It’s time we reform the devolution settlement and our relationship with Westminster.
I’m not talking about the manifesto agenda shared by the SNP, Greens and Alba. I’m talking about a non-partisan conversation about how powers are shared between Parliaments.
We’re coming up for 25 years since devolution began… that’s around the timeframe those arguing against a full-blown referendum would suggest with the slippery ‘neverendum’ idea. An idea that suggests we should wait a certain amount of time before we have such big conversations like this.
The often-cited, baseless, timeframe is usually about 25-30 years.
Again, I’m not talking about an independence referendum. I’m talking about a conversation to be had regarding the devolution agreement specifically, that was last visited 25 years ago.
I was watching the BBC’s Politics Live last week and one of the guest snarled at Alastair Campbell for suggesting Scotland should have its own Parliament.
There was an aura of arrogance in the comment to follow, when he goes ‘yeah, but nationalism up there has been turbocharged. Are you saying you’ve got no regrets?’
With respect pal, it was the people of Scotland who decided the SNP are now relevant. Just as it is up to us to decide if they’re ever not relevant.
The SNP wereny saltire waving bigots when they rose to power… two tremendously talented, some would say world class, politicians in Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon pointed out that we weren’t getting a good enough deal from our agreement with Westminster.
It was that very argument that changed the whole political landscape in Scotland… transforming the dated, automatic perception that ‘if you’re working class, vote Labour’ into one that delves deeper. One that thinks of other ways to get a fairer shout for ordinary Scottish folk.
All of a sudden, Scots had a proper voice.
This then laid the groundwork for each side the independence referendum that followed years later: who will get the best deal out of the two proposed political systems for folk in Scotland.
The Better Together campaign even promised more powers and responsibility for the Scottish Parliament.
We all know how that promise turned out.
And aye, we rejected the motion. Most folk didn’t fancy the instability that may come with independence or the potential for their EU passport to be taken away.
Stability and EU membership… we all know how those promises turned out.
…but to say the last 20 years in Scottish politics has been a mere ‘turbo-charge in Nationalism’ is ignorance of the highest order.
The independence movement is still alive and kicking because of the embedded ‘we’ll decide’ culture shared amongst politicians and commentators in the Westminster bubble. The SNP, for this very reason, aren’t going away any time soon. The latest independence poll shows support at 53%.
To give the bubble credit, you could see why they’re seek of us.
The seemingly never-ending conversation of whether independence would do better than the status quo… you could see why folk down there are hinkin ‘aw can that mob just get on with it.’
Hence the snarling fae heid the baw on Politics Live.
But I’ll remind said heid the baw… it’ll be us that decide. That’s how democracy works.
That being said… I do think a new approach to our politics in Scotland is needed. The stalemate we find ourselves in just now isn’t working.
Politicians are tip toeing around the worry that one slip up will change the course of Scotland’s history. Issues unrelated to the constitution are being politicised. Media outlets are daein everyone’s heid in because we’re constantly trying to read between the lines. On both sides.
So a perfectly viable conversation, at least for now, would be to recognise that there is appetite for change on this issue and propose a system in which power sharing on smaller scales are openly debated and put through without fear of power-grabbing compromise.
It could, and should, start with Scottish parties separating themselves entirely from their UK counterparts. MSPs would belong to Scottish Labour, the Scottish Lib Dems and the Scottish Conservatives. They’d be seeking reform in the best ideological interests for Scottish matters alone. It’s an absolute nonsense this hasn’t happened already.
What you’re voting for with these parties compared to the promises made by their UK-wide leaders is astonishingly different. Labour being the biggest culprit.
It would also rid this obvious agenda from the Conservatives to undermine the Parliament, trying to make its closure a more viable shout. They’d be working within the Scottish Parliament, for the Scottish Parliament.
This would instantly give the Scottish electorate and our nation more respect. It would also give distinct clarity in our decision-making.
And within our Parliament, the proposed change would be an ability to request more (or less) devolved powers in an agreed and respected procedure without the fear of full blown separation. This could be debated respectfully and serve the interests of each party much better.
Alex Cole Hamilton, for example, said he’d like the Scottish Parliament to have full powers on handling drugs (Untribal Podcast). The Scottish Liberal Democrats would be able to propose this change & if it were widely agreed upon by a clear majority, the process of handing that power to Scotland would be done so without the justification-free veto called Section 35.
There is a drugs crisis in Scotland. Its severity is particularly high in Scotland. Scottish decision-makers don’t have the full breadth of powers to radically improve the issue. There is cross-party support for devolving such powers.
…so what’s the hold up?
Could we no have something in place that rids the power grabs, the averages played with votes in mind… a more simple democracy?
Of course, legal specifications would require time with some sort of review… but if it were in the interest of parties across the chamber in Scotland, they could work together and make that case without the paranoia of full-blown constitutional change.
And if it doesn’t work, you’d have a mechanism in place to put this power back into the hands of Westminster. It doesn’t have to be one-way traffic.
All without the fuss, ulterior motives and the potential for a nationwide, blown-up conversation about full separation of countries.
There could be mechanisms in place to protect democracy… such as support in the parliament reflecting a certain percentage of vote share.
So, if the SNP and Greens were sitting on 45% of the vote share and handed a request for all powers, this could be denied and rightly so.
Or on the flip side, if the same parties were to make a referendum their key manifesto pledge and received over 50% of the vote share, they wouldn’t be denied and rightly so.
It would force the hand of both Labour and the Lib Dems, who want to see more localised decision-making in terms of fiscal powers.
If the SNP, for instance, were to throw in a shout of greater borrowing powers for local authorities when the UK Government isn’t already doing so… this would enable them to cooperate and get it done.
It would rid the idea of the SNP painting this picture of rainbows and unicorns without any idea of what they’d actually do with full powers… because it would also force their hand in working out and presenting the case for the use of specific powers and the results that would follow.
In turn, the electorate would have a far greater idea of what they’re getting with more independence.
Are the problems with the NHS really through constrained funding? Do union-favouring parties really think we’ve got enough in the pot already?
Well, ok then.. let’s see it. Let’s have a bash.
Some may be going right steady… Labour is already proposing big change. Did you no see Gordon Brown’s big hing he did?
Not only, in my opinion, does this not go far enough to quench the thirst of constitutional change in Scotland… I’ll be astounded if Keir Starmer actually does anything to change the democratic system UK wide.
His one-nation, tough on crime, socially conservative vision of Britain is at odds with Brown’s proposals. It’s not a coincidence there was no promises made at the release. Such change isn’t in the minds of leaders in Westminster.
Harsh assessment? Have a deek at how many Labour MPs voted to repeal the Public Order Act, clamping down on the right to protest.
And by the way, if he were to put in place the kind of change actually required in the Westminster system, a Labour leader wouldnae be getting away with that kind of rhetoric.
He knows fine well that the desperate working family, unable to heat their home or feed the kids, will vote Labour now anyway. The ‘safe seats’ in our two-party system has suited Labour and Conservatives for decades. Starmer would be out a job.
25 years since the devolution settlement… I think a reassessment is about due.
I’m not talking about a referendum… I’m talking about a review of how things work for devolved nations within the UK’s political union – an arguably separate topic entirely.
It wouldn’t end the independence movement. Nor would it end the union.
It’s a more colourful discussion of how things work. Improving the black-and-white decision-making in Scottish politics surrounding one issue. All without undermining the movement of independence and for unionism.
It would empower parties across the ideological spectrum and it would empower the disillusioned electorate as well.
Ask yourself this: what is stopping decisions being made with this line of thinking? Why have the UK reneged on their promises in 2014 to keep Scotland in the union? Why do we strive for opposition politics based on dividing a generally decent-minded population?
Gordon Brown’s proposal wasn’t good enough.. that’s another ‘here’s one that suits me, take what you can get’ scenario.
Another suggestion that fits a pattern of ‘we’ll decide.’
Another, ‘aye but we’re the big team, so shut it.’
England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland all have different problems that they need to be getting on with. Have a bit of faith in the electorate and put in place a respected agreement of distributing power.
In order for Scotland to move forward, the constitutional question needs to be stabilised.
Not done with… but stabilised.
The argument should’ve been put to bed, at least for a while, after there was a prolonged surge in support for independence at the beginning of Brexit. It was a key pledge made by the Better Together campaign and public opinion showed, indisputably, that Scotland wanted a recount. Consecutive polls either showing demand for either independence or a recount over several months.
The shift was clear, the Scottish electorate was denied this and we’re now the only country to be refused single market benefits having comfortably voted against leaving the EU.
And yet, however much of a judas that was, a lot has changed since then.
The perception of those bidding to guide us through full separation has changed. The whole cohort of leadership has changed. The democratic vision of how to get there, once communal and now not, has changed. The level of backing for the movement’s leading Party has changed.
And yet with the SNP being the only party promising a Brexit reversal, opinion polling on independence hasn’t dramatically surged.
To be clear, the SNP are no saints of democracy themselves. This may be the precise reason the Brexit-reversing argument isn’t as strong as it once was.
The SNP cry for democracy, and yet with 2/3 of their membership not voting for him, Humza Yousaf is our First Minister.
A bid that was won on continuity and yet several changes are to be made.
If the SNP were to uphold their credibility as the movement for democracy, they should’ve pulled the trigger on a Scottish General Election the second they seen that vote.
The decision made by the UK Government to deny a recount on the first referendum and the decision made by the Scottish Government not to trigger a Scottish General Election were both grounded in the same reasoning. Somewhere along the lines of ‘but it’s done now, that’s the process.’
The same reasoning, by the way, used by the Conservatives to withhold membership figures and being laughed at as a result.
There’s that much of it, it’s hard not to get lost in the mess… but I truly believe a conversation about the devolution settlement, without fear of triggering another huge vote on independence, is both a valid and all-profiting suggestion.
There is no reason why that kind of change can’t be made.
If similar-scale change held in a document posed by Gordon Brown, one that Anas Sawar and Keir Starmer are happy to pose beside for photos… why wouldn’t one that benefits everyone, not just the two main parties in Westminster, be just as reasonable?
Cos the alternative is what we’re seeing now: relentless gutter politics. Nicola Sturgeon is called a rapist-sympathiser. Rishi Sunak is called someone that think sex offenders should be free from punishment. Tactical voting is becoming normalised to suit personal agendas. Online careers are being made for being a ‘tory-hater.’
How the hell is someone unable to keep up with all this, ie most of the public, to make an informed decision when putting in their vote?
Or more importantly, what is this doing to ease the stereotype that politicians are all corrupt, lying, scumbags?