No parties on the brink of failure

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By Newsnet Scotland reporter

The credibility of the Better Together parties on Scottish constitutional change faces severe questioning, as the deadline for change draws ever-closer.

After a week of let-downs in Westminster, including calls for the work of the Smith Commission to be kicked into touch until after the UK general election, there are signs of a deepening divide between the three No parties, and even within Labour itself.

It became clearer over the weekend that Labour’s Scottish and Westminster factions remain at odds about whether the party should stick to its “Devo light” script for the Smith Commission, adopt former leader Gordon Brown’s weird intervention on “Devo mini” or start again.

Scottish dissidents within Labour want the party to beef up its constitutional proposals before it faces severe losses in Scotland. The party’s Westminster and Scottish factions are at odds over the replacement of Johann Lamont as Scottish titular leader.

Meanwhile, the Scottish National Party claimed Westminster was falling short on delivering more powers for Scotland. Examples presented by the SNP included:

  • The UK government’s Command Paper had fallen short of the promises made in Westminster’s ‘Vow’, with no mention of the  “extensive new powers” promised in the two days before the referendum. The paper also stated that the introduction of more powers for Scotland will have to be considered “in the round” with constitutional change across the UK – a factor clearly  not mentioned in the ‘Vow’.
  • The House of Commons debate on devolution post-eferendum yet the debate was “hijacked” to discuss English votes for English laws (EVEL).
  • Scotland Minister David Mundell was unable to answer a question from SNP Westminster Leader Angus Robertson on what “extensive new powers” Scotland would receive, before Tory backbencher Neil Carmichael raised English votes for English laws.
  • Gordon Brown’s debate on more devolution for Scotland was just half an hour and he failed to accept an attempted  intervention from the SNP. During the debate Pete Wishart MP asked the Scottish Secretary if the Barnett Formula was safe – 70 members of Parliament have signed a motion calling for a debate reviewing the Barnett Formula.

“Scotland’s ‘week in Westminster’ has fallen flat,” commented Wishart.

“Monday’s Command Paper was inadequate. It was well behind the pace of what people in Scotland need and want. It was a disappointment to the people who voted No for extensive new powers, as well as the 1.6 million who voted Yes.

“Scotland was told in the ‘Vow’ that extensive new powers will be delivered for our Parliament, but this core promise was nowhere to be seen in the paper, or in the debate in the House of Commons. In Scottish Questions, we raised this issue with the Scotland Minister but he couldn’t give us an answer.

“The SNP are working constructively within the Smith process, and we want the outcome to meet the high expectations of the people of Scotland as expressed in the referendum, given the various promises of ‘devo max’, ‘near federalism’ and ‘home rule’ which were made by the Westminster parties.

“A new poll shows superb trust ratings for the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon on more powers – as Labour’s woes in Scotland continue, with only one per cent of people trusting Ed Miliband most to deliver extensive new powers.”

Footnote: English comedian Mark Steel’s take on last week’s devolution farce: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/with-scotland-camerons-taken-broken-promises-to-a-whole-new-level-9799747.html