Monday, 28 January 2008

Devolution: Game Over?

Of course, the Parliament of the United Kingdom reserves the right to enact any legislation it likes, automatically overriding that enacted by any devolved body. It should do so as a matter of course. Anyone who objects should have voted against devolution, the legislation for which specifically states that this is the case. I bet they didn't.

Meanwhile, practically all Labour MPs from Scotland are now anti-devolution really. Many from Wales always were, and they now have a seriously sceptical Secretary of State to back them up. And even Lib Dems from the Highlands, the Islands, the Borders and Mid-Wales are extremely unlikely to vote more powers or more money to Edinburgh or to Cardiff. They have no more time for the amateur politicians (regardless of party) there than have Labour MPs.

So there would be no Labour or Lib Dem votes against such legislation on principle regardless of its specific content, and no Labour or Lib Dem votes (at least, not from off the payroll and from Scotland or Wales) in favour of further devolution in the unlikely event that any such Bill were ever even introduced.

There is the faint smell of a Nineties leftover, slowly decaying away to nothing like so many other half-forgotten aspects of the Blair Era, including Blair himself. Twenty years from now, will anyone even remember that there ever was a Scottish Parliament or a Welsh Assembly? Will anyone remember the latter even ten years from now?


  1. Aye right.

    What delusional world do you live in?

    There is no prospect of the Parliament or the Assembly being abolished in short-medium term future. Indeed trying a stunt like that would probably be manna from heaven for Salmond and (as I said before) provoke a situation.

    Concerning Liberal-Democrat MPs, Alistair Carmichael, John Thurso ( a strong federalist), Danny Alexander and Michael Moore are in favour of more powers and indeed the introduction of a federal system.

    Much of Labour's hostility is due to a) the SNP being in power b) jealousy against MSPs. One of the greatest culprits in the latter is Iain Davidson who is an arch critic of the Parliament despite campaigning in 1999 and 2003 to get selected to run as an MSP. He was dismissed as a maverick by the Blair machine, along with Dennis Canavan. Canavan ran as an independent and served two terms.

    You view Scotland the same way as Franco viewed the Basque country. No doubt you look forward to your own massacre at Gernica.

    For the record, the latest opinion polls show a majority wanting more powers at about 54-57% and independence at around 27%.

  2. Who needs to abolish it? Just let it die of disuse. If Westminster routinely enacted its own legislation, as the devolution legislation itself presupposes, then what would be the point of it? People would rapidly come to regard it as a needless expense and (see below) a platform for embarrassing nonentities.

    Lib Dem MPs might say that they are in favour of further devolution now, but just wait for the um-ing and ah-ing if any specific proposal ever came before them.

    The SNP victory has proved such a damp squib that I doubt anyone at Westminster really cares, or has even noticed much. Any sign of that referendum yet?

    As for jealousy of MSPs, too right. It is jaw-dropping that, say, John McFall (Chairman of the Treasury Select Committee) or Michael Connarty (Chairman of the European Affairs Select Committee) should be expected to defer in constituency matters to some MSP. "Excuse me, but there is a serious politician in the room." And that is before we mention the Secretary of State for Defence, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or the Prime Minister.

    MSPs are the sort of people who couldn't get into Westminster, couldn't get into Strasbourg, and either couldn't get onto local councils or couldn't make any progress once they were there. They are the fourth or even fifth team. The prospect of such people was a key contributing factor to the massive No vote to the regional assembly here in the North East. We looked across the border, and we didn't like what we saw.

    All party considerations aside, Alex Salmond could be a Cabinet Minister at Westminster. Jack McConnell, John Swinney, Tavish Scott and Annabel Goldie could be junior or middle-ranking Ministers, Cabinet on a good day (although Goldie is arguably better than that). But the rest? Wendy Alexander? Nicola Sturgeon? Pull the other one!

    The many Scots who are significant figures at Westminster look with horrified disbelief at who is now running Scotland, all party considerations aside. They did this before the SNP victory and, while that cannot have improved their view, it is not the reason for it. And who could deny that they are right?

    As for opinion polls, who cares? It is a matter for Parliament. Who is even going to introduce the Bill for further devolution? It simply is not going to happen.

  3. Same for Council Leaders. They have worked out that they now have to bow down to the people they packed off the Holyrood in order to get them off the Council and out of their hair. And they don't like it. They don't like it one little bit.

    You are right, of course. Who is going to introduce this Bill at Westminster: Brown, Browne, Darling? It ain't gonna to happen.

  4. I for one would be delighted to see Westminster enact either all-UK or Scotland-only legislation acceptable to Scottish Labour MPs and their union backers rather than to the hard right Thatcherite SNP.

    Like you say David, the Scotland Act just assumes that this will happen and anyone who doesn't like it should have voted no. I voted yes but I rue the day and so do several MPs from Scotland known to me including ministers. The Tartan Tories in power and hardly a politician worth mentioning in the whole place. It's time for the grown ups to reassert their authority.

  5. Wait until there is a hung parliament David. We shall see who needs who then. The SNP will probably gain around three-five seats at the next UK general election.

    For every McFall and Connarty (who is over-rated) there are three Labour tubes.

    Does not a Congressman or Senator in the USA not defer on many issues to state representatives. Or closer to home, a Bavarian member of the Bundestag having to to defer on some issues to the local member of the Landtag.

    Indeed Landtags produce pigmy politicians. Chancellor Helmut Kohl spent most of pre-Chancellor political career at Laendar level, reaching the post of Minister-President of Rhineland-Pfalz. His involvment at Laendar level was from 1960-1976. He decided to partake in Federal politics from 1976 till his election as Chancellor in 1982.

    Or if you like someone from the other side of the spectrum, Willy Brandt. He was governor-mayor of West Berlin, only leaving that job to become foreign minister in 1966. He was elected Chancellor in 1969.

    Schroder of course spent most time at Laendar level, serving for nearly ten years as Minister-President of Lower Saxony - one person tipped to be a future Minister-President of that Laendar by the way and possible Chancllor is half-Scottish, iron-bru swigging David McPherson.

    Who could not get into Westminister:-

    David Steel
    Winnie Ewing
    Donald Dewar
    Alex Salmond
    Dennis Canavan - a successful independent - unlike some
    George "Scotch" Foulkes
    Jim Wallace
    Margaret Ewing
    George Reid
    Phil Gallie (now running for Europe)
    James Douglas-Hamilton

    To name a few---

  6. And how many of them are still at Holyrood? Several of the people you list are dead.

    This isn't America or Germany. The culture is completely different. Not least, the calibre of people at the lower levels is often significantly higher as a result.

    No one would do a deal with the SNP in the event of a hung Parliament. No UK party would touch it, just as MPs for those parties won't vote for its amendments or motions even when they agree. Plaid Cymru is its only friened at Westminster, where they form a pair of pariah parties. Nothing will ever change that.

  7. "It's time for the grown ups to reassert their authority," says Anonymous. So it is. And that process has now started in Wales, with the appointment of Paul Murphy. It will start in Scotland sooner rather than later.

  8. Anonymous - there is already an uproar north of the border concerning the rather ambigious murmerings from Des Browne.

    Very good article by Hamish MacDonnell (hardly noted as a devolutionist) yesterday in the Scotsman:-

    "Some years after WWII, there were reports of Japanese soldiers found on distant Pacific Islands refusing to surrender their arms, convinced they were still at war---- A similiar problem is currently facing the Scottish Labour Party--- Two thirds of Labour's elected representatives in Scotland have not yet accepted that their party lost the election last year. The MSPs know it, have admitted it and moved on, but the MPs and councillors are still in denial.

    For Labour MPs sitting in serried ranks behind the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, they are still very much in power---. But they will all soon have to accept that the most important election for the Scottish Labour Party is the one for the Scottish Parliament and having lost that, they are now members of a party in opposition.

    When the the constitutional commission reports, it will come up with proposals which will inevitably dilut the Union. The Scottish Parliament will get stonger and the bonds with Westminster will weaken. What Ms Alexander and those involved in the commission need to work out is this: how far are they prepared to go and more importantly, are they prepared to to accept the consequences of their actions?

    The Constitutional Commission will result in changes which may improve the work of the Scottish Parliament and the lives of Scots. It should certainly start to ease English antagonism at Scottish public spending. The constitutional commission is an acceptable and justifiable mechanism for improving the devolution settlement. It will never be a way of ensuring the the stability of the union.

    Ms Alexander should stick to her principles and argue her case from a political, moral and economic point of view, not from fear of the nationalist bogeyman. If she fails to do so, she will never win over her party and she will not win the next election".

    Concerning hung parliament - 1974-1979 and all that. Wilson and Callaghan were quite happy to collaborate with the SNP then. And that was in the days of Willy Ross.

    Concerning several members of the list I provided are dead - only two are and before their time. Most have retired after a number of years in politics. Winnie Ewing herself due to her age has had to sell up her beloved home in Lossiemouth to live beside one of her sons in Kilmalcolm. In the case of David Steel, he came out of retirement to serve at Holyrood.

    You still have this stupid imperialist mindset. You look at Holyrood and Cardiff Bay like Franco looked in irritation at the old tree in Gurnica which Basque Parliaments of old. As Andrew Marr put it in his "Battle for Scotland" in 1992, you look at the Scottish Parliament in the same irritation as a Plantagenet monarch looked at the impregnable rock of Edinburgh Castle.

    You are no democrat. You are a fanatical centralising authoritarian whose idelogical forbears through their lack of compromise have busted things from the Kalmar Union through to the Habsburg Empire to the USSR.

    As for anonymous' mates in the Labour Party, any such action would bring civil war within the Scottish Labour Party. The person who will sweep up in such a situation - Alex Salmond.

  9. How right you are David. Here in the North of Scotland we Lib Dems are not happy at all.

    If anyone offered the Highlands and Islands a referendum choice between staying as we are and our own Welsh model of devolution then we'd be right behind them, campaigning and voting for that second model. It would get through, too.

    If there is a hung Parliament next time, then either Brown or Cameron would do very well to offer the Lib Dem MPs from up here this, as publicly as possible, in return for their support.

    Seems like Brian Wilson was right all along, painful though it is to admit it. If we did get the Welsh model under Labour then he could be raised to the peerage and made our powerful Secretary of State. Obviously I'd rather half one of ourse but we could do a lot worse.

  10. Have you read my mind, Anonymous? Devolution on something like the London model (but without the Myaor) to South Wales, North Wales, and Mid and West Wales, should be put to a referendum in each of them.

    If anywhere said no to that then it could have another referendum on whether to return to the pre-Assembly situation.

    North Wales would vote for the first option. So would Mid and West Wales. And South Wales would vote for the second.

    Here's to a hung Parliament so that both Labour MPs from South Wales and Lib Dems (plus one or two Labour) from further north can insist on this. I don't even see how Plaid could oppose it. They'd have far more power in the two new assemblies, and on a permanent basis rather than like now.

  11. The London model can't work without the Mayor, ff. Why not the original Welsh model? Let's have that for North Wales, that for Mid and West Wales, that for the Highlands and Islands, maybe even that for the Borders too.

    Let the MPs from those areas, especially the Lib Dem ones, make this the price of their support in the event of a hung Parliament. And Plaid Cymru. And why not the SNP, The Aberdonian?

    South Wales could keeep its Assembly if it wanted to. And Central Scotalnd could keep its Parliament. Because that's what it is, the Central Scottish Parliament with the odd North-Eastern leaning.

  12. Why not, I suppose? The Lib Dems in rural Scotland and Wales need to be told in no uncertain terms that this undertaking is expected of them or candidates who have given it will be put up against them.

    Time was when Liberal MPs from the Highlands (Russell Johnstone), the Islands (Jo Grimond) and the Borders (David Steel of all people) voted against devolution because those areas would get nothing out of it.

    Does the Liberal Party still exist? I think it does. It might be worth putting this to them. There are votes to be had here. Lib Dem fortresses could fall. That is what happens when you take people's votes for granted.

  13. The Liberal Party does indeed still exist, ff.

    "Two thirds of Labour's elected representatives in Scotland have not yet accepted that their party lost the election last year. The MSPs know it, have admitted it and moved on, but the MPs and councillors are still in denial."

    Of what? They didn't lose the Westminster or municipal elections. The MPs and Councillors are just irritated that people from what is really the rung below that (if not the next one down after Strasbourg) seem to think that they own the place. And who can blame them for that irritation, which has nothing to do with party?

    "For Labour MPs sitting in serried ranks behind the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, they are still very much in power."

    Yes. They are. And they should use it. Or stop claiming their pay, I suppose. Which is it to be? I think we know their answer to that one.

    "But they will all soon have to accept that the most important election for the Scottish Labour Party is the one for the Scottish Parliament"

    Manifestly not the case. The only party to which this can ever apply is the SNP.

    "The Scottish Parliament will get stonger and the bonds with Westminster will weaken."

    Say who? Not "the serried ranks", that's for sure. And they are the ones with the votes on the matter.

    "fear of the nationalist bogeyman"

    What "nationalist bogeyman"? Any sign of that referendum yet?

    "she will not win the next election"

    Presumably the next Holyrood Election. Who cares? Well, Wendy must, I suppose. She has nothing else to care about. Here is a person who would be a researcher, if that, at Westminster, but who is Leader of the second-largest party at Holyrood. Nuff said. And if Salmond walked under a bus, who would replace him? You're not exactly spoiled for choice are you? There are plenty of very serious Scottish politicians. Some are in local government. A lot are at Westminster. But almost none is at Holyrood.

    "1974-1979 and all that."

    Devolution was not in operation then. And nor was Alex Salmond personally, at Westminster or not.

    "You are no democrat."

    Aren't Scottish MPs and Councillors elected? That's where I want the power to be, and not only in Scotland.

    "any such action would bring civil war within the Scottish Labour Party."

    No it wouldn't. It would annoy a Nationalist rump, who could then expect as much success as Jim Sillars ever enjoyed, and who would have to explain why they preferred Nationalist theory to Socialist practice. I doubt that too many Labour voters would agree.

    "The person who will sweep up in such a situation - Alex Salmond."

    The biggest Unionist of the lot.