Friday, March 23, 2012

The day that proves that the SNP did, indeed, win the 2007 election

The Telegraph described Wednesday's events as a "capitulation" by Alex Salmond. Really? I know some rank-and-file Nats were itching for the drama of the Scotland Bill being thrown out by Holyrood, but the reality is that the SNP are in the business of securing more powers for the Scottish Parliament. The choice was not between the modest advance of the Scotland Bill as it stands and the 'pigs might fly' scenario of Michael Moore actually remembering that he's supposed to believe in Home Rule, but between the Scotland Bill as it stands and nothing at all - or at least nothing until the referendum. So what were the SNP always likely to choose? Hmmm, let me see now...

The one exception to the general rule of grabbing every power that comes along is when it genuinely would be harmful to Scotland's interests. But those concerns have been obviated by the alterations that have been secured. And by playing hardball, the SNP have also managed to prevent some powers being transferred back to London. That part of the bill hadn't attracted much attention, but however minor the powers concerned were (insolvency and regulation of the health professions), it was always a deeply offensive sop to the idea that Holyrood isn't a grown-up parliament capable of making grown-up decisions. It was also intended to communicate the message that all the powers that Holyrood controls are merely "on loan" from Westminster, and can be withdrawn at any time. So what was intended by Calman to be the "two-way traffic" swapping of powers between Westminster and Holyrood will instead now be strictly one-way traffic - with the exception of the bizarre reservation of powers relating to Antarctica. But I dare say we can live with that. Scotland has no colonial pretensions - let's leave that anachronistic nonsense to those who do it so much better.

Casting my mind back to when the SNP sneaked into power in 2007, I recall being slightly uneasy about the overuse of the word 'historic'. A Nationalist government was certainly a dramatic development, but in itself it didn't achieve a thing. The arrival of devolution in 1999 was an achievement for the national movement. Even the establishment of the Scottish Office in 1885 was an achievement of sorts. But if the SNP had been in power for one term (or less than one term) and no extra powers had been devolved, the 2007 result would have been nothing more than a historical curiosity. For all the unionist crowing about what happened on Wednesday, the real meaning is this - the SNP did win in 2007, and it did matter.

Incidentally, I gather both from Willie Rennie's comments in the Telegraph and Brian Taylor's summary on his blog that the Liberal Democrats are openly measuring the extent of Michael Moore's negotiating "success" by how few powers he had to "give up to Scotland". Yup, there speaks the authentic voice of Scotland's Home Rule party...

NOTE : I should make clear that I'm not 100% sure that the Antarctica provisions haven't been removed from the bill, but as they haven't been mentioned in any of the reports, I presume they're still there.


  1. Given the not inconsiderable population of Antarctic natives in Edinburgh (out Corstorphine way) I for one would be disappointed if we're ceding control of the Antarctic back to Westminster.

  2. The Sunday Herald have set the cat amongst the pidgeons: