This story from earlier this month is now the third most-read in Wings history. But there was an aspect of the revelations in the Future Of England survey that we didn’t touch on, and it’s worth picking up now.
“Voters in England are also inclined to support greater autonomy for a post-No Scotland than do the pro-union parties. For instance, 42% of people in England support the idea that ‘The Scottish Parliament should be given control over the majority of taxes raised in Scotland’, something that only 25% disagree with.
This would appear to place people in England at the maximal end of the various proposals that have been put forward for further-reaching Scottish devolution, and significantly beyond the modest reform proposals put forward by the Labour Party.”
And that’s quite an interesting finding, because it means that Scottish Labour – the self-proclaimed “party of devolution” – now actually wants LESS tax-raising power for the Scottish Parliament than just about anyone else anywhere in the entire UK.
The SNP, of course, want ALL tax powers (and all other powers) to come to Holyrood. The Tories and the Lib Dems both want a significantly higher proportion of Scottish tax revenues raised by the Scottish Parliament than Labour do. Countless polls have found that the people of Scotland want control of all tax AND welfare. And now we know that the people of England and Wales feel the same way.
So why are Scottish Labour so shy? Why are they offering less than everyone else? What do they know about the promise of “more powers” that they’re not telling us?
That’s a rhetorical question, of course. We know the answer to that question because one Scottish Labour MP broke ranks and DID tell us.
Scottish Labour MPs are caught in a terrible bind over devolution. They know that their party’s proposals will mean less money for Scotland, and as the sitting Westminster MPs they’re the ones who’ll have to carry the can for cuts in their constituencies if Scotland votes No and then returns a Labour government in 2015.
While a Labour win remains unlikely, if it happens there’ll be nobody else left to blame, and the public backlash is likely to be considerable. (Let’s be uncharacteristically charitable for a moment and accept that the MPs in question would also genuinely feel bad about the damage wrought on their constituents as a result.)
So why are Labour painting themselves into this corner?
Ah, there it is. If Scotland votes for independence, 41 Scottish Labour MPs will find themselves unceremoniously hoofed off the Westminster gravy train and its Scottish branch will find itself in a very tricky financial pickle – stoney broke, with just a few thousand members and unable to get a bailout from London HQ, because political parties can’t take money from “foreign” organisations, as rUK Labour would then be.
Facing this double whammy, the party tried to square the circle by drastically watering down its original devolution proposals, which were what Davidson’s comments referred to. But unable to offer the Scottish people nothing lest it boost the Yes vote, they merely reduced the damage to the least they thought they could get away with.
Even the slightest, most superficial analysis of the UK parties’ tax proposals makes plain that they’ll cost Scotland billions of pounds (which is why you’ve read next to nothing about them in any Scottish newspaper). The block grant, via the mechanism of the Barnett Formula, currently covers about 70% of the gap between what Scotland sends to Westminster in tax receipts and what it gets back in spending.
But the more tax the Scottish Parliament has to raise itself – without having control of oil revenues – the lower the block grant, the smaller the compensatory Barnett effect and the worse the resulting damage to the Scottish budget.
Labour know that they’re basically offering Scotland a punch in the face, rather than their original proposal of a kick in the groin. It’s why they’re so reluctant to talk about their devolution plans, and why they get in such an unholy mess when they do.
So they’re stuck between a political rock and a hard place. They want to keep their lucrative jobs, expense accounts and pensions, while doing as little as possible to make their own lives harder after a No vote. The reason they’re offering fewer “powers” than anyone else is because they know that without independence, those “powers” are actually instruments of self-harm.
*Order quantities of our new flyer here for free (small postage charge).