FORMER SNP policy chief Chris Hanlon’s call for a third option on the indyref2 ballot paper sparked debate within Scottish political circles today. We asked a handful of National columnists and contributors to share their views on the proposals.

Kirsty Strickland

It’s been interesting to read the different perspectives people have on the idea of a third option on the indyref2 ballot.

While I can see the merits of the so-called "devo max" proposal and agree that it might well be a way to break the constitutional impasse in the short term, I’m still not convinced that it would be the right approach.

In 2014, Scotland voted no to independence. Most would agree that since that vote, a lot has changed. The offer on the table for Scots next time around will be markedly different to what was rejected before.

The UK has now left the European Union, despite a majority of Scots voting to remain.

READ MORE: Professor John Curtice: What is devo-max and do Scots want it?

Just as the prospectus for an independent Scotland will have to be updated, so too will the arguments put forward from the pro-union side on why they think Scotland’s needs are best served by staying part of the UK.

Those arguments have not been tested yet. The country is split 50/50 on what path we should take.

Until that question – in this new post-Brexit landscape – has been asked and answered, we shouldn’t be tempted into another.

The SNP has won every election in Scotland since 2014. With varying degrees of force and prominence, they have won on a manifesto that has included a commitment to holding another independence referendum.

At the last Holyrood election, they secured the mandate for that once again.

Yet Westminster refuses to budge.

How do the Scottish Government intend to overcome that mighty hurdle? That’s a question we really do need an answer to.

Ruth Wishart 

Given that there’s been a rash of enthusiasm for devo-max amongst Unionist writers of late, it’s surprising, to say the very least, to find men like Chris Hanlon and Alba’s Kenny MacAskill backing it too.

For my money it’s the most obvious of traps designed to give the switherers a handy get out clause. The mebbes ayes and mebbes naws can salve their conscience with a mebbes one day, mebbes never.

Like the infamous Vow and promises of federalism, these are no more than devices to neutralise enthusiasm for independence. We have seen this movie too many times before – promises of devo-max which all too soon became devo-minimalist.

Far from breaking the constitutional log jam, it will merely give breathing space and a new platform to those who would like to kick an independent future into the longest possible grass. We accept this poisoned chalice at our peril.

The log-jam I want dispersed is the hiatus which sees Yes supporters champing at the bit to deliver a campaign – with or without a new referendum.

If people are prepared to go into bat for anything less than full autonomous statehood, they will get nothing more than a shilpit deal designed to preserve the status quo.

Ask yourself this: Would you trust Boris Johnson or Michael Gove to honour any promises made on a third way?

Devo-max is yesterday’s news. An ex political parrot. Time it was given a decent burial.

Assa Samake-Roman

The French are a notoriously sceptical people. We can’t ever support anything with great enthusiasm. It always has to come with a caveat and a healthy dose of dubiety.

That is why I am instinctively drawn to alternatives, ideas to challenge more radical proposals. I don’t think I’d be the kind to wear a Yes badge with much conviction. But if anyone feels like printing a badge saying “Mouais”, a dissatisfied, doubtful and somewhat contrived yes, please give me a shout, and I’ll be the first one to buy it.

I can see the merits of having a third option on a constitutional ballot, instead of a binary independence vs status-quo question. In the deeply fractious times we’re living, it would be an easy way to reconcile fellow “Mouais” badge wearers who support independence because the status quo is unsustainable rather than for a deep-seated philosophical belief in Scottish independence, and those who support the Union for political, economic, and even sentimental reasons. Nobody wants to see the kind of divisions Brexit created happen in Scotland. Moreover, I believe that having devo-max on the table would help improve the quality of the constitutional debate: It would force everyone to really detail the worth of their position.

READ MORE: Senior SNP politicians hit back at multi-option second independence referendum

However, I can’t help but feel slightly disenchanted whenever I hear about alternatives to independence. Without trust between Scotland and the UK, this debate is useless, and it is fair to say that between the governments of Scotland and the UK, trust has been broken for a long time. For the people of Scotland to agree to devo-max, Westminster would need to give guarantees that I don’t think they would ever agree to. Chris Hanlon mentions, for example, giving Scotland the right to hold future referendums whenever the nation wants: Is this something that the Conservatives, or the Labour Party if they win the next elections, are willing to seriously engage with? I would be surprised if they were.

For as long as the conversation remains about whichever powers Westminster is willing to part with, or a thought experiment in the devolved nations that is not getting any traction south of the border, devo-max will remain precisely that, a thought experiment. And I shall remain with my “Mouais” badge, for lack of a better option.

Craig Dalzell

As Chris Hanlon suggested, adding devo-max to a future indyref ballot paper may well improve the current political log-jam, would provide a distinctive niche for some in the political sphere and may be attractive to some who sit on that knife-edge of decision between independence and the status-quo – as I once did until the 2012 Edinburgh Agreement pushed me towards independence.

However, we’ve already seen the difficulties in implementing “further devolution” in Scotland with many of the powers promised in 2016 either scrapped (VAT assignment, Air Passenger Duty), greatly delayed (Aggregates Levy) or made much more complex and costly to implement due to problems communicating between Scottish and UK government departments. Policies like a Universal Basic Income pilot have been made essentially impossible due to lack of co-operation from HMRC and the DWP.

READ MORE: What do you think of a three-option independence referendum?

There is a strong case to make that it would be easier to deliver these powers in an independent Scotland. Devo-max would be magnified in complexity if devolution wasn’t just extended in Scotland but also in Wales, Northern Ireland and regions of England. More so again if powers continue to be devolved “asymmetrically”. And more so again if devolved governments deeply diverge their policies in those areas.

Devo-max is now the least developed of the three options that Scotland could potentially vote for. If its proponents seriously want to see it on the ballot paper then it is up to them to solve these problems well ahead of time and to the level of detail and scrutiny that they demand of proponents of independence.