Tag Archives: devomax

A better nation…?

Scotland's FutureWhen I published Leaning Towards No, I expected reaction from Yes voters who’d been hoping I would come down on their side of the fence.

I wasn’t expecting the reaction to be so supportive of the SNP. From the reactions, [hardly anyone]* who plans to vote Yes intends to challenge the SNP’s plans to install devomax “currency union” in place of our present devolved system, and while some actively support the plan, many simply don’t see changing the SNP’s policy as possible.

*Not quite “no one”, as I initially wrote.

It therefore seems likely that – much to my annoyance and disappointment – I really don’t have any choice but to vote No. I don’t support devomax. I never did. I won’t vote Yes to have devomax replace status-quo devolution, and that’s what the Scottish Government’s White Paper says is going to happen.

Let me go through the various objections I’ve received to this, beginning with the silliest. (None of these are direct quotes from anyone, so if you recognise yourself in them, it’s purely coincidental.)
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Filed under Currency, Indyref White Paper, Scottish Constitution, Scottish Politics

Leaning towards No

Scotland's FutureI am undecided between devolution and independence.

But I am leaning towards a No vote on 18th September, because the SNP are pushing currency union. And currency union is not independence. Currency union means that key decisions about the Scottish economy will be made by the Bank of England in the City of London.

The SNP are fond of asking, how many countries which have become independent have ever wanted to go back? But if they asked instead “How many countries which have given up control of their economy to a bank in another country have regretted this?” they’d get a much different answer. And that’s what the SNP are offering.
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Does the SNP really want independence?

I know that sounds like a silly question.

Back a couple of years ago, one of the ideas being proposed about the referendum was that it should include a third option – devo-max or devo-plus. In July 2012 I noted the multiple reasons why – though undecided on the Yes/No question – I was against these options, and moved on: there seemed no reason to dwell on what was not going to be voted on.

Tom Gordon outlined the difference between the two, and who was supporting them, in the Herald:

Devo Max Devo Plus

Devo-plus was supported by LibDem Tavish Scott, Conservative MSP Alex Fergusson and Labour’s Duncan McNeil plus Reform Scotland, a think-tank based in Edinburgh that is, it says, independent of its parent think-tank Reform based in London:

devo plus could be a credible alternative to independence, if that option was rejected in the referendum.

Devo-max was floated as “full fiscal autonomy” and was supported primarily by the SNP:

Devo Max is intended to make Scotland more accountable for its spending. At present, Holyrood is responsible for 60% of all public spending in Scotland but has a say in setting and raising just 6% of it, through business rates and council tax.

Under Devo Max, Edinburgh would be responsible for raising, collecting, and administering the vast majority of taxes and benefits, and would receive a geographic share of North Sea oil revenue. EU rules mean VAT would stay the same across the UK, and financial regulation, employment, and competition law would also remain reserved.”

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7 reasons why I’m against DevoPlus / DevoMax

1. There is no democratic mandate for a referendum for anything but independence.

The SNP said in 2007 that they would hold a referendum on independence for Scotland after they’d won two elections. They won in 2007 and in 2011, so they have a clear democratic mandate to hold a referendum on independence in this term of the Scottish Parliament, and the Scottish government has a right to set the date for the referendum.

There is no democratic mandate for a referendum on devo-plus or devo-max. This wasn’t part of anyone’s manifesto or pre-election statements.

2. There is no clear definition of devo-plus or devo-max.
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Filed under Corruption, Economics, Elections, Politics, Scottish Constitution

Money money money

I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay
Ain’t it sad
And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me

If you have a car, you’ll have noticed your petrol costs have been going up. When you do your shopping, food costs are terrible these days. Everything’s more expensive, money just doesn’t seem to go as far as it did.

Ian Bell wrote on 30th June
:

So who still believes that the cost of petrol, food or credit, for nations or individuals, rises or falls because of the pure, dispassionate action of market forces? Speculative attacks, such as “aggressive tax avoidance”, are hardly in the spirit of the thing; the fiddling of interest rates is another malignity entirely. It strikes at the heart of capitalism. When prices cannot be trusted – for such is the effect – there is no free market.

In the case of Barclays, and perhaps 20 other household names trading on the public trust, that was the whole idea. The London interbank offered rate (Libor) and its European equivalent were supposed to act as guarantees that bankers’ claims matched reality, that they described accurately commerce between banks and, by extension, the wider world. For the sake of their bonuses and their bank, traders at Barclays decided to dispense with annoying, unhelpful reality. Time and again, for years, under the alleged instruction of “senior management”, they lied.

You don’t need to understand how Libor is constructed as a global benchmark, with highest and lowest figures discarded and averages compiled, to grasp what was done. Bankers were taken at their word. Instead of regarding this as a solemn responsibility, they took it as an opportunity, offered by suckers. The simple analogy is discovering, after a day at the races, that every nag was doped. Forget the casino economy: these characters were controlling the roulette wheel.

Do you remember the Occupy movement? I don’t know why I say “do you remember”: it’s not so long ago that they were camped out on the steps of St Pauls in London, the small area of the Square Mile that is owned by the Church, not Mammon: not so long since the tents disappeared from Charlotte Square in Edinburgh, where they were a daily reminder of the banks that own so many of the buildings around them. They were wild-eyed radical tent-dwelling hippies, who’d listen to them?

But they were right.

Ian Fraser, writing on 5th December 2011 in QFinance:

What disturbed me the most about the November 1 session was the regulators’ seeming nonchalance about criminality in the UK’s banking sector. At times, using the tortured and obfuscatory phraseology, the financial regulators almost seemed to want to pretend that criminality and fraud didn’t, or couldn’t exist in the domain they are supposed to police. This struck me as very strange.

When I wrote “Helicopter Money and Stephen Hester“, it was meant to be an account of what happened to the rich instigators and their victims – to describe the links between Paula Daly, who became homeless after the bank foreclosed on her business in September 2008, and Jeffrey Verschleiser, head of the sub-prime mortgage operations at Bear Stearns, who had just booked a 93-room luxury hotel for a family weekend.

Despite sub-prime mortgage operations having led to a wave of criminal repossessions across the US (including, quite literally, a special court system so that fraudulent and predatory loans could be resolved in the lenders’ favour and the houses attached to them sold again with clean paperwork) Jeffrey Verschleiser wasn’t worried he might get prosecuted any more than he had money worries. I noted this in passing, citing Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?, which opens with Matt Taibbi, of Rolling Stone, and a former Senate investigator in a Washington bar in January 2011:

“Everything’s fucked up, and nobody goes to jail,” he said. “That’s your whole story right there. Hell, you don’t even have to write the rest of it. Just write that.”

I put down my notebook. “Just that?”

“That’s right,” he said, signaling to the waitress for the check. “Everything’s fucked up, and nobody goes to jail. You can end the piece right there.”

A fortnight ago, Matt Taibbi wrote about the conclusion of the first criminal trial which has sent Wall Street staff to jail: Continue reading

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Shall There Be A Scottish Constitution?

On 30th March 1989 at the General Assembly Hall in Edinburgh, the first Scottish Constitutional Convention signed the Claim of Right for Scotland, which begins:

“We, gathered as the Scottish Constitutional Convention, do hereby acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs, and do hereby declare and pledge that in all our actions and deliberations their interests shall be paramount.”

On 30th November 1995, Scotland’s Parliament, Scotland’s Right was published by the Scottish Constitutional Convention, and this document, described as the “blueprint for devolution”, was used as a basis to create the structure of the Scottish Parliament, re-opened in 1999.

In autumn 2014, there will be a referendum in which Scottish voters will choose independence, devolution within the UK, or possibly the as-yet-undefined “devo-max”. This is a huge decision.

This survey is hoped to become the early voice of a Scottish Constitutional Convention for the 21st century, to be held before the referendum. (Poll results here suggest autumn 2012.) A Scottish Constitution may become the blueprint for an independent nation or, like the Claim of Right itself, a statement of values for our devolved nation. It is open to anyone, whichever way they may vote in autumn 2014.

www.surveymonkey.com/s/TK3QQ82

This survey is not of any official character: not connected to either of the campaigns for or against Scottish independence, but was begun out of a belief that:

Whether Scotland becomes independent or remains a devolved part of the United Kingdom, we should have a Scottish Constitution and we should decide for ourselves what our Constitution should be.

This survey will remain open until 31st July 2012. The results of this survey will be published by 1st October 2012.

www.surveymonkey.com/s/TK3QQ82

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Update, 27th June – I have a last-minute place in the audience at this event tomorrow.

A meeting to discuss the nature and shape of a reconstituted Scottish state.

Now that the Scottish Parliament has committed itself to independence, and to the notion that sovereignty rests with the people, it is essential to consider what sort of state the people feel is desirable.

Enjoy a distinguished panel including Lesley Riddoch, Sally Foster-Fulton, Kate Higgins, Elliot Bulmer, Patrick Harvie, Ross Martin and Willie Sullivan at a Question Time style meeting to discuss the issues. Each speaker will outline the elements of a Scottish state that they feel are important; then there will be opportunities to put questions to the panel.

There will be blogging!

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That Scotland, That Referendum

Should you wish to respond to the Scottish government’s consultation Your Scotland, Your Referendum, then today (11th May) is the last day.

Here’s my answers to the Scottish government in italics.
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Why devomax doesn’t work

Would I vote for independence? I don’t know. (Fortunately, I don’t have to make up my mind till autumn 2014.) Whichever way the vote goes then – for independence or for the status quo, devolution within the UK – the future is clear.

The Scottish Parliament was based on the work done by the Scottish Constitutional Convention, and two years of solid legislative work in Westminster by Donald Dewar and other Scottish Labour MPs. Though Tony Blair was apt to pat himself on the back for it, his main contribution appears to have been a rather grubby deal carving up what would be Scotland’s territorial waters to give a claim on the oil to the rest of the UK, and removing Scotland’s right to space travel. (Dammit.)

I don’t think there should be a devomax option in the independence ballot for two reasons.
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Of devolution, independence, and oil

Scotland has oil. In 2001, the UK was producing 2.54 million barrels of oil per day from the Scottish waters (and using 1.699). Demand for oil has risen, but the revenue from the oil has dropped by about half. The silly season is already out on how the Unionists might resolve this if Scotland votes yes in autumn 2014: the English Democrats want to know how did our oil get under their water? and Lord Kilclooney suggests partitioning Scotland.

As ever, there’s some sound discussion about the legalities around the independence referendum at Peat Worrier:

While Wallace’s colleague, Michael Moore, has said that the UK Government would not attempt any legal challenge to Holyrood legislation authorising a referendum. Wallace’s statement, by contrast, at least still countenances the possibility. Given Moore’s ditheriness, and the range of wrangling interests pulling the coalition this way and that, I doubt too much stock should be put in whatever view the Secretary of State happens to be entertaining today. This was followed up by a piece in the Scotsman, in which Wallace kept open the possibility of litigation, to spike an SNP referendum, if the transfer of powers (with or without conditions) cannot be agreed between the parliaments.

But it looks like things are progressing – the Scottish Government have agreed to use the Electoral Commission, which suggests in turn that the Westminster coalition aren’t planning to try an undignified blocking strategy.

Joyce McMillan had some altogether sensible advice to give to Johann Lamont in the Scotsman yesterday:

Already facing a collapse in Labour votes and membership caused by the party’s movement to the Blairite right since the 1990s, and facing a triumphant Scottish National Party which has now become the focus of all hope for many centre-left Scottish voters, the new Labour leader now has to deal with her party leader’s decision to join the Prime Minister’s gang on the constitutional issue. She has to agree that Scotland should be made to hold a “binding” yes-no referendum on independence, and to rolling out Westminster Labour “big guns” to lead a government-inspired campaign designed to frighten the Scots into voting “no”.

Now tactically, of course, it is tempting for Labour to join the Tories in wrong-footing Alex Salmond, by demanding the straight yes-no referendum which he fears he cannot win. The First Minister has clearly been taken aback by the extent of his own success in demoralising the opposition parties in Scotland, which has left him without significant support in promoting the “devo-max” option which he also wants to see on the ballot paper; and Labour is doing all it can to prolong his pain.

This is the kind of moment, though, when serious political leaders have to take a step backward from the fray, and the consider the long-term future of the movement which they seek to represent. It’s this kind of courage and statesmanship that is now required of Johann Lamont. The party she leads was founded on trade union representation, on the co-operative consumer movement, and on a passionate belief in Scottish home rule as part of what we would now call a federal UK.

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Scotland for ourselves: honest debate wanted

There’s a lot to be said for Scotland staying in the Union.
There’s a lot to be said for Scotland becoming independent.
There’s a lot to be said for devomax.

All of these possible options in the referendum have many really excellent points in their favour – more than enough to think about over the next two and a half years. Yet it’s easy to see that when David Cameron, Nick Clegg, and Ed Milliband all join hands and aim for us, we’re in for a doomfest.

Remember AV? The No To AV campaign went directly to lies, lies, and more lies: the Yes To AV campaign followed suit: and instead of having a sensible discussion about the benefits and drawbacks and tactical choices in campaigning for a change in the voting system and what a No or a Yes vote could mean, we ended up hearing about faked-up costs that the campaigners made up, and looking at pics of babies on ventilators and cat videos.

It would be great if the independence referendum campaign could happen positively. If everyone who supports Scotland staying in the Union could stick to their honest belief about why that’s the best thing. If everyone who supports Scotland’s independence could stick to their honest belief about the advantages. If everyone who supports devomax could stick to their honest belief about why this is the way to go in autumn 2014.

Okay, and fair criticism of the options you’re not going for is reasonable. But if you know already which way you’re voting in autumn 2014, you ought to have good solid positive reasons why, not just negative thinking about the other two. Let’s hear those. (This is a perfect example of the kind of thing I mean: Scotland 3.0)

Above all: I want all five main Scottish parties to commit to giving us only their honest, positive, reasoned views about which option they’re supporting. It would be great if Westminster could keep their neb out, but small chance of that: let’s at least try to keep the discussion positive, clean, and reasonable in Scotland.

I don’t know how I’ll vote yet. I’m not easily convinced either way. But the one thing about which I can be readily convinced: that some at least of the politicians will be arguing not about what’s best for Scotland, but about what’s best for their party and their party’s financiers. Politicians who go negative, who support negative campaigns, who rely on attacks and unreasoned scaremongering – those are not thinking about what’s best for Scotland.

So maybe that’s what we ought to be writing to our MSPs about right now. I will if you will. How about it?

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