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Joining the McChattering classes

Brian Taylor | 13:56 UK time, Sunday, 17 February 2008

You have to feel just a tad sorry for David Cairns.

There he is just a week ago confidently lampooning the concept of further tax powers for Holyrood.

It was, he opined, an issue of interest only to the “McChattering classes.”

Leave aside, for a moment, the slightly (if not literally) patronising tone of that patronymic “Mc”.
Consider instead what has changed.

Mr Cairns finds today that his boss, Gordon Brown, has signed up to the Clan McChattering.

The PM says it is right to review the devolution settlement - and logical to consider whether and how Holyrood might take more responsbility for raising its own revenue.

Oops! For Mr Cairns, a 1984-style moment. Time to change tack. We are no longer at war with Eastasia. They are our chums. To the contrary, we are in dispute with Eurasia. May they be cast down and banished.

To be fair, the gutsy Mr Cairns must have thought he was on pretty secure ground.

Until today, Mr Brown had given no indication that he was disquieted with Holyrood’s financial settlement. Quite the contrary.

Further, the PM is intuitively cautious - and especially about finance. Something to do with a decade as Chancellor, I guess.

So this is a big change. Perhaps up there with the late Donald Dewar’s original decision to take Labour into the cross-party Constitutional Convention. Mr Dewar called that “living dangerously”.

For the avoidance of doubt, he was, like Gordon Brown, customarily inclined towards caution.

So what is being contemplated? Firstly, a review of Holyrood’s powers. Gordon Brown suggests that some extra powers, such as over transport, might accrue to the Scottish Parliament.

But some others, such as residual security issues, might revert entirely to Westminster in the light of a decade’s experience.

The PM calls this a “two way street” – while stressing that he has no definitive package in mind, preferring to allow the review to proceed.

In passing, I might note that this “review” sounds decidedly more Downing Street driven than the “commission” originally envisaged by Wendy Alexander - and endorsed by the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.

The PM says no. He says it will be collaborative, involving a range of opinion, involving both Westminster and Holyrood.

Well, fine - but who do you think will take the final decisions? The Tories and LibDems? Independent experts?
Labour’s new (opposition) leader at Holyrood? The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom? Yes, I thought that might be your view.

Secondly, money. Gordon Brown envisages deploying some form of assigned revenues. Older, sagacious readers will recognise the lengthy pedigree here.

Assigned revenues featured in the 1990 report from the Convention, Towards Scotland’s Parliament. They were dropped in the 1995 version in favour of “an assigned budget” (the block grant to you and me.)

What are assigned revenues? At the moment, all taxation accrues to the Treasury who disburse cash to Holyrood and elsewhere.

Instead of that, the product of certain taxes in Scotland would be diverted directly to Holyrood. That might, for example, involve Scottish income tax and VAT going straight to Holyrood.

Such a system was envisaged by Sir David Steel’s 2006 commission for the Liberal Democrats - although he declined to specify which taxes would form the devolved basket.

The upside? MSPs would have a direct incentive to grow the economy in that extra revenue would thereby accrue to Holyrood. At the moment, extra tax raised if the economy is buoyant goes to the Treasury.

The snags? You might choose to assign VAT or corporation tax. But European Union rules almost certainly preclude a devolved Scotland from varying the rate of those taxes. Which rather defeats the purpose of allowing fiscal discretion.

What about income tax then? Well, remember that Holyrood already has the power to vary the standard rate. It has never used this power because it would cause too much political pain for too little fiscal gain. Could that power, then, be extended to upper rates of income tax?

What about North Sea oil revenues? Wendy Alexander made no reference to this in her 30 November speech when she first set out these plans.

Expect SNP Ministers, entirely understandably, to lay great stress on this aspect.

Further, such a scheme of assigned revenues would involve a needs assessment across the UK.

That’s because it would be necessary to calculate how much top-up cash was needed from London to Edinburgh (or the other way round.)

It is very far from guaranteed that a needs assessment would work in Scotland’s interests. Especially if such an assessment were driven by the Treasury whose ministers (and hence officials) might be lending an ear to those in the English regions who assert that Scotland is over-subsidised.

It would, at the very least, be an intriguing argument – if not a political fight.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 03:10 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • Bryce Miller wrote:

What happened to the idea of fiscal autonomy, where the Scottish government collects all taxes, and hands an amount to Westminster for those "reserved" powers, much the reverse of the situation now?

  • 2.
  • At 03:38 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • karin wrote:

I completely disagree that their is any need for a review/commission/talking shop of the powers of the scottish parliament. When Scotland voted to have devolved government we also voted for the Scottihs parliament to have power over taxation. That shows that the majority of scottish people are quite happy for the scottish parliament to deal with fiscal matters. There is no need for this reveiw just hand over the powers gordon. NOW.

  • 3.
  • At 03:51 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • Annie wrote:

I am, to be honest, an absolute beginner at economics, but even I don't think it is realistic for Scotland to have fiscal autonomy without access to its own natural resources ie. North Sea oil.

  • 4.
  • At 03:52 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • Cameron wrote:

..the Labour Party - 'Scottish' and otherwise - they really do beggar belief.

One remembers Alexander and co., and their leash bearers in London, what - nine months ago - lambasting the SNP's proposals to include THAT VERY OPTION on any Independence referendum. Remember?

As the SNP were trying to involve, for the benefit of the nation, the fib-dems - thus making the Scottish parliament work best for the people??

The response from the fib-dems? Sorry, no - we want our ball back!

Thereby letting their own voters down, completely. That fact still astounds me to this day.

The response from the Labour party? 'Sorry, no - absolutely not!!'

Here's ten reasons why [validated by London] and here's a dozen interviews on Scottish/British political television to back up this rationale.

Kick back, and read the finest lazy Sunday broadsheets further citing why this is BAD for Scotland, BAD for the Scottish people, and BAD for just about any other reason we can think of!

Over nine months, Scotland gets a pro-active, successful SNP govt. who've barely brushed off the party popper streamers from their shoulders...

...and here we are!

Right up there with the 5k tax bill under the SNP, the attack from Bin Laden under the SNP and the REAL possibility of social ties dissolving between Scotland and England [aka the 'Balkanisation of the UK' from one Mr. Gordon Brown].

Surely we are not surprised by this dramatic U-turn?? Surely we expect, now, nothing else from the duplicity of the Labour [London] camp?

These people are not to be trusted, leave them be, Wendy making a puppet of herself in first minnister's questions - every week. At least there's some comic value there...

...it's all about upsetting any proactive SNP agenda. As such, Scotland should be very wary of this U-turn.

Of course, people should be wary of any party who believe, quite simply, in lies and scaremongering tactics to their OWN PEOPLE. What should we do??

Move on, support the parliament in Edinburgh, pursue nothing less than full fiscal autonomy [Mr.Brown's latest thoughts don't offer any logic why Scotland's parliament SHOULD NOT focus on anything less, after all - he's a fan, right?] and watch the Labour party's backhanded, corrupt meanderings for the NEXT U-turn - as it suits...

  • 5.
  • At 04:09 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • Fergus McHattie wrote:

Surely the conclusion of the last 10 years is that Scotland best governs itself. It is only logical that this is extended to taxation. If not where is the accountability?

Having just watched the inquiry into the Trump dilema, I have decided the SNP will get my vote henceforth. The unionist politicains were petty minded and sour. The SNP emerged stronger and worthy of praise after the appearances of Messers Swinney and Salmond. The civil servants Ferguson and McKinnon, emerged with their reputations enhanced also.

  • 6.
  • At 04:09 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • Rob Wherrett wrote:

There's a lack of emotional intelligence on the part of most political parties when it comes to dealing with the finances of devolution. The status quo makes Westminster seem like paymaster. The proposition of the SNP looks to many in the rest of the UK like greed.

For devolution to work there needs to be a consensus between Scotland and the English public that what is being done is fair and reasonable. And then widen that to the settlements with Wales & N Ireland. We haven't had a debate nationally (UK-wide) about what we think is right given that devolution has been agreed upon. Time for Gordon et al to stop playing politics and actually talk to the people for the first time ever.

  • 7.
  • At 04:14 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • Rob Wherrett wrote:

There's a lack of emotional intelligence on the part of most political parties when it comes to dealing with the finances of devolution. The status quo makes Westminster seem like paymaster. The proposition of the SNP looks to many in the rest of the UK like greed.

For devolution to work there needs to be a consensus between Scotland and the English public that what is being done is fair and reasonable. And then widen that to the settlements with Wales & N Ireland. We haven't had a debate nationally (UK-wide) about what we think is right given that devolution has been agreed upon. Time for Gordon et al to stop playing politics and actually talk to the people for the first time ever.

  • 8.
  • At 04:23 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • Sheila wrote:

Karin - your ignorance is quite staggering, according to the Barnett formula, Scotland receives receives a disproportionate pay out from Westminster thus enabling Scotland to subsidise lower taxation and publicly funded services such as free care for the elderly, which english tax payers can only dream of. The sooner the tax raising powers are transferred directly to Scotland the better so that Scots can realise that the levels of spending by the Scottish government are simply not sustainable withou tax rises.

You might choose to assign VAT or corporation tax. But European Union rules almost certainly preclude a devolved Scotland from varying the rate of those taxes. Which rather defeats the purpose of allowing fiscal discretion.

The Varney review of tax policy in Northern Ireland reached a slightly different conclusion:

A move to a differential corporation tax rate for Northern Ireland would be possible in principle. However, it would involve legislative changes and legal issues would affect the design of such a scheme. Also, the fiscal consequences of such a move would have to be borne immediately by the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Varney Report 3.20

  • 10.
  • At 04:42 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • David wrote:

Those who advocate 'full fiscal autonomy', ie a grant from the Scottish Parliament to Westminster, simply move the lack of direct financial accountability from one institution to another.

Yes, it's rather overdue. I just fear that, like everything in Scottish politics today, it'll be used for the purposes of petty nationalist point-scoring.

  • 11.
  • At 05:17 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • Ted Harvey wrote:

No I don't feel sorry for David Cairns, a typical West of Scotland Labour MP whose mindset is redundant and out of touch. The reason I don't
feel sorry is that Gordon Brown's contorted statements today are meaningless and open to any old interpretation. Hence, by next week we may all be taken back on-track with the views represented by Mr Cairns.

On your point about a 'future intriguing argument if not political fight' over taxation and Scotland's share of UK tax revenues. This is looming up to be an 'either way you lose' cul de sac for all Unionist parties.

If they (as is almost inevitable) force a deal with Scotland that looks tough it will be received very badly in Scotland - the SNP will have a long running gravy train of dissaffected votes to milk.

Even if the settlement is tough on Scotland, it will not satisfy the 'aggrieved English'; because their perspective is based on prejudice ill-informed by the 'English' media. Hence, the 'aggrieved English' will not be disposed to feel any better by rational arguments about as 'fairer' settlement - they will go on nursing their wrath against every perceived 'preferential' treatment of the Scots.

  • 12.
  • At 05:54 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • Sam Davis wrote:

As a descendant of Scots who immigrated more than a century-and-a-half ago, I remember only vague allusions passed down among the Andrews clan as to why some of them ended up in Charleston, South Carolina in the early 1840s.

Those allusions mostly had to do with the English running things in Scotland, which the Andrews heartily disliked. Given the political realities of the day, that was something they could either accept or "vote with their feet" against. They chose the later.

The stodgy, petrified state and cultural institutions of the British Isles and much of Europe gave birth to generations of immigrants who came to North America with the notions of individual freedom and equality of opportunity in mind. A closely allied notion was that small, weak governments were much to be preferred over large, bloated, bureaucratic ones.

The continuing debate over "devolution" of power to Scotland is yet another example of what the British, and most other Europeans, continue to suffer. Sadly, most do not seem to realize the anti-human, suffocating nature of their own centuries-old fossilized institutions, and are content to continue tinkering with the caulking when they should be removing some walls entirely.

As a proud descendant of the Andrews clan, my vote, if I had one on this issue, would be for full, total independence for Scotland.

  • 13.
  • At 06:36 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • karin wrote:

shelia you state that my ignorance is staggering i in turn find your ignorance of the barnett formula and your lack of knowledge of it most disheartening. It has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that northern ireland is the greatest beneficiary of the barnett formula and yet your ire focuses only on scotland. A touch of the green eyed monster perhaps. When are people going to realise that the reason we have better services in scotland is because we voted democratically to receive them. We in scotland would be quite happy to take on full fiscal autonomy it is westminster that refuses to allow it.

  • 14.
  • At 06:54 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • Neil Small wrote:

I for one do not want Alex Salmond in charge of the purse strings. Heaven knows what he will come up with, but guarantee he will ensure that it causes a huge conflict with Westminister and the English public, allowing him to push for full independance, something Scotland cannot afford.

  • 15.
  • At 07:05 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • Conway wrote:

Ah Brian your still with us It seemed the thought police had taken you away.
Brian ,Gordon Brown is living on borrowed time the decision on whether Scotland has more control over its own affairs is not up to him.That decision rests with you and I the voters ! the Labour party could help sort out the make up of the UK ie a Federal system or they can be the reason for its disoloving.

  • 16.
  • At 07:27 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • Steve A wrote:

Tom griffin Seems to have found another good reason for scotland to be independent.Well done tom!

  • 17.
  • At 07:40 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • JulianR wrote:

If I was Scottish, I would be very worried indeed by the suggestion that powers might be returned to Westminster.

What meaning has devolution if Westmister can just take powers away again at a whim? Can you imagine the uproar in the US if Washington decided "take power back" from the States?

What Gordon Brown is suggesting is nothing short of an insult to the people of Scotland.

It all smacks of the usual centralism that bedevils the UK - you can do what ever you like, as long as you do what we tell you.

Frankly, this is the surest sign yet that nothing less than full independence will give the Scottish people any real self-determination.

  • 18.
  • At 08:20 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • Jim Mack wrote:

"Oops! For Mr Cairns, a 1984-style moment. Time to change tack. We are no longer at war with Eastasia. They are our chums. To the contrary, we are in dispute with Eurasia. May they be cast down and banished."

Hilarious Brian.

Sums up Labour totally. 1984 must be their handbook for campaigning.

  • 19.
  • At 08:24 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • Stephen wrote:

Devolution was flawed in that when the government devolved power it failed to also devolve responsibility for raising the funding for those powers instead the English taxpayer is left funding these power, yet with no accountability to those same taxpayers. If the regions want power then they should have to fund it themselves. If Scotland is going to have the right to keep taxation raised in Scotland then it should also be responsible for funding pensions and benefits in Scotland with no call on therest of the UK for funds and it should still have to pay the 8.5% of funds required by Parliament at Westminster for reserved powers.

  • 20.
  • At 08:36 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • L.Telfer wrote:

Whatever Gordon Brown says must be taken with an enormous pinch of salt.I suspect he's terrified that theSNP will stick to its intention to remove the nuclear weapons from the Gareloch and also remove Labour's blind voting majority in the house of commons at the next general election. Any interest he shows in Scotland now is to benefit the Labour party, not for the benefit of the people of Scotland.He perhaps wants to try and take some of the heat away from that woman that leads the Scottish Labour party so that at an opportune moment she can decide that she wants to "pursue a new career path or spend more time with her family". The sooner the better.

  • 21.
  • At 08:41 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • William Howat wrote:

Firstly,good to see you back,Brian.Assigned budgets,assigned revenue.Hmmm...
Some of Gordon's ideas,and those of his government,remind me of some of my old NHS bosses who would read of some marvellous activity happening in the wider NHS somewhere and immediately want it introduced locally.Great,we all thought,another reorganisation before we've even assimilated the last one.Seriously though,where do they get these ideas other than to continue controlling activity.The concept of the mother parliament allowing the natives a little freedom(because that's all they can handle)is so last century.

  • 22.
  • At 09:03 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • Jim Stevens wrote:

Some sort of fiscal accountability for Holyrood is a virtuous aspiration which should be legitimately shared by everyone in public life. Recent events have demonstated that it is easy to be pious about this virtue in the hope that good men and women of all parties and none can find a feasible and sustainable way to take the notion forward.

However, as you imply, assigned revenues, like an assigned budget, are a tenuous form of fiscal accountability. It is simply a more transparent form of block grant. This is not the kind of fiscal autonomy that is likely to keep die hard advocates of the idea happy for very long. It is a cosmetic exercise designed to paint lipstick on the pig that is asymmetric devolution.

I fear that the only coherent way for Unionists to address this issue is in the context of a federal structure. Anything that falls short of that will simply be fiscal smoke and mirrors. Many of us will not be signing up to any fond farewell to the Barnett Formula until a credible alternative which stabilises Scotland's position in the UK is fully specified. The prospect of adjusting our current levels of government spending down to those that political scientists tell me are justifiable in terms of needs is not likely to engender a warm and harmonious response from the Scottish electorate towards the Union. Mr Cairns may yet have the last laugh!

The Scottish Labour Party is in considerable turmoil over such matters. As a Labour party member I have watched our last 2 leaders prostrate themslves in an attempt to follow the message from prominent psephologists 'to be more Scottish.' Ms Alexander seems intent on continuing to dance to that tune. Perhaps it's time for the Scottish Labour Party to spend less time trying to figure out how to be more Scottish and spend more time trying to be more LABOUR.

  • 23.
  • At 09:07 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • Sheila wrote:

Karin - I agree with you that Scotland should have autonomy over fiscal policy. The present compromise is at the detriment of both the english and scottish tax payer. The Barnett formula was originally applied to Scotland to ensure that they remained in the union with England. Although it may later have been applied to Northern Ireland it was fundamentally designed to benefit Scotland.

I do however question your assertion that you have voted 'democratically' for better services. Are you somehow suggesting therefore that everyone else in the union have not voted democratically. Surely free and fair elections by their very nature are democratic and certainly the travesty during the recent Scottish elections where over 100,000 votes were discounted would equally question such an assertion.

I also question your description of 'better.' They may be more affordable though I don't think they are any better necessarily. Also, the fact that Alex Salmond has recently retracted certain promised services conceding that the Scottish government cannot subsidise them is reflective of the reduction of the grant from Westminster and the SNP's unwillingness to raise taxes to compensate.

  • 24.
  • At 09:55 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • Chooky Birdy wrote:

14 - Alex Salmond in charge of the purse strings?

Great idea. Independence from ID cards, oil grabbing, donorgate (Peter Hain). A life free from Westminster misery, a life of enterprise under Jim Mather, sensible economics under John Swinney and a wonderful public transport system from Stewart Stevenson. This lot are great, go with them and shove the Westminster lot into touch.

Chooky Birdy

  • 25.
  • At 09:59 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • Scared Foolish wrote:

Scotland should remain part of the UK, that is what this is really about. Nationalist Scottish feeling. I would not give Scotland an inch, why did devolution happen in the first place?

  • 26.
  • At 11:22 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • Old Tam wrote:

Brian, I saw your interview with the PM. It's typical of his arrogance and broodishness that he can't admit what we have in Scotland now is a functioning and widely respected (and by many admired) Government. What was missing fom the interview though was the future context of Salmond in Bute House and Cameron in Downing St. That scenario gives a certain meaning to any attempts by Brown to repatriate powers to London.
However, the people of Scotland are sovereign no matter what Westminster thinks - didn't Brown himself sign the Claim of Right?

  • 27.
  • At 11:26 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • Paul wrote:

The PM made an interesting move today. Finally backing Wendy Alexander's Commission idea but calling it a review and giving it a new remit - a possible trading of powers rather than definitely more powers. All of which leaves Wendy looking like a child who's just had her yoyo taken by the playground bully.

But I was particularly interested in his comments about which tax powers could be transferred to Holyrood and his admission that there are problems with all of them. The more you think about it the more difficult it becomes to see how Scotland could somehow have greater fiscal autonomy while remaining within the UK. Having been Chancellor for ten years, Gordon Brown is well aware of that.

If the PM's review leads to the conclusion that it's not really possible to devolve any significant powers to Holyrood (which seems to be the PM's intention), will that not play into the SNP's hands?

The SNP's fear is a 3-question referendum: (a) status quo (b) more powers or (c) independence, because on the face of it (b) sounds like a good compromise and that appeals to the majority of cautious Scots.

But if the PM hijacks the 'more powers' campaign and gets his review group to say that is unworkable, then we could yet have the possibility of a referendum in 2010 with just two options.

  • 28.
  • At 11:51 PM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • Brian wrote:

Is everyone missing something here? According to Wendy, she wants everyone to have their say - that is as long as it's what she wants us to talk about. Her plan totally ignores the voices of anyone in favour of independence, therefore a large chunk of the population will have no input into what Labour and the other the unionist parties puppet masters in London decide what is best for us.

Democracy? Don't make me laugh.

  • 29.
  • At 05:22 AM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Bob Mason wrote:

Allow me to be of assistance to you. The country to the south of Scotland is called England. It is not called 'the English regions' or 'the English public.'

  • 30.
  • At 06:04 AM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Craig wrote:

Nought from the Greeks towards me hath sped well.

So now I find that ancient proverb true.

Foes' gifts are no gifts: profit bring they none.


Craig

Oh, come on, ye petty, wee snivelling fearties! Sometime I get awfy wearie of this drivel.

Sotland gets '... disproportionate pay out from Westminster...' says Shiela. Disproportionate to what? To what we pay in? Yes, certainly. Without Scotland's wealth, what would have propped up Britain's absurd ambitious to 'world power' status this last twenty years? If Britain had spent it wisely, I wouldn't mind so much.

Scotland cannot afford full independence, says Neil. Away, man. Scotland, if independent, is exactly middle sized. There are 110 independent countries which are smaller than Scotland, and 110 which are bigger. And Scotland, if independent, would be one of the top 10% wealthiest countries in the world.

If it weren't that we're a nation of snivelty wee feartie bairns, we'd have taken our independence a generation ago or more.

Sic a parcel of rogues...

[Oh, by the way, good to see you back, Brian; I thought you must have been sick]

  • 32.
  • At 07:25 AM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Wansanshoo wrote:

So Wendy Alexander was correct originally.

David Cairns remarks concerning 'McChattering Classes' were incorrect.

Yet no one believed a word she said, I wonder why?

Scottish Labour an unelectable bunch of rogues.

Wansanshoo.

  • 33.
  • At 08:01 AM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Jim wrote:

Now ask yourself what was the biggest International gaff that “Tony Blair” left for “Gordon Brown”.
No it was not the Iraq or Afghanistan fiascos.
It was Libya, when he signed up with Gadaffi to return to Libya all prisoners held in “British Jails” to Libya to finish their sentences there.
Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi, is in a Scottish Jail and neither Blair or Brown have any jurisdiction in Scotland regarding the Law or is outcomes.
Now up pops “Gordon Brown” with a “Damascus” type inspiration, a suitably arranged interview, he now likes the idea that there possibly should be a fresh look at increasing the powers for the Scottish Parliament.
“Of course there may be some powers that should be returned to Westminster” yes the detail is in the small print! The “Foreign Office” needs of the Hook over “Blairs” gaff with Gadaffi.
So we now have “Brown” requiring a quick fix should the al-Megrahi appeal fail next week.
Which could mean that Brown will arrange for an “Order in Council”, the National Security will be foremost in all minds, and Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi suddenly is found to be on a flight to Libya.

  • 34.
  • At 09:07 AM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • HughB wrote:

It's funny this BBC creature, isn't it.
Seems quite happy to celebrate Indian independence, Kosovan independence, but totally snubs any talk of Scottish independence.
We will have our day one day.
Maybe the US and Europe would support Scotland if we declared independence. At least we don't have the a superpower applying pressure against independence, but we do have Westminster.

  • 35.
  • At 09:15 AM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Mhari McAndrew wrote:

How ironic we have unionist labour party commentators on this site saying Scotland can not afford either independence or to vary taxation within the union.

Are these the very people whoose government in far off London will this week welcome and endorse Kosovo's independence.

Where is the concern that the people of Kosovo will not be able to run their own affairs with out Serbia's steadying hand at the till?

The sheer hipocracy of unionist parties especially, UK regiojnal Scottish branch, defies belief. The announcement on Norhtern Rock, well, that just takes the biscuit, for Brown and Darling read Oliver and Hardy!

  • 36.
  • At 09:52 AM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Jim Torrance wrote:

"To be fair, the gutsy Mr Cairns must have thought he was on pretty secure ground"

Listen up Brian Mr Cairns is not being gusty - he's being snide!

Snide is a characteristic of the Labour Party - its famous for it!

  • 37.
  • At 10:05 AM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • PMK wrote:

Gordon Brown was meant to be a man of unshakeable convictions and beliefs (his "moral compass"), not someone who changes his policy from day to day depending on the public's reaction to the favoured line being spoken by a minor acolyte.
However, despite this apparent u-turn, the PM remains in the dark over the dominant political feeling north of the border: "a two way street"? Powers being transferred back to Westminster? I am sure that must be why the electorate voted in a party favouring independence over your own Gordon!
The general public may or may not be ready for independence yet (positive support varies in polls - up to 40-5% - and the undecided category is still huge). But I think it would not be overstepping the mark to say that the political mainstream are simply not willing to seriously consider returning any power to Westminster. What divided us yesterday (in control over health, education, what transport is already devolved etc ...) unites us today in a determination not to give it back. Brown, Darling, Cairns, Browne, Alexander & Alexander simply do not understand this, or if Wendy does she is powerless to change the direction of her party north of the border. While Brown rules the roost in Westminster (maybe while Labour remains in power), they will not be able to become a distinctive "Scottish party" in the way that even the Tories have already managed!

  • 38.
  • At 10:05 AM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Ed Martin wrote:

Did you hear the way he put his boot into Jack McConnell, laying the blame for the failure to win last May squarely at his door? And yet all the reports say the election was taken out of JMcC's hands and the losing strategy formulated and run by Brown himself. Naughty Mr B!
And his every action in that interview says that he is in charge of any commission although he just couldn't bring himself to say the word 'commission'even once although he managed to say 'review'18 or 19 times. Annabel and Nicol won't even get in the room on this one!
And naughty Mr Taylor to ask the PM to say how he thought Alex Salmond was doing. His efforts to find a non commital answer were heroic but I thought he was going to choke on the bile which so obviously rushed up into his gullet :))))

  • 39.
  • At 10:06 AM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • HughB wrote:

And another thing, if Scottish banks are forced to deposit money with the bank of england to cover their circulation of notes, then the English banks will also have to deposit money to Scotland to cover their circulation of notes, especially as it appears that it is their banks which have been involved in the current banking crisis.

  • 40.
  • At 10:36 AM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • stephen wrote:

For shiela

Barnett does say scotland gets more than england but out of the 13 regions it comes way below london on public spending and barnett does not explain why the scottish economy must pay more into the treasury than the majority of english regions. Scotland as a region of the uk is the third higest GDP in the UK without OIL revenues.

  • 41.
  • At 10:57 AM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Paul Taylor wrote:

Stephen wrote:

"If the regions want power then they should have to fund it themselves."

Regions, ehh...?

"If Scotland is going to have the right... then it should also be responsible... with no call on the rest of the UK."

I don't think anyone who is in favour of independence would find anything to disagree with there. Since both the English and the pro-independence Scots seem to hold identical views regarding that statement, perhaps we should just get one with it and make that statement a reality?

  • 42.
  • At 10:57 AM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • merry mac1 wrote:

saw your big interview yesterday brian, not too impressed, this is a
cynical ploy to kick it in the"long grass" its already "downgraded" to a "review" and where is wendy....?
all things will be revielled later...
when you asked g brown to give an opinion on a salmond well almost an answer, cant quite bring himself to
comment(it still hurts too much)
not a ringing example of HIS abi;ity
as a statesman or pm status is it....!!

  • 43.
  • At 11:04 AM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Bob wrote:

As even Brian knows the Act of Union included the right of the Scottish Legal system and Constitution to remain applicable to Scotland. The reality of the Act of Union was and is that only the people of Scotland as Sovereign can empower any act of a servant Scottish government.

This was never done, and legally Scotland was never part of the Union, because the signatories were never authorised to commit to the disolution of the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish and English Parliaments were never ever disolved, that is a matter of public record. The Westminster Parliament was empowered whilst two parliaments were fully operational.

It is a matter of legal right that the Scottish People can resume the Scottish Parliament at anytime.

It is also a fact that the Westminster Parliament cannot overrule the Scottish courts or Constitution, which are based on the Sovereignty of the People versus the Sovereignty of a later Parliament that had a partner who wasnt authorised to sign for Scotland.

Check the timing and terms of the Scottish Constitution to check the facts. There is no record of the Scottish People agreeing in any form of plebisite that decided the transfer of the Countries government to London.

There is the rights of the Scottish Legal System which was based on the Scottish Constitution, in the Act of Union.

I cannot go into a bank and sign a cheque for my wifes account no matter what. The members of the Scottish Parliament were never empowered to sign the Union Cheque that cost Scots so much.Only the Sovereign could do that and in that case they did not.

  • 44.
  • At 11:33 AM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Peter, Fife wrote:

Having through Tony Blair, Jack McConnell, Wendy Alexander and Gordon Brown himself all telling us that such considerations were not necessary we now observe a ‘U’ turn of political convenience; this is merely an indicator that the politics of Scotland have moved from the left more towards the centre.

  • 45.
  • At 11:40 AM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • EricH wrote:

Politicians pompous procrastination, Medias muddling moans, Westminsters waffling whinges. For the sake of sanity, dump these chancers and let's stand on our own two feet.

  • 46.
  • At 01:21 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Paul L, Glasgow wrote:

In an attempt to curry even more favour with the English, Mr Brown has quietly converted his educational qualifications from 'O' Grades to 'O' Levels. Check out his CV on the official No 10 site.

  • 47.
  • At 01:43 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Sandy wrote:

This is more of an Animal Farm moment from an Animal Farm government than a 1984 moment.

The rules that apply to the population do not seem to apply to the Labour Party.

  • 48.
  • At 01:56 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • J D Asher wrote:

English regions?

Is that the same kind of region democratically rejected by the people of the north east "region"?

Obviously the regionalisation of England would suit the British Brainwashing Corporation but that doesn't alter the fact that English regions have been rejected.

  • 49.
  • At 02:36 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • merry mac1 wrote:

brian, no nention of oil,water, wind
power,whiskey,trident,ect.in wendys
constitusion ploy,because they dont
come into her radar, its not scotland thats important,its her own statusin labour that is the crunch,
where was all the frantic scrabble
for "increased power" before may,
HER lot were in power for 8yrs.i'm
sure we would have had plenty of time to see what a good bunch we had
in power.IF ONLY.... PIGS COULD FLY.

  • 50.
  • At 02:44 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Quinn wrote:

We must also observe from the time we have had Brown in no 10 that he normally talks thoughful and tough, but his actions are invariably more of the same. In Scottish devolution that means more and more concessions and stealth support to the creation of an independent Scotland. All this so Alex Salmon can lead Scotland out from being ruled by Westminster into being, not ruled independently, but ruled from Brussels. Who is to gain by all this?

The pretence at present with Alex Salmon, is one of disagreement with Brown. However as with Blair, such stories cloud the issue. It has been stated in the media over the weekend I think that Brown is looking for a place in Scotland after Downing Street and I dare say the first President of a newly independent Scotland might be endearing enough, and worth aranging, following the pattern of Blair.

All I can say is it is unseemly to have Scotsman doing all the deals on devolution issues for Scotland. Likewise it is unseemly for these devolution deals to be done wihtout consulting all the people concerned, and that includes the English, in referenda.

  • 51.
  • At 02:53 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • djmac wrote:

Brian,

(Wee complaint - it's getting more and more difficult to post on this site!!
For the second time in a row the wee gremlims put up the 'Halt you shall not pass signs' or was that just you away at the footie again??)

To the matter at hand, I think there's an underlying story worthy of your further incisive coverage and that's the relationship between 'Yon Raith Rovers Supporter' and THE BENDY.

Seems to me the RRS has taken on the old cliche of footie chairmen into the political world and given THE BENDY the 'kiss of death' confidence vote that ensures she'll be a goner in weeks!

As one well-known politico of yesteryear opined (was it T Benn?) 'power devolved is power retained' and the RRS is demonstrating quite clearly that the LPoWiS will retain and even regain powers in any pending devolution review.

That kind of nails THE BENDY's 'commission' dead in its tracks, does it not??

Oh, and then there's that wee matter of yet another Sunday paper coming out with even more evidence about the pure incompetence of this Mistress of B****r All!!

Such a parcel of rogues in a nation - anyone heard from Whitton and Gordon recently??

Thought not.

  • 52.
  • At 02:54 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • megz wrote:

I would be more wary of which powers would be moving southward in this two-way street. Particularly any powers which would allow say, son of trident or more nuclear power stations being foisted upon us.

  • 53.
  • At 03:43 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Annie wrote:

#19, Stephen. Point well made, an independent, grown up country should be responsible for all financial matters, but without its natural resources, ie. the North Sea oil, it is hamstrung to say the least. Germany would not put up with the revenue from its richest natural resource going to for example, France.

  • 54.
  • At 05:28 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • J Stevenson wrote:

Some very wild stuff from SNP letter-writing club, obviously students at Al Fayed school." Seriously, Labour backed devolution as a means of "heading off" an apparent SNP surge. It did not work. Now they are suggesting another concession, hoping the new deal will help them back into power. No chance! It will take time, only time, for people to realise the Nats are just as bad/thick as Labour. But how far up the creek will we all be by then? The Tories continue to disappoint. Surely the natural Unionists could abandon their easy ride as a sideshow and come up with policies to get us back where we were pre-devolution. Without too much humiliation, of course.

  • 55.
  • At 08:26 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Finlay wrote:

I am interested how many unionists in scotland would still support the union if an independent scotland was identical on an economic level...

Sad sad state of affairs how money gravitates our lives these days.

I think people in this country have been so influenced by english oppression over the many years, media influence (anglo-centric but also putting ourselves down). Lying politicans etc.. All this contributes to the fear of the scottish people for voting for independence. I find myself sometimes surprised we have kept our identity and also how proud SOME scots can still be - its a testement to the potential of this nation.

Vote for Independence, for the SNP.

  • 56.
  • At 09:19 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Munro Ross wrote:

The PMs comments yesterday which directly contradict his Scotland Office Minister and just shows how much disarray Labour are in over what powers the Scottish parliamnt should have.

Why do they and the others not respond tot he National conversation instead of setting up their own review which will ignore independence. The Natioanl conversation welcomes all views and a ballot ppaer with 3 or 4 options (status quo, more specifdied powers, independence and even if wanted return to Westminster domination0 is perfectly possible. an STV style vote could be held.

As to Barnett formula it is increasingly discredited and also people need to remember its objective was to narrow the expenditure gap per head and this it is doing. Costs in Scotland are higher because of the large rural parts where services still need to be rpovided.

  • 57.
  • At 11:14 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Craig M wrote:

David Cairns comments say more about him than about those he attempted to belittle. Mr Cairns displays all the characteristics of a typical sanctimonious Westminster based Scottish Labour MP. It is not the first time he has attempted to undermine the self-esteem of the Scottish people, his contempt for those who voted him into his seat is clear to be seen, how the good people of Greenock can vote for this person is beyond me.

  • 58.
  • At 09:34 AM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Mhari McAndrew wrote:

How sad it was last night to see Scotland's funding reduced to a one-sided biogited tabloid rant against Scots and Scotland. TV programme RE - Vote of our kith and kin in Berwick to come back into the fold.

ITV should be ashamed, main commentator - Kelvin McKenzie, say no more!

Engalnd deserves high strandards in public services. If Engalnd wishes the same choices as Scotland has taken over tutition fees or private healthcare they need to vote for a party who will give them same. I assume it will not be one of the unionist three, they will have to form their own political movement as Scots have done with SNP.

People in England who do not get drugs they need is a terrible inditment on those who govern Engalnd, but ultimately it is for Engalnd to vote for a party who will make the neccessary changes.

Lastly congratulations to Kosovo and its people, may your freedom and independence be everything you wish it be! Cheerish your freedom!

  • 59.
  • At 09:45 AM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Raymond Cameron wrote:

May I thank Karin and Sheila for introducing a touch of civilised argument to this post? The points they made to each other may not have been conceded but they were rational and polite. It made a pleasant change from the usual childish offerings. Thank you.

  • 60.
  • At 10:24 AM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Jeff wrote:

Democracy?

The SNP Government, almost immediately on gaining power, announce a National Conversation, inviting all political parties along with other groups and individuals to discuss the future governance of Scotland. This is not good enough for the losers in the election who go away and setup their own Commission, excluding the largest party in Scotland. Of course, even this is too much for Westminster, who downgrade it to a review. Brian, can you answer 3 questions for me?
1. Can any review that excludes the largest party in Scotland be called democratic?
2.What are the Libdems and Tories saying about the downgrading of the commission?
3. Who pays for the review, Westminster or Holyrood?

These questions need answered by all those involved. Let's be grown up about this and stop treating this serious matter as an exercise in petty political point scoring.

Jeff

  • 61.
  • At 12:03 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • LYDIA REID wrote:

Scotland has all it needs to stand alone, now we have a party with Scotland as its main concern and with no allegiance to London. Does anyone else think this smacks of a wee bit panic down south. We got the last referendum on whether to have a devolved government when the feeling for independence was running at its highest in Scotland. If that referendum had been worded differently Scotland may not have undergone all the years of asset stripping it has by Westminster. Do they feel now they have taken enough is that why they are now willing to let go of our finances. Their is no doubt that Alex Salmond is having an effect on the Scottish people. At last someone we can be proud of and treat as our own. At last a party really putting the needs and the future of Scotland first. I wonder though if we do get financial autonomy what will those people down south blame their financial problems on. Will they be forced to eat their words when it is proven that we have in fact supported them all these years. Will they have the honesty to do this. The other concern I have is Gordon Brown stated that this review may also find that some of the powers we have at the moment may be returned to Westminster in this review a sneaky way of stopping the SNP making such a success of Scotland. The SNP though cannot do this alone they need the Scottish people, at every other time when Scotland has had the opportunity to be a nation and to be a rich nation some people in Scotland have lost their nerve, or have looked to their own interests first, we are Scottish and Scotland deserves a chance to be the great nation I know we can be. Incidentally I can say with hand on heart I have never been a member of the SNP party.

  • 62.
  • At 09:11 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Rob Anderson wrote:

This commission/review/whatever is an odd thing. Here is the motion proposed by Wendy Alexander during the debate on 6 December 2007:

“That the Parliament, recognising mainstream public opinion in Scotland, supports the establishment of an independently chaired commission to review devolution in Scotland; encourages UK Parliamentarians and parties to support this commission also and proposes that the remit of this commission should be:

To review the provisions of the Scotland Act 1998 in the light of experience and to recommend any changes to the present constitutional arrangements that would enable the Scottish Parliament to better serve the people of Scotland, that would improve the financial accountability of the Scottish Parliament and that would continue to secure the position of Scotland within the United Kingdom, and further instructs the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body to allocate appropriate resources and funding for this review.”

It was clearly set up in response to both the SNP election win, and the National Conversation – think about it – if Labour had won the election does anyone seriously purport that this commission would still have been proposed?

The motion mentions ‘mainstream public opinion in Scotland’, appearing to assert that Scots have been demanding that the Scotland Act 1998 be reviewed in the manner set out in the motion. I for one can recall no such demands. They appear to be trying to refer to the people who did not vote for the SNP, but as I say, I do not believe that those people have been requesting a review of devolution. Their use of that term is therefore ill judged and serves only to re-enforce the view that the motion is merely a reaction to the SNP win and the National Conversation.

To me it reeks of two things – pettiness and desperation in equal measure. It’s worth noting though that per the motion when the commission has been established it will be INDEPENDENTLY CHAIRED, and that it will be funded by the Scottish Parliament, which would appear to limit its potential for falling into the grubby protuberances of Gordon Brown, (and anyway he’ll be too busy appearing in Northern Rock adverts as the employee with the most winning smile).

Although INDEPENDENTLY CHAIRED might actually end up meaning “we’ll give it to some old choobs that used to work for the Electoral Commission”.

  • 63.
  • At 03:43 PM on 20 Feb 2008,
  • Richard the Rogue wrote:

#33, Jim,

You know, you might be on to something there. Then BP gets the green light from Libya.

  • 64.
  • At 06:35 PM on 20 Feb 2008,
  • Donald wrote:

David Cairns is my local MP. What a McJoke he is!

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