Some details are beginning to emerge of Gordon Brown’s actual policy content from his secret meeting in Tollcross yesterday.
There’s to be no control of income tax rates as the interim report suggested, but allow the Scottish Government to control about 40% of its income. Holyrood should also be allowed to control attendance allowances for the ill and elderly, and, in Gordon’s slightly bizarre pick-and-mix version of constitutional settlement, ‘greater powers over the railways’ should be considered.
Of course major social security systems such as National Insurance and pensions, foreign affairs, security, defence and broadcasting would all be retained. And, naturally, all our own resources are denied us.
In a further oddity, Brown’s guddle wants the Crown Estate to be devolved to local councils, itself a wary option for bypassing any sense of national control by a Scottish Government, of whatever party.
Joining in the chorus of nonsense kicked off by Bernard Ponsonby yesterday (“One thing, in all the crossfire, is certain – the status quo is not an option. The only question now: more powers or full independence.”), Severin Carrell writes: “Labour and the Liberal Democrats are edging towards a post-referendum pact on further powers for Scotland, which could see a deal to agree much greater devolution of tax and welfare powers from Westminster.”
Of course it could, but the author fails to map out the chicane course required for that to become reality:
1. The Labour Party would need to agree these terms and quell the growing rebellion amongst their MPs and the ongoing internal war that besets them.
2. Scotland would have to vote No in September
3. The Liberals would have to be considered a viable credible legitimate political party untainted by their role in the coalition
4. Labour would have to win the General Election in 2015 with extra powers for Scotland as part of its manifesto, and with a Lib-Lab pact agreed. This after the most destructive and negative campaign still fresh in the publics mind.
5. Any extension of Holyrood powers would have to be agreed by the Westminster Govt.
6. Finally, Labour would need to win Holyrood in 2016 with Johann Lamont as leader
Each individual points seems unlikely. Taken together they seem highly improbable if not fantastic.
Outflanking Brown’s silly-season vaudeville act, Sir Menzies Campbell has ‘urged all three pro-UK parties to hold a summit within 30 days of this September’s independence referendum to agree a broad programme on devolution.’
A broad programme. We’re to be convinced that Yesterday’s Men will morph into the Tomorrow People. Once full of dire foreboding they will transform into enlightened policy innovators. The Great Clunking Fist would become the nimble localist digit. The Liberals will get the thumbs up. The reality is this farrago will get two fingers despite lavish media exposure.
As George Kerevan writes in the Scotsman:
In evaluating any new proposals from Mr Brown or Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat elder statesman, we should remember that the main Westminster parties clubbed together to keep a second question on devo-max from appearing on the 18 September referendum ballot form. They were more interested in isolating the SNP than in meeting the popular demand for more powers for Holyrood. Also remember that for 13 years Gordon Brown ran Britain, admittedly with some help from the man next door. He could easily have delivered the sort of devo-max he now proposes – but didn’t.
The gap between the forensic details expected of the Yes campaign on a timeline slipping into infinity and the vague dross dished up here is extraordinary. On one side we have a detailed 650 page White Paper, on the other side, we have vague contradictory offers of some powers cobbled together a month after we deny ourselves sovereignty in a backroom of a hotel, presumably by Willie Rennie and Labour stalwarts with Menzies dishing out the Bourbon biscuits and Gordon’s men briefing the Courier.
This is a fantasy land Futurama.