Scotland’s main parties to discuss further devolution at Smith commission

Scottish Parliament

Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

By Shaun Gibson : @ShaunyNews

SCOTLAND’S politicians will put aside party differences today to work on more devolved powers to the Scottish parliament. Representatives from five Scottish parties – two each from the SNP, Labour, the Conservatives, the Lib Dems and the Greens – will be told by Lord Smith of Kelvin to find consensus on bringing new powers to Scotland when they meet in Edinburgh Lord Smith and the politicians are on a tight timetable to deliver the vow made by the pro-Union parties to deliver more powers for Scotland in the event of a No vote. With a Command paper already issued, the parties have to agree a way forward by the end of November . Then the UK Government will put forward draft legislative proposals based on what is agreed in a bill in January.

Lord Smith has the responsibility of getting parties to agree

Lord Smith has the responsibility of getting parties to agree

The bill will be brought forward after the general election by whatever government come in. Reaching consensus on the points that can be agreed will be the easy part in the first formal session of the Smith Commission. The five Scottish parties have already submitted their proposals so everyone is aware of each other’s demands. The focus will be on finding common ground, something Lord Smith is optimistic about. He said: “Having spoken to all of the parties individually, I believe the will is there to reach 
agreement. “Today’s talks give them the chance to sit down together, find common ground and begin the process of delivering what the people of Scotland expect – a package of new powers which will strengthen the Scottish Parliament within the UK.”

Easily-dealt with issues include devolving the powers of the Crown Estate Commission, who own 
the seabeds around the UK and receive rents from Scotland’s fish farm and offshore wind turbine operators. Moving beyond that, there may be agreement on devolving powers such as funds for housing benefit and aspects of welfare including attendance allowance and job training. Nicola Sturgeon has already said that the process must deliver “something substantial.” The First Minister-elect knows independence won’t come out of the talks but wants something very close to it. She said. “The language that was used during the referendum campaign was very clear. The other parties, in seeking to persuade people to vote No, said that more powers would amount to near federalism, a modern form of home rule, devo max.”

Nicola and Alex have all the balls in their side of the court

Nicola and Alex have all the balls in their side of the court  😉


All 5 must agree

The SNP submission makes great play of the campaign pledges of other party leaders, laying plenty of ground to cry foul if, in their eyes, the powers package falls short of what was solomnly pledged. Alex Salmond, now cast in the role of pointman for the SNP as his formal leadership role fades, has already talked of “betrayal”. The Scottish Government have called for maximum devolution within the UK, including full control over tax and fiscal policy, in a wide-ranging set of proposals stopping just short of full 
independence.But the demands of the SNP and the Greens for devo max powers will sail right over the bar of one of the Commission’s key remits, to maintain the integrity of the UK. The great faultine may not be if the Commission deliver devo-max demands, they will not, but on how much and how far they will go up to that limit.

There are major disagreements between Labour and the Conservatives on the issue of tax devolution . In the run-up to the talks the trickery of David Cameorn on linking whether or not Scottish MPs should continue to be allowed to vote on English-only issues in the House of Commons has fouled the atmosphere . The Tories want to go further on the handover of tax levying powers than Labour do. Complete devolution of tax raising powers would be independence by the back door, Gordon Brown has argued. But the Lib Dems, who want Holyrood to have complete control of the rates and bands of personal income tax, seem unfazed.

The Conservatives and Lib Dems want Edinburgh to be in charge of setting rates and bands of personal income tax while Labour would impose limits, lower than even Brown wants. Brown wants Holyrood to be responsible for raising 54 per cent of its own revenue, quadrupling the figure from the £4billion it currently raises to £18billion in 2016. Scottish Labour want powers that would allow the Scottish Government to raise 40 per cent of their budget. There is plenty of room for the parties to fall out, as they will, but also pressure on them to find 
agreement too.

Meanwhile, former first minister Jack McConnell fired a shot across the bows of the Commission and his own party yesterday saying that the quick fix must stand the test of time. He said: “If you are designing a new tax system for Scotland, the system has to work and be sustainable for at least a number of years. “I hope Lord Smith will note the proposals from the different parties but then start a discussion on the basic principles that should then determine what is delivered.” He added: “Deals reached behind closed doors are not going to reach a semi-permanent solution. This has to be seen as based on principle and stand the test of time.”

The representatives on the commission:

SNP – Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney and Linda Fabiani MSP.
Scottish Labour – Finance spokesman Iain Gray MSP and shadow work and pensions minister Gregg McClymont MP.
Former Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie will represent her party with Glasgow University law professor Adam Tomkins.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats – Former Scottish Secretary Michael Moore MP and former party leader Tavish Scott MSP.
The Scottish Green Party – Co-leaders Patrick Harvie MSP and Edinburgh councillor Maggie Chapman.


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Blabbermouth Scots UKIP MEP launches foul-mouthed attack on Ruth Davidson

UKIP MEP David Coburn

UKIP MEP David Coburn

By Shaun Gibson : @ShaunyNews

Well I can’t see this going down well in the LGBT Groups

UKIP’s only Scottish MEP has launched a foul-mouthed attack on fellow Scottish politicians. Blabbermouth David Coborn, the newly-elected UKIP MEP for Scotland, was overheard on a train journey slagging off a list of rivals. In quick succession fellow passengers heard him describe gay Tory leader Ruth Davidson as a “fat lesbian” and Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont as a “fish wife”. Other passengers in the East Coast train journey last Sunday were shocked to overhear the UKIP politician launching loud personal attacks without a care for who was overhearing. As the insults flew Coborn told his travelling companion that the Greens were a “cult-like scientology” and made frequent references  to “Nigel” and Brussels.

The incident will be a major embarrassment to UKIP leader Nigel Farage whose party conference opens at Doncaster race course tomorrow. During the journey south last Sunday passengers in coach M of the East Coast train heard the loudmouthed MEP taking calls from party colleagues on how to target voters in Scotland. A number who witnessed Coburn’s tirade recounted how he told “Joe” on the other end of the line not to worry about the Greens. They described him saying: “Don’t worry, the sort of person who would vote for the Green Party would never vote for us.”

Coburn added: “Voting Green is a cult like Scientology or something.” In a previous call he discussed party funding and told a caller that  “my friend Maurice the Money will put the money up for that.” Coborn, who was born in Glasgow and lives in London, seemed very concerned that someone was leaking information on the party. He mentioned several times that they needed to “solve the Monkton problem”.

He then asked the caller not to talk to anyone about the matters they will be discussing at conference. Before signing off he told the caller that his prescription for the party was to “get rid of the old farts basically”. Yesterday 55-year-old openly gay MEP said he could not remember the details of every conversation he had on trains. He said: “I’m a fat Scotsman, there so. I don’t recall any of this.” A UKIP spokesman lated added: “David Coborn has no recollection of the alleged conversation.” Little has been seen of Coborn in Scotland since the unexpectedly won the country’s sixth Euro-seat in the May elections.

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Scottish police chairman condemns no campaign for exaggerating aggression


Lets hope the Police speak to the BBC first. The no campaign has SPECTACULARLY fell to pieces in-front of the World! 

The Scottish Police Federation has issued a statement accusing the media and no campaigners of exaggerating the extent of aggression deployed during the Scottish referendum campaign. Brian Docherty, the chairman of the federation, said in the statement: “The referendum debate has been robust but overwhelmingly good-natured. “It was inevitable that the closer we came to 18 September passions would increase but that does not justify the exaggerated rhetoric that is being deployed with increased frequency. Any neutral observer could be led to believe Scotland is on the verge of societal disintegration, yet nothing could be further from the truth.” He added: “Scotland’s citizens are overwhelmingly law-abiding and tolerant and it is preposterous to imply that by placing a cross in a box our citizens will suddenly abandon the personal virtues and values held dear to them all.” Ed Miliband was forced to abandon a walkabout in Edinburgh on Tuesday after being verbally abused by yes supporters in a reflection of tense last-minute campaigning before Thursday’s referendum. The Labour leader was caught in a crush with TV crews and journalists at the St James shopping centre in central Edinburgh. Yes campaigners shouted and hurled abuse at him, calling him a liar and a serial murderer, prompting the politician to say: “I think we’ve seen in parts of this campaign an ugly side to it from the yes campaign.” The verbal abuse and chants aimed at Miliband are the latest in a series of incidents where senior Scottish Labour figures campaigning for a no vote, including Jim Murphy and Gordon Brown, have been targeted by pro-independence protesters. Docherty said people should carefully consider their words, maintain level heads and act with respect. “Respect is not demonstrated by suggesting a minority of mindless idiots are representative of anything,” he said. “One of the many joys of this campaign has been how it has awakened political awareness across almost every single section of society. The success enjoyed by the many should not be sullied by the actions of the few.”

Scottish independence: The blame game begins in No camp even before the first vote is cast



WELL, WELL, WELL! They are arguing between themselves already in Westminster. And most of the blame is on David Cameron for not allowing a “DevoMax” on the vote we all in Scotland will vote yes on tomorrow. The anger and finger pointing has started down South, this leads me to believe they know they have lost. I think anyone with a brain knows they know. Scotland, I think we have done it. But please, VOTE, AND VOTE PROPERLY, DON’T MAKE YOUR VOTING PAPER A SPOILT PAPER! JUST PUT AN X IN THE “YES” BOX. They are promising Scotland the Earth, but many in Westminster are not up for giving Scotland what English people will argue for in the coming months after the yes vote.

The blame game has begun, even before we know the result of Thursday’s referendum. Even if the Scottish people vote against independence, the way the UK is run is going to change. So politicians of all hues are scrambling to get their excuses in first.  Some Labour figures summon the ghost of Margaret Thatcher, claiming she created fertile territory for the Scottish National Party by allowing Scotland’s industries to die; imposing the poll tax a year earlier than in England and Wales and opposing devolution. But other parties claim it is Labour which has allowed the UK to reach the cliff edge of a break-up. Sir John Major, the former Conservative Prime Minister, last week pointed the finger of blame at Tony Blair, saying his Government left “a deadly legacy” by creating the Scottish Parliament in 1999. If Labour, which won 41 of the 59 Scottish seats in 2010, loses its Scottish MPs on independence day in 2016, “no one should weep for it” Sir John declared.

Mr Blair was no fan of devolution. But he inherited a firm pledge to set up the Edinburgh parliament from John Smith, his predecessor as Labour leader, who died in 1994. Mr Blair sometimes raised doubts.  “Do we really have to open this can of worms again?” he asked. But a powerful Scottish Labour lobby – including Donald Dewar, Gordon Brown and Lord Irvine – told him he must honour Mr Smith’s memory by completing his mission. So did Mr Smith’s widow Elizabeth, now a Labour peer. “We have to do it,” Mr Blair told close colleagues. But Labour made a series of miscalculations, epitomised in 1995 by George Robertson, the shadow Scottish Secretary, who predicted: “Devolution will kill nationalism stone dead.”

To prevent one party – either the SNP or what he saw as (Old) Scottish Labour – winning an overall majority in the Edinburgh parliament, Mr Blair opted for a system of proportional representation. Labour duly governed in coalition with the Liberal Democrats from 1999 to 2007. Then, crucially, Mr Blair delayed his departure as Prime Minister until after the Scottish Parliament elections, even though he was unloved north of the border. In 2010, he admitted in his memoirs: “With a new leader we could have done better, and in particular it is possible with Gordon [Brown as PM] we would have won in Scotland.” Instead, the SNP beat Labour by one seat in 2007 and formed a minority administration at Holyrood, a vital stepping stone to winning an overall majority in 2011 – and a mandate for tomorrow’s referendum. Belatedly, Mr Blair saw it coming. Prophetically, he remarked in his memoirs: “I knew once Alex Salmond got his feet under the table he could play off against the Westminster Government and embed himself. It would be far harder to remove him than to stop him in the first place.”

Is David Cameron to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum? The question is now asked – like many, with glorious hindsight. The Prime Minister knew Mr Salmond could call his own advisory public vote if he were denied a real one, which could fuel anti-English sentiment and give the independence bandwagon another push. With opinion polls suggesting that only about a third of Scots favoured independence, Mr Cameron judged that a straight choice between Yes and No would settle Scotland’s future for a generation.



He resisted the SNP’s call for the ballot paper to include a third option of “devo max” – more powers for Holyrood with Scotland remaining in the UK –which, he feared, could have been a bridge to independence in another referendum within years. On Monday, Mr Cameron tried to spread the blame to Labour and the Liberal Democrats, telling the BBC’s Newsnight programme that the refusal to include a “devo max” question “wasn’t just my view”.

Cameron aides were jubilant when Mr Salmond backed down and accepted a straight Yes/No. Some SNP politicians now suggest the wily Mr Salmond lured the UK Government into taking its eye off the wording of the question and was less bothered about “devo max”. The agreed question – “Should Scotland be an independent country?” – suited the SNP. If the question had been “should Scotland should remain in the UK?”, the Yes/No roles would have been reversed. The Better Together campaign, led by Alistair Darling, has been dogged by SNP and media criticism that it is too negative. Mr Darling makes no apology for asking searching questions about an independent Scotland. But one ally admitted: “Inevitably, being on the No side makes you look negative.” Mr Salmond has been adept at turning legitimate questions – about the pound, jobs, prices — back into “threats, bullying and bluffs” by “the Westminster parties” in their “Project Fear”.  Some Tory MPs blame George Osborne, the Chancellor, for this negative approach, saying his trump card of ruling out a currency union with an independent Scotland turned out to be nothing of the sort. Better Together has been hampered by infighting and personal feuds between the Labour figures who dominate it. Its own internal blame game is now under way. For now it is mainly behind the scenes, but it is likely to become public after the result is known. Until late in the day, Mr Brown, Labour’s most respected figure in Scotland, did his own thing rather than work with Better Together, which he judged badly run, lacking campaigning nous and too close to the Conservatives. “He loathes many of its leading lights – Alistair Darling, Douglas Alexander, Jim Murphy, John Reid,” one Labour source admitted. “In the last two weeks, Gordon has come to the rescue. If Scotland votes No, he will get the credit.”

In a separate blame game, Liberal Democrats blame Labour for failing to deliver its voters, claiming that Labour’s normal election machine is underpowered because key trade unions such as Unite and Unison are sitting on their hands. Labour figures reply that the Lib Dems have nothing to crow about: by joining the Tories in coalition in 2010, they made it easier for Mr Salmond to tar all three main parties with the same “political establishment” brush.

However, Lib Dem and Tory figures claim that Ed Miliband has failed to get over his message in a country where his left of centre pitch and belief in radical economic reforms should enjoy wide appeal. “He is seen as ineffectual,” one Tory claimed. “People don’t believe he could deliver what he says.” Labour figures insist the buck stops with Mr Cameron. There is mounting evidence that Downing Street underestimated the prospect of a Yes vote until a poll put it ahead just 10 days ago, forcing the three main parties to rush out their devo max plan and take the status quo off the ballot paper. Whitehall is determined to avoid the blame. Sources suggest that senior civil servants did their duty by sounding the alarm that the referendum could result in the break-up of the Union. Officials claim they ran into a brick wall: anything that raised the prospect of a Yes vote was blocked by their political masters, who decreed that all efforts must be put into securing a No vote. That is why – officially, at least – the Government claims it is not making any contingency plans for a Yes verdict. “The PM called the shots,” said one senior civil servant. The Cabinet Office dismissed as “simply not true” reports that Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, pressed ministers to win over putative Yes voters rather than merely shore up No voters. Yet it is also claimed that in recent weeks, Mr Cameron and his male-dominated inner circle brushed aside warnings from female advisers that the negative No campaign was a turn-off for women voters. Allies insist Mr Cameron, dubbed the “essay crisis PM”, is good when his back is to the wall. Despite two powerful, emotional speeches in the past week, his power to influence votes is limited because the Tories are seen as “toxic” by many Scottish people. “Scotland is Labour’s heartland,” said one Tory aide. “If it can’t win over people in its own back yard, that’s not our fault.” If Scotland votes Yes, things can only get bitter.

Scottish Independence could renew Labour

Labour leader Ed Miliband with her Scottish Labour counterpart Johann Lamont.

Labour leader Ed Miliband with her Scottish Labour counterpart Johann Lamont.

I have said for a while now I think Labour has to come to a Yes way of thinking, or there will be a Scottish Labour as many Scottish labour people are behind the Yes campaign. 

IN JUST a month, Scots will vote on whether to become the world’s newest independent country.

If there is a Yes vote, serious iss­ues will have to be resolved about whether we keep the pound in our pockets, nuclear submarines on the Clyde and membership of the European Union. These are all much bigger issues than the future of Scottish Labour. But if party members were to cast their ballot purely on the basis of political self-interest, they should vote for independence. Labour badly needs something new to meet the challenge of the SNP in the Scottish Parliament. I was part of Iain Gray’s media team during the 2011 election campaign, when the party slumped to its lowest share of the vote since 1923.

This was a shocking setback. The SNP made gains in constituencies that meet the very definition of “Labour heartland”. Even Keir Hardie’s home in Cumnock is now represented by a nationalist. The scale of the defeat was as unexpected as Partick Thistle picking up a victory at Old Trafford. Labour leader Ed Miliband responded by ordering a “root and branch” review of what went wrong and how it could be fixed. It would be wrong to say that nothing changed – but not enough has changed.

The position of the Scottish leader was enhanced, with Johann Lamont, at least in theory, now in charge of the whole party, rather than just the Scottish Parliamentary Group. There has also been reorganisation at a local level, with constituency Labour parties now based around Holyrood boundaries, rather than Westminster. However, the real challenge was to set out a bold and imaginative agenda that would make Scottish Labour 
relevant again. Instead of hope and optimism we have had “Project Fear”. The referendum campaign seems to have crowded out the space for fresh thinking. Furthermore, as time has gone on there is a growing sense that the party’s institutions have reverted to type, with MPs at Westminster calling the shots. The most obvious example of the “wrong people” winning the argument inside the party is Labour’s lacklustre proposals for further devolution, which were published in March.

Instead of a commitment to devolve income tax in its entirety, which had been suggested a year earlier at the party conference in Perth, Labour published a much more limited plan for Holyrood to be given power to vary the rate of income tax by up to 15p. In addition, politicians in Edinburgh could raise, but not cut, the top rate for the highest earners. It felt like a big chance to define the debate on Labour’s terms had been passed over for an intellectually incoherent internal compromise. The policy-making process in the Labour Party has always been defined by different personalities and interest groups who tussle for influence, but since devolution no Scottish leader has had the ability to break through. I have a lot of respect for Johann Lamont, but she is being out-punched. So long as Labour’s crustiest dinosaurs in the House of Commons are able to set the ceiling on the party’s ambition for Scotland, it will struggle to challenge the SNP.

A Yes vote would end the divisions in the Labour Party between two separate groups at Westminster and Holy­rood and bring its biggest hitters home. A-list politicians like Jim Murphy, Douglas Alexander and Margaret Curran would have to stand for the Scottish Parliament if they wanted to stay in politics. Independence would not necessar-ily mean that Scottish Labour moved to the left, or reconnected with communities that feel they have been ign­ored, but it would enable it to offer a much more credible alternative government. With the constitutional question settled, Labour might also stop defining itself in opposition to the SNP and begin to better articulate its own values. «