LABOUR’S David Miliband has voiced scepticism over plans for a “devo max” option in the independence referendum, despite growing support within the party for the move.
In an exclusive interview with the Evening News, the former foreign secretary said there should be an open debate about how to take devolution forward, but he said: “I’ve never known a referendum that included a box that said ‘maybe’, but that seems to be what the SNP wants.”
Last week, Edinburgh Northern and Leith MSP Malcolm Chisholm called for Labour to embrace devo max – where Scotland has responsibility for all taxes and pays an agreed amount to Westminster for shared services – rather than sticking to the more limited extra powers included in the Scotland Bill.
Former first minister Henry McLeish also backed devo max.
A senior Labour insider said: “They are just saying what many others are thinking.”
Mr Miliband said devolution was Labour’s creation and the party should be confident of it.
He acknowledged the party had work to do, but he said: “Labour has been the author of all the economic, social and political reform Scotland has seen, including devolution.
“What we should be seeking is the best of both worlds – power in the hands of the people and the strength that comes from being part of a wider union.
“We in the Labour Party should be confident in debating devolution and discussing how to take it forward. And I look forward to that being done as part of a process which engages with Scotland.”
Asked about the party’s prospects in Scotland following the heavy defeat in May’s Holyrood elections, he said: “Things can only get better. We took a hell of a beating and what’s good is that people have not taken that as an instruction to retire or walk off the pitch. They have really tried to understand what the electorate were saying.
“We should be confident that the Labour Party can still be the agent of change for the Scottish people.
“But it’s got to be a modern, relevant, forward-looking, open political party.
“If we become a sectional interest we will represent the Scotland that was, not the Scotland that can be.”