Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Too Late

The Guardian today has an article in which a former senior civil servant suggests Westminster need to make a big, bold offer to Scotland with regard to further devolution, in order to head off the SNP surge and prevent independence.

It's too late.

Here's the thing: I am fully convinced that there is a majority in Scotland in favour of Devo Max. I'm firmly convined that most Scots would be quite happy for Scotland to remain nominally as part of the UK, while at the same taking responsibility for running its own affairs. Had Devo-Max been on the ballot paper last year, it would almost certainly have won, and indeed I do believe that the Vow proved to be the knock-out blow in the Independence Referendum (it probably wasn't decisive, but it was probably the difference between a victory on points and a victory by KO, to use a boxing metaphor).

And, had Westminster delivered what people thought was being promised by the Vow, the issue would now be done and dusted.

But it wasn't. What people thought was being promised was Gordon Brown's "modern form of Home Rule", and "close to federalism", or what Alistair Darling agreed was Devo-Max. (Technically, the only thing that was actually promised were the things listed in that Daily Record front page with the leader's signatures attached. That is, to make the Scottish Parliament permanent, "extensive" new powers, and a timetable for bringing this about. When dealing with lawyers, and most of our MPs are lawyers, it's always important to read the small print.)

So, the Smith Commission fulfils the letter of the Vow. But it most certainly does not fulfil people's expectations. Virtually nobody in Scotland thinks it goes far enough, and all of the parties in Holyrood agree. And in politics, it's what people think that matters, not whether you've technically met the letter of what you've said.

So it's too late for more "offers" or "discussions". If Westminster wants to head off the SNP surge, they need to deliver Home Rule before campaigning starts for the Scottish elections next year.

(Of course, Westminster, which really means the Tories, have no real interest in heading off the SNP surge. They've lost Scotland already, and they know it, and they also know that the SNP have peaked - since they only stand in Scotland they can't advance much further. Heading off the SNP surge only benefits Labour, who are an at least theoretical threat to the Tories. And as for independence, as I said in another post it's easy enough for Westminster to at least delay that one for a good long time.)

#44: "Pathfinder: In Hell's Bright Shadow", by Crystal Frasier
#45: "Crime and Punishment", by Fyodor Dostoevsky (a book from The List)

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