By Derek Bateman
The chorus of whines is alive in the shires of England, and in Scotland the sound of deflating bagpipes can be heard. If the drones could fashion a dirge it would be Smith’s Retreat from Devo Max.
God, but it’s embarrassing for old Scotland to have such a gang of spivs and chancers picking over her entrails to see what’s worth keeping and what can be safely consigned to the bin.
My own lament is simple: Why, in Heaven’s name, didn’t we have the courage of our forebears and bestow on our country what is rightfully hers – sovereign independence.
To our national shame – and democrat that I am, I will never let you No-voting fearties forget it – we opted for subsidiary status, pleading for charity instead of taking what is ours. And look where it’s got us.
We can set our own income tax rates – on earned income only, mind, not on the dividends of investors and savers – and what we raise will be removed by the other Treasury hand from the block grant. Well, I suppose that’s accountability because the MSPs know they must tally what they can raise with what they can spend. But how do you grow your economy with one tax supplemented by Air Passenger Duty and 10 points of VAT? And if you can’t grow your economy, how do you generate the money to get serious about anti-poverty programmes and benefit enhancements?
It is only with control over, for example, immigration which currently flows disproportionately to London, that we can acquire the young and active who will provide the revenue stream to fund the older generation. The key to attracting businesses is a deal of corporation tax but we’re not deemed grown-up enough to handle that.
And so it goes on, the long, long list of stuff that must be run by Whitehall because northern peasant culture isn’t sufficiently mature yet and might – who knows – run up ever higher debts in a way no correct and disciplined London-based administration would ever do. Dear me, no.
Still, control over road signs, if not quite meeting the Braveheart Criteria, at least has possibilities for mischief…at Berwick ‘You are now entering England, subsidied for 33 years by Scotland.’ Or at Carter Bar ‘You are entering England, best steer to the Right.’
The disappointing part is exacerbated by people who should know better – like Iain Gray and Margaret Curran – furiously spinning that the Vow is now honoured and – the new phrase – a powerhouse parliament bestowed. This stand-up routine was aided by Michael Moore, who actually declared it was Home Rule. Need I remind you that Moore is supposed to be a Liberal…can you imagine what Gladstone would have said of such trivialising of the Liberal tradition? Indeed, can you imagine what Russell Johnston would have made of it? In the footsteps of giants…children gambol.
There are bright spots, though. First is hearing Jim Murphy (now absolutely confirmed as the Establishment contender) defending a deal for Scotland against an increasingly hysterical English BBC presenter who spluttered… “but, but – English taxpayers will pick up the cost.” This is new ground for careerists with Westminster antennae and is damn good fun to listen to.
There will be much of this sport in the months ahead and I predict Murphy will emerge on studio couches in a tartan tie.
Second, it is such a weak deal compared to what is now Scotland’s expectation, that the scope for the SNP to play their game is wide indeed. Whatever Smith produced could never satisfy them especially with an election looming next year so Smith’s highly qualified offer will be shredded in the baler as the SNP makes hay.
The hard truth is this:
Labour are now desperate to convince their own folk it’s a great deal when they could have made this offer their own at the outset and got ‘Devo Max’ on the ballot paper and avoided campaigning with the Tories which is why their votes are disappearing today. They truly are the Stupid Party.