Scottish independence: Henry McLeish says 'voting No has become difficult'

Henry McLeish, former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish is a former Labour First Minister of Scotland

Former First Minister Henry McLeish has told the BBC that voting "No" to independence "has become difficult".

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's The Big Debate, Mr McLeish insisted he would still vote to maintain the Union.

But he said he was unsure what Scotland would get "when Westminster and the new government meet in 2015".

Former SNP leader Gordon Wilson, who backs independence, claimed "there will be people disappointed with the slowness of change".

There has been speculation that Mr McLeish, who was Labour First Minister from 2000-2001, will declare his support for a "Yes" vote ahead of the 18 September referendum.

Blair McDougall, director of the pro-UK Better Together campaign, tweeted after the programme: "Just heard from impeccable source that Henry McLeish endorsing Yes on Monday. Hardly a surprise but he's entitled to his view."

But Mr McLeish described the claim as "absolute rubbish".

In a BBC referendum webcast in April, Mr McLeish said he "would find it nearly impossible to vote 'Yes'."

'Highly partisan'

Asked on The Big Debate if he still intended to reject independence, Mr McLeish said: "I'm a 'No' voter, but I have been honest enough on public platforms and in a new book that voting 'No' has become difficult.

"The debate is very tribal, the debate is highly partisan. We live in a politic environment so there is nothing surprising about that.

"But on the other hand, what I think we have to make sure of in this debate, whether you're voting 'Yes' or 'No' is to try and maybe understand, all of us, the full implications because there's nothing black and white in the world.

"And what I'm arguing for is, if you vote 'Yes' you get independence, if you vote 'No' there's a bit of a hesitation as to what you get when Westminster and the new government meet in 2015."

Pressed on whether he would consider changing his vote to "Yes", he replied that "at this point" he was still voting "No", but added: "It doesn't mean I won't continue to irritate and annoy my own party and others by putting the issues that matter to Scotland."

He added: "This is a debate about the future of our country, not about the future of any individual party in it."

Gordon Wilson Gordon Wilson is a former leader of the Scottish National Party
'Slow change'

Presenter Gordon Brewer asked Mr Wilson, who has been critical of the SNP's campaign for independence, if he would consider voting "No".

Mr Wilson, who led the SNP from 1979 until 1990, replied: "I wasn't entirely in agreement with many aspects of the campaign, because I didn't think it was strong enough in many ways. Having said it has come into line more with my own views in the last few weeks and I hope that will take us through.

"I look at this in the long term. Maybe it's something to do with age, but we're not looking at Scotland's future in terms of one, two, three years. It's five, ten fifteen, twenty years.

"As I put it, the good ship Scotland will slowly leave the UK dock, and there will be people disappointed with the slowness of change that takes place."

He said he backed independence because the rate of emigration from Scotland in the 20th century "shows that the Union is not delivering for Scotland."

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Scotland Decides: SCOTLAND VOTES NO

  1. No 2,001,926
  2. Yes 1,617,989
After 32 of 32 counts Results in detail

Referendum Live

    Text 80295 07:40: Referendum - Get Involved

    Anon: UK parties letting Scotland down already; we've had broken promises before. Will we ever learn?

    07:34: Salmond claims voters were 'tricked'

    "No" voters in last week's independence referendum were "tricked" by a late vow of more devolved powers, according to Alex Salmond.

    Salmond, who is stepping down as Scotland's first minister, accused the three UK party leaders of "reneging" on the pledge they made days before Thursday's referendum which he claimed won the "No" vote.

    Alex Salmond

    No 10 dismissed his claims, as the three parties continue to disagree over handling the process of devolution.

    Voters in Scotland rejected independence by 55% to 45%.

  3. 07:25: Referendum - Your Views

    John Mason, Falkirk: Surely the big problem for the Tories is convincing their back-benchers that nothing is being given away to Scotland under increased powers, without letting the cat out the bag to those poor Scottish voters who misguidedly switched? While it's proposed the Barnett Formula remains, alas all new tax-raising powers are deducted from it. Hence, 'devo max' only works for Scotland if the new tax-raising powers exceed the Barnett block grant, and that's not likely to happen! Yes, Mr Brown, you can fool most of the people most of the time, you just did it!

    Ian: How dare you Alex! The people have spoken - let us do what we as a people and nation have done so well! Keep the heid, respect the democratic process and, aye, be humble. We helped create the modern world that way.

    07:18: West Lothian Question David Porter Westminster correspondent

    Here in Manchester [Labour Party conference] there's a palpable sense of relief at the result of the referendum vote. Most delegates enthusiastically back the idea of more powers for Scotland but many, particularly from Labour's English heartlands, want further devolution for their areas too.

    A growing number also believe that the West Lothian Question, concerning the voting rights and responsibilities of Scottish MPs, also needs to be looked at.

    The conference will get the chance to make its feelings about Scotland known this afternoon when the Scottish leaders address delegates in their formal report on Scotland.

    The shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran will say that the Labour Party must reach out to people who voted Yes across Scotland last week and assure them that real change is coming.

    Text 80295 07:10: Referendum - Get Involved

    Anon: Surely English people have some entitlement too? I feel Scots MPs should be banned from voting on English-only issues. In return, then Scotland will get some more powers. Let's hope the Scots don't feel that somehow they're more worthy then all others, they're not.

    07:04: Commons voting rights limited?

    David Cameron is hosting a summit of senior Conservative MPs at Chequers to discuss plans to limit the Commons voting rights of Scottish MPs.

    The prime minister has said a pledge to give Scotland more powers should go hand in hand with changing the role of Scottish politicians at Westminster.

    Alex Salmond (left) and David Cameron

    However, Labour leader Ed Miliband is opposed to linking the two issues.

    The three main parties pledged more devolution during the campaign to encourage Scots to reject independence.

    07:01: Labour 'reaches out' to 'Yes' voters

    Labour aims to reach out to supporters who voted for independence in last week's referendum.

    Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran said senior party figures would meet Labour voters who backed independence in last week's referendum.

    Three of the four local authorities where a majority of people voted "Yes" were Labour-controlled.

    And the SNP, Scottish Greens and Scottish Socialist Party say they have recruited many former Labour members.

    07:00: Thomas McGuigan BBC Scotland News

    Good morning and welcome to today's live page coverage of the latest post-referendum news and analysis.



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