NoNSense: The Vow Was Not A Lie
Nationalists can't accept that we rejected nationalism and so have to pretend that we were conned. They us to think they lack power to avoid accountability for their failures.
Nationalism needs a grievance to survive. For it to survive its own nation rejecting its nationalism, as happened in 2014, it needs a really big grievance. Rather than contemplate the fact that Scots are comfortable sharing sovereignty with our friends and neighbours, the SNP has spent most of the last decade telling Scots they were fooled by The Vow. The SNP seem to believe Scots are stupid.
Don’t Repeat Their Frame
The nationalist accusation is that politicians cannot be trusted and that Scotland was tricked. Nationalists, tellingly, cannot quote a single line of the Vow that wasn’t delivered. However, if you find yourself arguing that politicians kept their promises you are probably on a losing argument. Instead, talk about the power the Scottish Government has and how the SNP should do better with it.
The SNP argument rests on the hope that Scots are ignorant of the power that they have. This is about lowering the expectations that voters have so that they are not held to account for using the enormous power they have. Unfortunately for the SNP Scots aren’t daft. More and more of us understand that Yousaf’s failures are because of a lack of ability, not a lack of powers.
Claim: The Vow Was Not Delivered
Let’s start with what The Vow actually promised as nationalists make all sorts of wild claims about what was within this fairly simple political statement.
Let’s go through the text line by line.
“The Scottish Parliament is permanent…”
The first clause of the first part of the 2016 Scotland Act which followed the referendum reads: “The Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government are a permanent part of the United Kingdom’s constitutional arrangements.”
This, as proposed by Angus Robertson, is backed up by a statement that the Scottish Parliament can only be abolished through a referendum of the Scottish people.
“…extensive new powers for the Parliament will be delivered by the process and to the timetable agreed and announced by our three parties…”
Extensive new powers were delivered:
On social security power over the Best Start Grant, Carer's Assistance, Cold Spell Heating Assistance, Disability Assistance, Discretionary Housing Payments, Employment Injury Assistance, Funeral Expenses Assistance, Winter Heating Assistance and the housing elements of Universal Credit were devolved. Additionally, the Scottish Government now has the ability to top up reserved benefits. The same people who talk up the decisions made by Social Security Scotland pretend these powers aren’t devolved.
Management of the Crown Estate was devolved. Yet the same people who tell us how great the Scot Wind leasing decisions were pretend this didn’t happen.
Control over income tax rates and bands now rests with the Scottish Government. Again, the same people who talk up how Scotland has different income tax rates and bands pretend these powers were not devolved.
Air Passenger Duty was also devolved. How can SNP Ministers be making decisions on this tax without the power to do so?
The ability to create an aggregates levy. SNP Ministers are consulting on how to use this power that they would have you believe doesn’t exist.
Assignment of Scottish VAT revenues to the Scottish Budget. A few days ago the SNP government decided not to use this power but no doubt will claim betrayal.
Speed limits and road signage were devolved. Again, being used by those who claim pretend powers were not devolved.
Powers over rail franchising that the SNP boast about securing.
The welfare powers alone were described by the then SNP Social Security Secretary as “the biggest transfer of powers since devolution began” Of course, nationalists who exist purely to ensure that all state power is held in Edinburgh have to pretend these aren’t extensive. However, the Scottish Parliament’s Information Service looking at the financial powers devolved after The Vow found that Scotland’s tax and spending powers compare favourably with other devolved or federal systems:
“…starting on 19th September.”
David Cameron announced the process for the Smith Commission on the 19th September.
“And it is our hope that the people of Scotland will be engaged directly as each party works to improve the way we are governed in the UK in the years ahead.”
The Smith Commission held 25 events across Scotland, attended by over 215 organisations, and received 407 submissions from civil society and 18,381 from members of the public.
“We agree that the UK exists to ensure opportunity and security for all by sharing our resources equitably across all four nations to secure the defence, prosperity and welfare of every citizen. And because of the continuation of the Barnett allocation for resources, and the powers of the Scottish Parliament to raise revenue, we can state categorically that the final say on how much is spent on the NHS will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.”
This is an important passage. Again and again, nationalists pretend that the vow offered Devo Max or Fiscal Autonomy. In fact, the wording explicitly rejects fiscal autonomy by promising to maintain the Barnett formula whereby resources continue to be redistributed around the UK. The Fiscal Framework agreed by the UK Government and Scottish Government last week agreed that “the Scottish Government’s block grant will continue to be determined via the operation of the Barnett Formula.”
“We believe that the arguments that so powerfully make the case for staying together in the UK should underpin our future as a country. We will honour those principles and values not only before the referendum but after. People want to see change. A No vote will deliver faster, safer and better change than separation.”
Here we’re into areas of political debate, but it is difficult to credibly claim that the change offered by voting no - the powers delivered by 2016 - was slower or more risky than the prospect of years of unstitching 300 years of integration between Scotland and the rest of the UK.
The SNP can’t say one minute that powers weren’t delivered and then talk the next about how we have a separate social security system, a Scottish rate of income tax, or how the Scottish Government has leased the seabed for wind energy development - all powers devolved after The Vow. The real con is the SNP trying to pretend they are powerless to make things better.
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