I want my devo max

So where’s my devo max then? Like most people in Scotland who have been following political developments over the past few years – which is most people in Scotland – I fancy I have quite a good idea of what the phrase “devo max” means. It means that the Scottish Parliament raises all its own revenue including oil revenues, and exercises all powers except those to do with foreign affairs and defence – which would be retained by the UK Parliament. Seems straightforward enough doesn’t it. There would be no arguments about supposed “subsidies” from England, no disagreements over Scottish MPs voting on English only matters. What’s not to like? And as the icing on the devo cake, this is the settlement which, according to opinion polls, is consistently favoured by a large majority of the Scottish population, and had it been on offer prior to the independence referendum campaign, there wouldn’t have been an independence referendum campaign.

I seem to recall that during a certain referendum campaign a certain ex-prime minister promised us the most maxiest devo you could ever find this side of a federal state. In fact, we were promised the most federalest devo maxiest in the history of this most perfect union of nations ever seen in the history of the multiverse. It was all over the BBC, which as we all know is famous for its realistic depiction of all things Scottish – just watch Waterloo Road for its realistic depiction of a school that follows the English curriculum even though it’s in Greenock. Point proven.

Onieweys, this promise – or dare I say vow – came when yer actual prime minister and the heads of the other Unionist parties were all quite happy for the ex-prime minister to act like he was still prime minister, although to be fair Gordie Broon’s relationship with his employment status has always erred on the side of fictional. This is after all the man who described himself as an ex-politician while he’s still the MP for Kirkcaldy and who can rarely be arsed to turn up to represent them in the House of Commons.

What we were promised by Gordie and his tangential relationship to reality was for Holyrood and the other devolved administrations in the UK to have “the same status” as the Westminster Parliament. The new sort of federal government, according to the ex-politician ex-prime minister, would retain powers over defence and foreign affairs – everything else would be left to the control of the national parliaments. Gordie’s promise was going to save the UK, and that’s what Gordie’s promise did. Only Gordie’s promise was never going to be realised and it has now gone much the same way as the Labour party’s prospects of re-election in Scotland. There’s more chance of reviving a velociraptor for Jurassic park than there is of resuscitating devo max – or the Labour party.

Just a few days before the vote, Gordie vowed:

“The status quo is no longer an option. The choice is now between irreversible separation, or voting for a stronger Scottish parliament. We are talking about a big change in the constitution. It’s like home rule in the UK. We would be moving quite close to something near to federalism in a country where 85 per cent of the population is from one nation. Change is in the air and change is coming.”

Two months after the event and it doesn’t look like the Unionist parties are going to deliver anything close to that. Gordie himself stood up in Westminster and laid into the Tories because they wanted to devolve more taxes than he did. That’s the Tories, offering more devo than Labour – the self-described “party of devolution”. And then Labour wonders why its polling ratings have plunged further than a jobby that’s been flushed from a tenth floor toilet.

Still, Unionist politicians don’t have to keep their words, because Unionist politicians’ words mean whatever the Unionist politician wants them to mean at any given moment. Gordie might be an ex-politician, but he’s not an ex-fantasist. The devo max Gordie promised bears a similar relationship to reality as his promise to end boom and bust. That’s devo max bust then. As are the Unionist parties.

Devo max is not on offer after all, not even close. The Unionist parties are proposing minor tinkering with the existing settlement, arguing about what percentage of income tax revenues can dance on the head of a Holyrood pin. It’s devo-get-what-you’re-given, devo-dae-as-yer-telt. It’s the devolution that suits the political requirements of the Labour, Tory and Lib Dem front benches.

Devo max will never be offered by the Unionist parties for one very simple reason – it stands the relationship between Holyrood and Westminster on its head. Under the current devolution settlement, powers devolved are powers retained – and the ultimate power rests very firmly with Westminster. It means that they can preserve the fiction that only the Westminster Parliament is sovereign – and not the Scottish people. So Westminster collects all the taxes, and decides how much Holyrood is going to get. In the process it is conveniently able to obscure just how much of a contribution Scotland and Scottish resources make towards the extremely expensive upkeep of the United Kingdom and its addiction to nuclear missiles, foreign wars, and transport infrastructure in the South East of England. Then when Scotland gets uppity they can threaten us with warnings of financial meltdown without the kindness of Davie Cameron and Ed Miliband to look out for us.

With proper devo max, that couldn’t happen. Proper devo max means that Westminster’s fiction of the sovereignty of parliament is rendered meaningless and toothless. Holyrood would be responsible for raising all Scottish revenues, so Westminster would no longer be able to cook the books and tell us we were dependent upon them. And Holyrood would no longer be dependent upon a block grant from Westminster, it would be the other way around – Westminster would receive a grant from Holyrood to pay for those services which remained under centralised UK control – defence and foreign affairs. In effect this gives Holyrood a veto over Westminster’s foreign adventures – should there be another Iraq, then the Scottish Parliament might just refuse to pay its annual subvention to Westminster to pay for Scotland’s share of the costs of an illegal war. That’s why the Westminster parties won’t allow devo max, no matter how popular it is with the Scottish electorate, and no matter how often or loudly we demand it of them.

So if you want something that is yours by right, but the other party is not disposed to give it, then all that is left is to take it. We can do that by ensuring that at the next Westminster General Election and the next Scottish elections we return a majority of pro-Scotland MPs who can block any attempts by Westminster to impose a devolution settlement which falls short of the devo max they promised. It’s up to us to ensure they keep their promises, and to punish them if they try – as they most assuredly will – to weasel out of it.

This blog post has also been published on Scot2.scot  Scot2.Scot is a communications portal consisting of a website, two facebook central groups (one for news and media), a twitter account and a youtube channel all under the scot2.scot banner. It has been established to help provide broad support to the campaigns of the various pro-Scotland parties in the 2015 UK General Election.

Still off the ciggies by the way – that’s coming up for three weeks now – and I am no longer counting the days since the last fag.  I’m told that’s progress. 

46 comments on “I want my devo max

  1. Capella says:

    The UK parliament is actually the English parliament, with 533 English MPs. They very kindly devolve some responsibilities (road repairs, health, education etc) to their Scottish branch office. But responsibility without power is serfdom.
    Meanwhile, all of our revenue is funneled to Westminster where it is spent in SE England infrastructure projects classified as “UK” in order to bypass the Barnett formula. “UK” and “English” are actually the same thing.
    Why did Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling support this? They were both Chancellors of the Exchequer and so knew the reality of the financial situation. Is a seat in the House of Lords really so important?

  2. Jan Cowan says:

    It appears these sad souls need a part in the panto in order to feel important, Capella.

  3. mogabee says:

    I wonder how far along this crazy journey we go before the non-politically minded realise that this is as good as it gets…! Or that things may even start to impinge on their “I’m alright Jack” lives.

  4. Gavin Barrie says:

    You got in one, …or two words.

    Earn and keep your own income. Agree on common cause by issue with your neighbour, and pay your share on any such agreement.

  5. Pat Farrelly says:

    I really enjoyed your writing, as always.

  6. macart763 says:

    ‘plunged further than a jobby that’s been flushed from a tenth floor toilet’.

    Oh Jeez, I may need a new set of teeth. I think my old set just disappeared in a shower of coffee. 😀

    Yeah, Gordie, with aid of oor meeja, created a false impression. People are going to suffer for it. We’re going to suffer for it, but it needn’t be forever. We can still carry on the change begun by the referendum process. First step, as you say, is to send a very crystal clear message in the upcoming GE. Send down a contingent of MPs who put people before party and masses before classes.

    The current team appear to have forgotten the details of the job description. Y’know representing the needs and wishes of their electorate n’that.

  7. Mark Potter-Irwin says:

    Well done on not having the next ciggy. It really is that simple…(13th Jan 2011) and also not counting!?!. I now only remember that I used to smoke when I see people smoking but most of the time I have forgotten that I used to. Smoking now seems like a really weird thing to do! By the way I am now 65 and hope to live a bit longer.
    Great blog by the way.

  8. A Meringue says:

    I couldn’t give a monkeys about the currency or defence or foreign affairs or the Barnett formula or devo whatever and any of Westminsters crap. I could quite happily live in a cave and live on nuts and berries if it meant that I wouldn’t be constantly lied to and have the piss taken out of me and my fellow countrymen and women every single day by a bunch of useless tory rich kids. (I am including the red ones as well)

    Heres an example. Osbourne on Friday announcing that it would be a good idea to start a sovereign oil fund for the north east of Englands shale oil and gas resources. What a slap in the face for Scotland. Regardless of his motives which as always are dubious to say the least.


    • A Meringue says:

      Oh and while I am at it heres a wee snippet for you. A friend who voted Yes and joined the SNP on the 19th Sept. announced that he will be voting Labour at the next GE. He says it is because Tom Getterix is “a nice man” and is a “good constituency MP” Well I put him straight in no uncertain terms. Is it any wonder that I have been in a bad mood today and it started out so well. I took my dug for a good three hour walk “up the wids to the castle” in beautiful weather this morning. Thats before the thunderclouds appeared or were they just in my head?

      • macart763 says:

        Aye well, Mr Getterix might like kittens and give to charities, but he also supports an institution which endorses illegal wars, deliberately instils fear and social division in its own electorate and robs pensioners blind to make up shortfalls in its own fiscal adventures, That being the case, if he’s not part of the solution, he’s part of the problem.

        Your friend was probably a soft YES who normally votes for local personality, a thing I was guilty of myself for long enough and before the option for constitutional change became more than a pipe dream. ‘Ah kent his mither’ kinda thing. But now that it is a reality he needs to make a decision. Support the local and therefore the existing broken system or support the people and change the system.

        Caught that piece over on Wings and had to shut down and go for a walk. Laptop was in imminent danger of ‘pickin’ a windae’. ‘Course the bastard is just baiting Labour in their homelands south of the border, but he’s using our stick to beat them with and boy does that sting. No thinking, reasoning voter in Scotland should be able to read that statement without wanting to clean house come next May and send the lot packing. Blue, red and gold Tories.

        Grrrrrrrr. 😦

  9. aitchbee says:

    We were talking to a friend who lives in England yesterday. He was telling us that he literally has no-one he wants to vote for in the GE. Not one of the major parties has any appeal for him, and nor does UKIP. He envies Scotland in that we do have alternatives.

    I wonder if this means we will see an exceptionally low turnout from England in the next GE.

  10. Fionan says:

    Another good piece, especially after Osbourne’s bitchy go at us re N.England fund – I don’t grudge them, if their choice is a frack fund rather than the preservation of their lands, but as previous comments say, a real slap in the face for Scots.

    Well done re the smoking, bet you can taste and smell again. And so much better for wee Ginger Dug too. I have genuinely lost count of the weeks and months and years now since I quit from being a 60/day chain smoker, probably around 5-6 years. Too late to save my lungs, but better late than never and I get by with my inhalers. Just by the way, I also have a wee (white and ) Ginger Dug from Spain, where she was discarded as a tiny pup, just like so many of our human population is being dumped nowadays when we can no longer serve our imperial masters. She keeps me sane and keeps me laughing no matter how hard things get. Maybe someday she can get to meet Wee Ginger Dug at one of the rallies, or better still, on Independence Day.

    • Fionan says:

      By the way, Paul it does get easier, I don’t really even think about fags now, and hate the smell when other people light up, cant understand why it took me so long to give up.

      • Capella says:

        One thing that boosted my determination to stop smoking was the thought that most of the cost of a packet of cigarettes is TAX and I was determined not to pay so much extra tax to those thieves in Westminster. Go on a tax strike – stop smoking!
        (ditto whisky, almost all the cost is tax, but it is at least made here though Westminster gets the tax benefit)

        • weegingerdug says:

          I’m saving up the money I’m not spending on baccy – both what I used to spend and what I used to spend on Andy’s behalf (he chain smoked, in the months before he passed away he was getting through 40 or more a day) – and in the short time since I stopped I’ve already saved up over £180 in loose change. It’s scary how much we were spending. I’ve not decided what to do with the money yet – going to spend it on something I don’t need. Either some really expensive model trains or trams, or maybe a tailor made suit. Or both.

          • handclapping says:

            Go for the trams. Your layout flies!

          • Capella says:

            Well done for saving. I would agree that the trams are probably good for keeping you occupied. But you’ll soon save the price of a tailor made suit as well. You’ll need something smart for all the future appearances on the new indy Scottish media.

  11. The Mighty S says:

    I’m hoping for the worst, to be honest. I might be alone, but I’m hoping we do only get the chance to pick the colour of our next UK passport and enjoy an extra 50p a week to spend on…well, whatever we damn well want..!! Because if we do get anything close to the oil revenues, I fear my fellow country people will sit back in smug satisfaction with a cheery ‘get it up ye Westminster’ attitude and deny they were every looking for such a radical thing as independence.

  12. Peter Lynn says:

    Here here, if they give us devo max we get all the power & none of the greif cos lets face it foreighn affairs & defence are political & financial liabilities, so under devo max we get all the benefits-tax & they get all the flack. Weve not a hope in hell of getting all the tax raising powers cos thats where the power is, in the money.

    if u believe that scotland is the taker in this relationship- the abused, then why would your abuser tell u your worth? They would tell u that u are worth less, soas u wouldnt leave them. With devo max we would see the books, see what were worth & do one.

    so the abuser, semi bankrupt uk plc wouldnt have an asset like scotland to borro on behalf of. & then whit would happen to semi bankrupt uk plc’s credit rating?. It would be doon the (shitter) or words to that effect, something aboot a river & a missing paddle, so we havnt a hope in hell of getting it & besides that the next step would be indy anyway, devo max would be perfect a few years of learning about our worth then actually, at long last gettin my hands on ma scottish passport, brilliant nae frackin nae illegal wars nae wmd, we might even get a labour socialist government, the last ones a wee bit far fetched but there is huge potential under devo max.

    so dream on scotland & witness the reality thats goni unfold in the next year, should be interesting though unfortunately very disappointing with regards uk politics, hopefully we will return plenty yes minded politicians to the mix to stir up some smelly stuff.

  13. Steve Asaneilean says:

    Excellent piece as always Paul – although for me power devolved is power denied.

  14. david agnew says:

    There never was an offer of devo max. There never was an Iron Timetable. There never was a Vow. The first two was entirely the invention of an ex-prime minister with one of the worst attendance records in parliament. The last was the invention of the daily record; which cobbled together some of the vague promises the three main party leaders had made during the campaign, then tried to sell it off as something new.

    The smith commission is much like John Majors “taking stock” exercise which achieved little except for driving another nail in their coffin. The smith commission can’t hold any party to account and the only thing that will be on offer, will be whatever labour or the tories promised to do to us. Which if I recall is the theft of a large chunk of Scotland’s budget, with the reward of raising a new tier of income tax for being Scottish.

    This exercise pretty much places Labour, who have been well and truly left holding the “jobbyinabox” that Better together brought into being. In other words, they are making the same mistake Thatcher made in 78. She thought such a narrow win (technically they lost, but thats another story) allowed her to marginalise Scotland, and pretty much went on to do all the things she said a No would prevent. It was this more than anything that doomed the conservatives, the poll tax was simply insult added to injury.

    Thanks to that no vote, we get to see their precious union do all things they said would never happen. Scotland gets a ringside seat as the UK becomes a byword for belligerent imbecility and ultimately vanishes up its own arse.

    I always felt the union was finished. I always felt that if no won the day, the result would be too narrow and the issue would come around again. I just didn’t expect them to fumble it so soon.
    You can understand Thatcher doing it, as she never truly understood Scotland. But labour, especially Scottish labour, should have known better.

    Could have, Should have. That’s Scottish labour’s epitaph.

  15. Rookiescot says:

    Remember Paul. You are now a non smoker not an ex smoker.

  16. johnmcgurk66 says:

    First class Paul we all need to make Westminster understand we in Scotland are going in a different direction. I think now is the time to ask the people in Scotland how they would like (OUR)
    country to develop. In Sweden for example everybody with young children pay 12% in tax to pay for childcare so the more you earn the more you pay. There are other examples I could mention, and every body appears to be fairly happy with it .

  17. wee jock poo-pong mcplop says:

    My view from Englandshire – none of the natives have the slightest idea what Devo Max is or would be. I wonder if the Westminster politicos just assume that the Scottish electorate are equally ill-informed, and so just won’t notice the extent to which they’ve been lied to and defrauded?
    In which case, I have the feeling they’re in for a bit of a surprise.

  18. macart763 says:

    Something to spread far and wide. 🙂


  19. Reblogged this on To September And Beyond.

  20. Paul, thanks for your post. I really look forward to it and I always feel that your writings pull people together. It’s like you’ve built this community of like-minded and positive people. Thank you for drawing me and many others in to this great place of honest ideas, vision and satirical fun!

  21. Tatterdemelon says:

    Well done with the ciggies – I, too am entering my third week of being a non-smoker. It’s bloody hard. Keep it up!

  22. kat hamilton says:

    gives me hope that all isnt done and dusted. lots needing to be shored up before the next indy ref pensioners, eu on board with new membership of scotland, financial institutions agreeing with viability of scotlands economics, and how to tackle the media….lots we have to do to counteract the naysayers with complete answers they cant dispute..saor alba

  23. kat hamilton says:

    thank you paul , keeps us sane knowing all isnt lost…feel we need to shore up all the reasons for saying yes, so less doubts from the floating voters…agreement in principal from eu on membership pre indy, financial institutions on board with currency , mortgages etc must be watertight and media not left to their own devices,i.e. daily record, bbc and counteracted in strongest terms poss….go aldi just seen they are expanding, like weatherspoons no issues with scotland going solo..get my vote and custom.

  24. Alabaman says:

    Reading your latest Paul, I imagined either N Sturgion or A Salmond using it word for word in a speach, and you know I think it would have gone down a storm.
    About time you were recognise as a speach writer for the S.N.P. Then the next “yes” group.

  25. macart763 says:

    O/T I keep seeing folks refer to a night out on the 22nd for folks to go meet and say hello. Anyone know what that’s all about?

  26. I detested Thatcher and would have gladly danced on her grave, but I have to say, that bastard Broon is becomin a close second.

    As ever Paul, a great read. How the Rowan doin?

    • scotsgeoff says:

      Brown’s the ‘winner’ for me. Despicable ‘man’.

    • Dunkie says:

      Your Thatcher/Broon connection makes me think of another one.

      I thought that Michael Forsyth as Scottish Secretary for Scotland was as bad as you could possibly get until “tumshie heid” Carmichael appeared on the scene. Forsyth had some sort of political ideology to follow no matter how evil it was in reality, Tumshie is jist an obsequious quisling with no principles whatsoever.

      We got telt aff fur using that word quisling in the run up to the referendum when we were trying not to frighten the horses. It was too near the bone for them – they knew perfectly well how true it was and because of that they protested excessively. Yet how else could you describe someone who is supposed to represent Scotland’s interests in Westminster yet is the regular Westminster Establishment spokesman for the BBC – their must turn-to puter doon of Scotland?

      The time fur poosie footin is over let’s call a spade an f’n shovel. I am hearten to see Alex Salmond go on the offensive with some relish for the task of seriously holding Westminster to account at every turn. Tumshie disnae like that either – the pair sowel. Nicola’s demand for a veto on European exit also shows that we are no fur lyin doon tae thum any merr.

      Much like Bruce did so well 700 years ago, our road to independence against the stranglehold of southern imposed authority has to start with guerilla warfare – in this case skirmishes of ideas not weapons. We have the ideas in plenty; they have the complacent arrogance of Eddie Wan. Tumshie widnae like the parallels here and wid go oan in pretendy indignation aboot this being dark nasty ethnic nationalism, running to ancient history like this. But the parallels are there jist the same. We don’t want our social identity submerged beneath Westminster’s complacent arrogance as though they were born by the grace of God to rule us forever.

      The ideals of 1320 Arbroath are no ancient history and never will be.

  27. Laura Dunbar says:

    Come across this quote yesterday in George Monbiot’s “Captive State”.

    Written in 1857 by Frederick Douglass, a freed slave and anti-slavery campaigner –

    ” Those who profess to favour freedom and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightening……Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will ”

    Was asked recently what bit of “NO” I didn’t understand . All of it ! Never could take “No” for an answer being a demanding little bissom!

  28. Clicky Steve says:

    This is one of the best things I’ve read post indyref.

  29. Hi Paul can you answer something that’s been annoying me for a wee while. I read prior to the referendum, that if you vote unanimously for one party at Holyrood And unanimously for that same party at Westminster, then one vote can actually cancel the other out. E.g 0 vote = -1, 1 vote = -2, 2 votes = -3, etc. Am not too good at politics but am getting there thanks to this referendum, joining SNP and my life long dream of being independent anyway.

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