With independence off the table for the medium term future,Yes supporters need to turn our attention to Devo Max. This is where the real battleground will lie in the short term – up to and possibly beyond the 2015 UK general election. The Unionists made solemn vows that a No vote would lead to greater powers for the Scottish Parliament. Some even talked about Home Rule and a Federal Britain. We must hold them to account on this.
Put forward a credible model now
However we must do more than just sit back and wait for the UK government to come up with something. This would be a great mistake. Whatever Westminster comes up with, however little and insignificant it amounts to, they and their friends in the media will present it as wonderful, powerful and unprecedented. If we are to counter this we cannot wait and then complain. We need to get in our counter proposals now. The key here is that it is the No voters that the Unionists need to convince with their offer. We still want independence but we are, let us not forget, the minority, so our views are of little import to the UK government. We need to get out into the public domain examples of what devolution of real powers looks like. This way all of us, including No voters will have a meaningful marker against which to judge the UK government’s offer.
Nova Scotia as a working model of Devo Max
There are many possibilities for Devo Max all the way to full fiscal autonomy. But as long as they remain theoretical, academic options, they are not likely to capture the interest or the imagination of the general public. Especially No voters. Instead I suggest that we put forward real life examples from other countries. I would propose the Canadian system as a good example to recommend. I have chosen Nova Scotia to illustrate this for obvious reasons, though the basics apply to all Canadian provinces. This has the advantage that most people in Scotland and the rest of the UK will be pretty familiar with Canada. Not the details of course, but Canada as a friendly, successful and stable country. One that used to be part of the British Empire to boot. This makes it that bit harder for Unionists to reject outright the Canadian system. If it works for Nova Scotia and for Canada why not for Scotland and the UK?
What powers does Nova Scotia have?
Very substantial powers is the short answer. The following brief summary is taken from the Nova Scotia Finance and Treasury Board. You can access the page here. Basically Nova Scotia raises revenues from; income tax, corporate tax, sales tax, taxes on petrol, user fees and royalties from offshore petroleum production activities.
In the case of income tax, corporate tax and sales tax, both the federal and provincial government set their own rates. The Harmonized Sales Tax for example in Nova Scotia is 15% – a federal portion (5%) and a provincial portion (10%). It is also interesting to note that most taxes in Nova Scotia are collected and administered by the Canada Revenue Agency. So there is no need for unnecessary duplication of beaurocracy.
Just to be clear, we do not need to become advocates for any particular form of devolution. But I do believe that we need to do all we can to ensure that the wider public is aware of how extensive devolution is in other successful countries. Canada is just one example. It does have a nice ring to it though. Why should Scotland not have the same economic powers as Nova Scotia?