The Smith Commission was set up in the aftermath of the Scottish independence referendum in an effort to fulfil the promises of the no campaign who had been panicked into making the promises of more power to the Scottish Parliament by the narrowing of the opinion polls. The commission has a very tight timeline to consider which powers should be devolved, courtesy of Gordie Broon’s ‘timetable’. The aim of the commission is to get representatives of all of the main political parties together and somehow get them to agree to a set of proposals by 31st October. Not long to consider the constitutional future of a country you may think, and I would have to agree with you especially since nothing has happened yet except for the naming of (almost) all of the representatives.
The representatives are:
John Swinney and Linda Fabiani
Patrick Harvie and Maggie Chapman
Iain Gray and (probably) Gregg McClymont
Annabel Goldie and Adam Tomkins
Michael Moore and Tavish Scott
The astute reader will have already spotted a problem with this set up. There are 4 pro independence representatives and 6 unionist representatives. So we have 40% of the participants representing the pro-independence movement and 60% of the participants representing the unionist side. Not exactly representative of the referendum outcome is it? The commission already smacks of bias to me, how about you?
Another potential problem is Baron Smith of Kelvin who’s bum creases the red leather cross party benches in the unelected House of Lords when he can be bothered to turn up. He has knelt before the queen twice, once for a plain knighthood and again for a knighthood into the order of the thistle. He’s about as establishment as you get. Robert Haldane Smith, to give him his mortal name, is also the chairman of Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) who were fined £1.25 million in 2012 for sharp doorstep selling practices and another £10.5 million in 2013 for “prolonged and extensive” miss-selling. He is also a non executive director of Standard Bank Group (which was fined more than £6 million for breaching money laundering regulations in 2014). So as we can see he has vested interests in the energy sector and financial services. He is attributed with no political party affiliation but he owes his loyalty to the queen who “purred” when she heard the result of the referendum. But lets be kind to him and call him neutral, until we learn otherwise,
The commission’s terms of reference are, “to convene cross-party talks and facilitate an inclusive engagement process across Scotland to produce, by 30 November 2014, Heads of Agreement with recommendations for further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament. This process will be informed by a Command Paper, to be published by 31 October and will result in the publication of draft clauses by 25 January. The recommendations will deliver more financial, welfare and taxation powers, strengthening the Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom.”
The commission is welcoming proposals from everyone, for details of how you can submit your ideas click here.
I, for one, hope that something meaningful comes from this commission. We shall have to wait and see. However it is then up to Westminster to legislate and GIVE us those powers, and with a general election just round the corner, I can’t help but feel that the issue is going to be kicked into the long grass. When it finally resurfaces it will end up being watered down so that we end up with a wee sweetie to sook on.
Some of things that I would like to see are the devolution of income tax, national insurance, corporation tax, energy policy, welfare, pensions, land policy, air passenger duty, fuel duty, alcohol duty and last but not least the constitution because as things stand what Westminster gives they can also take away. Will we get to see any of these things? I doubt it because I don’t trust the Westminster establishment. But I’ll try anyway. Maybe you should have a wee think and come up with your own ideas, don’t forget the deadline of 31st October to get them in.