An edited version of this appeared in the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser
It seems that this will be my last letter to the advertiser on the subject of Scottish independence. Yesterday I sat outside the Scottish Parliament and watched the great and the good troop inside, where they announced that the Vow had been delivered, with Michael Moore MP describing it as “Home Rule for Scotland”. With home rule recommended by the Smith Commission I have nothing left to campaign for.
It’s a great pity that newspapers don’t include smiley’s on the letters page, as that first paragraph would have been accompanied by a sarcastic one. A really big one.
Home rule? It’s far from it. The list of reserved powers is substantial. The minimum wage, VAT, fuel duty, equality, pensions, child benefits, foreign policy, weapons of mass destruction, the list goes on and on. We were promised “Near Federalism” and “Devo-Max”. We have been palmed off with ‘Devo Hee-Haw’ and it has to be remembered that these are just proposals. They still have to go in front of our Imperial Masters in London where they will no doubt be picked apart and further reduced.
After all the noise coming from Jim Murphy as he flip-flopped on the subject of tax, the reality was disappointing to say the least: 70% of taxes and 85% of welfare spending remains under London’s control. Oh, and the Scottish Government will be allowed to bid for (not renationalise) the rail franchise in Scotland. Given that it isn’t allowed to raise extra money and everything it does raise will simply reduce the block grant of our own money that we get back anyway, I’m mystified as to how it could get the funding for this without stripping it from elsewhere.
The simple fact is we have been offered a few token changes to meet the so called Vow, which according to a Freedom of Information request made recently, the UK Cabinet Office has no record of. It would seem that with nae power comes great responsibility. We can gather in and distribute money on behalf of London and pretend it is power. But how can we do anything about poverty when we cannot even set a minimum wage? The simple answer is we cannot. We can tinker with the edges, fiddle here and there but the power to change anything in real, meaningful terms is not available to us. Former leader of the Labour Party (Scotland branch) Iain Grey said that “any politician seeing these powers coming to them should be excited about the possibilities…” I’d suggest that if that’s what excites him he should perhaps call it a day, like many other Labour high-heidyins.
On the upside, the Smith Commission has recommended that we are given control over road signs. Unsurprisingly I’d like them to be tartan…