Gordie Broon doesn’t want Scotland to obsess about constitutional change. In this instance we can be certain that Scotland’s very own political Walter Mitty knows what he’s talking about because if you obsess over things you turn into Gordie Broon. He’s worried because it looks like the voters of Scotland are going to throw a metaphorical Nokia at the Labour party and hold a grudge against them until they’re hounded out of office forever left with nothing but a reputation for crimes against humanity and a clutch of cushy directorships, somewhat like he did with Tony Blair.
In a speech at the weekend to a hand picked audience of the dwindling band of Labour loyalists – because Gordie only speaks to folk who have been vetted and who sign an agreement not to jeer – Gordie said he wanted to press the reset button on Scottish politics and the constitution. The speech was conveniently splattered all over the BBC news so that the rest of us didn’t miss it, those of us who haven’t been vetted and are quite likely to jeer because we’ve heard this sort of guff from Gordie before.
Gordie’s announced he’s resigning as an MP, which is only making it official as he’s rarely been bothered enough about the concerns of the good people of Kirkcaldy to turn up at Westminster to represent them. But his resignation does mean that when the Smith Commission and Gordie’s vow crash and burn, Gordie won’t be there to cop the flak. He’ll be off mumbling about endogenous growth theory – which is apparently something to do with warts – on the highly lucrative corporate speechifying circuit. But at least it does mean that the voters of Kirkcaldy get the opportunity to press the reset button on their MP, and might even get one who can be arsed enough to do some work.
Pressing the reset button on Scottish politics and constitutional wrangling is entirely appropriate as reset is a good Scots word, referring to the crime of holding something which was taken by theft or by a breach of trust such as fraud or willful imposition – you know, like Labour and the other Unionist parties have done with the sovereignty of the Scottish people in the pathetic excuse for more devolution delivered by the Smith Commission. Glad you’ve cleared that up for us then Gordie. Can we call the polis now?
The Smith Commission report has been dissected and digested by everyone in Scotland with at least a passing interest in politics – which is a most of the electorate – and the general consensus of opinion amongst everyone who isn’t a Unionist politician, a wannabe Unionist politician, or an editorialist in most of the media, is “Well that’s a bit rubbish then, isn’t it.” The Smith Commission gives us the absolute minimum which the Unionists think can be fobbed off as fulfilling Gordie’s Vow – the one which promised as close to federalism as it was possible to get and full home rule.
The problem for the Unionists however is that a politically literate electorate is unlikely to be fooled by their scrawlings in crayon all over the constitutional settlement. Although to be fair, we don’t have a constitutional settlement so much as we have a constitutional campsite, complete with discarded bin bags full of devolution proposals that never got through Commons committees, and an old caravan which Labour MPs use for weekend piss ups. But the latest addition – the Smith Commission BBQ and Grill – is not going to toast the aspirations of the majority of Scottish voters who want devo max. Scottish voters know what home rule means, they know what devo max means. The Smith Commission doesn’t come remotely close.
Yesterday the Sunday Herald reported on the many and varied powers which had originally been considered as part of the Smith Commission proposals, but which were filletted at the insistence of one or other of the self-described parties of devolution. Labour, the Tories, and the Lib Dems spent most of their negotiating time on the phone to headquarters in London and then demanding that various powers were removed from the final report.
Labour – shamefully – demanded the removal of powers over the minimum wage. Labour would have us believe that a Westminster Parliament dominated by Conservatives and looking forward to an ever increasing number of Thatcherite Ukip MPs is going to be a better defender of the rights of the low paid than a Scottish Parliament dominated by MSPs from parties from social democratic parties. The only reason that Labour did this is its tribal hatred of the SNP.
The same goes for the removal from the Smith report of powers over the abortion law. Labour opposed devolution of this – apparently citing the spurious reason that it would mean there would no longer be a single cut off date for abortions throughout the UK. There never has been, as Northern Ireland was exempt from the original abortion law and abortion remains illegal in the province. But Labour refuses to cede powers to Holyrood simply because it hates the SNP so much. What’s in the interests of the people of Scotland don’t figure in Labour’s considerations at all. It’s the very definition of holding the voters in contempt.
But it may all be academic anyway. It needs to be stressed, repeated, and screamed from the rooftops that the Smith Commission’s proposals are merely proposals. We’ve been here before with the Calman Commission. New powers over this that and the other were announced to great fanfare, we were told that this was the devolution settlement that would finally put the issue to bed for a generation or more and Scotland could hit the reset button and get back to normal politics instead of constant constitutional wrangling. As we all know, that’s not what happened. We got devo-hee-haw instead.
Many of the Calman Commission’s proposals were removed in Commons Committees – powers which have once again surfaced as proposals in the Smith Commission. There’s no guarantee that Unionist parties which were dead set against these powers the last time are any more disposed to allow them through the Commons this time. Quite the reverse, this time Westminster is far more interested in limiting the power and influence of Scotland, or more precisely, Labour MPs representing Scottish seats, and that in turn will only hasten the day that the dysfunctional UK comes shuddering to its final unlamented demise. That will be Gordie’s real lasting legacy.