence as his detractors would have it.
Let’s look at two mutually exclusive scenarios:
There is a 35% chance of winning a Yes/No ‘one-question’ referendum.
There is a 20% chance of winning the independence element of a Yes/No ‘two-question’ referendum and a 60% chance of winning the Devo Max element.
Under Scenario 1, there is a 65% chance of being stuck with the status quo for a generation but under scenario 2, there is only a 32% chance (80% * 40%) of being stuck with the status quo for a generation.
Sure, Devo Max isn’t going to help the SNP realise its ambitions for getting rid of Trident, rebalancing inequality through the welfare system and having a strong Scottish voice at international tables, but including Devo Max on a ballot slip does not remove the SNP’s ability to take those arguments to the Scottish people and push for a Yes vote to the primary independence question. After all, if those arguments fall short, there is surely merit in having a satisfactory, if not spectacular, fall-back result.
The SNP may have many members that want independence and nothing less but more still recognise pragmatic progress towards their desired goal and will no doubt see Salmond’s cute push for a Devo Max option as a Win-Win-Win situation.
Win 1 – It pushes the Better Together triumvarate of Labour, Tories and Lib Dems into a space where they not only oppose independence, but are seen to oppose any proactive further devolution of powers in the near future. An unenviable place to be, one would have thought, particularly for the Lib Dems and Labour if they come over as indistinguishable on this issue from the Tories.
Win 2 – Scotland under Devo Max increases the probability of progress further down the line towards independence. It may not be the ‘big bang’ result of a Yes vote to full and near-immediate separation, but it’s progress and better than nothing.
Win 3 – It helps enable Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP for closing in on 18 years, to step down as First Minister and away from the SNP leadership with his head held high.
‘Shouldn’t Scotland’s interests be placed higher than Salmond’s desire for a legacy?’ put one political journalist on Twitter earlier today, but if the two objectives are wrapped up with each other in the First Minister’s mind, who would blame him for trying his best to achieve both before he ends his career.