Here’s the Labour First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, one year ago:
‘It would be difficult to envisage a situation where there would be widespread Barnett reform with an independence referendum pending in Scotland, and with a Scottish Chief Secretary to the Treasury I think that’s unlikely. The problem has been in years gone by that you can’t address the Barnett Formula unless you address the whole of it.’
The First Minister said it was difficult to predict a timescale because there was no timetable for the first step – Barnett reform. Asked whether he got a sense from Danny Alexander that he had an appetite for reform, Mr Jones said:
‘No, I don’t – and I can understand why. He’s a Scottish Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Reforming a system that wouldn’t help Scotland is not something that would be high on his agenda. I certainly can’t see it happening before 2014 and the Scottish referendum.‘”
Jones is all over the papers today with his bizarre delusions-of-influence assertion that he would have some sort of veto over a Sterling currency union between the rUK and an independent Scotland (“Wales could block efforts by an independent Scotland to join a pound-sharing pact”, reports the Scotsman).
For perspective, imagine Alex Salmond being given a veto over the result of a UK referendum to leave the EU. Stop laughing, the article’s not finished yet.
But when it comes to killing the Barnett Formula, thereby slashing billions of pounds off Scotland’s budget, Carwyn Jones is in lockstep with senior Scottish politicians of all three Westminster parties, let alone the English ones who constantly demand its abolition (including Lord Barnett himself).
Alert readers may have noticed in the Scotsman piece linked from that last sentence the absence of any denial from the UK government spokesman to the suggestion that Barnett would end after a No vote, for the very good reason that just about every political commentator in the country now agrees it would happen.
Here’s Iain Macwhirter in today’s Herald, for example:
The days when the men in Whitehall genuinely cared about what happened in the “regions” are long gone. In its place is emerging a kind of constitutional free market in which countries like Scotland and Wales have to fight their corner or risk going out of business, like the nationalised industries of old.
A No vote will be interpreted as a reassertion of sovereignty by Westminster. And after the “bayoneting of the wounded” there may not be much enthusiasm for handing more powers to Holyrood. Unlike in Wales, Scots will not have had the option of voting for devolution max, so there will be no reason for Westminster to go to the trouble of legislating for it.
We’ve been banging this drum for months now. A No vote is NOT a vote for more devolution, and it’s not even a vote for the status quo. It’s a vote to slash the Scottish budget, to reduce Scottish autonomy, to create “One Nation” – meaning crippling tuition fees, a privatised NHS and countless billions spent on nuclear weapons while the UK’s people freeze and starve in their homes.
You might call that negative campaigning, and perhaps it is. But only in the same way that it’s “negative” to tell someone standing in the middle of a railway track that if they don’t move, they’re going to get killed.