Labour’s devo deception

They’re here.  Labour’s long awaited proposals for devolution have arrived, splashing into the independence debate like the tsunami created by tossing a pebble into Loch Lomond – a pebble conveniently attached to a length of elastic so Johann can howk it back out again, the Westminster crew insisted on safeguards.  Dropping a pebble into the watter might rock Jim Murphy’s boat.  It created such a little splash that it only rated 30 seconds on the BBC lunchtime Scottish Och Aye the News, and Brian Taylor still managed to find time to mention David Bowie.

The proposals are an incoherent mess, but to be fair, so is the Labour party in Scotland so what did you really expect?  Even Severin Carrell, who on Monday’s Newsnicht expressed the opinion that his Unionist rag’s coverage of the indy debate was fair and unbiased, wasn’t able to put much lipstick on the pig.

The headline news was that Labour wants to allow Holyrood powers over income tax, including the power to vary the top rate by up to 15p in the pound, up from the 10p variation allowed by the Scotland Act due to come into force in 2016.  What they’re not saying is whether Westminster would claw back any increase in Scottish revenues by reducing the block grant, which is the case with the unused and useable tax powers granted in 1997.  They’re hinting they won’t, but aren’t making a commitment, so we can take that as a “yes they would”.

Labour will allow Holyrood to vary individual tax bands, but not control over any other taxes which effectively makes the income tax powers unusable.  The unusability of the tax powers is not a bug, it’s a feature.  Labour likes it that way.  It stops Ian Davidson giving Johann grief, which is a far more important consideration than any demands for greater self-government from Scotland.

So we’ll get more unusable powers.  That’s really going to stop the independence juggernaut in its tracks.

Neither is Labour saying why 15p in the pound is the correct figure to, in the words of Johann, “bolster, defend and energise” devolution, and not 20p, or 35p, or 100p.   What criteria did Labour use to arrive at the 15p figure?  I suspect it was “what we can get past Ian Davidson and Jim Murphy without causing too much of a strop”, which isn’t exactly the same as “what is in the best interests of Scotland”.

Labour is also prepared to grant Holyrood greater powers over Housing Benefit, but the remainder of the benefits system will remain firmly under control of Westminster, and Holyrood will not get any extra funding to ammeliorate the ill effects of Westminster’s benefit cuts.  It couldn’t be that they’re only making this tiny wee concession in a nakedly political attempt to neutralise the outrage over the Bedroom Tax now would it?

Labour will also concede some limited control of the Crown Estates – but not to the Scottish Parliament.  They want these powers to go to local authorities.  It keeps Gordon Matheson happy.  They also want to devolve control of the Work Programme to local authorities, giving Labour cooncillors more ALEO boards they can sit on.

We are told that this devo package represents the maximum devolution Scotland could possibly need or want, but what is far longer than the wee list of wee things that Johann is prepared to concede, hedged about with caveats as they are, is the list of things that Labour refuses to consider devolving to Scotland.  Scotland won’t get these powers, not now, not ever.  For a devolution journey, we’re on a very short ride.

• Financial and economic matters
• Monetary policy
• Currency regulation
• Debt management
• Employment law
• Foreign affairs
• International development
• Defence
• The welfare state
• Pensions
• Benefits
• The constitution
• Immigration
• Drugs, drug trafficking and related laws
• Betting, gaming and lotteries
• Broadcasting
• The civil service
• Abortion and analogous issues
• Air passenger duty
• National insurance contributions
• Corporation tax
• Alcohol, tobacco and fuel duties
• Climate change levy
• Insurance premium tax
• Vehicle excise duty
• Inheritance tax
• Capital gains tax
• Tax on oil & gas

So forget about getting rid of Trident, forget about control of benefits and taxation.  You can even forget about control of broadcasting – a power granted to just about ever other autonomous administration under the sun.  We can be sure that Scotland’s current affairs will continue to be refracted through the distorting mirror of the BBC, and there will be nothing we can do about it.  Labour prefers it that way.

But there is not even a guarantee that Scotland will actually get the highly limited powers proposed by Labour this week. It depends on whether the party adopts the proposals in full in their 2015 Westminster manifesto. It depends on whether the proposals will not be filleted and gutted in the same way that the timid measures of the Calman Commission were deconstructed – and in some respects the new proposals don’t even go as far as Calman, which recommended the control of air passenger duty and corporation tax. It’s odd that these powers no longer form a part of the maximum powers that Scotland could need or want, when Labour itself thought they should be devolved just a few years ago.

And of course it depends on whether Labour will form a majority government after 2015.  That’s not looking too likely the way the polls are currently going.

Labour’s just blown its last chance.  Too little, too late, a lot of words saying nothing at all.  Vote no and get nothing.  Vote yes and get all the powers Scotland could ever need – for real.

0 thoughts on “Labour’s devo deception

  1. In a way today’s offer is so short,of what home rule is all about,it’s a bit of a shock to the system.

  2. ‘Scottish’ labour. Blind, deaf and dumb. Blind to the possibilities of an independent Scotland. Deaf to the aspirations of the Scottish people. Dumb to think that we would be hoodwinked by this insulting sop. Yes has no rival.

  3. First class article. Watched Lamont being interviewed on S.T.V, and when it was put to her that the proposals were a watered down version so as not to annoy the Labour Westminster M.Ps, she got very flustered and waffled, as usual. Why anyone would believe this nonsense is beyond me. As one who voted Yes in ’79, and was then done out of a very limited Scottish Assembly, by a London Labour M.P, this mob are only interested in themselves, and not the very people the original party was set up to represent. Sad, but true, and I hope we don’t forget in the aftermath of a Yes victory, the part these people played in their denigration of Scotland, and it’s people.

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  5. Overheard this conversation today:-

    (Person A) “Ahm voting Labour in the referendum”.

    (Person B) But its not about Labour – its about independence”

    (Person A) “Ahm still voting Labour”

  6. Its carnage Paul, utter hash. Home rule, the devolution journey? Two years to produce precisely zero of any benefit for the Scottish electorate. Every power which would make a difference to people’s lives, introduce real meaningful change is off the table.

    Parliamentary Labour in Scotland – not fit for purpose.

    • I was struggling to grasp what exactly Labour’s proposals on tax were. Then I saw Johann’s interview on Newsnicht and now I’m even more confused.

      If I have this right – Holyrood will be able to vary the top rate of tax but will only be able to increase it over the level set by the Chancellor of the Exchequer – not reduce it. But Holyrood won’t be allowed to lower the tax rate on the lowest paid, or to vary any other tax band.

      I was still struggling to grasp what Labour’s point is. And then I realised. There isn’t one.

      • The proposals near as I can tell, appear to incur cost of implementation, responsibility without real control or accountability and of course no chance of seeing the light of day. They’ve conveniently missed out all the wee caveats in their report which point to this, such as:

        Any proposal needs to make it past Ed and the Westminster parliamentary Labour group. Which also relies on Ed sitting in the big chair at some point in his life. Even if it got that far, this then will go to the usual bill stage which also must pass both HoC and HoL voting and ratification, SASC with the usual suspects involved, the long grass as t’were. We’re kinda already aware how this will be greeted in HoL especially. (*Waves* to Lang). Y’know the usual stuff for amending the Scotland act.

        Again this could take several years to work through and God knows how many readings. If after all that it finally did see the light of day, then the chances of it resembling anything like what was originally proposed after the Tories, Libdems and Labour HQ have had a faddle are fairly remote.

        But then there’s no need to fill the public in on these wee details. This botch up was never intended to be enacted and certainly never intended to make it past Ed Miliband. Johan Lamont is party first through and through. So two years to produce proposals which are unworkable in practice and won’t pass even the basic stages of parliamentary implementation.

        People really, really need to see devolution for what it is… a means of denying the electorate the tools they need to make real, meaningful change. But apparently we can’t be trusted to do grown up stuff.

  7. Poor Johann….nae smoke & mirrors for Scotlab…they’d sell your granny for 1% of the goodwill and respect that YES Scotland has…
    How far down can Labour go , it’s a very sorry scene for a once proud Scottish Party.

  8. They are the British National Labour party so what do you expect?
    Britain is their country and Scotland is just a region who must not be allowed to diverge from policy laid down in London.
    You can be pretty sure that should we vote No and by some mistake,Labour end up in power at Westminster,they are going to do everything to emaciate Holyrood’s powers short of disbanding it.
    They see the Labour councils in Scotland as being their future power base,hence the latest antics from Willie Young in Aberdeen (he being one of the so called architects of this latest pronouncement from Labour).
    At least,it is all out in the open now and they have made it clear that there will be no more meaningful powers for Holyrood under London rule.

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