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Are we witnessing the strange rebirth of Conservative Scotland?

2 June 2014

2 June 2014

Perhaps. Because when you cross the Rubicon you obliterate a line in the sand. Or something like that, anyway. Ruth Davidson was elected leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party on a platform promising no more concessions to the SNP. She was the candidate favoured by the party establishment, the candidate for continuity not change.

By contrast, Murdo Fraser’s tilt for the leadership argued that the party should dissolve itself and start again. Four in ten Tory members voted for euthanasia.

The publication today of the Strathclyde Commission’s report on further devolution of powers to the Scottish parliament is perhaps best understood as a synthesis of the Davidson and Fraser approaches. This is still the Conservative and Unionist party but it is unrecognisable from the Conservative and Unionist party we have known and lamented these past twenty years. You might dub it Fraser Measures applied by Davidson Men (and Women).

It is, as you would expect, an unimpeachably Unionist document but one that applies Tory philosophy to devolutionary politics. And not before time. The Tories are not responsible for the circumstances in which contemporary Scottish politics is arranged but they are, at long last, responsible for their response to those circumstances.

After a generation of craven self-abasement and denial they have emerged from their cave and have, at long last, something to present to the Scottish electorate. They have something to say and, by jove, they actually intend to say it. Astonishing scenes.

Devolving control of income tax to Holyrood is both intellectually and practically robust. It can be done. It will be done. Assuming, that is, that Scots vote No in September and Britain votes for David Cameron next May.

The Nationalists, whom one would not expect to be impressed by anything published today, will tell you this is just another bluff, just another piece of Tory bluster. They don’t mean it. A No vote means No More Powers. As usual the nationalists cannot acknowledge that their opponents might be arguing in good faith. As usual this is tedious.

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But the notion that a parliament must raise more of its income if it is to be anything more than a pocket-money parliament (as Davidson has taken to calling it) is a good one. A good Tory notion too. The Tory plans would have Holyrood raise 40% of its income and, if a share of VAT receipts are remitted too that figure could increase to above 50%.

However improbably, this makes the Tories the party of devolution now. This is obviously rather entertaining (if also something many on the left struggle to comprehend). Their proposals are, I think, better in practical terms than those made by the Labour party; they are certainly more intellectually coherent.

And they would, as Strathclyde points out, grant the Scottish parliament more independence freedom to experiment than is afforded most comparable legislatures around the world.

Amidst all the talk of tools and levers in Edinburgh it is sometimes forgotten just how much power Holyrood already enjoys. As Strathclyde points out:

Many of the matters of most concern to Scots are already the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament. It is worth highlighting that these are matters over which ministers in the UK Government have no say. This is true, for example, for health care in Scotland; for the Scottish education system, from nurseries and schools to universities and colleges; for Scottish criminal justice, including policing and prisons; for the civil justice system in Scotland; for Scottish culture, sport and tourism; for transport in Scotland; for the Scottish environment; for agriculture, forestry and fishing; and for local government in Scotland, including housing, regeneration and the local planning framework.

Westminster, by contrast, ‘provides defence and security, international relations and foreign policy, social security and macro-economic policy, including the currency’.

Those reserved powers are hardly chopped liver and, plainly, from an SNP perspective, it would be best to have control of those reserved matters too. Equally, other taxes, including national insurance and corporation tax, will continue to be set at Westminster and London will still set much of the agenda within which Scotland’s domestic politics must operate.

But, of course, that would in some respects continue to be the case after independence too. Decisions made in London would still cast a shadow over Scotland’s politics. Especially if there were a currency union between the two states.

Be that as it may, today’s proposals are hardly nowt either. They are bolder than anything proposed by Labour; more coherent and practical than most of the things proposed by other cheerleaders for more devolution. DevoTory is, if nothing else, plausible. And plausible is a good start.

It is true that we are a long way from seeing these plans implemented but David Cameron is on board with Ruth Davidson and this is the sort of commitment from which it is exceedingly difficult to retreat.

We should, all being well, anticipate the Tories fighting the next Holyrood election on a tax-cutting platform. That will give voters a proper choice for the first time in 15 years. It will not be enough on its own to revive Tory fortunes north of the Tweed but it might just create the conditions in which that revival could conceivably take place.

As such it is a good start, albeit an overdue one.

One other thought: if we assume a No vote in September, it is now the case that all good Scottish nationalists – ie, those keenest to secure more powers for Scotland – should vote Conservative in May 2015. Only a Tory victory then can give Scotland control of more of the tools and levers the nationalists consider so essential. They might not like it but such are the ironies we must all endure from time to time.


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Show comments
  • zoekaitlyn

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  • 2stcenturytruth

    In your dreams. It is very much because of the Conservatives and specifically that disaster as a PM Maggie Thatcher that so many Scots hate the English so much. And want no more to do with us. The very notion that Scots want to be ruled by the Conservatives is as daft as the idea the majority of English do. We most certainly do not. The Nasty Party has morphed into the really Nasty Party. And the majority in this country detest greed consumed Tories. And cruel mean-spiritedness of hypocrites like IDS and Gove. And in truth who can blame them?.

  • DaveTheRave

    They would do anything to support the dead Union. Let Scotland go if it wants to and let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Er, that’s England… actually. Is it ok if I say that..?

    • Inverted Meniscus

      No I am afraid not. Referring to England in what might be construed in a positive way will probably be deemed as racist by the thought police of the left.

  • global city

    Conservative Scotland has always been there, it has just not had a party to vote for.

  • Hari

    Are’nt Messrs. Blair, Brown & Cameron Scottish, though Mr.Blair was & Mr.Cameron is elected to the Parliament from England.

    • SilentHunter

      Cameron was born in England; he just has a Scottish surname.

      • Grey Wolf

        Is Cameron a Scottish name? I didn’t know that. I thought it was mid-eastern (Hebrew – Arabic) like his first name – David (derives from Dawood, a Hebrew-Arabic name, very popular in the middle east and the Muslim countries that adopted Arabic names).

  • dougthedug

    Sorry Alex, the Emperor still has no clothes.

    All the previous devolution schemes proposed by the other Unionist parties come down to the same simple formula. If Scotland keeps its taxes at the same level as the rest of the UK it gets funded to the Barnett Formula level via the top up grant which is always needed from Westminster. Despite all the talk of how much power the Scottish Government is going to get it’s still going to be reliant on a grant from Westminster.

    The Conservative one is different because it doesn’t even mention the Barnett Formula so it would appear that the strategy of the Conservative party is a simple one in the event of a No vote and the removal of the threat of independence.

    They will cut the top up grant from Westminster below the current Barnett Formula level so that the incumbent SNP or Labour government in Holyrood has a simple choice. A brutal cutting of public services in Scotland or income tax rises just to maintain them as they are. Either way it’s going to be unpopular and they will be the buffer zone between the actual cuts and the anger of the electorate.

    Ruth Davidson was elected leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party

    No she wasn’t. There is no Scottish Conservative and Unionist party. It doesn’t exist and is not to be found on the Electoral Commission registers.

  • Inverted Meniscus

    Spare me your socialist nuttery lad.

  • Jeanne Tomlin

    Of course a No vote means no more powers, you idiot. Yes voters don’t have to admit it. An independent Scotland would then have the powers of an independent nation and not have to go begging hat in hand to Westminster. The Spectator really should be better than this tripe.

    And nothing in the Tory proposal to consider possibly proposing something promises more powers anyway.

  • Michael H Kenyon

    Probably not. And come September should a “yes” vote for parochial socialism occur, England should welcome refugees from Scotland with Conservative tendencies. I suggest settling them in the rural north to get northern Conservatism moving again.

  • Andy

    The Scots should get nothing unless and until there is an English Parliament. We want to control our own affairs without all these meddling Scottish Socialists.

    • SilentHunter

      Funny?

      I thought that Westminster was your “English Parliament” . . . the one the Scots have to put up with even though we NEVER vote for the Tories.

      Honestly, I can’t think why . . .

      . . . oh hang on? . . . yes I can . . . we don’t like “Nasty Party’s” who target the poorest in society whilst letting the criminals of the banking industry off the hook and ensuring that their bonuses are sacrosanct.

      Yeah! We’re “all in this together” . . . I don’t think so! LOL

      • Andy

        Ah you are talking about the Fascist Labour Party.

        • SilentHunter

          You mean, the “Tory Lite” Party. ;o)

  • DougDaniel

    “Devolving control of income tax to Holyrood is both intellectually and practically robust.”

    Devolving it alone isn’t. The whole point of taxation is you balance the tax burden across various different streams. Taking one out doesn’t make sense, unless you’re trying to create a direct link between a particular tax and a particular area of spending.

    “But the notion that a parliament must raise more of its income if it is to be anything more than a pocket-money parliament (as Davidson has taken to calling it) is a good one. A good Tory notion too. The Tory plans would have Holyrood raise 40% of its income and, if a share of VAT receipts are remitted too that figure could increase to above 50%.”

    Why 40%? Why not 30%? Why not 60%? Why not 100%? Why not 110% even? (i.e. raising money that it then sends to Westminster for spending in reserved areas, before anyone says “urgh, how could it raise 110% you idiot?”) Why is 40% the magic number? In all these various flavours of jam tomorrow, nobody will explain why their stated percentage is anything other than an arbitrary number. Besides, anything less than 100% means it’s still a “pocket-money parliament” – it just has a paper round now to supplement that (with matching reduction in pocket money, I presume).

    Here’s the thing: is the Scottish Parliament wholly funded by Scottish income tax, and is Scottish income tax solely used to fund the Scottish Parliament? The answer is no, in both situations. So it makes no sense to choose this one tax and devolve it alone. The Tories proposals don’t make clear whether the Scottish parliament is effectively being handed the monies from Scottish income tax, or simply the power to decide what those monies are. They also reserve various powers around income tax, such as the personal allowance threshold, so they’re not even devolving it in full at all. Unless we’re getting all the revenues from income tax, then all they’re doing is creating an administrative burden – we raise some of our own income, but we’re also raising income for Westminster too. Woo, what a great power…

    This is just as intellectually moribund as Labour’s Devo Nano proposals, although at least this one doesn’t seem to have a bizarre lock on the upper rate that is defined in different ways depending on which Labour politician you’re talking to. If we’re not going to have independence, then at the very least we need full fiscal autonomy. That’s the only way for Holyrood to truly “raise what it spends”. Randomly picking a tax and saying “that’ll do” is worse than useless.

    But that won’t happen, so independence it is.

    • CraigStrachan

      Are we seeing the first tentative gropings towards a post-No vote position from Mr Daniel? I do believe we are…

      • DougDaniel

        Oops, you must have missed the line at the end. Here it is again:

        “But that won’t happen, so independence it is.”

        • CraigStrachan

          No, I didn’t miss it. I just discounted it as an obligatory something you’re obliged to throw in, in the circumstances. Your preceding paragraph is the more interesting, and telling.

          • SilentHunter

            The endings of books must be always such a disappointment for you . . . especially when you stop reading on the penultimate page. :o)

          • DougDaniel

            Erm, yeah, it tells you that I’d rather Scotland had full fiscal autonomy than nothing. Independence supporter in “wants as much power for Scotland as possible” shocker.

            But FFA would never happen, for a variety of reasons, not least because the history of devolution tells us unionist parties will not devolve anything unless they think they absolutely have to – they’re just over 100 days away from losing the union completely, and still they won’t offer to devolve things like corporation tax and oil revenues. Clearly, they’d rather lose Scotland altogether than give us the powers that would sway the folk in the middle to vote No.

            Folk aren’t daft. They see through it. They’re not going to chuck this chance away on the off-chance that the Tories might decide to keep their promises this time…

            • CraigStrachan

              Folk aren’t daft, but what they’ve seen through is the case for independence as made by Alex Salmond. I’m really, truly surprised at how underprepared, unpersuasive and above all how unambitious he’s been on this.

              • DougDaniel

                Is that so? Oh well, all those people that have moved to Yes must have been persuaded by other people’s cases for independence, so it’s just as well this isn’t about Alex Salmond.

                • CraigStrachan

                  Yes folk keep saying that about Salmond. Sounds like they really want to distance themselves from him. I wonder why…

                • allymax bruce

                  No, folk don’t; it’s antagonists like you that perpetrate the myth that’s what’s happening. Tell a big lie long enough, and the masses will begin to believe it? Not the intellectual though!

                  As far as I’m concerned, I trust Scotland’s First Minister Alex’ Salmond implicitly. Genuine, honest, truthful, and sincere; and always makes good on his promises. Alex’ Salmond is a genuine honest politician that can be trusted in Scotland.

                • CraigStrachan

                  Allymax, I have inside information that the Forth rail bridge is to be sold at a knock-down price, due to functional obsolescence. I’m trying to put together a wee consortium to buy it. I think you may be exactly the sort of person I’m looking for to take advantage of this once-in-a lifetime opportunity. Are you in?

                • DougDaniel

                  We keep saying it because – and I realise this is going to shock you, so you might want to make sure you’re sitting down – it’s true.

                  Anyone who truly thinks the self-determination of an entire nation is really just about one politician is self-evidently an idiot. The independence movement didn’t begin with Salmond, and it wouldn’t disappear instantly if he dropped dead tomorrow. I’d hope anyone who thought otherwise is only allowed to use safety scissors and plastic cutlery.

                • CraigStrachan

                  Nothing to do with him being a liability, then?

                • DougDaniel

                  “Meanwhile, among the poorest fifth of Scots, Alex Salmond has an extraordinary approval rating of +26.”

                  http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/03/even-if-scotland-votes-no-status-quo-will-not-hold

                  Strange interpretation of “liability”…

                • CraigStrachan

                  How does he do among the other four-fifths?

  • Jupiter

    I wish at least one party was in favour of abolishing the Scottish parliament. It is full of idiots.

    No one would miss it, except for politicians and their media hangers on.

  • weescamp

    If the Tories admit that their neoliberal economics ideology, Thatcherism & the “Big Bang” have hollowed out the economy and turned the UK let alone Scotland into an industrial has-been then this would be a step in the right direction.

    Telling Scotland that if it votes NO that it will get to collect/spend its own income tax knowing full well no Scottish Govt could change income tax levels without being able to tweak other fiscal measures is just crass and will not lead to any sort of revival.

    It’s like offering beads to the natives in return for their gold.

    • Tony_E

      Someone might want to admit that, if there was even a shred of truth about it.

      What has happened to the economy is simply the constant battering of globalisation, and the reality of deficit spending.

      The economy was hollowed out because the completion of the single market meant that the propping up of commercial interests with taxpayers’ money was set to become illegal ( the plans for the single market predate the 1980s), and other places in the world could both compete, and prop up their businesses with impunity, with lower costs, less regulation and abundant Labour.

      Add to that the constant erosion of the value of money driven by the deficit spending policies of both the USA and Europe, and you have a toxic mix of constantly cheap money and reducing industrial competition for that investment in domestic markets. The ‘Big Bang’ was simply the London market deregulating its restrictive practices, but the real explosion in the city and the corruption of financial markets was caused by Greenspan’s cheap money – not breaking down the privilege of the old boys’ network.

      I really hope Scotland votes YES to independence. If you don’t, we’ll just be back here in 5 years time.

  • Rhoda Klapp8

    Questions to which the answer is NO?

  • George Laird

    Dear Alex

    “excuse me mister”.

    This will not change the fortunes of the Scottish Conservatives.

    People don’t vote Tory in large numbers because, Scottish people hate Tories in large numbers.

    I do mean hate, where was Ruth Davidson on the bedroom tax?

    Shoulder to shoulder with David Cameron, not a peep in opposition.

    To use a line by actor James Coburn in the movie ‘Hard Times’:

    “You know, Chick, no matter what you do, you’ll always smell like fish”.

    Yours sincerely

    George Laird
    The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

    • Inverted Meniscus

      Except that there is no such thing as a bedroom tax. I have checked the UK tax code and it does not exist.

      • George Laird

        Dear Inverted

        You are correct it isn’t listed in the tax codes, it is the populist name used by a section of the political class and the punters.

        Yours sincerely

        George Laird
        The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

        • Inverted Meniscus

          And therefore it is utter leftist boll*x to talk about it as a tax.

          • George Laird

            Dear Inverted

            When you are getting screwed, people have many names for it.

            Whatever tag you place on it, the end result is still the same.

            Screwed.

            Yours sincerely

            George Laird
            The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

            • Inverted Meniscus

              Emotive leftist rubbish. It is a benefit which has been reduced because we cannot afford it and it does not solve a specific problem. Rather than suggesting a viable and affordable solution, the left simply gives something an emotive, inaccurate and utterly dishonest label and blames the government of the day.

              • Tony_E

                That’s not why it has been reduced. The rules for Housing Benefit has been changed an an attempt to redistribute the available public housing stock more effectively, reducing overcrowding in smaller properties and under occupancy where possible. It won’t save money

                • Kaine

                  Not that it will achieve that, since we don’t have that many single bedroom properties in the social housing stock.

                • Tony_E

                  Well that’s debatable – it takes a long time to move the housing situation. It certainly was never going to be quick, but the argument was no different when Labour enacted the same change for all housing benefit recipients in private tenancy agreements.

                • Colonel Mustard

                  A good point and one that has been overlooked.

                • Kaine

                  The difference in the argument is that the change by Labour was not retrospective. I have no problem with the change going forward (though the housing crisis in this country is a much bigger issue than this) but applying it to sitting tenants regardless of whether they actually have the ability to move is iniquitous. That is before we address the numerous documented cases of disabled people who require a room for their dialysis, or whose condition makes sharing a room with their partner impossible.

                  If the government had rolled this out for new tenants who had a choice of property, and had a ‘moving assistance grant’ of say, £100 for those who agreed to switch to a smaller property, the pain of so many vulnerable people could have been avoided, while having the same macro-effect.

                  Whereas we now have he ludicrous situation of some of the larger Housing Association properties being unoccupied because few families are big enough, under the new rules, to fill them and not incur the penalty. This I think we can all agree is madness.

                • Tony_E

                  Had it not been a contemporary change (it wasn’t retrospective, no-one was asked to pay extra rent on previous occupation), there is almost no chance that anyone with a council house already under occupied would ever move.

                  It would have simply frozen the tenancy in aspic, achieving nothing at all, especially as the majority of council housing given out now is to people with at least average or large families. It’s legacy tenancies that are the problem.

              • Kaine

                There’s no evidence that it will save any money, because if people actually move they don’t pay it. When challenged on this the PM said it was “a matter of fairness” because it made the system the same between the private rented sector and social housing stock. He omitted that the private sector provisions when brought in were not retrospective, whereas this is.

                So actually the Under Occupancy Penalty is based on precisely the ’emotive’ arguments you’re decrying, not fiscal ones.

              • George Laird

                Dear Inverted

                Did you ask me for a viable and affordable solution?

                But here it is, paid work placements for people on benefits, plus they keep their current benefits while on placement.

                Works out all round.

                Yours sincerely

                George Laird
                The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

                • Inverted Meniscus

                  Except it doesn’t work and is unaffordable.

              • SilentHunter

                You really like the word “emotive”, don’t you old sport. :o)

                Is it today’s “word of choice’ in your “rightist” desk calendar?

          • SilentHunter

            Gosh!

            And yet it certainly felt like paying tax.

            How could we all be so wrong about it; but then . . . why did the Tories repeal it and why did it bring down the Sainted Thatcher, if it was “so popular”?

            It’s a conundrum, isn’t it Inverted Boll*x, if indeed, that is your name. ;o)

        • Tony_E

          It’s very difficult to see something as a ‘tax’ when it is simply an adjustment in what amounts to a ‘charitable gift’ given by governments on behalf of taxpayers.

      • andagain

        By that argument, there was no such thing as the Poll Tax either.

        So what were all those people refusing to pay?

        • Inverted Meniscus

          I believe it was called the local authority charge. Poll Tax was yet another piece of pejorative left wing boll*x.

          • andagain

            Perhaps, then, they should have called it “The really nice thing that’s good for everybody”. Then no one would have objected to it. For the future, I propose calling every Conservative policy “The really nice thing that’s good for everybody”.

            Then everyone will support them because all that matters, apparently, is their name.

          • SilentHunter

            And the reason they tried out in Scotland first would be?

            Hmmm?

            • Inverted Meniscus

              I really don’t care.

              • SilentHunter

                Well of course not . . . you’re a Tory.

                All you care about is . . . you.

      • hoddles

        Pedants r us

        • Inverted Meniscus

          No we call it honesty as opposed to left wing mendacity.

    • Kitty MLB

      George, you have returned from your lenghty absence.
      The Scottish fellow whose not too fond of the whiff of
      fish himself.You see I have the memory of a baby elephant.

      • George Laird

        Dear Kitty

        I have been absence as you rightly say, however only on posting, I do drop by regularly to scan articles.

        As to fish, I like River cobbler, boiled potatoes and cauliflower, it goes rather well together swimming in mayo.

        Sadly, I haven’t had any fish for ages.

        As to having the memory of a bay elephant, I am glad, so few do these days.

        Yours sincerely

        George Laird
        The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

  • Forlornehope

    You know what, this seems far more about a strategy to secure control of English domestic policy (90% of the UK) for the Conservatives. Giving this level of control to the Scottish Parliament will superglue the West Lothian question to the table.

  • Inverted Meniscus

    Now there is a headline that will have every cybernat nutter blowing a fuse.

  • Grey Wolf

    ”Are we witnessing the strange rebirth of Conservative Scotland?”

    No.

    • DaveTheRave

      Ditto

    • Rocksy

      According to the people I have spoken to….including fervent SNP and traditional Labour voters, while perhaps not able to get their heads around changing their vote just yet, they have actually been listening to Ruth Davidson.

  • http://garve.scott-lodge.com Garve Scott-Lodge

    The Strathclyde report says

    “Devolution of VAT is unlawful in EU law (which requires each Member State to set a uniform rate across its territory). ”

    “Were it not illegal under EU law, we would have been inclined to recommend that VAT be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.”

    Rather than meaning that SNP voters should vote Conservative, everyone should vote Yes in September to get the full powers recommended by the Strathclyde report!

  • LadyDingDong

    My own preference, given how much the Scots have come to hate us and how much we pay for that privilege, is for Scotland to vote yes in September and go off to be a satrapy managed by that fat Scots psychopathic liar and ruled by Merkel and Juncker. However, as it seems likely that the tartan turkeys will probably not vote for a European Christmas, in the event of a ‘no’ we cannot continue with the status quo for all or any of the components of the United Kingdom. It would no longer be tolerable for the English to have Scots voting on matters solely relating to us while having control over their own tax and spend policies, and it would be no less tolerable for Wales or Northern Ireland in such a construct. The UK must become a federal entity with separate tax, health and welfare systems and each with their own governing bodies. Overall government would rest with the largest single party, which of course would be forever Conservative, and we can look forward to prosperity for all, and no more bitchy whinging from our ‘friends’ in the north and the valleys.

    • Kaine

      Devolution to the English regions would have solved the ‘West Lothian Question’ (which is in fact far older, dating from at least the creation of Northern Ireland). However the Tories deliberately scuppered the campaign in the North East. The question should be asked again regardless of he vote in September.

      • Tony_E

        No, the people of the North East scuppered it by voting NO in large numbers.

        Why cannot you simply accept that the people spoke and the idea was ditched?

        • Kaine

          For the same reason that the Anti-EU lot didn’t give up after they lost their referendum. Because I believe the decision was the wrong one.

          Moreover I don’t see why the North East’s decision should mean other regions should not have a chance to have their say.

          • Inverted Meniscus

            Basically, this was a plot by the Labour Party to get English Regions fighting each other and thus distracted from the iniquities of Scottish MPs voting on English matters. They were told to get stuffed.

            • Kaine

              Yeah, because if I was organising a plot I’d put John Prescott in charge. The top of the party had gotten bored with constitutional change by that point.

              This supposed iniquity has existed since the creation of Stormont in 1922. It never bothered the Tories when their pet devolved parliament supplied an Ulster Unionist voting block who regularly followed the Tory whip. Suddenly following Scottish devolution this became an issue of existential importance.

              Now I have no particular problem with a traditional, English, constitutional fudge, or ‘variable geometry’ as I believe the wonks call it. The Jacobin fervour of some federalists on here is deeply ironic given their euroscepticism.

              • global city

                Do you think that we should join the US’s federal system?

                Why not?

                Are you contradicting yourself?

                Some unions (federal or not) are good, others are not right for us to be in….yes?

                • Kaine

                  No.

                  Because the USA is an even more corrupt oligarchy than we are.

                  No.

                  Good things are good, bad things are bad, yes?

                • global city

                  Yes, exactly. Some things are good and some are bad.

                  The EU is bloody awful.

              • Wessex Man

                your arrogance equals Tony Blair’s and Gordon Brown, how old are you? did you take part in the debates all those years ago?

                The people of the North East voted 7 to 1 not to have their country, England divided up and done away with, a pretty decisive victory even by your standards, unless of course you don’t believe in democracy like your heroes 1997-2010.

                • Kaine

                  Not they didn’t. Over half of them didn’t vote.

                  But I assume we can apply this same argument to the issue of European Union then? I mean, we already had a referendum.

              • Inverted Meniscus

                Oh do keep your socialist nuttery to yourself lad.

                • Kaine

                  Trying to silence debate eh? Fascist.

          • Tony_E

            You believe the decision was the wrong one? So why do you think that the people of the North East couldn’t get the decision ‘right’? And what makes you think that they will suddenly realise the ‘error of their ways’?

            • Kaine

              First, please do not mistake a difference of opinion for a belief that the alternative opinion is invalid. The people of the NE had every right to make that decision, I just happen to disagree with it.

              I think, from talking to people in the region and looking at the campaign, that the problem was a lack of clarity. There were pre-existing blue-prints for Scotland and NI. There was at least an agreement on where the Welsh capital was going to be. There was no such structure for the NE. People cannot be blamed for refusing to walk blindly into a new constitutional set-up.

              Second, the internal rivalries in the region between Durham, Newcastle and Middlesbrough were exacerbated by this. There was a fear by some that they were going to become part of a ‘Greater Newcastle’. That devolution would do them no good. His is rather similar to the feelings of, say, Wrexham in he Welsh case.

              Nevertheless, by every economic measure you care to name the NE is closer to Scotland, Wales and NI than it is to any other region in England. This hasn’t changed in the ten years since the vote.

              I believe a proper plan for a devolved assembly, which would

              • Kaine

                *continued here owing to site glitch*

                address the economic concerns of the area would have a better chance, particularly in giving control over infrastructure to the new body.

                It’s been a decade. I hardly think that’s unduly repetitive.

                • Tony_E

                  It’s not an argument that I have no sympathy with, the idea of more local responsibility, and I apologise for the tone of my response. But I’m in favour of stable constitutional arrangements, and not too many referenda.

                  However, the argument against it was that it was still another layer of government. Also, I think if Labour was in power, it simply wouldn’t consider it – after all how does that square with the rhetoric of ‘One Nation’? Devolution of this kind would have to be performed pretty much simultaneously all over the country or the wastefulness of having government departments responsible for health or transport in only small parts of the country where devolution had not occurred would become difficult to maintain. That would suggest that some parts of the country would have devolution forced on them.

                  As a an ex east end city kid living in rural north west Norfolk, I would totally recognise the fears of the communities in Hexam or Durham – we are badly used by Norwich – given their dirty work to do (see the incinerator fiasco), and given little infrastructure improvement while Norwich thrives with new dual carriageways to London, so I don’t think that fear is at all unfounded.

                  And then there is the EU angle – regionalisation as the first step to breaking down the English nation, that thorn in the side of full European integration. It’s difficult to conceive of a less popular idea at present than the further erosion of the nation state. Traditional Labour in the North is against, just as vehemently as the shire Tories. It’s about the only principle that truly unites both groups.

                  So I think it would be a hard sell at present, especially with the prospect of a Labour government just around the corner I think people would rather just see what the next lot does better. Also I’d rather find better ways of connecting the economies of the North and South and moving prosperity northward – because I still think it fundamentally possible to maintain England as a whole and united (and much more equal) nation.

                • Kaine

                  Cheers, I also apologise if I came across as sharp.

                  I would say I feel quite a lot of ‘devolution’ of powers is going on anyway, as politicians try and avoid responsibility for things. It’s simply that this power is being handed out to quangos, third sector bodies, private firms etc, rather than to democratically accountable bodies. CCGs in the NHS are a classic example. Many of these are too small to be in any way efficient, and they certainly are not democratically accountable. Local councils cannot be bastions of democratic feeling while they rely upon the centre for 75% of their funding.

                  Moreover, I take an admittedly unpopular view on representation. Simply put compared to sixty years ago we are deeply unrepresented. In 1951 the population was 43million, with approximately the same number of Parliamentarians. Now there are 63 million of us and rising. It is in fact this deficit in representation that in large part is responsible for ludicrous things like Labour being able to win on 35% of the vote. A bigger Parliament would allow a greater plurality of voices. However in lieu of that, a more local assembly would also fix the deficit of representation. It is worth noting that all the devolved parliaments have grown more popular with their citizens over time.

                  I concur that it is unlikely, but I simply don’t see what an English Parliament actually offers within the Union. The possibility (some might say probability) of a Labour Prime Minister and a Tory First Minister seems a much trickier constitutional problem than West Lothian. At that point I’d probably argue it was time to dissolve the whole thing and have a co-operation agreement.

                  Interestingly, a structure already exists for such co-operation. It has the rather fancy name “The Council of the Isles”, includes Eire and the Isle of Man and Channel Islands, and was set up as part of the Peace Process. It would indeed be deeply ironic if Scotland leaving the Union finally brought the Irish back into the fold.

          • global city

            They could not do that because the only case they could make, beyond that which they tried in the NE was to explain how the ‘regions’ were to fit into the EU’s structural plans. It was the only rationale for them, and if nulabour had explained this then they would have been lynched.

            Cities and counties should be given much greater autonomy, not just from Westminster but crucially, from Whitehall.

            • Hexhamgeezer

              Agreed. The whole idea was an EU generated piece of bureaucratic mindwank with a transparent veneer of ‘localism’.
              I don’t know anyone up here who thought the idea was for our benefit.

            • Kaine

              Counties are meaningless divisions dreamed up by Ted Heath in the early seventies.

              • global city

                Yes. They were supposed to be the local delivery agents for the big national machine… it all being steered by those geniuses in Whitehall.

                Municipal corporatism was the aim… we’ve been left with the dysfunctional vestiges of the new utopia. Some counties naturally fit, but basically these sorts of issues should be decided by locals.

              • vieuxceps2

                Counties have existed since Saxon and Norman times.Are you a damned foreigner?

          • vieuxceps2

            Why does no-one ever suggest regionalising Scotland or Wales? These places have widely-differing geographical and even ethnic peoples within them.But no, let’s chop england up shall we? What are you afraid of that you wish our Nation to die?

      • Colonel Mustard

        Red herring, literally. Regional devolution would have resulted in supra local government (as now) not real local government and not any way for the English to self-determine as a whole nation.

        It would have created yet another tier of troughers, party tribalists and single issue campaigners to lord it over us and would have centralised local services away from smaller communities.

        • Kaine

          Except, as I keep saying, the Northern cities have far more in common; socially, historically, economically with Scotland, Wales and NI than they do with Kent or Sussex. The Irish Sea Triangle of Northern Industrial Towns; rain soaked, football obsessed and with a profound communitarian streak born of a history of large scale industry.

          This is not to say this is ‘better’, but simply that it is different. There is not just one ‘England’.

          And that’s without mentioning London, which is essentially a global metropolis sitting uncomfortably in a medium sized European country.

          • Colonel Mustard

            I understand the regional identity thing and that common Border region identity was something Rory Stewart was arguing saying that the Scotland/England divide was an artificial construct there. Certainly there is not just one England – there isn’t even one England! It is lost between Britain and London governed by a Westminster urban elite and/or a collection of British MPs. A frustrated English nationalism has gravitated towards UKIP which almost perpetuates the old tendency to say England when meaning Britain and vice versa.

            But a regional solution would effectively push England back to pre-Alfred days.

            • Wessex Man

              that is what he wants Colonel.

            • Kaine

              When I lived in London I did not feel like I was an Englishman who had simply moved to another part of my country, I was a Northerner in a profoundly different place. I felt as much a migrant as my friends from Cork, or Gwent, or Glasgow.

              I understand you have an emotional attachment to ‘England’ as a concept Colonel. I don’t. I have one to Manchester, to the North, and actually to these rainy islands as a whole. You see West Lothian as a profound injustice, I see it as a constitutional quirk which we might get round to fixing in time.

              Emotional arguments are important when it comes to nations, but I don’t think that the borders of Alfred are insoluble.

              • Colonel Mustard

                I wouldn’t say I see West Lothian as a “profound injustice” but rather one of the several inconsistencies that make a mockery of some of the platitudes and presumptions those who rule over us tend to peddle.

                England is not a ‘concept’ (except perhaps in Westminster where it seems to be a concept to be suppressed) and certainly not one I have an emotional attachment to. I am an Englishman, born in England which had already existed as a nation for some 1,000 years by that time. My attachment is by birth and ancestry and not of my choosing. I believe I have the right to self-identify as English in the same way that most other nations on this earth do. I happen to share your emotional attachment to “these rainy islands as a whole” and consider it a privilege to be both English and British.

    • Jeanne Tomlin

      I suggest everyone read that outpouring of hatred for the Scots and fantastically twisted misinformation so they understand why so many Scots so much want independence.

      • Wessex Man

        you’re a good one to talk of hatred, this is your first post for yonks that isn’t full of bile toward England.

        • Jeanne Tomlin

          I always take bile coming from the two of you as a compliment. Ta.

          • Colonel Mustard

            I have never directed any bile at you so stop lying.

            • Jeanne Tomlin

              LOL Sure you haven’t. But you can judge a person by their enemies as well as by their friends, so I have no objection.

          • vieuxceps2

            Well, we all know it was the English Empire don’t we?Gone now of course ,followed by the Scots who prospered so well from it.

            • Jeanne Tomlin

              Interesting. I thought it was a British Empire. Apparently not. That might explain why so many parts of Scotland were depopulated. Thanks for explaining that to me.

        • Alec

          See here her solipsistic defence of the repellent Stuart Campbell of Wings Over Scotland.

          http://www.leftfootforward.org/2014/05/scottish-nationalists-shouldnt-be-angry-with-the-media-for-ignoring-them/#comment-1374008002

      • Colonel Mustard

        Pot meet kettle. Kettle meet pot.

        • SilentHunter

          Sorry? . . . which one are you again?

          • Colonel Mustard

            Apology accepted. Now go away there’s a good cyberman.

            • SilentHunter

              Did you miss the question mark? (<- see!)

              It's okay; age never comes alone, old boy. ;o)

      • Alec

        Alternatively, it has arisen from years of drip-drip animosity and telling “England” to mind her own business only now to start demanding concessions “in everyone’s interest”.

        Did you think it was a computer game you can reset at will?

        ~alec

    • global city

      ‘The Scots hate us’

      WTF?

      • vieuxceps2

        Seems to me the Scots hate everyone and everything not Scottish.They really are a bumptious ,self-deluding crew.As they say,ever more often and ever more loudly “Here’s tae us. Wha’s like us?”

    • SilentHunter

      “…given how much the Scots have come to hate us…”

      I say! . . . steady on LadyDingDong. “Hate” is such a pejorative word.

      I prefer the phrase “dislike intensely”. >:o) . . . ever since the Tories foisted the hated (in England, Wales and NI as well as Scotland) Poll Tax upon us, a year earlier than everyone else.

      Still . . . I suspect it’s the Tory attitude of “weak to the wall” that really upsets people who think that there are finer human values than simply . . . Greed and Money.

    • Maidmarrion

      You know I can understand ” hatred ” on an individual basis but have never actually thought about it on a national level.
      So you are saying that an entire nation ” hates ” the English , I find that hard to believe.
      I can , however , understand dislike of the arrogant , the smug and the sneering and that being given a notionally national tag.
      By the way health , education and law are separate – it is only a small step to separate the rest.
      P.S there are 650 MPs 59 of whom are Scottish constituency MPs – I have faith in my friends in the south to see that Scotland leaving will not alter the fact that they can vote Labour , Liberal ,Conservative or UKIP if they so desire and get what the majority want – democracy in action , ain’t that peachy?

  • CraigStrachan

    Yes, I think we’ll see the Tartan Tories return to the fold in 2015, bringing seats like Perth, Angus and maybe even Banff & Buchan with them.

  • http://batman-news.com Angus McIonnach

    “all good Scottish nationalists – ie, those keenest to secure more powers for Scotland – should vote Conservative in May 2015.”

    Mmmnah – we’ll just leave the electing of Westminster governments to the English, as always.

    • George Laird

      Dear Angus

      “Broadcasting, for example”.

      Not a chance.

      If you want to watch sheep munching grass go up the hills.

      Yours sincerely

      George Laird
      The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

      • http://batman-news.com Angus McIonnach

        Oh look, a nutter.

        • George Laird

          Dear Angus

          Nationalist smearing arrives at the Spectator, oh well, it had to turn up here eventually I suppose.

          Looking forward to epic defeat on 18th September?

          The clock is ticking down.

          Yours sincerely

          George Laird
          The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

          • http://batman-news.com Angus McIonnach

            Why do nutters always have their own bizarre comment format that they use on the internet? It’s not a letter, dear.

            • http://batman-news.com Angus McIonnach

              “One other person is typing”

              Another formal missive is being composed LOL.

            • George Laird

              Dear Angus

              Speaking of nutters, you part of the growing army of defeated Nationalists who attack anyone who speaks out against Salmond? He is going to lose rather badly, new poll shows defeat is coming so quickly.

              I use this format, because it is my signature online which helps to direct people to my blog.

              It is a marketing tool.

              Which is why my blog is read by political parties, even the Scottish Executive drop by.

              Imagine not knowing about marketing, no wonder indy is on its knees.

              Mind you I am sure there are many in the SNP who could find something for you to do on your knees!

              Yours sincerely

              George Laird
              The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

              • http://batman-news.com Angus McIonnach

                …aaaannnd there we are. Please waste time with another long-winded pompous response in your weird paragraph-per-sentence letter to the council style.

                • http://batman-news.com Angus McIonnach

                  HE’S TYPING AGAIN!!!

                • George Laird

                  Dear Angus

                  So unhappy about losing the indy referendum, need someone to blame?

                  Alex Salmond.

                  Unpopular Nicola Sturgeon.

                  Not the A Team!

                  Yours sincerely

                  George Laird
                  The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

                • http://batman-news.com Angus McIonnach

                  Something’s wrong with this website – your comments should be displayed in green ink, right…? (I am literally not reading your comments btw)

                • http://batman-news.com Angus McIonnach

                  What’s this. “one other person is typing” – who could it be?

                • George Laird

                  Dear Angus

                  There will be a big red line under Alex Salmond on the 18th September.

                  Ho…. ho….ho!

                  I will enjoy his defeat.

                  Now, we have chatted enough Braveheart.

                  Salmond has one last task, clear his desk, pack up Joan McAlpine and disappear to his shack up north.

                  Yours sincerely

                  George Laird
                  The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

                • http://batman-news.com Angus McIonnach

                  Dear reader, I don’t require thanks for distracting this deranged shut-in for at least twenty minutes with minimal effort. The sense of achievement at a job well done is reward enough.

                  Bye nutter :)

                • George Laird

                  Dear Angus

                  You are deeply unhappy, I wouldn’t tell you to seek help.

                  Why, because I don’t care.

                  As to distracting me, I was listening to music.

                  18th September, Alex Salmond is cooked!

                  Ho…ho …ho.

                  Yours sincerely

                  George Laird
                  The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

                • http://batman-news.com Angus McIonnach

                  Hmmm. I thought you had finished your pretendy letter writing campaign. Don’t you have piles of rubbish to sort in your sitting room?

                  *prod prod*

                • George Laird

                  Dear Angus

                  Are you having relationship problems at home? Problems with your wife? Does your wife keep a dirty house? You mentioned rubbish lying about which is quite odd.

                  Why don’t you speak to her, get it off your chest. Clearing the air is sometimes good. However, it is best to wait outside if she has regular visitors. Nothing worse in creating a scene while people are enjoying their tea.

                  Yours sincerely

                  George Laird
                  The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

                • http://batman-news.com Angus McIonnach

                  This marketing is absolutely great by the way. Don’t you have a hedge that needs shouting at? I’d hate to keep you away from marketing activities.

                • George Laird

                  Dear Angus

                  I don’t care what you think.

                  Yours sincerely

                  George Laird
                  The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

                • http://batman-news.com Angus McIonnach

                  Clearly 😉

  • goatmince

    YES.

    We are indeed. They won’t be voting Tory though, nor UKIP for that matter.

  • Cath Ferguson

    Unlikely. This is a proposal to nobble the Scottish parliament. It hands over no more actual powers – just more bureaucracy and paperwork. Being more coherent than Labour’s proposal is hardly an achievement.

  • Count Dooku

    No more powers for Scotland until the West Lothian problem is fixed. Freedom for the English who have taxation without proper representation.

    • Kitty MLB

      indeed Count.And also as GK Chesterton said.We are English
      and have not spoken yet.The quiet and good mannered
      English voter must have a say at some point.
      And no Devo Max and i am sure dear Scotland would
      prefer its own currency.As independence means just
      that.

    • Colonel Mustard

      What do you mean “proper” representation? They are not represented at all. Certainly not in the sense of being able to self-determine as England or the English. Despite having English MPs, many of whom are not actually English, the country is governed by a British parliament with no devolution whatsoever.

      As London has grown its own “city state” identity this has made matters worse.

    • Randy McDonald

      Do the English actually want a parliament of their own?

      • vieuxceps2

        Last time the question was asked 68% said yes.Why would anyone suppose otherwise?

      • Inverted Meniscus

        Yes we are sick of being bossed about by the representatives of another country as often happened between 1997 and 2010.

        • SilentHunter

          You mean the Government that the majority of “English” voters returned, 3 times in a row.

      • Inverted Meniscus

        Also, you do not hold a monopoly on patriotism and love of your own country.

  • John_Page

    It’s amusing to see Tory ruthlessness reappear, untrammelled by any belief system such as Labour have. A truly traditional Tory manoeuvre.

    • Inverted Meniscus

      Labour’s only belief is in the acquisition of power for power’s sake, economic incompetence, suppression of traditional freedoms and utter dishonesty. Or Fascism for short.

    • Makroon

      It’s called ‘pragmatism’ the quintessential British virtue, which has served us very well.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Funny man. Clearly you have not been following the increasingly ruthless and authoritarian boasts of your leading troll here who has stated on many occasions that the only thing that matters to Labour is winning by any means necessary.

      Oh, you have a belief system alright and we have seen it in action before. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you get to do all the hating and no-one is going to hate your party right back.

    • andagain

      What is so ruthless about devolving control of income tax?

  • Maidmarrion

    NO.

  • Denis_Cooper

    “Westminster, by contrast, ‘provides defence and security, international relations and foreign policy, social security and macro-economic policy, including the currency’.”

    Which “international relations and foreign policy” includes everything to do with
    the EU, which to a greater or less extent impinges on most of those matters for which the Scottish Parliament is notionally responsible.

    • HookesLaw

      So France does not have a foreign policy? Did it ask permission from the EU to put its troops into Mali.

      • Denis_Cooper

        What are you blathering on about?

        Everything to do with the EU is reserved to the UK Parliament and not devolved to the Scottish Parliament, under Schedule 5 of the Scotland Act 1998:

        http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/46/schedule/5

        and many of the EU laws impinge on devolved matters.

        Nothing at all to do with the French and Mali.

  • Spammo Twatbury

    Can you – can anyone – seriously picture a scenario in which the rates and bands of income tax were allowed to be different in Gretna and Carlisle? Sober up.

    • robertsonjames

      They are different between Dundalk and Newry as they are between Antwerp and Rotterdam. They are also sometimes different inside the same state, as in the case of Berne and Basel.

      All of these places are comfortably commutable twice a day and also in each case the pair represent viable alternative locations for business or shopping for large numbers of people, just as would be Carlisle and relatively nearby Scottish towns. Yet they seem to manage perfectly well with different rates and bands of income tax (and indeed different other taxes too).

      What makes you think the increasingly federal fiscal arrangements inside Britain that Mr Massie adumbrates would be uniquely unsustainable?

      • Count Dooku

        Agree 100%. The same occurs on a regional scale with California/Texas and Delaware/New York. The tax differential for a high earner or corporation can be as large as 13% in California/Texas.

        Tax competition is good. It starves socialist governments of revenue as people can vote with their feet. Especially within countries where there there are few barriers to relocation. It keeps taxes low for everyone and alerts voters to the consequences of their government’s folly.

      • Spammo Twatbury

        Um, you do know that Antwerp is in Belgium and Rotterdam is in Holland, right? Of course rates can be different between nearby places if they’re in DIFFERENT COUNTRIES, Jesus.

        • global city

          Not if the EU gets it’s way.

          Less freedom than the states of the USA.

          I think we should join the USA… anyone who disagrees with this political statement is a xenophobe.

        • MichtyMe

          In many countries most tax is levied at local level, even in small countries. Most taxation in Switzerland is by the cantons and communes and they seem to manage, even prosper.

        • Maidmarrion

          So if Scotland votes YES and gets total control , as a DIFFERENT COUNTRY it could have an attractive taxation system – seems a plus to me.

  • abystander

    No.

    By the way, what happened to Ruth’s “line in the sand”?

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