David Cameron Scotland speech January 22By John S Warren

The sub-title of HMG’s Cm 8990, “Scotland and the United Kingdom” is “An Enduring Settlement”. Is it? No. What does the title “An Enduring Settlement” mean?

Even Alistair Carmichael MP does not seem to understand what it means; for he offers us an enduring settlement that even in his own bland, vapid Foreword to Cm. 8990, is described somewhat inconsistently as “another significant milestone in Scotland’s devolution journey within the UK”; a journey to where, we may now slightly bemusedly wonder, since we are told that we are enduringly settled here? Perhaps Carmichael should here be reminded of the words of Jo Grimond (who was an authentic Liberal) on the subject of Home Rule; as quoted by David Steel in a speech given in Orkney in 2013:

“I do not like the word devolution as it has come to be called. It implies that power rests at Westminster, from which centre some may be graciously devolved. I would rather begin by assuming that power should rest with the people who entrust it to their representatives to discharge the essential tasks of government. Once we accept that the Scots and the Welsh are nations, then we must accord them parliaments which have all the normal powers of government, except for those that they delegate to the United Kingdom government or the EEC. I find it difficult to see how, if the case for Scottish and Welsh self-government is accepted at all, any powers can be reserved to the UK government except foreign affairs, defence, and the wider issues of economic policy linked to a common currency and common trade policies. So when we consider Parliament we must think of three Parliaments and of a much restricted Westminster Parliament” (Jo Grimond, ‘a Personal Manifesto’; 1983).

I think we can take it that for any genuine liberals (small or large ‘L’) out there, this is not Home Rule. Ben Thomson (Campaign for Scottish Home Rule) focuses on the paper’s “lack of purpose”, cogently identifying the hollowness at the heart of both the Smith Commission and Cm. 8990: neither are constructed from the first principles of Home Rule. This concern with underpinning ‘principles’ we may fairly state, is quite fundamental to any genuine intention to achieve a meaningful constitutional settlement. We may thus surmise that both Smth and Cm.8990 offer nothing more than mere lists, front-window a la carte menus, randomly chosen for the delectation of casual passers-by. For example, it is striking that so much is made of the devolution of income-tax rates: this is deliberate; but be in no doubt, the headline rate is of little substantive economic significance, and that is why it has been devolved. It is devolved because it is unlikely that any Scottish Government will ever risk using it; and if it does resort to raising or lowering the rate of income-tax in isolation (for it does not have power over thresholds, or over other taxes, or sufficient economic tools to frame a functioning policy), this will produce little economic benefit, but bring maximum political grief to the party involved; and that is its sole purpose from a Wesminster prespective.

Furthermore, for those who believe Cm. paper 8990 provides an answer, the first thing to observe is that it is a piece of paper; and stands as no more than any other Westminster Parliamentary, pre-election piece-of-paper; it is a hostage to fortune, to desuetude, and to bad faith; all features that have noticably afflicted Westminster, once too often in recent years. The only feature of Cm. 8990 that ensures anything at all being achieved after the General Election is the fear in Westminster that the ‘elephent in the room’; the 1.6m people who voted ‘Yes’ in September are not going away; and that the long-term political momentum is with them.

It should be fairly obvious, even in Westminster that the defence of the Union and the status-quo ante has now fallen – it must be said principally through the profound, practical inadequacy of Unionism per se – to the quite noticeably tawdry, third-rate, meretricious remnants of the Labour Party in Scotland which are still standing after the referendum, in something now approaching incoherent, rage-consumed disarray; to plead a peculiarly shabby, cynical spin-doctored case for Westminster to a sceptical public.

It is striking that one of the first matters Cm 8990 asserts in detail, is to reserve the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 (Executive Summary). This sets the precedent for the general approach; reserve first, devolve what is left. It then asserts with some pride that the capacity of the Scottish Parliament to function is through Westminster’s use of the Sewel Convention (a ‘self-denying’ ordinance with no status, save use and custom; see Section 1.1.2); a “convention” that is in the circumstances a mere rerminder that Cm 8990 fails to achieve the purpose of creating Home Rule (still less Federalism) in this over-centralised, non-federal, apparatchik-driven, so-called ‘family of nations’. The Sewel Convention is going to be placed “on a statutory footing”; but the future content of that new statue remains to be seen, and statutes can be changed or even repealed, for that is the power on which Westminster has chosen to rest its absolute authority; for this ‘convention’ to ensure permanence it requires to be part of a new British Constitution; a written constitution. Indeed, lest anyone should doubt that this is all merely deriviative, subordinate, limited piecemeal devolution, in 1.4.6 of Cm.8990 it is made clear that “the UK consitution remains reserved”. Indeed we may add to “reserved”, it remains wholly unchanged.

Much has been made of the ‘consultation’ process inscribed within Cm. 8990; it requires consultation by a Scottish Government with Westminster , but not a veto? Of course it is a liberum veto, and not to admit this is merely disingenuous. It is not a veto only so long as Westminster chooses not to exercise it; another hostage to fortune.

Far more time has been spent in writing this Cm paper to ensure the security of Westminster over the matters that are reserved, than the matters that are actually devolved. It betrays the cloth-eared but cynical mindset of Kafka’s Castle. And these remarks are merly be way of introduction to the failure of Cm.8990 …

Comments (6)

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  1. Optimistic Till I Die says:

    I don’t really intend to be facetious, but whenever I think of the sub-title I invariably substitute the word ordure in place of enduring. To some people’s minds that might be closer to the truth of the matter.but I guess, either I do my best to curb my tongue when speaking in public or use more commonplace terms.

  2. Frederick Robinson says:

    It probably means much the same as a ‘once in a generation’ Referendum (until the Referendum produced what the Yes campaign/SNP deemed the wrong result……

  3. finnmacollie says:

    Jo Grimond was spot on but his argument depends on “Once we accept that the Scots and Welsh are nations…” I do not think the establishment has accepted that fact. We are but regions in it’s eyes and mind. I am old enough to remember business (and even Government) signs displayed on premises indicating a Scottish Regional Department or Scottish Area Office. Indeed it is not so many moons ago that the BBC changed us from being a region to being a “where you are” for the “local” news.

    Cm8990 is presented as giving Scotland more powerful devolution than any other place on the planet this side of Loanhead Miners Welfare Club, however, all the comparisons I have heard ( the various regions of Switzerland, Germany, Canada etc) have one thing in common. They are all regions: we are being compared to regions, not nations.

    I agree that this document is designed – assuming it ever gets through WM and HoL unscathed – to be so unworkable as to bring discredit on any Scottish Government that tries to implement what little power there might be.

    The only chance of changing it to something meaningful is to elect as many SNP MP’s as possible next May. The establishment used every underhand dirty lying trick in the book to scare 55% of those who voted in the referendum into voting No. It wanted us, by extension, to continue sending MP’s to WM so let’s do that – but let’s send MP’s who will stand up for Scotland and get a better deal than what is (maybe) on offer. I think it is time too to say bugger the convention. Time to vote on English matters – Scottish MP’s are entitled to. We have had to endure goodness knows how many years of WM MP’s voting for measures against the wishes of Scotland (eg: PollTax,Polaris/Trident). Cameron and Osborne do not seem to have a problem with Scottish LibDem MP’s -some of them government ministers-voting in “their” parliament, the objection seems to be directed at the SNP. So lets push their buttons. Could just be a wee bargaining chip.

    This as I have said requires as may SNP Mp’s as possible but I am too long in the tooth to be a chicken counter. Polls at present indicate 55 MP’s so anything less, any slippage in the polls will be spun as “BLOW TO STURGEON” You talked of Labour (Scottish Branch) spin doctoring their shabby cynical case to a sceptical public. Do not underestime them. The public are not all sceptical, there are still the “voted Labour all my life” brigade and many I have spoken to couldn’t even be bothered being apathetic. Just the audience who will lap up the uncritical presentation of Labour spin by the Daily Record and BBC. The BBC is still implicitly trusted by many of my generation, most of whom have no access to the internet. (As a relative novice myself I haven’t a clue about facebook or twitter and have had to give up on trying to post comments on some sites as the options given meant nothing to me.)
    Project Fear is unfortunately alive and kicking and I expect they will demonise Nikla in the same way they did Aliksammin. They must not win this time. We must refuse to be put back in our regional box.

    1. Darien says:

      “Once we accept that the Scots and Welsh are nations…”

      Hardly the view of the British establishment. Only a colony or province would be ‘granted’ a devolved parliament.

  4. Cm8990 seems to me to be a CROCK OF SHIT.
    All I can say about it is NO THANKS!

  5. Marconatrix says:

    Well I’m just a few lines into the preface and I read, “The publication of these clauses represents the *culmination* of our devolution guarantees to the people of Scotland.”
    On a quick reading this suggest merely that “The Vow” has been fulfilled. However if that were their intention surely they would have written ‘achievement’ or ‘realisation’ or some such. My trusty Pocket Oxford Dictionary (1939 ed.) defines ‘culminate’ as, “reach highest point of development (often with suggestion of decline to follow).” So they clearly see this as the high-tide of devolution, after which presumably Scottish powers will slowly ebb back to what they consider ‘normal’ or ‘reasonable’ levels. It means “This Far and No Further”, or simply “That’s all folks!”

    Referring to the referendum result they say “we all welcomed that decision.” But who are this ‘we’? The party leaders? Her Purring Majesty? The English? Clearly not the whole UK, since nearly as many Scots disagreed as agreed. They then write, “They voted for more decisions to be taken in Scotland …” So ‘they’ are not ‘we’, whoever ‘we’ is it’s not the Scots. The Scots are not a part of ‘us’, they are presumably an alien subject nation.

    Is it even worth reading further?

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