Scottish devolution – why are the nationalists still complaining?


For months now, the rest of the UK has had to put up with incessant Scottish Nationalist complaints that their country has been betrayed over the independence referendum.

If it’s not Gordon Brown lying to them about pensions (he didn’t), it was Labour being in cahoots with the Tories (it isn’t) or all of the unionist parties bribing the voters with a big lie now known as The Vow – except, after the Smith Commission reported back, we now know that The Vow is being kept.

The Vow, made on the eve of the Scottish independence referendum, promised that the Scottish Parliament would be permanent, that it will have extensive new powers including tax-raising powers, NHS funding in Scotland would be decided by the Scottish Parliament, and Scotland would continue to benefit from the Barnett formula (which governs the distribution of tax revenue).

The Smith Commission recommended that the Scottish Parliament would be permanent with powers on how it is elected and run, that it should be given the power to set income tax rates and bands on earned income and will retain all of the income tax raised in Scotland, that 10 per cent of VAT raised in Scotland should be assigned to the Parliament, and Air Passenger Duty fully devolved, that the Parliament should be given powers to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in Scottish elections, that the Barnett formula would continue (taking into account the changes necessitated by other measures granted to the Scottish Parliament). NHS funding does not appear to be mentioned, but the level of its funding in Scotland is decided by Holyrood anyway.

Any right-thinking person would take the Smith Commission report as indicating the fulfilment of The Vow.

How did Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) react? “It’s not so much the home rule that was promised – in so many respects, it’s continued Westminster rule.” Bizarre!

Did she not realise that Scotland voted against “home rule” and for remaining with the United Kingdom? Nobody promised home rule by the back door. Yet Scottish nationalists are leaping up to claim that this means The Vow has been broken, when in fact it is being kept.

Perhaps the reason for this has been best defined by Brian Taylor, BBC Scotland’s political editor: “The SNP strategy was to seek to maximise the gain from Smith – while simultaneously preparing to declare that the ultimate package is insufficient.”

That’s exactly it; the SNP has been so determined to convince the Scottish people that Westminster has been lying to them that, faced with incontrovertible proof of the opposite, leaders like Nicola Sturgeon have had no choice other than to lie about what it means.

If you are Scottish, think very carefully about what the nationalists are telling you. Check the facts for yourself, if you have to.

If you voted for independence, don’t let yourself be deceived by the nationalists, just because you didn’t get the result you wanted, and if you voted against it but had your head turned by all the anti-Westminster propaganda that has been aired since, maybe it’s time to think again.

Do any of them give two hoots about what’s best for Scotland?

Postscript: Nicola Sturgeon’s reaction leaps from bizarre to hypocritical when you read the Smith Report and discover that all five main political parties in Scotland – including the SNP – have agreed its recommendations.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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70 thoughts on “Scottish devolution – why are the nationalists still complaining?

  1. Steve Kind

    Mike – all I can say here is that this is precisely why Labour has collapsed in Scotland – and why, having advance the argument to it’s own supporters the they needed to Scottish MP’s to keep the Tories out of Westminster, they have now ensured that many of those MP’s will not be elected in 2015 anyway. I agree with you on *so much* but here we part company. Labour has had two historic opportunities – one was to work FOR independence in Scotland but to maintain a close alliance with the independent nation, especially through the wide labour movement – the second was to work WITH the Greens (England Wales AND Scotland) AGAINST the Tories (and UKIP. They have blown both opportunities, along with the political opportunities of supporting re-nationalisation of the railways and other major utilities that has clear public support. They will pay the price in May.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      What does this have to do with The Vow, and whether it is being kept?
      Labour is a unionist party, so the first of your “historic opportunities” was never an option. I cannot see how the second could have been workable in the context of the referendum.
      Labour in Scotland is in trouble because the SNP is spreading a lot of nonsense about the referendum and because, apparently, it has been infiltrated by Blairites who are preaching their neoliberal twaddle in a country that is extremely left-wing at heart and won’t accept any of it.
      There are problems with Scottish Labour – my position is that the referendum isn’t one of them.

      1. Steve Kind

        I was in Scotland in the last couple of days before the refrendum and had an interesting conversation with someone – a MacDonald no less – who was very definite about voting NO – after a long discussion, it came down to this – He regards himself as Scottish, but also feels British. I agreed with him that his decision to vote NO was absolutely the right one. It was what he said next though that *really* impressed me – he said that, despite his decision, he regarded the “Better Together” Campaign, and particularly Labour’s role in it, as an absolute disgrace! Now – I know this is purely anecdotal – but it is an attitude I have seen repeated by many people on the internet since. The huge rise in SNP membership (not to mention the Green Party of Scotland) suggests that former Labour voters WHO VOTED “NO” in the referendum, are nevertheless now turning to the SNP and other pro-independence parties. As for blaming Blairites – well – indeed – I don’t see Ed Miliband exactly fighting them off successfully in England either.

        As for Labour having its hands tied because “It is a Unionist Party” – well, you may be more versed in the Party Constitution than I. Does it actually say that? Even if it does – Labour governments were happily flouting Clause IV long before Blair finally got it removed from the Constitution and I don’t see the modern party leadership rushing to re-instate it – despite it being clearly demonstrated that the public – even tories – are heavily in favour of renewed public ownership of major utilities.

        I have looked to you, Mike, for a fearless critique of a Labour leadership that seems to have lost its way – and most of the time, TBF, you deliver. But on this, you are just parrotting the Leadership line, and as far as I can see, in Scotland at least, it just isn’t going to work. the Scottish body politic has always been more sophisticated than the English counterpart, and they have got it sussed.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        To be honest, I don’t even know what the Labour leadership’s line on this is. I’m calling it as I see it.

      3. Kevin McGarrigle

        Mike you are out of touch with what is happening in Scotland, you talk as if you have some sort of knowledge of current thinking. Do not dismiss democracy, the Scots have certainly been lied to regarding the Vow, you should do more homework,

      4. Mike Sivier Post author

        Okay. Firstly: I base what I write on the knowledge of current thinking that I can glean from the media – both mass and social – and from research.
        I’m not dismissing democracy – in fact I’m in fear of what Scottish people will democratically choose next year, because the overwhelming weight of comment on the social media indicates that decisions will be based on emotional reactions rather than facts.
        As for lies regarding The Vow, why don’t you just explain what they are and where I can find further information, rather than merely hinting? We’re all busy people and yet you seem to think we should play a game.

    2. J.Macfie

      As a Labour Supporter I became a YES voter because of the Better Together campaign was abysmal. The threats, the bullying, the warnings, the gloom and doom, backed up by a biased media and Big Business supporting the Tories.
      Westminster have shafted us for years, they allow English people to believe that we are a subsidised nation who rely on Westminster to keep us supplied with cash. Well if that was the case they would not have told so many lies in their attempt to keep us in the Union.
      We don’t even want to be better off, we just want to be free of Westminster and to manage our own economy.

  2. Guy Ropes

    Bravo Independents ! Keep on fighting. People’s minds can be changed. The Irish people were given a 2nd referendum, even though they didn’t want one (there’s generous!) And then the EU brazenly “Fixed” it, (much like the entry of Greece to the EU was fixed by corrupt Brussels officials). It’s simple to work out who are the corrupt ones in all this. Go! Independent Scotland.

  3. gavinpollock

    It’s not the fulfilment of the vow, it’s just a report with some recommendations, and the vow should never have been made in the first place. Many people wanted Devo-max to be on the referendum, instead there was a straight yes or no question, and then Devo-max was introduced after postal votes had gone out. It was just completely inept and satisfied nobody.

    Nobody voted for Holyrood keeping income tax, or 10% of VAT, or possibly laws about abortion, so people have a right to complain that a lord appointed by the government to come up with some last minute concessions isn’t what was anybody voted for.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I didn’t state that it was the fulfilment of The Vow – I said it indicated the fulfilment of The Vow. Perhaps that wording could have been clearer but I was saying that the report’s recommendations were in line with The Vow and indicated that it should be kept.
      Your comment that The Vow should never have been made in the first place is a worthwhile point for discussion. The fact that the unionist parties made this eleventh-hour offer at all is going to be contentious because we don’t know what effect it had – if any – on the result. A commenter on the Facebook page has already claimed that “the changes proposed constitute no meaningful granting of powers or autonomy, none anyway that can truly be utilised to improve the lives of all in Scotland”. If that’s the case (and I don’t think it is) then why offer them in the first place? To deceive people into thinking change would happen, when it won’t? Are people really that gullible or would they see through such a pose? And that’s only if the commenter was correct. The questions keep on coming.
      Your point in the second paragraph is probably even more pertinent to the situation as a whole.
      But neither are pertinent to the article, which is about nationalist complaints that The Vow is not being kept, when in fact it is (or is in the process of being kept).

  4. Mark Potter-Irwin

    Here are some reasons why the Scots will not accept the present situation.
    (As an Englishman living in Scotland I can tell you from my personal experience that there are quite a few No voters who are now regretting voting No).

    From The Herald.

    Power over income tax only will doom Scotland to a downward spiral
    Iain Macwhirter
    Sunday 30 November 2014

    Scotland now has “the most powerful devolved parliament on the planet”, according to Lord Smith of Vow, who unveiled the latest package of new powers for Holyrood last week.

    It may also become one of the most impoverished if his scheme is ever implemented as it stands.

    What the Smith Commission has produced isn’t remotely ­devolution max or federalism. It is an exercise in control-freak ­minimalism that will serve to lock Scotland in economic decline. The proposals to hand control of income taxes to Scotland, but not the full range of taxes like national insurance, wealth taxes, oil and gas revenues and so on, is a transparent fiscal trap.

    Labour will now dare the SNP to live up to its social democratic principles and “tax the rich”, knowing full well that the burden will fall on the diminishing pool of younger, middle-earning voters. Future Scottish governments will be forced to finance their policies by increases solely in income tax, which is the most politically sensitive, inflexible and above all avoidable tax in the fiscal armoury.

    Scotland will be cut adrift from growth in income wealth south of the Border, where wealth capital and income are overwhelmingly concentrated in our finance capital-based economy. Meanwhile, Scotland will have to make do with a declining tax base.

    Younger tax-paying Scots will continue to leave Scotland for the south, where the jobs, capital and opportunities lie, leaving the ageing Scottish population to be financed by a declining tax base in which income taxes may have to rise just for the Scottish ­Government to stand still.

    For generations, Scotland’s curse has been outmigration, which denudes the economy of its most productive, educated and wealthy citizens. They go abroad, they go to the south of England, wherever. Every professional and skilled Scot faces this problem at some time in their careers.

    As they relocate, they take their taxes with them. What is left behind are the older citizens, the unemployed and the impoverished, who tend to be the most ­expensive to be provided for and who do not generate tax revenue. Without a compensating factor – such as inward migration from Europe, growth policies or hydrocarbon revenues – the Scottish Government is caught in a spiral of decline

    This is not a nationalist fantasy. This is exactly the scenario repeatedly outlined before the referendum by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which used it as an argument for Scotland staying in the Union. It never was. It was an argument for Scotland to have the economic powers to reverse the relentless overcentralisation of economic and financial life in London and the southeast. Smith will magnify this imbalance, not reverse it.

    Just look at property values. You don’t need a mansion tax in Scotland because there are hardly any houses here worth £2 million. There are only about 10,000 houses worth more than £1m. And as for the wealthy income-earners, there are estimated to be about 16,000 who would be eligible to pay for any 50p tax band.

    This cohort could theoretically contribute about £250m, but in practice the tax yield would be worth less than £100m a year because of tax avoidance.

    If any Scottish government was daft enough to apply the 50p band, many of its targets would simply buy a house over the Border and avoid it. With all the wealthy taxpayers high-tailing it to the south, a Scottish government would have no alternative but to impose higher taxes on middle-income earners.

    This would be politically highly damaging, but future Scottish governments – Labour or SNP – may be forced to do this, not to enhance social justice, but simply in order to maintain spending levels at their present rates.

    The Tories didn’t propose income-tax devolution by accident. It is a scorched earth policy that they believe will kill social democracy in Scotland. And they may well be right. They have at least a credible response to the situation, which is to cut income taxes radically to attract more taxpayers back to Scotland.

    They know this would also slash public spending, but they think there is too much of that anyway and want to see a small state. Many middle-income voters may find this an attractive alternative to what will be called “the death spiral of tax-and-spend socialism”.

    The decline in the number of taxpayers could also be aggravated by the collapse of residual revenues through the Barnett Formula. This will remain in truncated form after the Smith reforms, but will be worth much less as the UK Government steps up austerity after 2015.

    The Chancellor has pencilled in £25 billion in cuts after 2015, but the Financial Times claims this will have to be doubled because UK borrowing has been growing faster than expected. Scotland should perhaps heave a sigh of relief that welfare has not been devolved, because that would have made the fiscal crisis of Scotland even worse.

    Supporters of the Smith reforms, like Professor Alan Trench, say the ­Scottish Parliament should jolly well introduce policies that increase the incomes of its citizens and therefore increase the tax base. Boosting economic activity will also boost VAT revenues, a proportion of which have been assigned to Holyrood.

    But without access to borrowing powers and the full range of taxation, this is extremely difficult to achieve. The Scottish Government cannot even allow increased immigration from Europe to fill the tax gap now that the UK Government is trying to choke off free movement within the EU and halt immigration from outside it.

    David Cameron says controlling immigration is the paramount issue in UK politics. Not in Scotland it isn’t. We need more immigration. The Scottish Government could be forced into the kind of retrenchment we see in Eastern European countries under right-wing governments. Without borrowing powers it will have to run balanced budgets with little to spare.

    As the Scottish Government tries to maintain decent ­standards for the elderly and the poor, as the young and able leave it will have to increase income taxes on those economically active citizens who remain. That will only ­encourage more of them to leave.

    Hysterical? Well, wait and see. Most of the advances achieved by the Scottish Government – prescription charges, personal care – were financed not by tax rises but by Barnett consequential. Those compensated Scotland to a minimal degree for the huge hydrocarbon wealth that has been flowing out of the country for 30 years.

    Now the oil is gone, the deal is over. Scotland gets to clear up the mess. So much for pooling and sharing. This is more like extracting and dumping. Resources and skilled ­workers will continue to go south while the costs of decline are all repatriated to Scotland.

    However, the Scottish voters are not stupid. They will not buy the inflated claims in the UK press that the Smith reforms represent a huge transfer of wealth and power to Holyrood.

    Scottish voters can see that this is not devolution max or federalism or anything other than a transparent fix designed to consolidate the gains of the south.

    Scotland is now on a ­trajectory that can only end, I believe, in independence. The Smith Commission will have hastened the day when ­Scotland achieves full economic self-government.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I think this article was written by someone with a political agenda. The claim that Scotland would not have access to borrowing powers, for example, runs contrary to the Smith report and suggests that the author is misleading readers.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        Ha ha. The article was presented as though we were intended to think the author was impartial. Everybody and their dog seems to know my political beliefs.

      2. Mark Potter-Irwin

        Granted the article was not impartial, but what articles are. It was written to warn the Scots about the “Stitch up” they are walking into. The Smith Report and recommendations is a fudge that will be torn apart in Westminster just like the Calman recommendations.

      3. Mike Sivier Post author

        Do you think? It has the support of the Conservative Party, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP and the Greens.

      4. Mark Potter-Irwin

        Come on Mike, this support you mention comes out of the situation where none of them want to be seen to break ranks and have the finger pointed at them saying they broke the agreement. The whole Smith thing is a cobbled together last minute compromise. In view of the Conservative fetish with EVIL, the well known disquiet that Labour have over even the present recommended devolution of income tax and the Westminster politics being played with this situation in the run up to the GE Yes I do think that it will be watered down and Scotland will probably be offered an even worse deal than the “fiscal trap” they have been offered so far. In those circumstances I believe Scotland should turn it down. And if by then the SNP(he main party for independence) have a large mandate from the Scottish people in Westminister and a huge majority in Hollyrood they should declare UDI and to hell with the consequences.

      5. Mike Sivier Post author

        This is all in your opinion, though. You don’t know what the Smith Commission discussions were because you weren’t there. All you have is paragraph 14 of the report, stating that the political parties (including the SNP) reached a final agreement on its recommendations.
        You say the Smith Report is a cobbled-together last-minute compromise, but here’s a thing: Nobody forced it on the unionist parties, so in fact they are being extremely generous in pushing it through, aren’t they? Bottom line is that they didn’t have to do it and Scotland is getting far more than it had a right to expect after a ‘no’ vote.

      6. gavinpollock

        “Bottom line is that they didn’t have to do it and Scotland is getting far more than it had a right to expect after a ‘no’ vote.”

        That’s a bit of a confusing line. Surely if Scotland voted ‘no’, it’s getting something completely different from ‘what it had a right to expect’?

        There are a lot of unionists, who never wanted an extension to Scottish government powers, who also have a right to feel betrayed by this result. It makes the whole referendum a farce.

      7. Mike Sivier Post author

        The unionists you mention had a choice; they could have changed their vote to ‘Yes’ or abstained. We have no reason to believe that they all voted ‘No’ in the aftermath of The Vow. The end result was still ‘No’.
        Your second paragraph does show an element of confusion. “Something completely different” and “far more” from what Scotland had a right to expect aren’t that far divorced from each other.
        What we’re looking at, it seems to me, is an attempt to mollify as many people as possible; unionists get to stay in the union, nationalists get a strengthened Scottish Parliament, and the Westminster parties get to show that they have listened to the arguments that were put forward during the referendum debate.
        From what I’m getting here, it seems the SNP is claiming that it’s not what was promised (even though it is, and more), other nationalists are saying they don’t want it because they’re still pushing for independence despite the fact that the majority of their country voted against it in a democratic poll, and all the opponents are nit-picking away like mad in an attempt to undermine the integrity of the offer.
        From where I’m sitting, they’re undermining their own integrity faster – and nothing that has been said in any of the adverse comments to the article has altered that opinion.

      8. Steve Kind

        “Bottom line is that they didn’t have to do it and Scotland is getting far more than it had a right to expect after a ‘no’ vote.”

        Hugely disappointed with that statement from you Mike – it echoes the very worst sentiments of the right wing media ,Tories, and sadly some Labour supporters who argued that Scotland should “pay a price” or be “punished” for having the temerity to have a referendum in the first place.

      9. Mike Sivier Post author

        No- you’re falsely attributing to me something that I haven’t said.
        After a ‘No’ vote, the most anyone in Scotland had any right to expect was that the government of Scotland would continue as it had before. That’s the bottom line. The Vow offered more and the Smith Report recommends more again – but they weren’t part of the original conditions of the referendum, so I’m correct that Scotland is getting more than it had a right to expect.
        Your comments about Scotland having to “pay a price” or be “punished” for wanting a referendum are absolutely not my opinion, nor have I ever expressed any such. Please do not make such false attributions again.

      10. gavinpollock

        But talking about “what Scotland had a right to expect” treats all Scots as a homogenous group with the same aims, who should be grateful for what Westminster allows them to have.

        Abstaining wasn’t an option for anyone in the referendum – the polls were showing it to be too close, so both sides were betrayed by the last minute vow.

      11. Mike Sivier Post author

        Not at all. Everybody has a right to expect certain things from a referendum. You’re trying to attribute your own words to me.
        … and then by claiming that both sides were betrayed by The Vow, you’re attributing your point of view to everybody in Scotland. You were only accusing me of the same thing in the previous sentence.

      12. Mike Sivier Post author

        But you then attributed to them your own words: “all Scots [should be seen as] a homogenous group with the same aims, who should be grateful for what Westminster allows them to have.” Not what I said.

  5. Joan Edington

    I do agree with Brian Taylor about the SNP tactics, but do not see it as lies. The so-called vow, a Daily Record stunt backed by Gordon Brown who has no say on anything, has maybe not been broken as yet but any of the Smith Commission’s recommendations (those that are left after Westminster stripped many items out in the last 2 days) have still got to get past the UK Parliament. Any tactics that have been used by the SNP have been far outweighed by those of the Tories. They have got exactly what they aimed for. The Labour stronghold in Scotland obliterated and so too their total strength in Westminster. English backbenchers and much of the English public up in arms that Scots are being allowed to make changes they are not, although, even if the Smith Commission’s recommendations are accepted in full, they do not give Scotland any powers that could be used to create jobs and improve their economy. It has been enough for moves being made to ban Scottish MPs from voting in many areas or to hold fiscal roles. Job Done.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Gordon Brown had nothing to do with The Vow – it was Cameron, Clegg and Miliband.
      With the leaders of the main political parties supporting the Smith Commission recommendations, and the vote being whipped, how do you expect the vote to go against them?
      If the Tories got what they wanted – and this was the destruction of Labour power in Scotland – it has been with the collusion of the SNP. How do people in Scotland feel about their nationalist party getting in bed with the Tories against Labour? Or is that as much of a misinterpretation as the SNP claim that Labour got into bed with the Tories to defeat independence?
      Scottish MPs choose not to vote on some matters that do not have any bearing on Scotland as a matter of course.

      1. Joan Edington

        I’m not quite sure what you mean by collusion with the SNP, Mike. In Scotland the SNP is a major party and as such will fight tooth and nail for votes, just like Labour and the Tories. Their aim is independence and has been since the party was created. Scotland voted to stay in the UK but that doesn’t change the SNP’s long-term aim. The people of Scotland know this full well but still vote for them in Holyrood elections because their policies are closer to what Labour’s ought to be. Only Labour has the answer to that but haven’t come up with it.
        You are right about the SLP being infiltrated by Blairites though. Ed’s chosen Messiah being Jim Murphy, that pillar of Labour values that backed the Iraq war, loves Trident and Israeli tactics in Palestine etc. For the SLP’s sake I hope he doesn’t win. The SNP hope he does.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        If the Tories have got what they wanted in terms of Scottish Labour, it is because the SNP has taken the opportunity to spread misinformation that has undermined Scottish Labour’s position; the SNP has been doing the Tories’ work for them. That’s what I meant.

      3. gavinpollock

        “the SNP has been doing the Tories’ work for them. That’s what I meant.”

        Labour doesn’t own the opposition to the Tories, and they’ve not even been doing a very good job of it. If they’re not going to stand up to the tories, they should stop standing in the way of those who will.

      4. Mike Sivier Post author

        Which Labour Party have you been watching for the past four and a half years?
        What an outrageous suggestion, that Labour haven’t been doing a good job of opposing the Tories!
        And I notice you’re not arguing against the point that the SNP have been doing the Tories’ work for them. You agree, then, that in this instance these two parties could be seen to be working in tandem to eliminate Labour in Scotland?

      5. gavinpollock

        It’s no more outrageous than saying the SNP have been doing the Tories’ work for them, and of course I don’t agree with that. The reason Labour is losing in Scotland is because the SNP are doing a better job of standing up to the Tories.

      6. gavinpollock

        The SNP and Labour are rival parties, and Labour have smeared them often enough too.

        What’s sad is how the SNP only had to move slightly to the left of Labour to start hoovering up the votes. If Labour moved to the Left instead of creeping to the Right all the time, they could pick up a lot of votes from people who have had enough of Thatcherism.

      7. Mike Sivier Post author

        But the SNP is capitalising on its own false claims that Labour is in bed with the Tories – as proved, according to SNP members, by the fact that they were both supporting the unionist ‘no’ vote in the referendum. This is clearly nonsense, pushing for a knee-jerk emotional reaction from fellow Scots, rather than a rational analysis of the facts. Look at all the ridiculous claims that Labour lied about pensions – now being attributed to doorsteppers rather than the party leaders (because that is harder to disprove?), or the claims that fears about the £450m NHS funding gap were scaremongering.

      8. Steve Kind

        To suggest that that Labour weren’t “in bed with the Tories” in the Better Together campaign is disingenuous Mike. You might as well argue that the LibDems aren’t in bed with the Tories. I see your argument rests on your claim that ins some way the Labour Party had “no choice” about opposing independence – but I challenge this and you have yet to provide evidence that this is the case. Even if they *were* mandated in some way (say by a clear cut conference decision with a suitable majority) they still had a number of options open to them other than being partners with the Tories in Better Together.

        I any case, whatever the niceties of logic, the Scottish people would have no need of any “misinformation” to convince themselves of the monolithic Westminster run “Project Fear” – it is what they saw with their own eyes on a daily basis on the streets and in the media. This is exactly what my “NO” voting friend that I mentioned in my earlier post was referring to when, despite being pro-union himself on a gut level, he railed against the BT campaign.

      9. Mike Sivier Post author

        Labour is a United Kingdom political party, Steve. It doesn’t need a conference mandate to do what it must to keep the union together. Your suggestion that Labour could have supported independence is as ridiculous as it would be for me to suggest that the SNP should support unionism. Was the SNP mandated by a conference decision to support ‘Yes’?
        Here in Wales I took part in a cross-party campaign to win more powers for the Assembly a few years ago, allied with the Liberal Democrats. To suggest that Welsh Labour were or are ‘in bed’ with the Welsh Liberal Democrats would be just as monumentally blinkered as your suggestion about Labour and the Conservatives. It shows a simple failure to understand the situation. We won more powers for the Assembly and you can watch the Liberal Democrats doing everything they can to undermine Labour there, any day of the working week.
        So no – any claim that Labour was “in bed with”, “in cahoots with”, or in any other way “in with” the Tories is a fabrication and you should examine very carefully the people behind it and their possible motivations.
        ‘Project Fear’ is a newspaper-devised label for the Better Together campaign. Weren’t the newspapers all supposed to be on the side of the ‘No’ campaign? Why did the Herald come up with this slogan, then? And why was it taken up by other papers, not just in Scotland but in the rest of the UK as well?

      10. Joan Edington

        Mike, the SNP does not need a conference mandate to support Yes. Independence is the party’s raison d’être and anyone who votes for them must assume that is what they support. They have a majority government in Scotland so they have support of the people to go for it.
        ‘Project fear’ I agree was a media label but it was picked up because it accurately reflected the tactics being used by BT. The Herald supported No, by the way. The only paper that backed the Yes campaign was The Sunday Herald.
        Getting back to ‘the vow’ though. That would be the one that promised ‘extensive powers’? There is nothing extensive about the offer. Nothing that will enable Scotland to get out from under the Westminster thumb. We are not to be allowed enough borrowing to enable us to re-build the manufacturing smashed by Thatcher or create jobs. It has been ensured that we will not be able to create a fairer welfare state, as the Scots want, since all the sanctions and cuts are being kept down south. The only power that I, at first, was glad of was that which would enable us to stop fracking in Scotland. However, I realised that Westminster would not like that. They are assuming that TTIP will be ratified and nullify this imagined power.

      11. Mike Sivier Post author

        Joan, the point I was making was that expecting Labour to seek a conference mandate to support the union is as pointless as expecting the SNP to get a conference mandate to support independence. Yes, the SNP have a majority government so yes, they had a mandate to go for independence. They went for it; they failed. Turns out the people did not support the SNP’s bid for independence; they must have voted SNP for other reasons. Having gone for it, the SNP does not have a mandate to force another independence bid on the people of Scotland – not in this term of office, at least. Look at the UK government’s defeats. The Tories tried to change constituency boundaries and failed; they’re not trying again because the decision has been taken.
        The problem with labels like ‘Project Fear’ is that they bring an emotive response to something that might actually be perfectly logical. The ‘Yes’ campaign had opportunities to stress the anticipated benefits of independence, so had a chance to run a very upbeat campaign. For ‘Better Together’, the issue was that Scotland already enjoys the benefits of being in the United Kingdom, but these benefits can go unseen because – let’s face it – they’re a part of everyday life. Even if BT spent the whole campaign pointing out what those benefits were, it wouldn’t mean anything to most people unless the campaigners also pointed out what the loss of those benefits would signify.
        That being said, if bullying or intimidating tactics were employed by anyone on BT, then this blog certainly can’t condone them.
        Your comments about The Vow are the most revealing so far. You say there is “nothing extensive about the offer” and then qualify this by adding, “nothing that will enable Scotland to get out from under the Westminster thumb”. Of course not – Scotland democratically refused such changes. The Vow didn’t offer them and the Smith Commission was directed to ensure that none of its recommendations would enable Scotland to gain independence by the back door. Your comments about borrowing suggest you have misinterpreted paragraph 95 of the Smith Report in the same way as many others. Once the initial ‘no detriment’ settlement is reached, Scotland can borrow as much as it wants – provided it does so in a responsible manner, of course. I think you’re jumping the gun on the benefit system; we’ll all have to see how creative the Scottish government can be with what’s offered. As for fracking – TTIP won’t be ratified before these powers are transferred, meaning that the Scottish government will be able to ban fracking with no repercussions, if it so chooses. Even if TTIP is brought in afterwards, it won’t affect such a decision because the ISDS system only relates to changes made by governments after the TTIP agreement has been signed.

        Anyway, thank you for making it clear that at least one of the former ‘Yes’ camp won’t accept the Smith recommendations – not on any merit of their own, but because they don’t offer independence to Scotland. That makes the situation much clearer.

      12. Joan Edington

        I had decided not to continue with commenting on this post, Mike, since it is obvious that you are a staunch Labour supporter in pre-election mode and have your own fixed notions about Scotland. However, when you replied to GavinPollock, you used what was obviously meant to be part of a previous comment of mine. I would just like to point out that I never accused the Labour party leaders of lying about pensions. I quite clearly said “Better Together campaigners”.

      13. Mike Sivier Post author

        What does my support of Labour have to do with the Smith Report, the Vow that preceded it and the fact that the promises that were made are being kept? Nothing, as far as I can see. Okay, Gordon Brown is a Labour MP but he was acting as part of the ‘No’ campaign which was cross-party when he announced The Vow. The Smith Commission was put together by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition and included representatives of the SNP, Tory, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green parties, all of whom have agreed the recommendations it contains.
        I didn’t start looking at the Scottish devolution debate with any fixed notions; if it seems I have any now, then they are entirely due to what I have witnessed from the participants – including yourself and other commenters, here, on the Facebook page, and elsewhere.
        Thanks for the clarity on pensions. Are you then stating you do not think that Gordon Brown misled anyone on pensions?

      14. Kim

        You’ll be aware of the #noalliance in Scotland then? Talk of tories in Dundee not standing to allow labour free run against Hosie…all rumour at the moment, but given how cosy they were during the referendum campaign I wouldn’t be surprised.

      15. Mike Sivier Post author

        As I was just mentioning to Steve Kind, having been in a cross-party campaign I can tell you that Labour and the Tories were definitely NOT “cosy” and any claim that they were is a manufactured fiction. Look at the people who made that claim and ask yourself what they have to gain from it.

  6. cnhay

    Vow is the pledge to the NO voters prior to the referendum vote therefor is this not a problem for the NO voters as the SNP voted for independence and had no agreement with the VOW , therefore i cannot see why the SNP led Scottish parliament should have to accept first hand a proposal made by opposition for the opposition, only if it is justifiable for all Scots. This proposal is a manipulation propagated by Mr Cameron and his cronies to try and position the Labour party in Scotland to follow there brothers in the rest of the UK while trying to use the SNP as the catalyst for the downfall of Labour in Scotland by hoping that the SNP will accept the VOW and therefor at the election in 2015 hope that many Scots will correctly vote SNP therefore reducing the national power of labour ans at the same stroke forcing the SNP to accept a worthless proposal , the only solution for Scotland is Independance .

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Under your own terms, the SNP-led Scottish Parliament must accept the proposal because a majority of the Scottish electorate supported it. If you want to claim that the referendum was not a vote on the vow, then you are admitting that the vow has nothing to do with why people voted against independence.

      As you can see from subsequent events, enough of the Scottish electorate (around 36 per cent) voted SNP for that party to gain 56 seats, pushing Labour out. Cameron was able to spin this with a claim that Labour would do a deal with the SNP that would harm people’s savings, thereby persuading Middle England to vote Conservative. He was aided greatly in this endeavour by the claims of Alex Salmond that he would be writing Labour’s budgets, and by the Murdoch press.

      Scottish independence is as far away as ever. The electorate rejected it.

  7. Janet McArthur

    LOL, Mike! Where are you getting your information on this? I get your updates and most of it is informative and right thinking, but I think you’ve been watching the BBC ;). Have you spoken to any Scottish people currently living in Scotland? I think you need to if you’re going to comment on this! The “Vow” was a worthless piece of verbal crap (sorry, but no other word will do) thought up at the very last minute when Westminster realised we were on our way to being free (they need us more than we need them). They bamboozled, threatened and made promises they had no intention of keeping and knew no-one could make them. Many people who were just a wee bit frightened of such a momentous change in our country were swayed. It made all the difference. Many think dodgy dealings at the polling booths were also to blame and I, myself, filled in a ballot paper that was blank on the back (silly me, I was wearing a Yes badge – I won’t do that next time). It was such a historic, long awaited moment I checked it several times front and back because I had an OCD moment to make sure I hadn’t crossed No by mistake and I just stopped short of kissing it before I put it in the ballot box. I didn’t know until afterwards it should have been printed on the reverse as well. You had to know what was going on up here and see the rubbish put forth by the BBC or, worse, the silence from that organisation to feel the wrath we have. The BBC is on its way out in Scotland – it can’t be trusted. We want the BBC licence abolished and made subscription only and then we can choose not to have it. Not only is the latest reportage another pile of poo, but these measures are unlikely to ever see the light of day and Westminster steams on determined to find every way to give us a proverbial kicking for even having the nerve to think we could ever escape from its clutches. If something is wrong, you fix it. For us, fixing it means fighting on to get out from a festering “partnership”. This is just a set-back. We will fight on and one day, hopefully soon, we will be free. You’ll miss us when we’ve gone :).

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      And do you have anything to say about the subject of the article?
      I wrote my article about the fact that, having lost the referendum, the SNP then seized on The Vow, as it has become known, claiming that the Westminster parties had no intention of fulfilling it. The Smith Commission, that was created to take The Vow forward, has now reported back with proposals that in fact go beyond what was promised – and the SNP has complained about it.
      I did not write about the circumstances you discuss. I wrote about what’s happening now.
      This is what is wrong with the Scottish debate at the moment: Hysteria.

      1. Janet McArthur

        Your interpretation of what the “Vow” was and ours is obviously vastly different. That is the crux of the matter. They have not fulfilled what some of the Scottish people believed they were promised. The 45 knew it was b*ll*cks, but, with nothing else to do, have challenged them to prove they weren’t lying to the Scottish public. They have neither met the expectations, not have they actually delivered anything .. at all! You asked, “Why are the Nationalists still complaining?” Several people are eloquently answering your question and have gone into some detail as to why, but I’m not sure if you’re ready to accept their reasoning – I merely want to express my disagreement with your viewpoint. Most of what you wrote referred to crumbs. If you think the Scottish people will accept crumbs, you’re mistaken. Having been so far off the mark with this particular subject, I am now questioning your reports on others. Going back to what I was saying about the BBC, I suspect your take on this comes from the bias and propaganda propagated by an organisation which is rife with corruption and has hotlines into Nos 10 and 11. If you start from a position of not believing a word the lying toerags say, you will get to the truth a lot faster.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        My interpretation of The Vow was based on the words used to make it. On what do you base yours?
        What I’m getting from you and others suggests that opponents of The Vow and the Smith Report are saying that The Vow was not worth the paper it was written on – but also swung the referendum and ensured a ‘no’ vote. Contradictory, isn’t it? If it didn’t meet what people wanted, why would those who would otherwise have voted for independence change their mind, based only on what it offered?
        You say “they” have not met expectations, nor have they delivered anything. If The Vow didn’t meet expectations, if the Smith Report doesn’t indicate a willingness to go through with what was promised, then why has the SNP agreed its recommendations? That party speaks out against it in public but the report wouldn’t be going to Parliament without SNP support.
        I’m not going to discuss what you consider to be “crumbs”.
        As for your comment about questioning my reports on other subjects – that’s up to you. All my articles are written in good faith. I would question the motivation of anyone who would publicly consider rejecting every article I’ve written, just because they’ve disagreed with one.

  8. Kim

    – Referring to the comment about Gordon Brown having nothing to do with the vow…Brown brokered the vow between the three leaders of the Westminster parties. Also, Cameron sent him the ‘speech for the union’ for approval before delivering it in Scotland…his fingerprints are all over the vow.

    – The reason many in Scotland (not just the SNP) are unhappy with the vow is that it falls far short of what was being talked about by the unionist campaign in the dying days of the referendum campaign.

    Alasdair Darling – speaking with legitimacy as head of ‘better together’, agreed with Jackie Bird on BBC Scotland on the 9th Sept when she stated that ‘Devo Max’ was up for grabs if we voted no. Gordon Brown, having taken the initiative to speak for the Union, offered ‘Home Rule or as close to federalism as possible.’ Folk in Scotland have a common understanding that Home Rule/ Devo Max is control of everything bar defence and foreign affairs, having discussed it for years. Many of us were rightly suspicious of the Unionist scheming, all happening in the legal ‘purdah’ period when politicians were barred from offering new policies. If the post-ref polls are to be believed, many swung away from a Yes vote on the basis of the vow, and the rhetoric of ‘new powers’ and ‘better, faster, safer change.’ I know some already regret their vote for the status quo.

    The transition to becoming an independent state would have been fraught, but the prize was self determination. The people of Scotland getting the politicians they vote for – and the opportunity to escape imperialist Britain, with it’s illegal WMD and aristocratic privilege etc etc. We would have made mistakes, and it never would have been a Utopia, but the benefits would have been that the people best placed to make decisions about Scotland were making them. Smiths proposals – really just the least that the unionists could get away with offering whilst keeping to the vow – do nothing for the 45% of Yes voters, fall short of the expectations of the ‘Maybes’ and pretty much just annoy the No voters – who feel it was wrong to concede anything at all.

    I voted Yes, and will still campaign for independence – having never considered the idea before the signing of the Edinburgh agreement. The London parties have very little to offer me – for instance Labour is campaigning for GE2015 on ‘saving the NHS (in England); The race to the bottom on immigration policy is toxic in Scotland, where attitudes to immigration differ measurably from rUK – we know that we need to attract migrants to balance out our aging population.

    You have targeted the SNP, but the disappointment with the Smith proposals extends far further than that. I am Green, and we are also gutted that Smith was so cautious. See also the reactions from civic Scotland…

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I went back and looked this up and, while you’re right about Brown making The Vow (on September 9, according to the Belfast Telegraph where I found it I have yet to find information that he brokered it, or that Cameron sent him a speech for approval. Have to admit I’m surprised that passed me by, but then there has been a lot of information and disinformation going around.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      It gives context on what people wanted; not necessarily on why some of them were disappointed. Interesting document, though.
      What would be good is a report on reasons some of these requests have been refused. That would be more revealing, I think, because a lot of people might find themselves agreeing in spite of themselves!

      1. kim

        I would very much like to see that report. According to todays Sunday Herald – the Sunday paper of choice for us Nationalists 🙂 – Smith was minded to defer more to the unionist parties positions, as the proposals need to be passed by Westminster. I think you can argue that this is a rational position, the UK has the final say on the powers handed over, and ultimately – they won. More folk in Scotland took the unionist position , this time.

        The Herald also have a draft copy of the Smith report from a couple of days before it was finalised – with more tax powers (IHT, power to control the personal allowance), more welfare powers (power to vary UC levels), and recommendations to devolve minimum wage etc.

        These were then reportedly removed at the request of sitting tory/labour MPs. Why did labour request the removal of the tax powers? For the benefit of Scotland? Or their own party?

        The SNP do not get off scot-free (sorry) here either. Rumors have John Swinney backing away from devolution of UC powers, at direct odds with the parties public position. Undoubtedly a smart political move – who wants to be an apologist for UC, but playing politics none the less.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        The Smith Report can be downloaded from this address:
        I’ve already suggested to another commenter that it would be useful to see the Commission’s reasons for rejecting certain proposals. Some may be for very good reasons. Others… well I’m very interested in what happened about Universal Credit, even though it is unlikely ever to have a successful rollout nationally.

  9. Joan Edington

    You seem to have stirred it up a bit with this post, Mike. Although I don’t agree with you here, I certainly wouldn’t question your other posts since you are more informed than me about the topics you generally cover. It is not your fault that you are not as clued up about the referendum as us north of the border. The media, biased up here, virtually ignored the subject in England. It was seen as a boring bit of Jock sabre-rattling that would go away after September 18th.
    We Scots had followed the issue for 2 years, closely over the last couple of months and in minute detail in the last 2 weeks. We saw the debates, unseen in England unless someone took enough interest to look online, as well as the disgusting scaremongering the BT campaign used. They used similar tactics as those used by the DWP to turn people against their own. Blatant lies were told to pensioners that they would lose their pension. Many of them voted No for this reason, so becoming hated by the younger Yes voters. The Daily Record (once the paper of choice but now the equivalent of the Daily Mail here) printed glaring headlines that the SNP were going to slash millions from our NHS budget, since proven to be pure fabrication. The list is endless.
    The only piece of BBC bias that we really enjoyed, because we knew better, was the sight on the BBC news of Jim Murphy on his Irn Bru crate (get down with the people, man) holding forth, surrounded by about 20 people brandishing No posters, most of whom he took round the towns on a bus. At the same time, at the other end of the same street in Glasgow, a pro-independence rally was being held which was hundreds-strong. Not one minute of media coverage.
    If, as expected in May, the SNP have many more seats in Westminster than they have now, I think that EVEL, being brought in alongside our “extensive new powers” that aren’t really, could well work against your principles, Mike. All 6 SNP MPs voted against the Health & Social Care Bill in 2012 which they would not have been allowed to under EVEL. As you said earlier, SNP MPs don’t vote on what they see as English-only matters, on principle. Making it law, with however English-only is defined being decided by the UK government, as well as excluding Scottish MPs from voting on devolved issues that would have knock-on effects to Scotland, the UK would lose many left-leaning votes.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Looking at the meat in this comment, you say blatant lies were told about pensions. The National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF), an independent organisation, published ‘Scottish independence: The implications for pensions’ in November 2013, on page seven of which it states: “The UK Government is responsible for the public service pension liabilities of unfunded public service schemes [unfunded means they are paid from general taxation; this applies to all state pension schemes], including the Principal Civil Service scheme and the NHS Scheme. At 31 March 2011, unfunded public service pension liabilities were £893 billion. This represents 93 per cent of public sector pension liabilities and 37 per cent of all UK pensions liabilities. The Scottish Government currently has responsibility for a small number of public service schemes, which represent less than one per cent of devolved activities. There are clear questions for the Scottish and UK Governments about how these liabilities will be divided”. Are you saying that this independent organisation was lying?
      If I’m reading you right, your NHS comment refers to an IFS analysis that showed the SNP had already cut the NHS budget, year on year. What about the revelation that the NHS is Scotland was being asked to cut £450 million in order to make ends meet, as revealed by a ‘whistleblower’? You say the claims were proven to be “pure fabrication” but my recollection about the £450 million was that official papers showed this as a “funding gap” that the health service was being asked to close.
      Jim Murphy can do what he wants as long as he doesn’t get elected leader of Scottish Labour.
      As for EVEL, this was a backstabbing trick tacked onto The Vow by David Cameron – unilaterally – on the day after the referendum. It is a Tory tactic to undermine the principles of The Vow. It is not part of The Vow. Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg (and, for that matter, Gordon Brown) had nothing to do with it.

      1. Joan Edington

        You’re spot-on with your reference to the official government stance on pensions as I and most Yes voters did know. My objection was to the lies told by on-the-ground Better Together campaigners who door-stepped pensioners telling them differently. Many people of pension age don’t really read these documents. They believe what they are told by door-steppers, newspapers and the BBC, as they always have done.
        The NHS headlines were in the Daily Record, cribbed from the BBC who quoted a leaked document that the SNP say was “the thoughts of some chief executives, not SNP policy”. Whoever was right, these headlines did the job intended.
        EVEL? Yes, brought up by Cameron to keep his back-benchers quiet and reduce Scottish influence, which is more anti-Tory than Labour these days. You have said earlier that the SNP are helping the Tories. If there is one thing that the SNP dislike more than the current crop of the SLP, it’s the Tories. They will never side with them in Westminster and will side with Labour on any policies worthy of that name. The real threat for another Tory government in May is not that the SNP help them. It is that too many English voters are so obsessed with immigrants that they are moving to UKIP, a party that is despised in Scotland. They have no MSPs and, after the rantings of their only MEP, will never have one. I doubt if he’ll even be an MEP after the next vote.
        I doubt we will ever agree on this matter. I just hope that Labour, Greens etc down south plus SNP from Scotland can land enough MPs to stop the scum having another 5 years to totally destroy any democracy left at Westminster.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        If you’re saying doorsteppers were telling pensioners lies about the future of their pensions, then that cannot be blamed on the ‘No’ campaign as it was a decision taken by the individuals involved, I would have thought. Also, unless you have recorded evidence of these incidents taking place, there’s no proof it happened at all. I find this extremely dubious.
        If the leaked document was legit, then the claim that the Scottish NHS needed to save money was accurate and it is wrong to suggest otherwise. I’ve seen no evidence that it was not. Any headlines created by the story would have done “the job intended” in any case, which is to convey the gist of the news story.
        As for the SNP refusing to help the Tories – you must see that the Tories see Labour as the main threat to them, with the large number of Labour seats in Scotland posing a real threat to Tory dominance after May 2015. With the SNP going all-out to trash Labour in Scotland – with a lot of very dodgy claims (as far as I’ve seen) about Labour helping the Tories – it is doing the Tories’ job for them. Maybe the SNP aren’t Tory allies, though – a better word would be ‘pawns’.
        Believe me, the Tories are happy for the SNP to just keep doing what it’s doing. Every new claim against Scottish Labour brings a Tory victory next year closer…

      3. Steve Kind

        Labour are doomed in Scotland anyway – the important thing now would be for them to understand why and be prepared to seek alliances nationally, informal or otherwise, to keep the Tories out. If they fail, the fault will be their own, not that of the progressive individuals and parties that are seeking a better way forward.

      4. Mike Sivier Post author

        It seems I may have to consider an article on Labour’s situation in Scotland. I’m sorry, but on the evidence I have at the moment, if Labour is losing support, a huge amount of it is down to the deplorable behaviour of the SNP and perhaps other nationalists as well, who have taken glee in smearing Labour with accusations that simply don’t stand up. Look at your own comment here: “If they fail, the fault will be their own, not that of the progressive individuals and parties” etc. No. Some of those parties and individuals have misrepresented Labour shamelessly and if the Tories get in again because of it, they will have to shoulder their share of the responsibility.

  10. Lloyd Kennedy

    So whoever wrote this clearly wouldn’t be averse to another referendum with international observers . Everyone was betrayed by the No vote except for flag waving jingoists and monarchist automatons .

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Maybe after everyone involved with the running of the last campaigns has retired from politics. There was dirt on both sides, no doubt about it. Your opinion on the ‘No’ vote is noted.
      But that isn’t what the article was about. It was about a promise that was made, the claim that it would not be honoured, the fact that the first stage of honouring it has been fulfilled, and the false claim that it hasn’t.

  11. Jim

    Hi Mike,

    I thought you might want to know why we are still complaining:

    and finally,

    My apologies for sharing links only and not engaging in a debate – I suffer from depression and have great difficulty concentrating on anything for any length of time sufficient to complete most tasks: it’s taken me approx. 90 minutes to get this comment together – and I’d already shared most of the articles linked above on my FB page.

    By the way, Vox Political is a great blog; I visit every day and often share articles. Thanks for keeping me and others abreast of current political shenanigans.

    Full disclosure: I voted YES for Scottish Independence on referendum day.

Comments are closed.