Devo Plus What?

“Our destination is Devo Plus, but many roads lead there” whitters the lovely flash banner on the new Devo Plus website in opaque political gobbledeegook.

The British political classes ability to fudge, haver or bodge real change is legendary. Some hold it up as the supreme art of compromise. It is the ‘non-ideological’ nature of British politics (sic). The efforts of a coterie of Unionist politicians to collaborate on muddying the constitutional waters is a case in point. Their efforts might be worth notice if they had the courage of their convictions and were demanding that Devo Plus be on the ballot. But they’re not.

No mistake though after years of bad campaigning and atrocious leadership elections (pick from Ruth, Johann, Ed or Willie) this is the moment everyone’s been waiting for. Poor old John Park even got abit ahead of himself today gushing about the Dream Team today.

But the NO campaign is riven by confusion, false starts and multiple leadership agendas. First up popped Michael Moore, and it fast becomes clear that his most potent wheeze is to challenge Salmond on the date of the referendum. The date. That’s his most substantive line of argument. Apoplexy follows Rupert’s Sun on Sunday ‘exclusive’ only to be followed up with a general lack of interest.

Next up the Oil’s going to run-out (eek).

But these forays were just amuse bouche for the main course of Devo Max. This is the Real McCoy, the dish that has a long list of scribes and editors salivating. It’s the scenario that many (most?) are banking on. It will be (warning: you need a large shot of Caledonian Antisyzygy to comprehend this) both Salmond’s downfall and yet is his own fiendish creation, according to the commentariat and twitterati that frame and churn this nonsense.

Devo Plus was launched today as an attempt to give a shot of caffeine into the whole debate. We got warm horlicks instead. Jeremy Purvis, for it is that giant of Scottish politics no less, who is in charge of DP, led the charge, hit the airwaves and Unionist press gave over a generous spread of dead wood media to their arguments. Three striking features mark the project out as a flop, despite all the excitement.

1. Rather than campaigning for the idea to be on the ballot, it is – like it’s cousin Devo Shsh to be explored by some unnamed mechanism, AFTER our referendum. Purvis, previously an MSP, subscribes to David Cameron’s jam tomorrow approach. And this from a coalition of MPS who have ceaselessly bleated about ‘clarity’ ‘simplicity’ and ‘transparency’.

2. Purvis and his friends have a problem. No-one knows what they are on about. If you are still struggling with the cryptic conundrum that we started with, try this: “When I vote in the referendum – and I will vote “No” – I want that no vote to be a positive vote for change.” Eh? Try reading that again. This could be by Gollum.

3. There’s no vehicle. We’ve come to expect backtracking and duplicity from Lib Dems, but when you throw in a permanently disorientated Labour Party and a Still-Toxic-Tory the back legs don’t know what the front legs are doing. We have Ruth with her line in the sand. David with his promise of a better tomorrow and now this grouplet.None of the parties will take this on, because they are trapped in a binary choice of their own making.

Can you imagine the fury that would descend on the SNP, Greens or other indy-supporting parties if a number of MPS / MSPs broke ranks and started an entirely new constitutional mission?

The reality is that Devo PLus is only getting coverage because it is the cause célèbre of the chattering classes. At the hub of the proposal is that we need to be a nation that raises its own taxes, manages it’s own affairs, but for some unclear reason, would allow another country to base WMD on its soil and another country’s govt decide when and where we exercise our ‘liberal interventionism’.

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  1. Alan Smart says:

    “The reality is that Devo PLus is only getting coverage because it is the cause célèbre of the chattering classes.” I can’t quite agree – the realty is it is getting coverage because the SNP leadership has made it a runner.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Well, that’s true, but after all the hype pretty thin gruel. The point is also that there is such confusion and they are getting patted about by the media in kid gloves.

      1. Ben Power says:

        Humans are hardwired to say NO! to anything that confuses them.
        Unionists are attempting to confuse the whole issue with the various devos to get a NO outcome.
        The media is playing along for public ratings and personal influence within the circles of political power.

    2. Doug Daniel says:

      I suspect as soon as Salmond had finished telling the TV cameras that he welcomed further debate on Scotland’s constitutional future, he went behind closed doors and collapsed in a fit of laughter. This is just playing into the SNP’s hands, and I don’t think Salmond could have hand-picked a better team to do so if he’d tried. An ex-MSP who was rejected by his own constituents, flanked by the man who led the Lib Dems to almost complete annihilation in Scotland, a respected member of the Tory party (thus reducing Ruth Davidson’s credibility even more – can’t wait for the next FMQs), not to mention a non-entity Labour MSP who is so enthusiastic about the idea that he couldn’t even be bothered to turn up to the launch.

      1. Tormod says:

        I agree 100% Doug, all the unionist parties are moving to the SNP, not the other way around

      2. James Morton says:

        I think they see Devo-max as the best way to save the union. Ruth Davidson says this far no & no further in her attempt to replicate Canutes experiment of defeating the tide coming in. Labour are want to hold Scotlands constituional future as a hostage to their fortunes come the next election. Cameron gives the impression that he thinks no one remembers who Lord Home was.

        So the Unionist campaign slogan is NO NO NO – well not at the moment but possibly later so NO NO NO for now!

        I think if Devo-max does come, its one more step on the path to independence. It will be a conduit for change not a brake.

      3. RevStu says:

        Mm. If Tavish Scott is the Union’s secret weapon, we should order champagne now while it’s cheap.

        1. bellacaledonia says:

          I know, it’s good

  2. Ben Power says:

    Devo plus, max or devo anything are all just a red herrings put forward as a way to distract Scots from voting and/or frighten Scots into voting no to independence.
    Unionists hope Scots will find it all too confusing and if they create enough confusion they will get a no result.
    I for one do not like being treated like an idiot with this sort of cheap tripe. Hopefully other Scots will also be offended and see that all the Devo stuff is just an attempt to “keep things the way they are” , ignore it and vote yes for independence.

  3. Barontorc says:

    Yawnnnn, — 0h, my gosh, is that the time!

  4. Alex Buchan says:

    I don’t see it. What I see instead is the difference from the past. Unionism has lost its confidence. I remember the days when unionist politicians just said no to change and Scots largely put up with it. But unionism isn’t what it used to be. The SNP’s victory in 2007 was a major shock to the system. The 2011 election was meant to see a return to business as usual but it didn’t work out that way. The unexpected result instead has left unionism uncertain of how to relate to the Scottish people.

    I think Alex Salmond has been inspired. What unionism would have preferred would have been a straightforward debate on independence with as little reference to what kind of changes should take place inside the union as possible. The Calman process, with its tight remit and its handpicked members, was the way that unionist politicians like to deal with constitutional change, not what is happening now.

    All of these initiatives, whether its Cameron’s hints of more powers, or this new initiative, poses as many problems for the no campaign, as they do for the yes campaign, because it plays into Alex Salmond’s hands. Compare what would have happened in the AV referendum campaign if the no camp had kept coming out with alternative suggestions. Instead of the campaign being focussed on a system of voting nobody wanted and on Nick Glegg as a sell-out on tuition fees, it would have concentrated instead on the disarray of the no camp and their lack of confidence in the existing voting system.

    With all this going on, where now for Ruth Davidson’s line in the sand on constitutional change, she’s not only been contradicted by Cameron, but now a senior back bencher has broken ranks to join this new outfit, she’s already becoming something of a lame duck. And what about Lamond’s legalistic formulation “as much powers as are in the people’s interests” that obviously not something she will feel comfortable saying from now on. The whole think is being blown wide open as unionism stumbles in uncharted territory.

    1. Doug Daniel says:

      Indeed. Thinking back, the No To AV campaign was actually a textbook example of how to get people to vote for a very negative option. Of course, it was somewhat helpful that the leaders of the Yes To AV campaign were Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband, neither of who are popular, and who aren’t even fit to tie Salmond’s boots. That these two numpties are on the No To Independence side should be of great comfort to nationalists. Even the media don’t really understand what’s going on, as they keep insisting that Devo Max is Salmond’s preferred option. They’re completely blind to its real place in the overall strategy.

      At some point, unionists are just going to have to come out with the reasons why they’re so desperate to remain in the union, and it’s looking increasingly like the answer is a big “BECAUSE WE JUST DO!!!!” complete with foot-stomping and gurning. The more powers they suggest devolving, the more people will focus on why the other powers shouldn’t be devolved, and not find many good reasons.

  5. Doug Daniel says:

    It’s funny how British nationalists only support the idea of increased devolution when the threat of independence looms, isn’t it? Makes you wonder how they’ll manage to do anything once that particular stick has been taken from the Scottish people.

    I’m particularly amused by this group’s “What is Devo Plus?” page, where they lay out SEVEN constitutional options.
    Unitary state: this is history, so why include it?;
    Current status: this is soon to be history, because of the next one;
    Scotland Bill: which they disparage by saying it offers “limited” powers and “significant lack of financial accountability”, although choose not to highlight that the Scotland Bill REMOVES powers as well as devolving some;
    Devo Plus: which just sounds like Devo Max Minus since it leaves NI, VAT and “some” small taxes such as TV licences (the TV licence is a tax? That’s news to me…) at Westminster;
    Devo Max: which apparently risks disagreement on defence spending etc, yet somehow Devo Plus does not have this downside?
    Indy Lite: which is, erm, independence;
    Independence: because apparently what the SNP offers is not real independence.

    On that last one, someone had better contact the 17 Eurozone countries, because apparently they’re not “real” independent countries.

    It’s just a way of trying to confuse people, in the hope that it’ll put them off constitutional change completely.
    “What flavour of devolution do you want?”
    “Oooh, I’ll have Devo Squared, please.”
    “Sorry, we’re out of that, we’ve only got Devo Plus, Devo Max and Devo Exponent left.”
    “Oh just forget about it.”
    “Excellent, job done.”

    There have been a few interesting points raised by this, however:
    1. It was mentioned on Newsnicht that the EU does not allow VAT to be at different levels within one member state, so although not exactly a deciding issue, we can now categorically state that Scotland can only control VAT through independence – it will never be devolved.
    2. We now have concerted unionists effectively saying that the status quo is not good enough, and admitting that the Scotland Bill is a dud. That’ll be the Scotland Bill that resulted from the commission their parties set up, so they’re essentially admitting that their parties are dead losses when it comes to delivering the powers Scotland needs and wants. Coming after the failure in 1979 and the tame effort in 1997, why should we give them a FOURTH bite at the cherry?
    3. Tavish Scott does not believe Devo Plus requires a referendum because we voted on the idea of tax raising powers in 1997. So, if Michael Moore ever tries to resurrect the “two referendums” idea, we have his former party leader admitting that it’s a ridiculous notion.
    4. This group has absolutely no idea how to implement these proposals, even though the most obvious one is staring them in the face when they look at their little chart of constitutional options – get the Scotland Bill beefed up. If they were serious about this, they would be demanding it happen NOW!
    5. The Lib Dems claim it is the SNP who put the idea of Devo Max on the table, but they seem to be forgetting that the only reason the idea of a second question ever came about was to get the Lib Dems to support a referendum last term. If they didn’t exist, this would only ever have been a single question referendum.

    Oh, and we’re still waiting to hear what Labours position is on, well, ANYTHING.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Doug you are absolutely right. I think its funny how the complete contradictions are steadfastly ignored by the media. None of this is really brought up.

      1. Andrew says:

        Aye agreed Bella, but not by us wee voters, he who laughs last and all that:)

    2. bull says:

      So, it’s ‘Newsnicht’, while your man is busy cosying up to Rupert and NI? The moral high ground is a bit low, isn’t it? Or is it ok if the end justifies the means, or if you are Scottish and leader of the SNP, to play footsie with the evil empire?

      1. Doug Daniel says:

        What the hell are you bleatering about? “Newsnicht” is the common shorthand for Newsnight Scotland – so common that even the programme itself promotes the #Newsnicht hashtag. So whatever petty, small-minded point you’re trying to make, I suggest you just stop right there.

        What is most telling about your post is that of everything I wrote, that’s the one thing you were able to take issue with. I’ll put you down as a yes vote, shall I?

      2. bull says:

        Not sure how I do a reply to a reply.

        I won’t be a ‘no’ because I won’t have a vote. Thanks for the information. I thought you were being funny. I don’t see newsnight in Scotland.

        As for petty minded points, what did you think of Alex Salmond’s chat with Murdoch? Isn’t it a bit Blairite? And it’s revealing that you didn’t bother responding to that. I would be genuinely interested to see what you think.

  6. steven luby says:

    After all that has, will be proposed with the Devo-Whatever ‘groups’, as a spade is a spade, sadly we will have to suffer further groupings of Devo-Whatever. It will come as a shock to the media and Westminster to learn that their eyes have been diverted, there will and is now a group representing Independence.
    These Devo Fans are in serious danger of forgetting what this Referendum is about, but more importantly,Holyrood may decide on a one question ballot ! Just a thought, to witness wanna be popular little people floundering on the sands gasping and grasping for dignity and syllables, perhaps this is the ”line in the sand” and it’s truer interpretation.
    It is ,even at this very early stage,a welcome side show of political suicide,indecision and worthless rhetoric that fills the air when the word ‘Scotland ‘ is whispered from a dark corner of a room. The sight of little people making a stab at political progression from some almost unknow constituencies may bring notoriety for a short spell but then that may turn out to be their 15 mins of fame. Political Parties have long memories when it suits so for any Labour representative to step forward will be stepping into the naughty corner of Labour Party Politics( which almost felt like a contradiction as I write ).
    Whatever happened to politicians coming forward saying,” thats a good idea,i’ll support that one”!
    May as well be banging the historical drums of Scotland to sweep people off their feet with Scottish Independence……both of these appear to be buried in the past. Speaking of the past, am I right in saying that the matter of Independence was passed out for a 3 month period of consultation …?…if so, why do I get the feeling that panic has set in on the vote ‘no’ side of the fence? Why is it that Devo-Whatever is sprouting out of the ground like mushrooms,a variety of shapes and sizes, almost tasting the same as the next one,but not as good as you first thought when reading it off the menu?

  7. George Gunn says:

    I wouldn’t be so smug as to underestimate the resiliance of the British State to hang onto Scotland no matter what the people or the Holyrood government thinks or does. We only have to look to Ireland to see what extraordinary and brutal mesures “Britain” will take. The mediocrity of the Westminster politicians does not signify a lack of empire-blindness or bloody mindedness in the Establishment when it comes to its territories and possesions.

    1. Morag Lennie says:

      I agree George, and get somewhat tetchy with my political sparring partners, who don’t seem to take on board the deviousness of the Brit state, in getting, and keeping what they want. Over and above all that, am I the only one who keeps waiting for his Eckness to say that the ONLY option is Independence? Every time any of the political pronouncements says Independence is the “preferred” option, I hear a but, and can’t get the spectre of DeValera out of my mind. I know that makes me a heretic, but hey ho, my teacher in Primary one ( a nun ) told my mother I was one of
      those when I was only four years old. I am getting progressively more
      uneasy by the day.

  8. steven luby says:

    It’s a hard one that George,in the eyes of U.K Law,once the referendum is deemed legal there will be European as well as International Laws backing it up. My fears are in the direction in what they will try and take, or give up before the referendum. If it is percieved that the remaining part of the will lose out from the oceanic shelves that are deemed Scottish, could the U.K simply retreat their claims as the U.K stands now, is it feasible to simply deny claims of the oceanic shelves?? I don’t know,i’m unable to find any case that mirrors anything like this.
    But you do have a very real point,they stop at nothing for the oil countries in the middle-east,where will the” line in the sand ” be drawn here………….northern tip of the Shelands? The problem is, will they fight for a share from Scotlands Shelf or will they recognize that as pointless ?

  9. Siôn Jones says:

    It will not be long until the SNP have reduced this lot to defending the location of Trident and WMDs in Scotland. And to explaining why English toffs are best qualified to represent Scottish interests abroad. It will be interesting to hear what they come up with! What this has done is shift the centre of gravity of the argument from Independence or Status Quo to ‘What degree of independence’? and to that there is only one rational answer – full independence.

  10. Teri Forsyth says:

    Firstly, I will have my jam today, not tomorrow, thanks. Secondly, since it looks like neither the unionists nor the SNP/Greens want the status quo, why is the status quo even appearing on a ballot paper? There’s no need for it; nobody wants it. Shouldn’t it be a vote on Full Independence or the Latest variety of DevoWhatever?

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Really good point

    2. Morag Lennie says:

      Shouldn’t it just be a vote on sovereign independence?

    3. Doug Daniel says:

      Exactly. Unionists will try to convince people that the “no” vote is a positive vote for further devolution, but there is no way they will be able to go the next two and a half years without defining what that devo is, and without having each of the three parties signing up to delivering it. In fact, thanks to the Lib Dems, people now don’t trust politicians even to act on pledges, so they will be compelled to have devo plus/max/squared put into legislation, ready to go through after the referendum.

      But we all know that won’t happen.

  11. douglas clark says:

    Many commented, immediately after Camerons speech in Edinburgh, that it was a game changer. The status quo was no longer an option and that Cameron would be under pressure to define his ‘bid’ in the devo stakes. That hasn’t happened yet, and I suspect now that he mis-spoke, but the cat is out of the bag. It seems to me that the unionists have talked themselves into a rainbow of devos. You can have any flavour you want, as long as you vote no in 2014. Without a credible alternative from any of the devos, specifically on the willingness of the UK Unionists to vote their specific proposal through an, I suspect, hostile HoC, I expect it to become something of a classic along the lines of ‘Life of Brian’. Are they going to be able to go through any process whatsoever that will see them all singing from the same hymn sheet or will they become, or remain fractious over detail?

    It is almost as if the SNP election result iast year had never happened. Things continue as they were. They are willing it to be ‘politics as usual’, a discussion about minutae.

    Those of us who are Nationalist minded can’t believe our luck!

  12. Gregor Addison says:

    The supporters of Devo Plus have said that there should be no referendum question on their proposals, so what is the intended delivery mechanism? Is it once again the Unionist’s intention to see it delivered in much the same way as the Scotland Bill, where the argument seems to be that elected politicians of the minority opposition parties have the right to make the decision on the electorate’s behalf? It seems a referendum is good enough for independence but no such democratic mandate is needed for the Scotland Bill or Devo Plus. David Cameron said at the end of January that further powers would be inconsistent with remaining in the UK – Ruth Davidson stood for election as Conservative Party leader in Scotland by vowing to draw a line in the sand – a position compromised when David Cameron this month encouraged voters in Scotland to vote against independence with the promise that he would, perhaps, look at what further powers might be devolved. Since the supporters of Devo Plus are not campaigning for a second question, the intended delivery mechanism must surely be that they are seeking a Westminster government’s co-operation in implementing their proposals.

    The Scottish Government cannot change constitutional procedures, so it will have to come from Westminster in much the same way as the current Scotland Bill is being ‘gifted’. However, the position of not having this option offered in any referendum is at odds with other supporters of further powers; for example, on the 29th of January, Kenyon Wright said that it would be wrong not to offer the majority who want further powers for the parliament an option to vote for that position. He said: “If you begin by saying that we recognise the sovereign right of the people to determine how they will be governed, then why are you offering the people only two extreme options – either total independence or the status quo.” Polls do consistently show that a majority in Scotland support further powers (around 68%) and to disenfranchise this group from the debate by assuming Devo Plus is what they want (not having put it to them) would be a failure of democracy on the part of those parties who have previously (as with Calman) proven themselves resistant to allowing the public access to the debate, or ownership over constitutional issues.

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