The Blog

Scotland: Leave Yes and No Behind For Now: The Fight for Devo Max Begins Here

I woke up strangely invigorated on Friday morning (on my sofa after one hour's sleep) because, as a longtime advocate of Devo Max for Scotland - which I would describe as self-governance in every area except fiscal policy, British Constitutional Politics, international diplomacy, international development, and national security - my fight had finally arrived.

I woke up strangely invigorated on Friday morning (on my sofa after one hour's sleep) because, as a longtime advocate of Devo Max for Scotland - which I would describe as self-governance in every area except fiscal policy, British Constitutional Politics, international diplomacy, international development, and national security - my fight had finally arrived.

I was ready for this. I always intended to vote No in the referendum with the caveat that I would then, assuming a No vote was returned, throw myself unto the breach once more to campaign for Scotland's right to pursue a progressive, social democratic agenda under home rule, but within the fiscal and diplomatic framework of the Union.

I did so by post two days before the task ahead appeared to become immeasurably more realistic, when Gordon Brown, backed by the leaders of all three major Westminster parties, offered Scotland a "modern form of Scottish home rule" on condition of a No vote. At last the thick vapour of uncertainty that had surrounded further devolution as a possibility seemed to be clearing.

And then the No vote came.

I awoke that morning with thoughts of which specific reserved powers the Scottish people - who, thanks to the remarkable Yes campaign, now seemed to be the power brokers - should campaign to have devolved, and thoughts of how the block grant could be adjusted to take into account taxes collected directly by the newly heavyweight Scottish Government, or even eradicated in exchange for said direct taxes and a geographical share of oil revenues - all thoughts of being "subsidised" by Westminster banished to propaganda folklore.

I practically had my calculator out when I was befallen by a deeply disheartening series of events throughout the day.

Firstly, the national mood was glum among Yes voters, tinged with the faint flavour of sour grapes among a small minority.

Lowest, flattest, most defeated of all was their leader; probably the most influential ever champion of Scottish self-determination whose weapon of choice wasn't the sword. I have never voted for Alex Salmond's party, but when negotiating further powers for Scotland against the full imperial might of the Westminster political elite, I can't be alone in thinking we could've done with a big hitter and a wily schemer - and he was among the best of both I have witnessed in my lifetime.

Worse, there was (again among a minority) a nasty spine of triumphalism among the No voters, compounded by the sickening scenes in George Square, while earlier in the day I was rightly taken to task by a very good friend - who voted Yes and took the result hard - for attempting to smooth things over by making a bad joke and then stupidly, patronisingly trying to console my way out of it. It's hard to accept that the political lacerations caused by such an evocative and binary event will take time to heal, with even the astonishing, miraculous democratic triumph of the turnout barely acting as anesthetic.

Then, the VOW to Scotland - and I know the Daily Record isn't exactly the bones of William the Conquerer, but fair play is part of the British identity those who made the pact fought so hard to protect - seemed to be coming apart at the seams.

Cameron caved to the Tory old guard, ever over his right shoulder, offering the feted Devo Max only on condition of equal powers of self-determination for England. "NOW ENGLISH VOICES MUST BE HEARD" shrieked the Standard front page.

Were this but a case of Scottish MPs no longer voting on English issues, or even an English constitutional convention after Scotland's democratic, constitutional mandate for new powers had been fulfilled - both of which I and many other Scots support - but Cameron is advocating the same timetable for the same powers for England - thus disastrously, cataclysmically diluting the scope, time and focus for Scotland's home rule to be conceived.

If this wasn't enough, the ever-well-intentioned Ed Miliband weighed in demanding a slowed-down constitutional convention timetable, crushing the bipartisan unity that had been the makeweight of the original promise. If Miliband does not fight to get the people of Scotland what he and his old boss promised them now, this will be his Clause IV.

My beef with this sequence of events is that Scotland has a democratic mandate for further devolution that none of the other nations of the UK can rival.

1.6 Million people. 45% of the electorate - figures already etched into eternity - voted to secede from the Union altogether in search of further powers of self-determination. Countless others only agreed to remain in the Union on the basis that further devolution would be possible (Lord Ashcroft had the percentage of people for whom this was the number one reason to vote No at 25% or just over 500,000 people).

The Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition all promised that a No vote would result in further devolved powers for Scotland without - and this is crucial - attaching any other preconditions to this promise.

There is a general election in 8 months.

That is not time enough to write a constitution.

They must deliver on the original promise.

As every politician said on that historic night: "The People of Scotland Have Spoken".

For the sake of British democracy, their voices must be heard.

The people hold the power. The politicians conceded. This is their Versailles and we, the people of Scotland, will not be the ones paying reparations.

So I urge you, politically active and recently politically awoken: Engage!

Think about how Scotland could be governed more fairly, more democratically, and more in line with the needs, hopes and dreams of the Scottish people.

The time for the vagaries of the full independence debate are gone: Now is a time for focus. Focus on the specific policies, specific injustices, specific goals that the people of Scotland need to target, and over which Scotland needs to take control of its own destiny.

In a previous blog I delineated the policy areas I think need to be targeted to make the country a better place..

Now I will outline the areas I think need to be Devolved, or at least discussed, when it comes to deciding Scotland's future relationship with the Union. This is unresearched and noncomprehensive - it's just a simple way of framing the discussion - but I will attempt to expand on and/or correct this list, as well as assessing variant funding models, depending on what feedback I get.

This is my image of Scotland's future: Take 1.

Reserved matters after Devo Max:

  • Constitution
  • Fiscal policy
  • International diplomacy
  • International development
  • Defence (with the exception of Executive Devolution regards the removal of Trident from Scottish waters)

Already Devolved:

  • Agriculture
  • Education
  • Environment
  • Health
  • Local Government
  • Justice

Newly Devolved :

(CAPS = key issue / brackets = could fall under an already-Devolved/supranational competence)

  • Regulation of financial services
  • Drugs (could come under public health)
  • Data protection (justice)
  • IMMIGRATION (Asylum, issues relating to people taking up a specific job or course of study that they have been offered in Scotland, and cases where British Immigration Law diverges from EU Law - which I believe will become more numerous and prevalent the longer Theresa May is Home Secretary)
  • Competition Law (EU)
  • arguably Postal Services
  • Research Councils (Education)
  • TRANSPORT (except cross-country/international)
  • arguably Audit Regulation (EU)
  • arguably Broadcasting
  • Equal Opportunities
  • Abortion, Embryology, Xenotransplantation, Welfare Food (health)