Monday 20 October 2014

Second Thoughts On, and My Letter to, the Smith Commission

The closer I can bring myself to look at any party proposed devolution package, the more blithering, unstable and unlikely they all look. They will either be insulting to a large proportion of the Scottish electorate or will be clearly unacceptable to the UK parliament.

(Labour seem to have three or four of their own alternatives to choose between...based on the leaderships in London and Scotland..and Gordon Brown and the Scottish party activists...)

I genuinely hope that His Lordship's Commission survives past the first meeting of the parties on Wednesday 22nd October...

But just in case, I thought I'd get this on the record first - for the sake of the mental exercise and in the fractional hope of a positive result.


"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.

This fully autonomous "region" of the UK then devolves "back" an agreed package of powers over matters agreed first by consensus and then by a democratic mandate at some future  date.  The details of the powers and responsibilities probably need  to be taken at a properly informed and briefed constitutional convention after the 2015 election which then seeks a specific mandate for its proposals at and through the 2016 election in Scotland.

No less heated or fraught a forum is available.

But the specific packages of proposals on proportion of taxes 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.

I am not suggesting another referendum to approve the "package"...rather that this mandate be specifically sought and staged in 2015 and 2016.

(This is the best of a bad job.  Had some specific package of "Devo Max" been on the ballot paper in September...then...)

It may yet be possible to create a package of "principle " in time for 2015 that then mandates the convention whose conclusions can be included, or not, in the parties manifestos in the Scottish elections in 2016.

In any eventuality, the Scottish people must give a fresh specific mandate to fresh specific powers. To pretend that the recent No vote did that 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.

(Rather as have been the various "demands " that the SNP now do the decent thing and, in effect, voluntarily cease to exist when they have just trebled their membership.)

On principle, however, I believe that only a permanent 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 the two largest political parties in Scotland.

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 for the 2015 election.

I urge the "pro-independence" parties to do their utmost to achieve consensus, but that the bottom line is that meaningful democratic sovereignty of decision on these matters remain in the democratic gift of the Scottish people, and not of the Crown in Parliament as at present.  "

So there we go.  That's what I've sent in this morning.

On reflection, it's rather like applying for a really important job in the full knowledge that you won't get it.  At least you'll know, when they give the gig to some knob head, that  you tried.