Draw a Line in the Sand for more powers to the Scottish Parliament

By David Thomson

I am going to take you back to around ten days before voting day for the Referendum on Scottish Independence. A poll by YouGov/Sunday Times taken between the 2nd and 5th September that showed for the first time that the Yes camp have a lead of two per cent.

This panicked the so called “Westminster elite” that David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg missed PMQs to campaign in Scotland for Better Together.

At the same time, former Prime Minster, Gordon Brown raised his profile in the campaign by promising the Scottish people that he will bring in legislation that will bring more devolution to the Scottish Parliament. This is what became known as the “Vow” that had the backing of the three main Westminister parties, and the Daily Record.

The “Vow” pledges that “Because of the continuation of the Barnett allocation of resources, and the powers of the Scottish Parliament to raise revenue, we can state categorically that the final say on how much is spent on the NHS will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.”

Brown added: “So let us lock in three guarantees that will deliver the best deal for a stronger Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom. The guarantees that we now have paved the way to the future – a great Scotland as a driving, successful and vibrant nation playing its full part in Great Britain.

“I believe what I am saying locks in a period of constitutional improvement and progress in preference to the risk-laden and dangerous change offered from an irreversible separation from which there is no going back.”

The reason why this is important was that just before the Robert Burns’ Day, the UK Government brought legislation that will strengthen the Scottish Parliament, as the three main Westminister parties “Vowed” to do.

The legislation was based on the recommendations from the Smith Commission – the former head of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games – that had representatives from the five parties at Holyrood.

In the legislation that was brought forward, some of the powers include keeping the Barnett Formula, be able to nationalise the rail network and have control of the Crown Estate.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron does go on to say why the legislation is in keeping of the “Vow” that was made made before the Referendum, by saying: “In September the people of Scotland came out in record numbers to decide the future of the United Kingdom.

“They voted clearly and decisively to keep our family of nations together. But a ‘no’ vote did not mean ‘no change’.

“The leaders of the other main political parties and I promised extensive new powers for the Scottish Parliament – a vow – with a clear process and timetable. And now, here we have it: new powers for Scotland, built to last, securing our united future.”

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, says that the proposals do not represent the views of the Scottish Government. Sturgeon adds:”Too much of what the Prime Minister has set out imposes restrictions on the recommended devolved powers and would hand a veto to UK ministers in key areas. “For example, the proposals on welfare do not allow us to vary Universal Credit without the permission of the UK Government. That means – under the current proposals – we will not have the independence to take action to abolish the bedroom tax.

“At the same time, the power argued for by stakeholders to create new benefit entitlements in any devolved area has simply not been delivered, while the command paper makes clear that, pending devolution of disability support, the rollout of personal independence payments and the cut in spending on disability benefits will continue.”

Even though the Scottish Government is looking to pick a fight with Westminster, they are all ready using the powers that will be given to the Scottish Parliament before it becomes law. The Scottish Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, has recently announced that there will a ban on fracking in Scotland until further research and a public consultation has been carried out.

Ewing reported to Parliament, said: “The Scottish Government has taken a cautious, considered and evidence-based approach to unconventional oil and gas and fracking.

“I have listened carefully to concerns raised by local communities and environmental campaigners. We have put in place robust environmental regulation, tougher planning rules and successfully opposed the UK Government’s plans to end Scottish householders’ rights to object to drilling under their homes.

“We recognise that local communities are likely to bear the brunt of any unconventional oil and gas developments, particularly in terms of increased traffic and related emissions and noise impacts. These are issues that must be researched further.”

Ahead of this May’s General Election, the question for the electorate in Scotland to decide is: Has the UK Government kept to the “Vow”? The simple answer is Yes, as it was shown in the Referendum that the Scottish people want more devolution for Scotland, but not independence. As Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, said as part of her leadership election campaign, this should be a “line in the sand” moment for any more powers to the Scottish Parliament.

1 Response

  1. Bill

    If Westminster “draw a line in the sand” on the compromised Smith Commission powers (which are meager) I suspect that the UK will shortly be going it alone without Scotland.

Leave a Reply