Monday, 1 October 2012

Either Holyrood or Westminster must go.

That’s the problem with devolution – it just doesn't work. It’s either got to be an all or nothing scenario for any state, or some type of federal set up where the nations run their own affairs but contribute to a joint “Uber-administration” in which each nation has an absolutely equal say, like the US senate. 

Johann Lamont and her London bosses know this also, as do the Tories and Lib-Dem’s. If we understand that 2014 is ultimately, in Westminster’s eyes, an either / or referendum we can begin to understand the recent labour speech in Scotland, it was designed to bring our nation into line with England. If we vote no, the signal is strong, devolution is dead, there actually will be no need for devolution, and we’ll be just like England.

In the event of a “Yes” vote, Ms. Lamont’s speech of last Tuesday is irrelevant, we all know it.

If the insanity of a “No” vote comes to pass, we will simply be informed that we were very clearly told what to expect. Do not doubt it. It will come to pass.

This will happen because the UK and EU are not federal institutions; they don’t even pretend to be. It is therefore baffling why any small nation would sign up to either, effectively volunteering for a jackboot across the jugular.

Proportionate representation across nations just doesn’t work – folks don’t mind in the good times, but when the bad times bite the coin flips to a “who are they to dictate?” type scenario. Fractures erupt.

That either Holyrood or Westminster must go is self evident. As a glaring example, and there have been many from the Megrahi affair to planning permission, and not including Ms. Lamont’s apparently insane speech last week, please look at just one headline in the latest Sunday Herald concerning the amalgamation of Scotland’s police forces.

More important for the purpose of this article is the lead in sentence from the headline.

“SCOTLAND's single police force is facing "horrendous" cuts worth £300 million over the next three-and-a-half years, according to official figures leaked to the Sunday Herald”. 

Wow, now that’s an attention grabber and no mistake, thousands of jobs must go to make that type of saving possible. The implication, wrongly, is that it’s Holyrood’s fault.

Frankly the cuts to the police force where services are duplicated can only be a good thing, it saves the taxpayer money. Accelerating the cuts is a very bad thing, John Swinney knows this, but he can’t avoid Westminster’s diktat.

In this amalgamation every reasoning Scot must surely applaud the Scottish government. A single police force for a nation of five million is eminently sensible.

The speed of the cuts and their human consequences is certainly not a good thing; that is a direct result of devolution.

With the austerity measures being forced upon us by decades of Westminster bungling, corruption and ineptitude, resulting in Holyrood budget cuts, John Swinney was put into an impossible position. His budget has been reduced; he has to make efficiencies and cuts.

The problem is that there’s a human side to these efficiencies and cuts, and it can and will have dramatic individual consequences. Take the USA for example, the recession/depression hit in 2008. They do counting tricks like Westminster, if you’re not actively looking for work, you’re not officially unemployed. If you give up, you don’t count.

This has allowed the US to keep its official unemployment figures from reaching outlandish levels; meantime for young adults suicide has just passed vehicular accidents as the leading cause of death for the first time ever.

There is always a human cost.

John Swinney has been put into a position where he has to pass the human cost onto Westminster, to hope that they take care of it, because he simply can’t. With devolution he doesn’t need to worry about social security, Westminster simply won’t allow him that luxury.

These thousands of newly unemployed, from the police merger alone that will hit the dole must still be cared for in the greater context of our societal obligations. Or not, but the “or not” is not John Swinney’s concern – it’s not his budget responsibility.

This is a glaring example of why devolution simply doesn’t work, why anything but a partnership of equals simply doesn’t work.

Conversely, this is why independence does and will work.

Under devolution we now have a situation where the governing Westminster party’s ineptitude and ignorance is forcing cuts. Swinney can impose cuts of this scale simply because it’s not his budget that has to underwrite them.

Really, really think about this for a minute, it’s devolution in action.

Westminster is incompetent.

Westminster forces Holyrood to enact savage cuts as a direct result of Westminster’s incompetence.

Holyrood, which has absolutely no choice, passes along these cuts. The police forces [in this case] are merged at a grossly accelerated rate and thousands are unemployed.

These thousands become unemployed so fast the private side can’t accommodate.

There’s a labour glut which gets worse, this helps drive salaries backwards in real terms.

Holyrood meets its budget as imposed upon it by Westminster.

This is a devolved settlement. This is Westminster control. Holyrood has no options.

However, what isn’t obvious is that the responsibility for these thousands doesn’t go away and as private industry can’t absorb that many that quickly, what exactly is their fate?

Under devolution the answer is simple, they go on Welfare, support, buroo, social, call it what you will. These multitudes have just become Westminster’s responsibility.

It’s why devolution doesn’t work and independence must happen. Westminster just forced Holyrood to meet its budget.

Except in forcing Holyrood to meet its budget, Westminster just ensured it can’t live within its own budget.

Westminster must now cut benefits or borrow more – either way it’s doing things a nation or the impacted individuals can’t afford. London’s kick-started a vicious cycle, the casualties will be many, but is acceptable in London because their voices are small.

What existed under devolution was hidden in the times of plenty, but when famine strikes the cracks yawn wide.

Westminster is well aware of the situation, so is Holyrood. One government or the other must go, there’s no option except mutual bankruptcy unless devolution consists solely of a puppet administration.

As there is no longer a puppet administration, neither Westminster nor Holyrood wishes to see bankruptcy. Both are banking on 2014. Both must secure Scotland for themselves. That is the truth of referendum 2014. Only with Holyrood is there an opportunity to ensure we will look after our own interests.

In an independent Scotland as with any prudent nation, budgets would be somewhat controlled; it is probable we will not be as heavily impacted by fortune’s variables. Irrespective we know one thing. If Holyrood had to make the choice between a slower more orderly and better managed draw down of surplus staff, or be faced with the welfare bill for those it had just made unemployed, we could expect any sane administration to opt for the more orderly draw down.

The current police amalgamation is providing a snapshot of the reality of devolution; it doesn’t work. The only point to suffering the ignominy of a devolved or supported administration is if that administration is but a step on the path to a rightful reassertion of statehood.

If the path leads anywhere else, it’s pointless.

Holyrood or Westminster – 2014 will be the year of decision, the choice is that simple.

Unless you are advocating the end of Holyrood as anything but a parish council, unless you want an end to Scotland’s parliament, there’s only one option.


  1. Yet again another excellent 'blog' highlighting a pause for thought Hazel! The amalgamation of Scotland's police forces will undoubtedly save money particularly in the areas where services are duplicated and indeed any private sector company would apply the same reasoning, this must surely be good news for the taxpayer. I would also suppose that many of the 'redundancies' will be in the form of early retirement and no doubt having been in the constabulary will be an extra incentive for new employers to take them on ...excellent for your C.V.

    This is of course not the first time we have seen 'amalgamations' of our Police Forces and in 1975 we saw local polices forces become regional police forces with further changes happening in 1995 and again in 2002.
    It is interesting to note that, according to the BBC, the previous leaders of Labour (Iain Grey) and the Tories (Annabel Goldie) both openly supported the merger when it was announced in Holyrood in September 2011. Willie Rennie and Patrick Harvie didn't comment either way.

    As to your headline "Either Holyrood or Westminster must go." I wonder how many people have actually asked them-self "exactly what is devolution"? We know that in 1999 there was a great sense of celebration when Scotland re-convened the Scottish Parliament after 292 years. I also think that if you asked every person living in Scotland if it has been successful a very large majority if not all would say Yes it has. However I do wonder how many people really know what the term means in a legislative context, and if the celebrations in 1999 were truly warranted.

    Devolution: 5) the transfer of power or authority from central government to local government.

    From Wikipedia:
    Devolution is the statutory granting of powers from the central government of a sovereign state to government at a subnational level, such as a regional, local, or state level. Devolution can be mainly financial, e.g. giving areas a budget which was formerly administered by central government. However, the power to make legislation relevant to the area may also be granted.
    Devolution differs from federalism in that the devolved powers of the subnational authority may be temporary and ultimately reside in central government, thus the state remains, de jure unitary. Legislation creating devolved parliaments or assemblies can be repealed or amended by central government in the same way as any statute.

    From Wikipedia on Devolution in the United Kingdom:
    In the United Kingdom, devolution refers to the statutory granting of powers from the Parliament of the United Kingdom to the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly and to their associated executive bodies the Scottish Government, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Northern Ireland Executive.
    The article goes on to describe the effects in all areas of the United Kingdom including the Crown Dependencies of Isle of Man & Channel Isles.

  2. Back in 1997, this was the one thing that I agreed on with the "No" camp: "Devolution is a slippery slope towards Independence". It was also precisely why I voted "Yes"!
    Devolution, which was supposed to "kill Nationalism stone dead" could only ever go one way. The Labourites of the time, who though they were throwing a sop to appease their opponents, didn't realise the Pandora's Box they were opening.

    And here's where my concern lies at the moment. We, as the pro-Independence campaign, are supposed to be running a relentlessly positive campaign, with the result that no-one can talk about the elephant in the room; what happens if (heaven forfend) a "No" result is returned. Westminster will move to ensure that it is never challenged again. Holyrood will be scrapped and the Thatcher era will come to seem like some long-lost halcyon days.

    1. If Scotland returns a NO in 2014 ... in the words of Private Fraser ... "We're Doomed!"

      Austerity will be dosed out by the ladle-full, budgets will be slashed, Holyrood WILL become no more effective than a Parish Cooncil, and Scots will fulfil the prophecies and truly become a dependent, subsidy junkie nation.

      The thought terrifies me.

    2. Hazel when you read into what 'devolution' means Holyrood has only a slightly bigger say than the Parish council or regional authorities anywhere else in the UK. it is a very clever ploy and to me it all came down to the UK ratifying the European Charter of Local Government which they were one of the last countries to sign in 1997/8.
      I just hate it that Liebour took all the credit for 'giving' it to Scotland and Wales when they actually had no choice and assured that any 'powers' were going to be minimalistic.
      Full autonomy is the only way forward!