Full implementation, full explanation

I know what you're going to say.

Please can you stop banging on in this blog about the Silk Commission, about who's saying what to whom about constitutional reform and devolving tax and borrowing powers. Can't you go back to writing about missed targets in the health service and pressures on public services and shenanigans about smacking and organ donation, the things we really care about?

I will. I promise. But let me just do this first.

Yesterday it emerged that the First Minister had written to the Chancellor calling for "full implementation" of the Silk Commission's recommendations on how to reform the way Wales is funded. "Full implementation" struck many people, some of whom had been very close to the whole process, some who've just watched it all unfold, as pretty significant. It didn't matter why he'd done it, what the motive was. To them those two words stood out - full implementation.

To remind you, the Commission recommended that so-called minor taxes, things like stamp duty, aggregates levy, air passenger duty, should be devolved, that powers to borrow should be devolved too and - the big one in any one's money - that the Welsh Government should share responsibility for income tax with the UK Government. Given this would mean a fundamental shift in powers, the devolution of income tax should be subject to a referendum.

Where the First Minister stood on this last point was a bit muddy. He was clear that devolving tax varying powers to Wales without first re-visiting the formula that dictates how much money Wales gets from the Treasury, wasn't on. He wasn't about to do anything that left Wales worse off.

But yesterday, he was equally clear that he wanted to see the Silk Commission's recommendations implemented "in full".

No ambiguity there, said Kirsty Williams. If there ever had been, there isn't now.

Andrew RT Davies agreed. So much so, he'd have been happy to add his signature to it.

Come off it, said Plaid MP Jonathan Edwards. Labour is the most anti devolution party left standing. If Carwyn Jones is really backing the Silk recommendations in full, Mr Edwards suggested, he hasn't told his colleagues in Westminster.

Today, Mr Jones agreed to an interview and by the end of my interview, this is where we stood:

When he wrote the words "full implementation" in the letter to George Osborne he wasn't suggesting he supports in full the recommendations made in the Silk Commission report. Yes to borrowing, yes to minor taxes, but, as things stand, no to tax varying powers.

So "full implementation" actually means part implementation? No, he did mean full implementation but as far as tax-varying powers are concerned, he'd only consider those IF the Barnett formula is reformed first. And that isn't going to happen, said Mr Jones. So that part of the Silk recommendation are effectively off the table.

In practice, in reality, then, "full implementation" means devolution of minor taxes and borrowing powers. (I suggested earlier that the "Barnett caveat" was the Welsh Government's, not the Silk Commission's - but Recommendation 18 proves me wrong as you'll see here. )

"Full implementation" of Silk itself sounded as though you meant rather more, I suggested.

Not the case, was Carwyn Jones' response - not unless certain things change, and they're not going to, was the gist. Devolving stamp duty, air passenger duty, powers to borrow mean his ministers could get on now with making people's lives better, was his take. Devolving tax varying powers would, as things stand, make their lives worse.

Got it.

I wondered therefore, if what the First Minister was actually demanding were minor taxes and some borrowing powers, how he'd imagined the outcome would have any impact whatsoever on wavering voters in Scotland.

His answer was this: it's the principle. If the people of Scotland see that the Treasury is actively working with us to build a fair funding system, from within a United Kingdom, it'll show them there's an alternative to independence.

I did suggest that the Scotland Act 2012 - "the largest transfer of fiscal powers from central Government since the creation of the United Kingdom" - was more likely to prove that point of principle to wavering voters in Scotland than sorting out the aggregates levy in Wales, but he was having none of it.

What is really going on here?

What was Danny Alexander's speech at the Welsh Liberal Democrats' conference really about?

What was Carwyn Jones' letter really about?

Have we been watching - in footballing terms - a "one-two", two players advancing over their own hostile territory, helping each other out, in the hope that in the end they can drive the ball into the net?

The response from some quarters? 'You gave Carwyn Jones a free hit yesterday'. If Barnett reform is not going to happen any time soon, and if he knows it's not going to happen, then in reality we're talking about a handful of minor taxes and some borrowing powers. He lacks ambition.

Mr Jones' response was clear: without Barnett reform, he will not contemplate the devolution of income tax-varying powers.

And: "If ambitious means taking the people of Wales over a precipice, then no, I'm not that sort of ambitious."

Discuss - then we'll all move on.