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  1. ITV Report

Promises, promises: the debate over independence and pledges of more powers for Scotland

Would you trust the Labour party to deliver a pizza?

There was a time when Alex Salmond, now Scotland's First Minister, said that he didn't.

In the January before the 1997 UK general election the SNP was considering what it would do about Labour's proposed referendum on devolution.

Up until then the party had stuck to the line that it did not support devolution, which some saw as a Unionist trap. Only independence would do.

However, a certain political reporter (OK, it was me) got wind of the fact that the SNP was moving towards supporting Labour's call for a 'Yes, Yes' vote - on setting up a parliament and giving the new institution limited tax powers.

It was a strategy that Mr Salmond, who has always been a constitutional gradualist, was working towards but did not want to say so at the time. He was still trying to convince has party hard-liners, the 'fundamentalists'.

So I asked for a quote from the SNP leader and this is what he told me in The Scotsman of 22 January 1997.

"I would not trust Labour to deliver a pizza let alone a Scottish parliament.

"They should listen to the people who clearly say independence should be on the ballot paper.

"With support for devolution down to 40 per cent, it is simply unsustainable for Tony Blair to try to disenfranchise the third of Scots who believe in independence by imposing a rigged referendum from London."

– Alex Salmond, January 1997

Then, as now, the SNP leader was always good with a soundbite.

And, of course, the SNP under Mr Salmond's leadership, did eventually come round to supporting the 'Yes, Yes' side in the devolution referendum after Labour had won the UK election.

But does this matter today as we head towards the referendum on independence which Mr Salmond, now First Minister, has brought to fruition, a vindication of his 'gradualist' strategy?

Yes. Because the SNP government is making a very similar point to the one Mr Salmond made back in the day about the promises the three main Unionist parties are making if Scots vote 'No' on September 18.

Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats all say that if there is a 'No' vote they will give the Scottish parliament more clout.

The details vary but all want to increase the tax powers to a greater or lesser extent and devolve certain other responsibilities, including some parts of welfare.

It is these promises that the SNP call into question. The "pizza" line has not been used (yet) but Nationalists insist the only way for Scotland to get more power is to vote 'Yes'.

The SNP message is simple: they say voters can't trust the Unionist parties to deliver more powers, something polls consistently show the Scottish electorate want.

To which Labour replies that, supported by the Liberal Democrats at the time, it delivered far more than a pizza - a devolved Scottish parliament with substantial powers - in 1999.

And the Conservatives, this time in a UK coalition with the Lib Dems, say that the recent Scotland Act, based on the Unionist cross-party Calman Commission, will soon give Scotland more power, including over borrowing.

These claims and counter claims about who you can and cannot trust - what you might call the pizza question - will be at the heart of the referendum campaign as we hurtle towards Scotland's date with destiny.