Monday, 13 October 2014

Smith Commission Submissions (Part 3)

Today I have been reading the last of the party submissions to the Smith Commission, that of the SNP.  Declaration of interest here - I am a member of the SNP.

The basic principle of the SNP submission is that all powers that are not explicitly reserved to Westminster should fall under the control of the Scottish Parliament, and that the onus should be on Westminster to prove their case for retaining whatever powers they wish.  This is the opposite approach to the other parties, who are considering devolution from the point of view of granting more powers to the Scottish parliament and retaining those which have not been explicitly devolved.

Most of the arguments presented were well-rehearsed during the referendum campaign, so there are few surprises in their submission.  There is discussion of the Vow (complete with quotes from the leaders of the Unionist parties) and what the SNP take this to mean.  They also present the results of a survey showing the level of support by the Scottish people of various further powers.

There is a clear strand throughout the document of Scotland becoming much more of a partner to Westminster rather than a subsidiary by, for example, obliging Westminster to take account of the views and positive suggestion of the Scottish parliament with regard to reserved matters.  There is also a clear intention to give Scotland more of an identity within the community of nations, by allowing Scotland to have its own voice on matters within its own devolved competence.  This, I assume, is a first step towards eventual independence, by normalising Scotland as having a voice independent of Westminster, thus making eventual independence a much less drastic-seeming step.

In all the SNP's proposals are wide-ranging and in this regard very similar to the Scottish Greens and more extensive than those of Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives.   I somehow doubt that the other parties will agree to all of the SNP's proposals, since they take Scotland far closer to independence than the others would be prepared to countenance.

It will be interesting to see the outcome of the Smith Commission.  I think the SNP will be disappointed, but I also think the other parties may well be obliged to concede rather more than they propose to.  I shall watch this particular space with interest!

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