All three of the traditional main parties (including Lib Dems, but excluding UKIP) have said that they will give Scotland extra powers in the event of a No vote, despite refusing to offer a third option of “Devo-Max” on the ballot paper.
UKIP’s policy is to stage another referendum on returning to the UK if we vote to leave1.
Until a few weeks ago, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson MSP, firmly ruled out any extra powers after the referendum.
Westminster’s balance of payments is kept viable by the strength of Scotland’s oil, but despite this all the English parties were working on the assumption that Scots would believe their propaganda (which after all had worked for many years) that Scotland was “too wee, too poor and too stupid” to be able to manage their own affairs without help from Big Daddy England.
But things have changed since the polls started showing consistent swings in support away from No and undecided towards Yes. Frantically, the parties have each brought their offers of extra powers to the table, hoping against hope that they will be enough to persuade the Scottish people that continuing to give Westminster 9.9% of the tax take, and getting 9.3% back would make them better off than by having full control.
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont originally promised more, but after their Party Conference (when the No camp were still confident of winning) the Labour proposal was watered down. All they are offering now if they win the election is the ability to raise or lower the basic rate of tax by an additional 5p (from the existing level of 10p to 15p) and to raise (but not lower) higher rate tax. This is because Labour do not want to give Scotland an advantage over rUK. They also want to split Housing Benefit from Universal Credit and hand the administration over to Scotland (they’re also talking about giving Housing Benefit to councils in rUK to administer). Oh, and they will abolish the Bedroom Tax in Scotland2.
The LibDems are backing Labour’s post-Scottish referendum devolution proposals3.
The Tories have gone further. They will also abolish the Bedroom Tax in Scotland, pass control of Air Passenger Duty over and also full control of rates and bands for income tax4.
So, that’s what they say is on offer. Every party has made an offer of extra powers, and these offers were in place ahead of the Queen’s Speech setting out legislation for the final session of Parliament before the next General Election.
But No mention was made in the Queen’s Speech of any enabling legislation for extra powers. It seems logical, doesn’t it, that if there was any real intention of abiding by these promises, steps would be taken at the next available opportunity? They haven’t been.
In 1974, we won a referendum on devolution by votes cast, but failed to reach the 40% threshold. The Government of the day (led by Margaret Thatcher) had promised that if Scotland voted No there would still be a transfer of extra powers. These promises were never fulfilled.
The current Westminster government is led by David Cameron. He made many promises before the election, including “no top down reorganisation of the NHS” and that VAT would not be raised. Few, if any, of his promises have been fulfilled.
Labour is doing badly in the polls at the moment, and the likelihood is that there will be a Tory government after the General Election, possibly in coalition with UKIP. However, in the light of Johann Lamont’s speech in the North-East reported in the Northern Echo on the 13th April (extracted above), even if they do scrape through you might want to take their limited offering with a pinch of salt.
I’m voting Yes for many reasons, but one of the most important is, as The Who said, “I won’t be fooled again”.
Believing Westminster party’s promises? #NoThanks!
A free Scotland with full powers? #YesPlease.
1. The Sunday Herald, Sunday 1 June 2014, Ukip’s new MEP: ‘We will move to overturn Yes vote’
2. The Scotsman, Tuesday 18 March 2014, Labour reveal plans following No vote
3. The Guardian, Monday 10 March 2014, Lib Dems back Labour’s post-Scottish referendum devolution proposals
4. BBC News, Monday 2 June 2014, Scottish independence: Tories back Scots income tax power