The ‘NO’ parties ‘pledge’ on more powers for the Scottish Parliament

One of the major weaknesses of the ‘NO’ campaign is its failure to come up with a credible plan for devolving substantial new powers to the Scottish Parliament.  The talk is of “guaranteed new powers” but not one power is ever named nor when it might be devolved.

In response to the criticism they have received on this issue the ‘NO’ parties have this week come up with a ‘”pledge”.

There are a number of phrases in the “pledge” which should worry those who are considering voting ‘NO’ but who want substantial new powers for the Scottish Parliament.

For a start the word “substantial” is never used.  That in itself is telling when you consider how few tax and welfare powers the ‘NO’ parties are even considering for devolving in their latest reports.  Take tax powers.  There are approximately 25 taxes, charges and duties in the UK. The ”NO’ parties are at best proposing that the Scottish Parliament should have more responsibility, but not complete control, of income tax, possible control of another 1 or 2 minor taxes and partial responsibility for 1 or 2 others and a few welfare powers.

To put this into context.  Even after all of the provisions of the Scotland Act 2012 are implemented the Scottish Parliament will only have control of 4 minor taxes, partial responsibility of income tax and almost no welfare powers.

And remember these are just proposals.

Let’s not forget what happened when the ‘NO’ parties last made a huge fuss of looking at this matter.  The ‘pledge’ does actually mention the Calman Commission.  What is does not mention is that not all of Calman’s recommendations were implemented in the Scotland Act 2012.   Only three of the six tax recommendations made it to the Scotland Act 2012.

What is also often forgotten is how few welfare powers Calman recommended for devolving and that it also argued for some powers to be re-reserved.  The UK Government also refused requests by the Scottish Government to add further powers to the Scotland Act 2012. The requests related to corporation tax, excise duties and the Crown Estate.

Then there is the phrase: “the pooling and sharing of resources”.  This and other similar phrases such as “coordinated across the whole of the UK” are used by those arguing against the devolving of substantial tax and welfare powers to the Scottish Parliament. Expect to see comments such as these from a UK Government spokesman if there is a ‘NO’ vote.    

“There are certain levels of autonomy that are inconsistent with the UK. A unified tax and benefit system is at the heart of a united country. If you start dismantling the tax and benefit system then that is inconsistent with a single country.”

Lastly the phrase “as swiftly as possible”.  You can imagine the priority Westminster will put to this issue in the event of a ‘NO’ vote.

More powers, possibly, substantial powers, not a chance.

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