Smithy: the Phenomenon
The ICM polls out today clearly show that the public mood in Scotland far outstrips the cautious contrived narrowness of the establishment stitch-up we’ve all just witnessed.
But there’s a danger that the reality of the Smith Commission gets lost amongst the hyperbole, and a new ‘more powers’ consensus is created. ‘More powers’ is like ‘cheap beer’, surely that can’t be a bad thing you surly uncompromising wode-tainted Nat?
‘You do remember you lost, don’t you?’
Crusty old 19th C theorist Hegel distinguishes between the ‘phenomenon’ and the thing itself. So the moon as itself is different from the phenomenon of the moon – cheese, moon dance, the Man on the Moon etc.
The Smith Commission itself needs to be distinguished from the phenomenon of the Smith Commission.
In gushing unquizzical terms BBC Radio Scotland today interviewed Lord Kelvin, who seemed delighted with himself. He oozed self-satisfaction as he joked and giggled through it like he’d just organised a surprisingly successful jumble sale. He was completely convinced that his commission was a direct continuity of the participatory process of the referendum experience.
At one point he described the Scottish Parliament as ‘an experiment’ that he’d managed to be made permanent.
If we’re not careful all the verve and energy of the Yes movement will be dissipated as our politicians weigh, filter and dilute the energy and radicalism of our time, commission by commission, report by report, compromises by compromise.
The gulf between this smug procession of half-baked nonsense and the aspirations and ideas explored during through Yes movement is not some short policy hop – it’s a chasm between a self-organised empowered citizenry and a neutered and hopelessly compromised political elite. The whole ‘Home Rule’ campaign reeks of this messy subterfuge.
A new story is being told and we need to guard against it as media outlets coalesce around to celebrate and Iain Gray calls it a “transformative package”. The danger is that this shambles becomes seen to be something it clearly isn’t through our dubious media filter.
Each day that passes it looks worse.
Deborah Orr calls it ‘reactionary populism’. Iain Macwhirter is scathing: “What the Smith Commission has produced isn’t remotely devolution max or federalism. It is an exercise in control-freak minimalism that will serve to lock Scotland in economic decline. The proposals to hand control of income taxes to Scotland, but not the full range of taxes like national insurance, wealth taxes, oil and gas revenues and so on, is a transparent fiscal trap.” Read it in full here.
It looks increasingly like a handful of politicians gathered all the energy of the Yes movement and bundled it into a botched stitch-up. I have no idea whatsoever what the Greens or the SNP were doing amongst this.