The Smith Commission report has gone up in smoke. Literally. SNP Councillors, Will Mylet, Brian Lawson, Mags MacLaren and Kenny MacLaren, set fire to the report outside Renfrewshire Council headquarters. You can see the evidence here.
This is the party of government that participated in the Smith Commission, the party that sent their Cabinet Secretary for Finance into the Commission’s negotiations as their lead negotiator and the same party that agreed and signed up to all of its recommendations.
They can’t think very much of Swinney’s negotiation skills because they have been trashing the report since the moment it was published, this was just the latest stunt in a series of gripes and grumbles about its conclusions from the SNP.
Sturgeon’s official line has been that the report has been a ‘disappointment’. Alex Salmond, now free of the responsibilities of First Minister, was not so diplomatic on the This Week programme last Thursday and their members and supporters have been nothing but vitriolic on social media.
This is a report that changes Britain forever (and which has understandably raised calls from other areas for a discussion about further devolution across the UK). It is a report that delivers on the vow to give the Scottish Parliament extensive new powers. It was one that was designed to strengthen the devolution settlement within the UK and provide a durable but responsive democratic constitutional settlement, one which is implementable and compatible with Scotland’s and the UK’s international obligations and one which should not cause detriment to the UK as a whole nor to any of its constituent parts.
Under the report’s recommendations the Scottish Parliament will have responsibility for setting more than £10.8 billion of income tax, £5 billion of VAT receipts, 50 per cent of the VAT take in the country and a total budget of £30bn. Only the SNP could deny this strengthens the parliaments powers.
It’s interesting is it not that for all their talk of disappointment and betrayal the SNP have not come forward with one proposal for using the new powers of the Scottish Parliament. But then the Scottish Parliament has had powers since 1997 that have never been used. Because this, for them, is not about governing, it’s about grievance and nothing but independence will do.
They were always going to play this game. Accepting powers, accepting responsibility and accountability don’t fit with the narrative of independence – they can only ever want more.
Perhaps one reason they don’t like the Commission’s report is because it hits this particular nail on the head saying “Both Governments need to work together to create a more productive, robust, visible and transparent relationship. There also needs to be greater respect between them”.
They probably also don’t like the section that states “Parliament’s oversight needs to be strengthened”. Because for too long the SNP have been subject to too little scrutiny in a parliament where their parliamentary majority sees them control every parliamentary committee (the committee membership is based on the balance of the parties in the Parliament).
55% of those who voted on the 18th September did so to remain in the United Kingdom. Only the Labour Party is speaking for them.
Having elected representatives of her party burn the Smith Commission report – moving to suspend them only after considerable political pressure from the Scottish Labour party and a media storm – shows the deep lack of respect that Nicola Sturgeon and her party has for democracy. Because above everything else she is a Nationalist. Everything else is secondary. Remember that next time she puts her red dress on and declares that she’s a Social Democrat.
Johanna Baxter is a member of Labour’s NEC