Friday, September 23, 2022

It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for control over stamp duty, which (checks notes) it appears we already have

Gordon Brown's constitutional review was supposed to be the massive wild card, the potential game-changing moment that could transform Scottish politics and see voters switch back en masse from the SNP to Labour, at least in Westminster elections.  And, in fairness, it was semi-plausible that it could have worked out that way.  Imagine that, as now seems conceivable or even likely, Labour go into the 2024 general election on the brink of finally bringing to an end fourteen years of unbroken Tory rule.  And suppose they were also going into that election making Scottish voters a credible offer of significantly enhanced devolution.  Wouldn't a lot of Scottish voters be tempted to do what might look to them (wrongly) as the pragmatic thing and get behind a party that has the capacity to actually replace the Tory government and then quickly deliver more powers for Holyrood?  Such an electoral strategy could potentially have the same effect as the New Democratic Party's "French kiss" to Quebec voters in the 2011 Canadian federal election, which saw the pro-independence Bloc Québécois lose majority status in the province for the first time in almost two decades.

But there's a bit of a snag.  The broad thrust of Brown's review has now been "leaked" (ie. announced unofficially to the Guardian) and it looks as if it doesn't offer any significant new powers to the Scottish Parliament at all.  The biggest devolution-related promise is: "New tax powers for some devolved governments, which could include stamp duty".  A quick Google search confirms that stamp duty is already devolved to Scotland as a result of the post-indyref changes, which means the "some devolved governments" which will receive new tax powers does not include the Scottish Government.  The 'making excuses' tone of Blair McDougall's tweet strongly suggests that he's seen the report and knows there isn't any enhanced devolution for Scotland, but only for the rest of the UK.  He still wants us to believe that Scottish voters are being offered a "reformed UK", but it's hard to see how that's much use when the only parts of the UK being reformed are the parts Scottish voters don't actually live in.  It's a bit like responding to the aspirations of French voters by saying "we are offering you a reformed Paraguay!"

McDougall might retort that the replacement of the House of Lords would directly benefit Scotland.  Well...maybe to a very limited extent, but I'd want to see the details.  In Germany, for example, members of the upper chamber (the Bundesrat) vote as a bloc as directed by their provincial government.  That might be a moderately useful power for the Scottish Government to have, because it would give them direct control of 8% of the seats in the UK upper house, which might lead to them holding the balance of power on some issues, which in turn could generate some wider bargaining leverage.  But I've just given the exact reason why a German-style system is very unlikely to be adopted in the UK.  More probable is a system of indirect election which gives representation to parties in proportion to the number of seats they hold at Holyrood.  That would mean Scottish members of the upper house wouldn't vote as a bloc, and there would be an effective replication of the way Scotland is currently represented in the lower house, but without direct election.  What that's got to do with federalism, or with near-federalism, or even with devolution, is far from clear.

It can't be overstated how vital it is that the independence movement gets the message out to voters that this is a massive con-trick that is being portrayed as a historic reform but without offering Scotland a damn thing.  And that's before we even come to the elephant in the room: that UK parties have been promising House of Lords reform for over a century, but have always fail to deliver it once in power.  To this day we have several dozen hereditary peers in the Lords, which is a reminder that Labour backtracked on even the absurdly modest reform they promised in the 1997 election - ie. to scrap all hereditary peers and leave us with an all-appointed House.  The bottom line is that it suits every government that draws its power from an elected majority in the Commons to have an upper house that lacks the democratic legitimacy to be any kind of threat.  And pretty much any reform you can think of would make the Lords at least marginally more democratic and legitimate.

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The recent incident with The Sun makes the case eloquently for crowdfunded opinion polls commissioned by pro-indy alternative media outlets like Scot Goes Pop.  Not only did The Sun get their pollster to ask truly ridiculous questions (like "did you CRY after the Queen died?") to try to artificially generate a picture of Scotland being at one with the rest of the UK, they also then brazenly lied about the poll's results.  Because the data tables hadn't been published at that point, it took a long time for us to discover we were being lied to about the supposedly "plummeting Yes vote", and by that point some of the damage was already done in terms of public perception.  But with crowdfunded polls for a pro-indy outlet, we get to choose which questions are asked, and we can also make very sure the results are reported accurately right from the start.  I'm continuing to fundraise for a seventh Scot Goes Pop poll, and also more generally to help keep Scot Goes Pop going - it's been slow progress this time (totally understandable given the cost of living crisis) but we're gradually getting there.  If you'd like to donate, here are the various options...

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  1. If Gordon Brown is suggesting changes, one thing for sure it will not benefit Scotland

  2. It seems to me the SNP leadership are still too quiet when it comes to rebutting such unionist BS. Too quiet, too timid, too cosy playing their part in the British establishment. We need fire, not politeness.

  3. Although they have very little of substance to offer the various unionist parties are actively probing for ways of increasing their electoral support in Scotland.
    As so often nowadays I'm at a loss to see any sign of effective steps towards a strong, united independence campaign from the SNP leadership. Politics is not timeless. If we continue like this our opportunity will pass for a long time.
    I finally left the SNP a few months ago and initially intended to be a nonparty, active YES campaigner. Maybe that was wrong - perhaps another party is the only way.