The Vow Too Vague To Break
A vow that doesn’t actually promise anything can never deliver nor can it fail to deliver. The last ditch announcement was so vague that regardless of what was unveiled today, the Smith commission could be heralded as a triumph by unionists. This highlights failures in the media more than anything else. Instead of running as they did with the Vow As Saviour Of The Glorious Union angle, a properly functioning Third Estate should have been asking serious questions as to what The Vow actually meant and also why it was being raised at the last minute against the agreed rules of the referendum. Instead, they mostly colluded with power, demonstrating how easy it is for the establishment to manipulate large swathes of people, the Daily Record going as far as to mock up their own version of it to make it seem like it was an official document.
Today the Smith Commission reported and it is too early to tell how this news will be received by the public as a whole. The mainstream media are doing their best to portray it as a success. The 45 percent of the population that voted Yes probably didn’t have high expectations and were prepared to be disappointed. They never fell for The Vow anyway. They would have liked Smith to have concluded that Devo Max was the best option but would not have been holding their collective breath. With regards to No voters, I would imagine that a fair amount of them wouldn’t care what Smith reported. Many of the silent majority are either disinterested in politics or are ideological unionists, which is fair enough. However, it will be interesting to hear what those who voted No on account of The Vow think. Is having power over 30% of taxes and 15% of Welfare what they envisioned when they let The Vow sway them? I would hope many of them would be disappointed and more willing to vote Yes in the second referendum.
As I have previously written Smith is a Win Win for us. The fact that most power is still retained should enforce or even grow the support for Yes. At the same time it cannot be denied that the Scottish Parliament may gain some real power. I say may as the UK government are under no obligation to make the recommendations law.
We have seen how even with the current set up that Scotland has been able to maintain free higher education and prescription charges which are socially just policies. There is an ideological gap between powers coming from Holyrood and Westminster. The Scottish Government should now set out to use the additional powers granted in order to widen this policy chasm between Scotland and the rest of the UK. Although they will be hamstrung by not having full control of tax and spending as well as the likely future changes to the Barnett formula. There is scope here for a progressive income tax system and for addressing some of the cruelty inherent in the current benefit set up. The objective for the Scottish Government should be to make a small percentage of No voters believe that their best interests lie with the Scottish Government and not Westminster.
- Power to set rates and bands on earned income and retain all income tax raised in Scotland
- 16 and 17 year olds to vote in Scottish elections
- Powers to create new benefits in devolved areas and make discretionary payments in any area of welfare
- Holyrood should have a share of VAT
- Air Passenger Duty should be fully devolved
The two most exciting announcements from today for me were that the Scottish Parliament will be permanent. One common complaint from Yes supporters was that it could be repealed by Westminster at any time and this now makes the institution more secure. Secondly, I am quite excited about the proposal to devolve more powers to the local level within Scotland. The referendum energised Scottish grass-roots politics. There are hundreds of thousands of engaged citizens in groups all over the country who have ideas on how we can make our local communities better. If this energy is harnessed by government at the local level this could help foster an ‘All Of Us First’ Common Weal society. A society achieving many of the Common Weal goals would be more likely to vote for Independence in a second referendum.
Had we voted Yes in September we would have transformed the country overnight. However, history teaches us that change is often slower than this and is forced gradually from the bottom up. If today’s proposals become law we have made a step in the right direction and we will have a platform to move forward. The Scottish Parliament will be permanent. Some disappointed No voters who took The Vow to mean Devo Max should speak out and join us. The Scottish Government will have some extra powers to make some progressive changes. However, more importantly, more power should get devolved to the local level and it is here that the real changes can be made.
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