An article in Scotland on Sunday suggests that there is some support within the Scottish Conservatives to give Alex Salmond the votes he needs for the Holyrood parliament to authorise a referendum on independence.  The minority SNP-Green administration lacks the votes to honour Mr Salmond’s pledge to hold a referendum within the next four years.  Richard Cook, Tory Vice-Chairman and the fast-tracked Westminster parliamentary candidate for East Renfrewshire (pictured),  believes that a referendum is needed, however, to kill the uncertainty caused by the independence debate.  He told SoS’ Eddie Barnes:

"I’m personally in support of a referendum bill at the earliest possible opportunity, to remove the uncertainty already being created to business.  There are plenty of business people who are delaying taking business decisions at the moment, and that is jeopardising Scottish jobs and wealth creation in Scotland."

There are huge dangers in such a course.  Although the majority of votes cast in last month’s Scottish elections were for unionist parties, there must always be a danger that a vote for independence becomes muddled.  Scottish voters might use it as a referendum on a Prime Minister Gordon Brown, for example, if at the time of the vote he is crashing in the polls.  On the other hand, the advantages of a vote – in addition to those stated by Richard Cook – would include the positive message it would send to the English about Scots’ commitment to the Union and it would also give the Scottish political parties the freedom to address the real bread’n’butter issues.  With Scotland’s place in the Union settled, for example, the Scottish Tories could be freed to become the country’s leading party of small government, enterprise, public service reform and a tough approach to crime.

The SoS article notes that Annabel Goldie, leader of the Conservative MSPs, is "reluctant" to support the SNP’s ambitions for a vote.

3pm update: I have been texted by a senior MSP that this story is "complete nonsense."

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