Tag Archives: devo-max

Nova Scotia – a model for Devo Max ?

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?




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Two stooges enter, and promptly exit, stage right

The No campaign seems to be rapidly descending into farce as the prospect of a Yes vote induces more and more panic from our Unionist and BritNat friends. The latest was the uncoordinated re-entry into the fray of Messrs Brown and Campbell. Both in their different ways highlighted the need to reform the UK and for the Scottish Parliament to get more powers and responsibilities. Both were as per usual pretty vague about what new powers should be transferred to Edinburgh. I don’t want to waste more time on dissecting the contents of the two speeches as others have done an admirable job of this already – Wings Over Scotland in particular, here and here.

What I do want to highlight is that these two outbursts, they hardly qualify as thoughtful contributions, are further evidence of the state of panic and disarray that seems to have engulfed the No campaign.  For both speeches have precisely zero relation to political reality. You just have to compare how the No campaign has approached this issue of further devolution with its response to a proposed currency union. There the biggest of guns at Westminster, Osborne, Alexander and Balls, were trotted out to parrot the same line – there will be no currency union. None of the party spokepersons from Scotland were involved in this.  Since a currency union requires the consent of Westminster only politicians representing the main parties at Westminster could issue a statement for or against a currency union. But equally, only Westminster can deliver the necessary legislation to secure further devolution. So it follows that only politicians representing the main parties at Westminster can issue any kind of credible commitment to further devolution.  Two failed former leaders do not count.  Only Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Milliband have the necessary authority to make a commitment on behalf of their parties at Westminster. And as with their stand on a currency union, it would have to be a joint commitment, and not just a vague promise to do something. It would need to be a joint commitment to deliver specific additional powers. Now of course nothing like this is going to happen. It won’t happen before September 2014. It won’t happen before the 2015 UK election. It simply will not happen.

It will not happen because none of the UK parties are remotely interested in further devolution. Their underlings in Scotland can rant on to their hearts content, but their masters in Westminster control the votes. It is also fascinating to see all this sudden interest in further devolution emerge as we get closer to the date of the referendum.  After all the LibDems are partners in the current coalition government at Westminster. If they were serious about further devolution, why have they not made this a key condition of the coalition agreement. At the very least the LibDems could have set out their proposals and secured the approval of all their current MPs and all their prospective candidates, not just in Scotland, but throughout the UK. But nothing of the sort has happened. Not the sign of a party that takes this as a serious issue.

It is if anything even worse for Labour. As someone mischievously tweeted, If only Gordon Brown had been Prime Minster!  Why has this stalwart of centralisation when in power in London, suddenly become a convert to further devolution?  Why did Labour when Gordon Brown was chancellor and then Prime Minster do nothing, absolutely nothing.

It is worth noting that neither Gordon Brown nor Ming Campbell used the Better Together platform for their speeches. Though both were speaking about the same topic, there does not appear to have been any prior coordination, no attempt to emphasize any similarities or commonalities between the two proposals. It all seems to be just further confirmation of the disarray in the No campaign.

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