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Let’s get this straight

Posted on September 30, 2012 by

Hilariously, the Scottish Labour Party has just announced the personnel for its latest commission on devolution. We’re not quite sure which dramatic events have occurred since its last one, the Calman Commission, concluded that all Scotland needed was a few extra powers over speed limits and airguns. Oh, wait – yes we are.

It seems that a mere 18 months after it happened, Scottish Labour has finally come to terms with the electorate’s contemptuous rejection of its pathetically feeble vision of enhanced devolution. In just a year and a half, it appears to have finally dawned on the slow-witted dinosaurs at John Smith House that the Scottish people are no longer prepared to accept the status quo with a couple of trivial tweaks at the outer edges.

And in a panic, Labour are flailing desperately in all directions at once.

On the one hand, they’re committing electoral suicide by flying in the face of the views of Scots voters, telling them that if they reject independence they’ll also be throwing away some of Scotland’s most cherished jewels of social democracy – free university tuition for the young, free care and bus travel for the elderly, free prescriptions for the sick – in order that we can continue to afford nuclear weapons and military grandstanding on the world stage, and keep faithful Labour quangocrats in fat payoffs.

And now on the other hand, they’re telling us that they’re prepared to do precisely what Johann Lamont said they wouldn’t do just a few months ago – actually listen to public opinion and enter a “bidding war” over more powers for the Scottish Parliament. One of the members of the new commission is Duncan McNeil, who has already made his mind up over what powers he wants Holyrood to have and nailed his colours to the mast of the little-heard “Devo Plus” campaign. Or so it seemed – apparently he too is now ready to change his mind even before the ink is dry on his signature.

So let’s see if we can get this down to the brass tacks.

1. Scottish Labour, who as recently as last year thought the Scotland Bill was the last word in devolution, have had a Damascene conversion to the cause of major increases in Scottish autonomy. Sometime in the next two years, they’re going to come up with some manner of whole new devolution proposal – let’s call it “Devo X” – backtracking on everything they’ve said about it since 2007.

2. They’re going to promise to implement this “Devo X” if Scotland votes No to independence, despite not being in government anywhere in the UK and having no power to implement such promise – depending instead on the voters of England electing Ed Miliband as Prime Minister in 2015.

3. Should that particular miracle be achieved, they’re going to massively alter the constitutional structure of the UK state without, apparently, seeking the opinion of around 92% of its population.

(Because remember, Labour constantly tell us that an SNP election win isn’t a mandate for independence, because elections are about a full programme of policies rather than a single issue. Therefore, Labour presumably couldn’t introduce “Devo X” purely on the grounds of it being in their election manifesto.)

4. They’re also going to ask us to believe that this huge increase in Scottish autonomy will come about without a drastic reduction in the power/number of Scottish MPs at Westminster in response to the now-overwhelming magnitude of the West Lothian Question.

(Or, to believe that the first action of a new Labour government will be to vote many of its own Scottish MPs straight out of existence.)

5. Oh, and they’re also going to tell us that the price of “Devo X” will be the destruction of the foundation stone of social democracy – universal benefits – thereby negating most of the point of Scotland having responsibility for and control of its own finances anyway.

(Or, they’re going to go into the referendum without having published the outcome of their policy review at all, asking people to vote No for a pig in a poke.)

Is that it? Have we misunderstood anything?

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    34 to “Let’s get this straight”

    1. Derick says:

      Nope – that’s pretty much it.  Check out Kevin McKenna in the Guardian!  wtf?!!! Thoughts?

    2. Peter A Bell says:

      Who does Lamont imagine she is fooling with her “devolution commission”? What is the point of it?

      If “Scottish” Labour was serious about meaningful additional powers for the Scottish Parliament then they have had ample opportunity in recent years to both formulate a policy and implement the measures. They did neither. Instead, they colluded with their Tory allies in the rigged Calman fiasco. And then did everything they could to elide or dilute such measures as did find their way into the legislation.

      The Tory/Labour/LibDem coalition has now accepted that independence is a viable option. Therefore, any commission examining constitutional issues whose terms of reference exclude the independence option is, by definition, rigged. And if it’s rigged it’s “findings” have no credibility.

      But even disregarding this fatal flaw, Lamont’s “devolution commission” is utterly pointless anyway. Even if it reports before the referendum it’s findings cannot form the basis of an option and additional question on the ballot. So we will be asked to take it on trust that whatever powers have been identified will be delivered if only we vote NO. But if we vote NO then there is absolutely no reason why the UK government would deliver. The Bitter Together mob campaigns on the basis of a NO vote being a vote for the status quo.

      And why would a Tory government at Westminster – or, for that matter, a post-2015 Labour government – feel bound by promises made by “Scottish” Labour? Lamont could promise absolutely anything on the back of her wee commission’s report, but she would have absolutely no way of delivering.

      The commission is being set up for one reason only. It is to allow Lamont and her cronies to TALK about “more powers” during the referendum campaign even though the talk means less than nothing in practical terms. In reality, their commission has nothing whatever to do with the referendum at all. It is a ruse. A con. A device by which they hope to avoid having to admit that what they are offering the people of Scotland is a big fat nothing.

      Lamont and her band of buffoons can, of course, be confident of the enthusiastic support of the media in perpetrating their deception. But I seriously doubt if even the combined efforts of all the British state’s best liars and propagandists will be able to keep the pretence intact for two whole years.

    3. MartinB says:

      An interesting point there – Labour claim that elections are about a whole programme for government, not a single issue.

      On the other hand, by demanding detailed “What will it be like on Independence Day +1” policy, they’re claiming exactly the same thing about the referendum, not at all understanding the difference between a one term administration and the forever future of the nation.

      On the third hand, they’re insisting that the referendum is distracting from policy issues while on the fourth hand failing to come up with any policies at all for not only the post independence scenario but for the status quo.

      On the fifth hand they’re (per Miliband) insisting that the SNP are aping the Tories while on the sixth and seventh hands getting into bed with them in the No campaign and adopting their political rhetoric of ‘Something for Nothing’.

      And after all this, on the eighth hand, they’re refusing the premise that the best people to understand and make decisions on how to respond to the needs of Scotland are the Scottish Electorate.

      Who would have known that they had so many hands? 

    4. douglas clark says:

      Here’s an idea for the Devo Plus folk.
      We have full independence but allow Westminster to legislate across the British Isles on air guns.

    5. scottish_skier says:

      Not a lot of point putting policy together if people no longer vote for you. Any suggestions of more devo from Labour now may garner as much electorate trust as preserving no tuition fees etc.

    6. Angus McLellan says:

      Therefore, Labour presumably couldn’t introduce “Devo X” purely on the grounds of it being in their election manifesto.
      And that has to mean their UK manifesto, not just a SLAB version of it. But in terms of the eventual outcome, I’d point to Alan Trench’s conclusions in his presentation to the PSA conference in Brussels earlier this month:

      “Practicalities make seriously enhancing devolution within the Union rather less far-reaching than one might think (or hope) … the gulf between ‘independence’ and ‘greater self-government’ for Scotland within the Union is greater than many think”

      And in other news, hidden behind the Murdoch paywall on the Sunday Times Jim Murphy has come up with some hypothetical jam for tomorrow with a promise (or threat?) to move the army in Germany to Scotland. “If you can’t do the basic thinking about the nature and structure of your armed forces, and what you’d use them for, you don’t deserve to win a referendum,” [Murphy] said.
      The article is a bit skeptical on Murphy’s claims (and Cameron’s too), suggesting that there’s not the money to actually move the army as the Treasury won’t let the MoD PFI the construction work needed for rebasing. The suggested price-tag is in the £3 billion range, twice as much as the MoD had claimed, and that’s before the extra costs of moving to Scotland are considered, but the savings from leaving Germany would only be in the £300 million a year range. Awkward.

    7. DougtheDug says:

      What is important is who implemented this Commission and who it reports to. 

      This has been set up by Labour in Scotland as a regional commission and it’s not a UK wide Labour commission as it’s reporting back to Lamont and their regional Labour in Scotland conference and not reporting back to Milliband or the NEC.
      It will hit the same roadblock as any proposal to increase the devolved powers of the Scottish parliament which is convincing the English based MP’s in Westminster that they should support it.

      This is without a word of doubt their Jam Tomorrow Commission. It will set out what Scottish Labour might want for a devolved Scotland before the 2014 referendum but it will be meaningless without the rest of the Labour party buying into and putting it into their manifesto and that’s not going to happen.

    8. MajorBloodnok says:

      Murphy taking Murdoch’s shilling eh?  Where are his principles?  Was thinking maybe they think they’ll need the army here to make sure ‘extremists’ (such as the Scottish Government) don’t hi-jack the independence debate and deliver a YES vote?

    9. panda paws says:

      Martin B – Since “Scottish” Labour are now about as desirable as a spider in the bath, eight hands would be right. 
      However gift horses and all that. Many will be too young to remember Alec Douglas-Hume’s jam tomorrow. And this new “commission” (I thought only government’s held commisions?), will give the Yes campaign an ideal opportunity to bring it up again.

    10. Seasick Dave says:

      Devo +?

      I though that they wanted YES/NO only?

    11. Holebender says:

      Looking on the bright side, at least this is a Labour Party commission and therefore won’t waste our money like Calman did. They’ll have to pay for this one themselves!
      MartinB… are you sure those aren’t faces rather than hands?

    12. murtam says:

      It seems the Scottish  “Labour Party” is living in some kind of parallel universe at the moment. Maybe when they return to planet earth they might have something to say that people would be prepared to listen to. At the moment they are suffering from a credibility gap!

    13. Training Day says:

      This commission could be a breakthrough.  I’m very optimistic this commission can build on the conclusions of the previous commission, and, once this commission has reported there’s surely a real possibility that a further commission could be convened to aim towards the tantalising goal of a final commission before the referendum – and with a bit of luck that final commission could easily set in place measures for a brand new commission to be set up after the referendum vote.

      It’s exciting times in Scottish Labour.

    14. Arbroath 1320 says:

      Looks like Labour are pretty handy after all Martin. 😆
      Thing is Angus, Murphy is just repeating what the BLUE Tories have been claiming was going to happen. Was it not the case that the Germany based units, or at least some of them, were to be based at R.A.F. Leuchars?
      Any way I have some serious doubts that we will see much or any of the Germany based units up here in Scotland, after all the MOD are speeding up their redundancy programme.
      As far as Lamont is concerned I would NEVER trust her as far as I could throw His Lord ship from Hull, John ” I’ll never take a peerage” Prescott! In my view I NEVER trusted the BLUE Tories and their promise of jam tomorrow. Thankfully they have removed their empty jam pot from the table. As far as the YELLOW Tories are concerned, well the less said about them and their jam pot the better I think.
      This just leaves the RED Tories. This is the Tory group who are currently running around like a bunch of headless chickens. They are trying, and FAILING, to persuade us to behave like turkeys and vote for Christmas. I don’t think so! Best the RED Tories just go ahead and REMOVE their jam jar from the table as well methinks!

    15. YesYesYes says:

      What Scottish Labour is trying to convince us of is that the absence of evidence of Scottish Labour policy is not evidence of the absence of Scottish Labour policy. But the reality is that this is precisely what it is. In effect, the choice for those who vote No in 2014 is a choice between blue Tory jam tomorrow or red Tory jam tomorrow, but whichever way you cut it, the jam, even if it were ever to materialise in the distant future, is going to be spread very thinly.
      Let’s note another feature of Scottish Labour’s deception and hypocrisy here. Scottish Labour has set up a commission to look at the single issue of the affordability of universal benefits. It will take this commission, comprised of some hand-picked members of the ‘great and the good’, i.e. the usual suspects – unionist academics, third sector  representatives and trade union bureaucrats – two years to gather its evidence and report its findings.
      Yet this is the same Scottish Labour party that demands that the Scottish government rushes through a referendum process in a period of twelve to eighteen months. A process that involves, among other things, two government consultations, white papers, a section 30 order, a national debate in Scotland involving all sections of Scottish society and addressing a wide range of policy issues, including welfare, defence, relations with the EU, the governance of Scotland, a written constitution, industrial policy, the future of Scottish democracy, the re-building of Scotland’s economy to name just a few.
      Which leaves us with the following conclusion: either the Scottish Labour party is remarkably stupid, or such is Scottish Labour’s contempt for the people of Scotland that it assumes that we are all remarkably stupid.

    16. Holebender says:

      I’m not sure that’s an either/or yyy. It could be a simple AND!

    17. Doug Daniel says:

      YesYesYes – indeed, and it really annoys me when people try to compare the devolution referendum process with the process for this referendum. Not only was the devolution referendum the end result of about ten years of debate, but all it was doing was transferring powers from the Scotland Office to a Scottish Parliament. There was nowhere near the same scope of powers being transferred as will happen with independence, and far less complications since these were already being administered independently of the UK policies.

      But hey, when did you last see an honest unionist? 

    18. YesYesYes says:

      Nice one and well spotted. 

    19. YesYesYes says:

      @Doug Daniel,
      That’s a really important distinction that you’ve made in your opening sentence IMHO. We tend to forget just how convoluted and tortured the whole devolution process was in the 1990s and, as you say, devolution only involved the transfer of limited powers.
      It only underlines the point further, though, that the more we hear from Scottish Labour, the more they convince us that they have such a low opinion of the Scottish people’s cognitive faculties that they seem to have concluded that we’ve lost the power of reason.

    20. MajorBloodnok says:

      @YesYesYes said: It only underlines the point further, though, that the more we hear from Scottish Labour, the more they convince us that they have such a low opinion of the Scottish people’s cognitive faculties that they seem to have concluded that we’ve lost the power of reason.

      Labour are leading the way on that one then.

    21. Robbie says:

      Rosa Kleb is opting for Devo minus.

    22. scottish_skier says:

      I see since the launch of the Lib Dem commission on Scottish home rule they have soared in polls.

      Oh no, sorry, that’s not correct. 

    23. Arbroath 1320 says:

      I see since the launch of the Lib Dem commission on Scottish home rule they have soared in polls.

      In their own little self deluded minds perhaps S.S. 😆

    24. JBS says:

      “Alec Douglas-Home’s jam tomorrow”?  No, no:
      There’s something else going on here too, having to do with the fact that tomorrow never really comes simply because of the difference in meaning between the words “today” and “tomorrow”. 
      Interesting fact: in the 1963 film “From Russia with Love” Rosa Klebb was played by Lotte Lenya, who was married to the composer Kurt Weill and who played Jenny in the first performance of “The Threepenny Opera” in 1928.
      I’m so clever.  Right, back to bashing Scottish Labour, goodness knows they deserve it.  “Are we not Scottish Labour?  We are Devo Plus (maybe).”

    25. Tris says:

      “…either the Scottish Labour party is remarkably stupid, or such is Scottish Labour’s contempt for the people of Scotland that it assumes that we are all remarkably stupid.” Yes yes yes

      I think that more or less sums up our choice as far as Labour in Scotland is concerned. I wonder, though, if it could be a mixture of the two.

    26. Arbroath 1320 says:

      Sorry I’m O/T Stu but could we be seeing the beginning of the breaking of financial links between Labour and the unions here?

    27. YesYesYes says:

      If you scroll up a few posts you’ll see that Holebender beat you to it, but you’re both right.

    28. Arbroath 1320 says:

      Is it me or has Dave over on cybernats got Mags Curran in one!

    29. pmcrek says:

      I’d like to increase the suggested time frame spent on the devolution debate, policy and consultation by pointing out that between 1889 and 1914 Scottish home rule was debated 15 times in Parliament and indeed the Scottish Home Rule Bill passed its second reading in 1913.

      I make that about 108 years in the making give or take a few months.

    30. Macart says:

      They really don’t seem to understand at JS Hoose. This isn’t a lottery, its not about negotiation with the electorate. For those people who inhabit that particular spectrum its F.F.A or you can F.O.

      Labour can’t negotiate with them any more than they could with us. Are they saying that those who believe in home rule hold their convictions any less personally or deeply than we do???? Or that they believe these people will back down if offered a sop??

      Well the only possible conclusion to draw after a year and a half of Labour listening intently to the electorate is that basically they heard nothing or nothing that they liked. 

      p.s. Considering the input of one Alastair Darling last week, the whole idea of the commission is already blown out of the water or am I somehow misinterpreting the whole veto option on devolution of powers he discussed?

    31. MajorBloodnok says:


      PS – Very good point. They’ve already decided that there will be no new powers so what’s this Devo Max Commission actually for, other than to appear to be cooking up some jam for tomorrow with which to try to hoodwink the electorate?  Given that Lamont set up a Devolution Commision in March, which according to the yesterday’s Herald, has never met, I’m not optimistic that anything will come out of it. Mind you, it could be a useful stick to beat those numpties with.

    32. Macart says:


      That’s my take on it MB. It makes no sense other than as a blind for the electorate. This commission is just another jam tomorrow promise only delivered with even less taste and subtlety than Cameron’s in February. 

    33. tartanfever says:

      On the subject of the ‘Devo +’ campaign.

      It was initiated by Reform Scotland, an organisation set up by two ex-tory party advisors and contains an advisory board full of ex-CEO’s and serving Company Directors. Their main funding comes from private business and industry, and this leads to board members of those companies being appointed on the advisory panel of ‘Reform Scotland’. Very cosy.

      The man behind ‘Devo +’, Ben Thomson is an ex- merchant banker and is also a non-exec director of two investment trusts (this we’ll get to in a bit)

      Reform Scotland describe themselves as an ‘independent think-tank’ and have released various reports on various topics of industry in Scotland. The common factor between them all seems to be that they all advocate more private business involvement within the public sector or indeed, the privatisation of public services.

      Recently, they announced a report which was pretty damning on health provision in Scotland and suggested more private companies taking over the running and supply of GP services. I noted from their website that they list one of their major donors as ‘Skanska Scotland’, which amongst other things, offer Health Infrastructure services, ie – building new hospitals and surgeries. No surprise you may think, but let’s go back to Ben Thomson.

      The two investment trusts which Mr Thomson is involved with, Martin Currie and Fidelity Special Values both have private healthcare investments as part of their portfolio’s.  So Mr Thomson’s role is quite clearly that of lobbying on behalf of business interests that he is directly involved with under the banner of an ‘ independent think-tank’ in trying to pressure the Government into inviting private healthcare firms to take over public services and infrastructure building.

      Grim isn’t it ?

      Not only that, their reports are regularly given air time on Reporting Scotland , describing Reform Scotland as an ‘independent think-tank’ and often repeating their findings verbatim and without question.

      And the final insult ? The cherry on the cake ? This group, Reform Scotland has charitable status under the heading ‘Education’.

      So next time you hear of Reform Scotland or Devo +, remember who’s involved and what they do.

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