Monday, 27 April 2015

Memo that No One is Asking for Yet

This is basically the letter I sent to the Smith commission in October. A few minor tweaks and it's a memo to Miliband and Clegg for May 8th. Just because his Lordship paid no attention (why would he?) doesn't mean that I have any expectations that anyone else will give a monkeys either, but I wanted it on the record.  Rather like applying for an important job that you know you won't get, because when they give it to some tosser, you can say to least I tried.

What follows is an attempt to make the best of a bad job anyway. Had some specific package of "Devo Max" been on the ballot paper in September...then...Wha Kens?


Here goes.
"The nearest I can get to a "solution" to both Scottish and English demands for "home rule" that doesn't explode almost instantaneously into chaos and vitriol is a properly federal wholesale reconfiguration of how these islands are governed - a writing of Britain's unwritten constitution.
This would entail , as a minimum condition of success and minimal durability, a full "granting" or "devolving" - or, more properly, "acknowledging" - of popular sovereignty within Scotland as an autonomous democratic entity and that this sovereignty be reflected in a new democratic constitution for all of the nations. Power would need to transferred wholesale. And Scotland would then decide what, if any, sovereignty it would be appropriate to devolve "back" to Westminster and Brussels.
And write it down,  for God's sake.  Enough of this "unwritten" "glorious compromise" bullshit
This constitution would need a specific democratic mandate. We'd all have a good fight about what form that should take, but it must be decided on the simple basis of popular sovereignty within Scotland as mandated through the democratic process.  It must be a  vote conducted here that needs no permission from elsewhere to be binding.
This fully autonomous "region" of the UK then devolves "back" an agreed package of powers over matters agreed by a democratic mandate at some future date. 
The details of the powers and responsibilities we hand back will probably need to be taken at a properly informed and briefed constitutional convention after an election in which a mandate can be sought. The Scottish and general elections of 2020 spring to mind. No less heated or fraught an alternative to "independence", to schism through crisis rather than reform through negotiation, is available. 
But the specific packages of proposals on proportion of taxes and English votes for English laws etc etc on offer at the moment look more like a poker game with Smarties than any serious attempt to address constitutional anomalies which can only properly be decided in detail and then put to a popular vote to receive a mandate.
Yes...there needs to be another referendum, but this time as proper one based on legislation we can actually read, not between two varieties of pigs in pokes.
Independence vs federalism. Now there's an interesting argument. 
To pretend that the recent No vote decided all this for a generation in any but the most superficially legalistic and wholly symbolic sense, and then to expect that "settled will" to be permanent, is several degrees past wishful thinking.
On principle, I believe that only a permanent and irevocable transfer of constitutional "power of decision" to Scotland would both reflect the sea change implicit in recent events and go some way towards marrying the aspirations expressed by Yes and No voters, and those two halves of Scotland that vote for the SNP or for anybody else next week.
It seems clear even at this stage that any consensual package agreeable to all three main Westminster parties that retains all decisions over further devolution in Westminster's exclusive gift cannot be stable, even if it is capable of being stitched together in a "let's pretend" way after the election.
The bottom line of any sustainable settlement, whether we call it independence or transferred sovereignty or federalism or association...or man in the moon mushrooms,is that meaningful democratic sovereignty of decision on these matters remains where the referendum put it,  in the democratic gift of the Scottish people, and not of the Crown in Parliament". 

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