The (notional) Secretary of State for Scotland couldn’t really have been any clearer: The deal murders devolution as well as the English language with a Scottish Tory saying the extra money for Northern Ireland was “not Barnettable” but that the party’s Scottish MPs would (somehow, improbably) “push for more money”. David Mundell, has previously said he would not support a deal with the DUP if it “sought to subvert the Barnett rules”. Only last week he told the state broadcaster he was “not going to agree to anything that could be construed as back-door funding to Northern Ireland”. Mr Mundell said: “I certainly won’t support funding which is deliberately sought to subvert the Barnett rules. We have clear rules about funding of different parts of the United Kingdom. If the funding falls within Barnett consequentials, it should come to Scotland.” In fact, here he is on ITV Border TV:
— kathryn samson (@kathsamsonitv) June 26, 2017
Arlene Foster said she was “delighted” an arrangement had been agreed. The Prime Minister said the DUP and the Tories “share many values” and the agreement was “a very good one”. That’s an understatement. You can read a full account of how devolution is supposed to work here. Carwyn Jones, the Labour Welsh first minister, has stated unequivocally that the DUP deal “all but kills the idea of fair funding for the nations and regions”.
“Today’s deal represents a straight bung to keep a weak prime minister and a faltering government in office. Only last week we were told that the priority was to ‘build a more united country, strengthening the social, economic and cultural bonds between England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.’ This deal flies in the face of that commitment and further weakens the UK, and as currently drafted all but kills the idea of fair funding for the nations and regions. It is outrageous that the prime minister believes she can secure her own political future by throwing money at Northern Ireland whilst completely ignoring the rest of the UK. I have spoken to the secretary of state for Wales this morning to clearly state my view at this unacceptable deal – as Wales’ voice at the cabinet table, he has a duty to fight against this deal and secure additional funding for our country. However, the UK government are not the only ones with questions to answer today. It appears that the DUP have given the Tories the go-ahead to legislate how they please on Brexit, which could include taking powers and resources away from the devolved administrations. This is a short-term fix which will have far-reaching and destabilising consequences.”
Kezia Dugdale issued a statement saying: The deal makes David Mundell’s position completely untenable. The problem is, it always was. But it also points to the ways in which Brexit and the Coalition of Chaos is undermining the Precious Union and Devolution itself is under attack. The basis of the devolution settlement is unfolding. The Barnett Formula has now gone the way of the Sewell Convention and Fixed Term Parliaments. Arlene Foster said: “We’re delighted that we have reached this agreement, which I think works, obviously, for national stability. In terms of the Northern Ireland executive, of course we are determined to see it back in place as soon as possible as well, because we believe we need a strong voice for Northern Ireland when dealing not least with the Brexit issue.” The idea of “the nation” – and “national stability” is a questionable one. Colonel Ruth has issued a statement, trying to re-frame the funding as akin to ‘city deals’: This is some stretch. As Kirsty Blackman has put it: “The DUP deal cannot be described as “like city deals” as funding is NOT targeted at cities/regions.” The funding is to national projects like broadband, health care improvements, infrastructure developments. You can read the full detail here. This is American style pork-barrel politics. The devolution settlement, and the entire creaking and groaning ship of state that is the decrepit UK is held together by the skin of the teeth. It’s dependent on a degree of trust, good faith and transparency and all are greatly eroded by this farce. The effect of this scrabble for money is also to demean and undermine the devolved governments. It adds to the picture of a benevolent central authority doling out lolly to the outstretched and impoverished regions. This is probably about the time where commentators pop-up and explain that the “partnership of equals” phrase was either a) never really used b) never really meant or c) not really very important. Britain is cracked. Let the light in.