Eyewash and plastic spades

You’ve been promised something revolutionary and ground-breaking which is going to change the way you look at the world. This very special present has been placed in a huge box wrapped up in pretty paper specially printed by the Daily Record, and put under a Christmas tree with a devolution fairy on top, if you’re good little boys and girls Gordie Broon is going to wave his magic vowing wand for you. Finally, to a fanfare from the BBC and a chorus of MPs, you’re allowed to open the enormous container, and discover that it contains a three-way air freshener – the whiffs of Tory disdain, Lib Dem duplicity and Labour desperation – a plastic toy spade, and a small bottle of Optrex.

So that’s the Smith Commission then. Home rule it isn’t, as despite what the UK media and the Westminster parties might tell you there is no definition of ‘home rule’ which doesn’t include having control of the TV remote. You might want to watch something else, but you’ll have to sit through the Strictly Come Westminster Debate Show whether you like it or not and get to watch David Cameron and Ed Miliband’s pirouette in ever decreasing circles while Nigel Farage in an attention grabbing tutu tries to steal the show. Nicla wasn’t invited to take part, since she’s not enough of a celeb.

There was no mention of broadcasting in the Smith Commission report, Scotland’s home rule doesn’t extend as far as allowing us to decide on our own broadcasting regulation – or, heaven forfend – giving the Scottish Parliament the authority to set up a Scottish national publicly owned TV channel. There was no mention of a lot of other things either, instead we got a whole lot of waffle without any substance – tax powers which will not allow Scotland to raise any more revenue than Westminster wants us to. Scotland can raise rate of income tax on the highest earners, only to see the UK Treasury reduce the block grant correspondingly. Westminster has played this trick before, the Smith Commission is merely a repeat performance. It’s the devolution of austerity, not the devolution of substantive powers that might allow Scotland to determine a different course.

The proposals were watered down even before the final report was written. Labour insisted that control over abortion law couldn’t possibly be devolved, on the entirely spurious grounds that this would mean the end of a UK-wide abortion policy. No one has told them about Northern Ireland then. The reason for Labour’s refusal was one time SNP funder Brian Souter, who is apparently the only person in Scotland who gets to decide such matters. Like he was so influential in determining the SNP and Scottish Government policy on banning gay marriage…

The promised powers over welfare and benefits policy were also gutted like a fish even before a kipper got anywhere near them. Proposals to allow Holyrood to determine the benefits system in Scotland were removed at the insistence of Satan, otherwise known as Iain Duncan Smith, who was upset that his policy of damning benefits claimants to perdition for all eternity might be smited. In the end, Holyrood will only have control of limited powers over Housing Benefit.

The real significance of the Smith Commission isn’t what it means for devolution, it’s what it means for the future of the UK. Many years ago I remarked to a friend that Scotland would not become independent because it was the settled will of the Scottish people, but rather independence would arrive because of the short termism and political games of the Westminster parties who would be unable to find a formula to keep the UK together. With the Smith Commission, the break up of the UK took a great leap forward. For that reason, and for that reason alone, the Smith Commission is to be welcomed.

Davie Cameron has already announced that the taxation responsibilities in the report give him licence to introduce a bill for ‘English votes for English laws’. Scottish MPs are to be barred from voting on certain parts of the UK budget, in a nakedly political manoeuvre to screw over the Labour party. It’s a trap that Labour walked straight into, one from which they now have no escape. That’s what happens when Alistair Darling accepts the cheers of a Tory party conference, Labour MPs accept Tory donations, and Labour MSPs stand grinning outside supermarkets after a Tory MP has phoned the managing director to get him to issue a press release warning of price rises after independence. Labour is now reaping what it sowed, and even if it does manage to cling onto a significant number of Scottish seats after the May 2015 General Election, their MPs will be castrated. Not that any of them have ever had much in the way of balls to begin with. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch of hypocritical pharisees.

Alistair Koalamichael was reduced to pleading that “this is the Prime Minister’s view, not government policy”, conveniently forgetting that under the system of elective dictatorship which passes for democracy in the UK, the prime minister’s view is government policy. Poor wee Alistair doesn’t even understand the system of government he’s pledged himself to defend. So we can add that to the very long list of things that Alistair doesn’t understand, like irony, impending oblivion, and keeping manifesto promises.

But despite the hype, despite the screaming headlines, the Smith Commission report is just that, a report from a commission. There is no guarantee that the recommendations in the report will survive the labyrinths of the Palace of Westminster, inhabited by ancient monsters which devour devolution maidens. Scotland must now rely upon the parties which have spent the past two years arguing that there is no need for extra tax powers for Holyrood to implement these extra tax powers – or rather tax responsibilities. We saw the same with the Calman Commission, which recommended the devolution of airport duty only for the proposal to land nowhere near its advertised destination. The Smith Commission is a dodgy budget airline all over again, complete with hidden costs.

Want to get to Devo Max? You’ll get dumped miles away. You should have got on the independence bus. But don’t worry if you missed the bus, there will be another along very soon.



37 comments on “Eyewash and plastic spades

  1. paulmclem says:

    That bus can’t come soon enough. I’ll bring the butties.

  2. Oneironaut says:

    “if you’re good little boys and girls Gordie Broon is going to wave his magic vowing wand for you.”

    That is possibly one of the most disturbing sentences I’ve ever read!

    Nice article.
    I think sitting back and watching Labour crash and burn is about the only pleasure I’m likely to get from this whole mess.
    Heading out to stock up on popcorn… See ya!😀

  3. There will be no more commissions on devolution after this report. No more draft Scotland Bills after January 2015. Just one more Scotland Act come the next UK government. The next and only step after this will be independence.

    No longer the end of the beginning, but now the beginning of the end of this dysfunctional union.

  4. Brotyboy says:

    Re-blogged this on I’maplagiarisingbastard.com

  5. begoniapink says:

    Excellent as usual ,

  6. macart763 says:

    It made for grim, yet not exactly unexpected reading right enough Paul. APD, Crown Estates, responsibility over a percentage of income tax and welfare, a nod in the direction of land based oil and gas extraction (no responsibility over that volatile north sea stuff), a portion of VAT receipts, consultation places on some ‘reserved’ issues, which we’re too pish to handle for ourselves and well, a handful of others we barely knew even existed.

    The end result? VOW DELIVERED in 200pt type all over the daily titles front pages. Blasted out in twatter feeds from Labour HQ, droned about by pundits on broadcast channels. FFS!

    Delivered and its yet to see committee, commons, lords, amendments, re-reading and ratification. That pile of fluff, and it may not turn out to be even that, once its been through the WM washer. But according to our media, its job done, historic, significant, vow delivered. How could they do this to their own constituents, their own readerships?

    Home rule, near federalism, devo max, the devo journey, hammered out day and night throughout the campaign and most especially over the final fortnight.

    The devo journey has apparently reached its destination.

  7. Pat Cruse says:


  8. johnmcgurk66 says:

    I think as you said before hand Paul do not think Scotland will get any real powers. And I think
    it is a whole load of waffle . But is now up to the people of Scotland to make their voice heard at the ballot box next year . We can take the right to go in a different direction by sending as many non unionist MP’s to Westminster. We must make sure that Scotland will be listened to we must never give up on our quest to build a better country . When the young children are going to school
    in the morning have a good look at them and ask yourself what you might like to see happen for them. I know when I look at my thirteen grand children and two great grand children . I can look at them and say we struggled for this change to give you a better life.

  9. Noel Darlow says:

    Not the final destination: an unsatisfying stop at the kind of motorway service station which even the folk who work there wouldn’t want to visit. Will quickly be forgotten once we resume the real journey.

  10. Pam McMahon says:

    It kindy depends whether No voters realise they’ve been stuffed. I don’t think many of them will, and will continue to vote SLab or Lib Dem next May. They are an insurmountable obstacle to our aims, and always have been. I don’t see any way round this, while the BBC and MSM back the unionist rhetoric.

    • Alan says:

      Regrettably I fear you are correct. Although welcome and much needed, The National’s overt stance on independence as opposed to being “independent” may simply be Yessers talking to Yessers again, as many No voters may see it as a biased Yes propaganda sheet and not read it, therefore continuing to see and believe the established press and TV media.

  11. aitchbee says:

    The Smith Commission: all fur coat and nae knickers. And I’m not sure very much will remain of the fur coat once it’s pulled into the maw of Westminster.

  12. Cum’on Folks, it’s naw that bad. Remember it recommends that we will hiv complete control over speed limits and road signs!

    Whit mair dae yie want?

  13. Love it, Paul, just love it.

  14. An thats wan bus I,ll no be useing ma bus pass on, am paying fullfare tae the end.

  15. J. Galt says:

    Excellent bus analogies all round!

    Single tickets only, nae goin back.

  16. Capella says:

    Well that was exciting wasn’t it. Roll on Burns Night. During recitations of “Parcel of Rogues”, “Scots Wha Hae”, “The Twa Dugs” (not ginger) and “Holy Willie’s Prayer” (a personal favourite) we can have selected readings from the Smith Report sequel, The White Paper, Scotland’s blueprint for a glorious future.
    Glad you’re back!

  17. Hector says:

    We should all be demanding the inclusion of Wee Ginger Dug and Wings Over Scotland as regular contributors to The National. Your work needs to be shared amongst a wider, non-Internet using population! Trenchant, incisive and entertaining! As always.

  18. A Meringue says:

    Did anyone seriously expect anything other than a complete stitch-up? Come on now. Once Westminster id done with these “recommendations” Scotland will be worse off than ever. And how Cameron and his posh palls will laugh.

    The saddest thing is that it is all so predictable. I hope that those that voted no will see the error of their ways but I somehow doubt it. Sorry for being an old cynic but it is all so deja vu.

    Like someone said above the only saving grace will be watching the faces of the prospective Labour MPs as they get their arses handed to them on a plate at the next General Election.

    We could be in the throes of creating a new Scotland right now, one to be proud of. Sad isnt it!

  19. Steve Asaneilean says:

    The recommendations of this commission do absolutely nothing to solve our problems of poverty and inequality. Nor were they designed to because poverty and inequality is what keeps our politicians at Westminster and the big business masters in power.
    That Labour should see this as the end of the devolution line is shameful because for the poor and disadvantaged of Scotland the train hasn’t even left the station (and even when it does there’s no seat on it for them).

  20. daveC says:

    I read in the herald letter page equating to “the powers like a wee boy that found 5 lemonade bottles . he said to his Dad ” going to the shop to get money back oan them .
    Dad…”so pleased and proud of you son , next week I will deduct that from your pocket money”

  21. Steve Asaneilean says:

    Or to put it another way:
    Westminster: You know how you give us £10 and we give you £9 back?
    Scotland: Yes.
    Westminster: Well we want to change that arrangement to give you more control.
    Scotland: Okay.
    Westminster: So from now on we want you to keep £3 and just send us £7 and we’ll send £6 back – okay?
    Scotland: Wow! What a fantastic deal! (not)

  22. DougMack says:

    What I don’t get is this: Brown stated that he would be around to ensure that The Vow would be enshrined in law. Now that he’s clearing off elsewhere and leaving us all in limbo, what exactly is his Plan B to ensuring we get The Vow?

  23. Melville Jones says:

    Scotland will be free in the near future. The lies that Westminster keep on telling Scotland will not be accepted by much more than half the voters
    We need to keep our nerve, and watch England implode, when the English regions, who dislike Westminster as much as Scotland does, demand exactly the powers that Scotland has, without realising that they are not countries, they are simply regions of England. Add the evil impact of the little Englanders in UKIP, who make policy by anyone speaking complete rubbish,and then claiming that that is UKIP policy, and English politics stinks. Three major parties that couldn’t organise a booze up in a brewery, and a semi facist, anti European group that would put Adolph Hitler to shame.
    Is it any surprise that the celts, ie Scotland , Wales, and Northern Ireland, have a growing realisation that they do not want anything to do with such people

    By the way the United Nations rules allow Scotland to declare a itself independent of British control, without any approval by Westminster.
    This should make politics in Britain more interesting than at any time in my lifetime!

    • Bob Leslie says:

      Semantic quibble of the week (nothing personal, hundreds are screwing this one up) ):
      facist – a person in favour of faces (very laudable, I’m sure)
      faScist – a person in favour of extremely authoritarian state-controlled nationalism (not laudable at all) (just think SS = fascist and the necessary “s” will appear)
      At any moment, I expect the arrival of faecist (even less laudable)

      • Melville Jones says:

        Typical of the right wingers: pick up on a typo, but can’t provide an answer with a mite of sense in it! Do you have school qualifications at O and A level in English. I do!

  24. Melvin says:

    If the Smith report was not so serious ,it would make a great monty Python script.

    Damn the Scots are a stupid bunch of bananas.imagine accepting the emperors new cloths gag all over again. I think that we honestly are the most stupid nation on earth. Proud Scots ….yeah right.

    • Melville Jones says:

      If you have such a disparaging attitude to the Scottish nation, you should stand for a south east english constituency at the next general election. Scotland doesn’t nead people like you, but the English are stupid enough to vote for people like you!

  25. arthur thomson says:

    Great read again Paul and thank you. There are many in the Brit camp in Scotland who will never be influenced to support Scottish self-government. However, I think there are many who will become open to change providing that we just keep going and keep introducing new elements to our movement. Like everyone else I get downhearted at times but I look to the dug, wings, women for indy, the SNP, the Scottish Greens, SSP, the setting up of the National, Bella, National Collective, Radical Indy, Newsnet, Scottish Statesman, the setting up of an online Scottish news broadcaster etc etc and I feel a bit better. Appart from the political parties none of these existed just a few years ago. Let’s try to develop a new sense of confidence that a new Scotland lies ahead – based on the fact that WE are the innovators, the new enlightenment, the future and I truly believe others will become inclined to get aboard the bus with a wee smile on their face.

  26. Jan Cowan says:

    That’s it Paul – “the political games of the Westminster parties”. They spend a great deal of time, effort and our cash working these out well ahead of schedule. But it stands to reason that soon, as they repeat their tricks, at least 6% of the population will see through them. The tricks must be performed in quick succession so that even the most unaware are forced to see through them.
    You’re right. The Independence Bus is well on its way.
    Thanks, Paul. You really get to the heart of things.

    • Noel Darlow says:

      One of the best things about the indy campaign was the sincerity and idealism of the speakers. What a contrast it was to hear people talking about things they genuinely believe in rather than simply adopting a position in order to manipulate the electorate. For a moment we got a glimpse of what a real democracy should be like. I can’t ever go back.

  27. fearnach says:

    The other element that will undermine the credibility of Westminster (apart from the voodoo economics of austerity) is the growing concern of peadophilia and murders. The longer it is underplayed and delayed, the bigger the mess when it bursts all over Westminster.

    It may end up that a majority party in Scotland, however gradualist its inclination, simply couldn’t resist public pressure to detach us from that mess.

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