The devolution debate gets ugly

The consensus which sought to keep Scotland in the UK has well and truly ended.

As the UK government prepares to publish a paper outlining options on the future of devolution in Scotland following the independence referendum, the consensus that brought the unionist parties together to keep Scotland in the UK has well and truly ended.

From a campaign that was united and disciplined, Labour and the Conservatives are now at each other’s throats, raising the very real possibility that the timetable envisaged for further powers to be devolved to Holyrood could be missed, handing the SNP a substantial boost.

Speaking to the Sky News Murnaghan programme yesterday, the former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown accused David Cameron of being “unstatesman-like” for the way he unilaterally decided the day after the referendum that further powers for Scotland would be conditional on the introduction of some form of English votes for English Laws. Accusing the Conservatives of playing “fast and loose with the constitution”, he explained:

“You cannot promise Scotland something on a Tuesday then change the offer the day after the referendum on the Friday and I think the Conservatives have got to think again about playing fast and loose with the constitution.”

As he unveiled his own proposals in a submission to the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform committee, Brown has warned that Tory plans for all income tax powers to be devolved to Scotland and the introduction of English votes for English laws risks breaking up the very union that the Better Together campaign had fought so hard to save just a few weeks ago.

In his submission, the former prime minister argued that devolving all income tax was a “Trojan horse” that could lead to the UK as we know it unravelling altogether, a union which, he argued, relied on the “pooling and sharing” of resources.

Arguing that a combination of such powers being devolved alongside restricting the rights of Scottish MPs to vote on certain matters would lead to the UK struggling to endure, he continued:

“Countries can be lost by accident and even when the majority are for them, Unions can disintegrate because of mistakes.

“Taken together these two Conservative proposals for Scotland are a lethal cocktail which drive a wedge between Scotland and England, are exactly the springboard for separation the nationalists want and deal a potentially fatal blow to the maintenance of the Union.”

Under Brown’s proposals the Scottish Parliament would be given responsibility for raising 54 per cent of its own revenue, quadrupling the figure from the £4bn it currently raises to £18bn in 2016.

This is in contrast to the 40 per cent figure proposed in Scottish Labour’s formal submission to the Commission led by Lord Smith of Kelvin looking at these issues.

The former prime minister has backed Labour’s plans to put three-quarters of basic rate income tax in Scotland under the control of the Scottish parliament, but has gone further by proposing the assignment of 50 per cent of VAT revenues, totalling £5.5bn.

Brown’s warning over the potential of sleep walking to independence was echoed over the weekend by the former Labour first minister Henry McLeish. Speaking at the Scottish Green Party conference in Edinburgh, he argued:

“My worry is if we continue just to look at Scotland and get more powers, and powers and powers, we get no codified constitution in the UK, no solution for England, and Wales is dangling.

“That is a dangerous recipe because Scotland will be going further and further out on a limb, and maybe the only thing that could happen then is for that limb to break off.”

Meanwhile the leader of the House of Commons William Hague, given responsibility for formulating plans for English votes for English laws, has warned Ed Miliband that he has until the end of next month to agree measures to address the West Lothian question – or face having to vote against government proposals to be put before MPs to vote on before the General Election.

Hague told the Sunday Telegraph:

“The end of November is a crunch point. This question cannot be evaded, or evaded or ignored any longer. It is absolutely essential to address it now.

“The only people who are blocking this who are not committed to change are self-interested political parties rather than any voters anywhere in the country.”

Reiterating that the plans would continue “in tandem” with proposals to devolve further powers to Scotland, Hague continued:

“The House of Commons will want to vote on this before the general election and I am not going to do anything to stop it doing so.

“There will be debates and votes on this, in the absence of cross party agreement, and if necessary it will be part of the general election manifestos of the parties.”

The measure will increase further the pressure now faced by Ed Miliband as he struggles to regain Labour’s voice as a champion for all four corners of the UK.

Miliband has been criticised by the former home secretary Charles Clarke, who has argued that the Labour leader’s position on the issue – promising to hold a constitutional convention in a years’ time – was “hopeless” and “foolish”.

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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17 Responses to “The devolution debate gets ugly”

  1. Sher Kerr

    We should have seperated. Awful relationship still to this day.

  2. Falconeer

    Shows the truth of some old sayings (a) if democracy did any good they would ban it and (b) question “How do you know when a politician is lying? Answer “When his lips are moving.” This whole mess is simply a way of kicking the “Vow” into the long grass; there never was any intention to deliver DevoMax in the first place.

  3. The_Average_Joe_UK

    Cameron will laugh his head off on this one. He wins in the UK for standing up for EVEL, he has no real Scots base to lose. If Labour stand against EVEL they lose support in the south. If Labour block EVEL, they lose to the SNP.

    Miliband doesn’t have the intellect to win this war and as Brown has his grubby mitts on it, their is a 100% certainty is will turn to rat shit. Its a fact that everything Gordon touched was a train wreck.

    Labour skewered itself….

  4. mackinthebox

    Gordon Brown should be executed for High Treason… he started these arguments with his lies and false promises… he is a despicable deceitful person..

  5. Guest

    So you’re not aware what treason is, as you call for making political arguments you don’t like a capital crime…

  6. Leon Wolfeson

    Brown’s right (ugh). There is a massive difference between devolving revenue, and devolving the rates at which revenue is gathered.

    Brown’s promises were quite specific, it’s the Government who have deviated from them.

  7. Selohesra

    Democracy is two lions & a gazelle voting on what to have for lunch

  8. Selohesra

    As a higher rate tax payer I feel like a gazelle

  9. excell5

    Yes but what WAS actually promised? Was it ever actually written down and made that clear?

  10. Selohesra

    I don’t think there will be much difficulty in agreeing sensible set of extra powers for Scotland. The difficulty will come as Ed tries to defend the untenable position of Scottish voters influencing English only decisions – this won’t delay the Scottish powers but will expose Ed to further ridicule. We have seen with their blocking of fairer boundaries that Labour will do anything to preserve the electoral bias they enjoy under current system – a sad reflection that a once proud party now realizes that it can’t gain power under a level playing field

  11. Guest

    You missed “Theoretical” there.

  12. Leon Wolfeson

    You’re making things up again I see, as you ignore the fact (as usual) that the Tories got greedy and wanted an advantage and drove the LibDems into opposing them.

    You are, as ever, condemning your own views.

  13. Leon Wolfeson

    What Brown promised seems quite clear to me, and it was widely reported.

  14. Selohesra

    LibDums blocked it out of spite for having their daft AV proposals rejected by country – not out of any real objection against fairness

  15. Guest

    Still in full-revisionist mode I see.

    The LibDems blocked it because of the Tory rejection of their plans for the House of Lords.

  16. Selohesra

    You’re the revisionist Botty – your previous post implied the Limps opposed the fairer boundary change as they were for greedy Tories – minutes later you say it was their peek at HoL reform failure? Make your mind up or better still sober up before posting

  17. Falconeer

    Sadly as a lifelong socialist I have to agree with The Average Joe’s post – this is what happens when hanging onto power is put above principles and Labour will now pay heavily for this at the next election. As for Brown I have always felt he suffered from delusions of adequacy and history will certainly have its verdict on his unglorious but thankfully short. Premiership. IMHO John Smith was the last decent Labour Leader we had and Heavens don’t we have need of a man like him now!

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