There is an interesting article in the Herald today that revolves around a Devo More concept, as advocated by the (excellent) devolution expert Alan Trench.
Devo More is perhaps the most likely outcome from this year’s referendum, in the event of a No vote. It falls short of Devo Max, and way short of full independence of course, but the gradualist wing of the Nationalist cause will be happy enough with the advances made and the (secret) independence sympathisers and genuine modernisers within the unionist parties will recognise the advantages that would flow from beefing up powers at Holyrood.
One section of the article struck me in particular: “While Scots ministers are in charge of levers which could help increase the number of homes such as planning laws, they do not control housing benefit. Other parts of the welfare bill, inlcuding tax credits, should be devolved for similar reasons, it argues.”.
If housing benefit is devolved because it is linked to housing, then surely social security at large is linked to housing benefit? And if a nation needs to decide whether to have a large welfare state or a large Defence budget, perhaps military spending has to come too? The point is, all levers are inter-connected, be they economic or social.
Put another way, surely the natural, eventual conclusion of the Devo More logic is full independence?
As a wise Welsh man once said – devolution is a process, not an event, and ‘Devo More’ would be a mere staging post on that process as the remaining reserved powers fall one by one sooner or later. It’s not difficult to imagine how.
– A push poll by Better Together recently showed that the majority of Scots want the Scottish Government to act now on improving childcare. This shouldn’t have garnered the headlines that it did as of course any voting public wants more from their Government, particularly on welfare policies. There is a good reason why the SNP can’t bring forward the radical plans to recruit tens of thousands of childcare staff to kickstart adequate subsidised nursery place. The tax income from this boost to employment would go down south rather than back into the Scottish economy, where it is needed to refund the policy. The answer? Full fiscal autonomy. A fair settlement being Scotland spending the money it raises isn’t rocket science.
– Even today’s news that the Pentland Firth has the potential to power 50% of Scotland’s energy needs is relevant. One of the biggest obsctables to a Scottish renewables revolution is the way costly National Grid transmission charges work against investing in necessary renewables projects, due to the unavoidable far flung destinations of wave and wind ventures. There was a slight improvement in the charges last year, but with Ofgem ultimately controlled by a Government in favour of nuclear and fracking, it will never work as efficiently as it should do to fully power a Scottish renewables drive. The answer? A Scottish Ofgem, amidst a consolidation of regulatory bodies.
The feted Calman Commission has crashed and burned, Labour’s Constitution Commission hasn’t been able to get off the ground and Devo Max has already been watered down to Devo More. At what point do you just decide that, when it comes to Constitutional change, it’s only all or nothing that works?
Devolution is indeed a motorway to independence with no exit points, even if the journey is taking longer than some of us might like.