Sunday, 27 November 2011

Devolution-Max: a dangerous Red-Herring

Devolution Max is a dangerous red herring for the country. Actually, looking at what I have just written gives pause for thought because I don’t actually know what is meant by the phrase, (should that be slogan?), “Devolution Max”.  Do you? Does anyone?
According to the political pundits and its supporters Devo Max is “more powers for Holyrood”. But which “more powers”? And how powerful are these “more powers”? And why do we need them? And what would we do with them? And what would be the effect on Scotland and the UK of Scotland having these magical but still undefined “more powers”? I have to admit, I don’t really know the full extent of it - nor does anyone, least of all the Scottish people.
I do know that Devo Max is not Labour policy. In fact it’s not anyone’s policy. It has never been through the furnace of proposal, analysis, consultation, revision, refinement, explanation, clarification and commitment to manifesto and voter acceptance that any policy needs to gain support and legitimacy. There is no party or democratic mandate for Devo Max.
So that’s the first question: why embrace an idea that is not fully defined, which has never been in anyone’s manifesto, which has no democratic mandate, which is little more than a slogan and of which we know only the outline but which has the potential to take us far beyond anything we have ever voted for? 
But of course we do know something of what its supporters want. They want “Full Fiscal Autonomy”. By that they mean that, broadly speaking, all taxes raised in Scotland will be kept in Scotland. By any analysis I have seen this would shrink the Scottish Executive’s income and the public sector even more than currently threatened by the coalition. They want to keep the Queen as Head of State and the British military as our national defence arm. They want other things, I’m sure, but that’s all I can really pin down from all the endless discussion of Devo Max and it’s suitability as a second question on the “independence” referendum. 
And that’s the other thing the Devo Max brigade wants: they want it as a second question on a referendum ballot on “independence”.

Question: “do you want “independence”?

Answer: no fear!

“OK then, do you want “more powers””?

“More powers”! That sounds wonderful. How can anyone turn down “more powers”?
OK we’ll have “more powers” taverymuch”

Federalism has been a Lib Dem aim, quietly unspoken, never trumpeted, but lurking at the back of their policy locker for use in constitutional discussions when the need arises. Some Lib Dems are attracted to the possibility that Devo Max might be a Trojan horse for federalism. “We want change. Not more Devolution or “independence”. Federalism, that’s it”. And of course “federalism” has no democratic mandate either. And federalism isn’t Devolution or “independence”. Whereas Devolution is the enacted will of the Scottish people and while it could be argued that there is a democratic mandate for a referendum on “independence” (many legal questions still to be answered of course), federalism has no such justification.
So. We have “independence” which is sure to lose in any one-question referendum, and we have this slogan that no-one can (or wants to) define properly in any detail , that would make us worse off but is psychological catnip to the voters. Why on Earth would we want to muddy the waters by including it alongside the SNP’s losing proposition? After all it’s their ideal second prize. “Oh well, we lost this one, but look at the losing bonus....!! Almost everything we want and we didn’t even have to campaign for it, our opponents did that for us”. Quickly followed by: “Whit a buncha dopes”.
It’s even more bizarre that any of the major parties can contemplate offering Devo Max to the nats as a consolation prize when the Calman proposals for “more powers for Holyrood” are currently in the process of being enacted by Westminster. These are our “more powers”. We thought them through and campaigned on them. They are a sensible extension of the devolution powers that Labour and the other parties introduced against the opposition of the SNP. Why would we want another question on “more powers” with Calman on the stocks but not yet tested to see if the “more powers” included in the Scotland Bill actually work?
My old Grannie used to say “Cui bono, youngyin, cui bono”. And the cui who bonos from a second, Devo Max question on the referendum ballot, is one trader in oleum serpens who goes by the name of Eckus obesus. Imagine the grins on nationalist faces the day after they lose the “independence” referendum, but still walk away with a prize. And more importantly, the mood in the country: wily old Alex, he’s lost and yet still won and lives to fight another day. That Labour bunch, they know nothing.
Devolution Max is a dangerous red herring. It is ill-defined, it has no democratic mandate, its effects are unpredictable but very possibly dramatic, it drives towards a federalist position (something no-one wants), it will reduce the public sector in Scotland below even the current planned cuts, it has potential to cause much disruption within the UK, it opens the door to more possibilities for nationalist trouble making and it provides a nice “second prize” to the SNP for losing their referendum on “independence”
Apart from that....


  1. Aye Braveheart, all totally logical but all your diatribe demonstrates is that your party wants to change nothing! More of the same ie keep the pretendy Parliament where we always intended it to be, whilst you carry on appealing to Middle England!

  2. Diametrically wrong.

    I would like to see better schools, hospitals, public services. I.e. everything the SNP isn't delivering.

    As it says on my profile...

    "I'm just a sensible, moderate, fellow, who thinks that the Tories have the wrong recipe for a decent society. Even when they correctly identify the problem, they always get the wrong solution. I also believe that chasing Scottish independence is a sad waste of time and energy. It's a great sorrow to me that I have spent so much of my political energy opposing Tory wrong headedness about the Welfare State and Nationalist wrong headedness about the constitution, rather than concentrating on addressing the real problems in our country."

    I just don't want the change you want.

    I want change for improvement, not change for destruction.

  3. Are you serious?
    You had 13 years to do that - unopposed! And that is just the UK. In Scotland you have had power for most of the last century! And you failed abominably with parts of Scotland having worse deprivation than parts of the third World!
    Your time is over!

  4. And the SNP has had over four years and have achieved virtually nothing.

    Let's take schools: between 2003 and 2007 my local council, with 80% subsidy from Holyrood, built 5 PPP schools.

    The SNP came to power promising to oppose PPP but, even so, to "matcLabors school building programme brick for brick".

    Some hope. The blind ideaological opposition to PPP and the fact that they had no prepared alternative meant no Holyrood funding for new schools.

    We stll have not, 4.5 years later, put even one brick on another in my councvil area.

    The story is the same all over Scotland. Labour at Holyrood provided large subsidies for new schools. Hundreds were built.

    I would be surprised if even 10 new schools have been started, never mind finished, win the country, ith any subsidy from Holyrood, since the SNP took control.

    Four years ago we had a community hospital on the drawing board but dtill nothing built or even started. .. The new Forh Valley hospital that has been getting good publicity recently for its robot dispensing systems is a PPP project started under Labour. As far as I know, no new hospitals have been built with Holyrood financing (If I'm wrong please feel free to name successfully completed projects).

    Labour has achieved plenty and the SNP not a lot.

    Or maybe you could list the SNP's actual achievemts, number and names of schools and hospitals financed by Holyrood especially welcome.....

    BTW picking fights with Westminster doesn't count as a real achievement.

  5. The public want more powers not the damaging Scotland Bill and only Westminster can offer those so if no one comes up with with what the public desires then only Independence will be on the referendum ballot.

    Your legacy to Scotland is an ever larger debt bill to make your wealthy friends wealthier.

  6. I agree with you that the public doesn't want "independence".

    As for my wealthy friends, have you seen this?

    like to comment?

  7. Devo Max (whatever it is) shouldn't necessarily be ruled out by Labour but not discussed/debated properly until the SNP's independence referendum is resolved.