The spin-room has been replaced by the Panic Room. It’s a safe place where you can lock yourself away if intruders threaten your inner sanctum. The intruders are us, you and me, the inner sanctum is the power base of the politics elite.
In extraordinary measures yesterday the parties reached near full-merger, now making up constitutional policy on the hoof. In a bizarre twist we had Gordon Brown holed up in Midlothian, at a closed doors meeting announcing that the ‘Scots were being offered ‘home rule within UK’ and quoting Keir Hardie, who died in 1915.
It does make you think not just, why didn’t Gordon mention any of this during his glorious term in office, or why didn’t these parties put this on the ballot paper staring in our face, or at any time in the last two years, but why didn’t they do any of this in the past 100 years?
As John S Warren has noted:
“Gordon Brown has given us a timetable for further devolution (8th September, 2014). The big announcement comes down to the publication of a standard parliamentary “Command” paper and the enactment timetable for the legislation. He actually used the word “Command”, as if the word somehow added weight to the rather banal announcement of a simple timetable; in the process descending into an embarrassing mixture of condescension and pomposity. He has announced a timetable only because Labour’s Devolution Commission Proposals “Powers for a purpose – Strengthening Accountability and Empowering People” (March, 2014) did not bother to offer any timetable at all in March, but of course the polls were not then uncomfortably close; Labour did not bother with a timetable in March, presumably because it assumed they would never have to implement the proposals – ever. The Powers, it seems never had much purpose, until the weekend.”
It’s a guddle of Grand High Politics (of which Gordon is so fond of and so bad at) and cheap populist nothingness, as one tweeter put it: ”St Andrews Day and Burns Day’ for ‘not really more powers’ timetable? Could only be more condescending if they all wore ‘See You Jimmy Hats’.
This morning ‘Iive’ on BBC News Johann Lamont, Willie Rennie and Ruth Davidson appeared in front of a glum-looking bunch of supporters. They shuffled about jostling for position and looked like three children lost at the fair.
Towards the end of a jaw-clenchingly awful interview with these three giants of Scottish politics a reporter was asking some difficult questions like ‘how does ANY of this work?’.
A cheer went up ‘spontaneously from the crowd behind – we thought maybe Nigel Farage had arrived early, but no – the trio’s minder had just held up a big sign saying ‘Cheer!’. And with that, the interviews were abruptly ended.
Better Together. Shutting down debate. True to the end.
The F Bomb
One of the most bizarre things about the last 24 hours is Gordon Brown’s recurring get-out clause where he refers to ‘Federalism’. It’s his grand idea for which he has been lauded by the metropolitan media from afar. Yet as I’ve mentioned before (‘The F Word’) it doesn’t make any sense in a group of nations in which one makes up 85% of the population.
Watch him here:
The giant boorach Gordon and his entourage have created is dramatic, but entirely empty. It’s worth looking closely at all the things it isn’t.
We Have Our Reservations
• The constitution, including the Crown, the union, the UK Parliament, and the continued existence of Scotland’s higher courts
• Registration and funding of registration and funding
• Foreign affairs and international relations
• Public service (the civil service, other than sheriff clerks, procurators fiscal, and officers of the higher courts).
• Defence (other than some aspects of civil defence and sea fishing enforcement)
The specific reservations are set out under 12 main heads, each with a series of sub- heads. In some cases, there are exceptions, illustrations and interpretations.
ï Financial and economic matters
o Fiscal, economic and monetary policy, except local taxes to fund local authority expenditure (for example council tax and non-domestic rates)
o The currency
o Financial services, except bank holidays
o Financial markets
o Money laundering
o Misuse of drugs
o Data protection
o Elections (elections to the House of Commons, European Parliament and Scottish Parliament, and the franchise at local government elections)
o Entertainment (essentially videos and films)
o Immigration and nationality
o Scientific procedures on live animals
o National security, interception of communications, official secrets and terrorism
o Betting, gaming and lotteries o Emergency powers
o Public access to information held by most public bodies ï Trade and industry
o Business associations, except “particular public bodies” and charities o Insolvency, except some aspects of winding up and receivership
o Competition, except regulation of aspects of the legal profession
o Intellectual property, except relating to plant varieties
o Import and export control, except food, animals, plants, etc.
o Regulation of sea fishing outside the Scottish zone, except in relation to affairs
o Scottish fishing boats
o Consumer protection, except food safety
o Product standards, safety and liability, except in relation to food, agricultural, pesticide products etc.
o Weights and measures
o Telecommunications and wireless telegraphy, except certain police powers
o Post Office and Postal Services
o Research Councils, including funding of scientific research
o Designation of assisted areas (under the Industrial Development Act 1982)
o Industrial Development Advisory Board
o Protection of trading and economic interests (under emergency powers,etc.)
o Electricity, except aspects of environmental protection
o Oil and gas, except some aspects of offshore activity and production and movement of gas
o Coal, except environmental protection
o Nuclear energy, except environmental protection and the Radioactive Substances Act 1993
o Energy conservation, except the encouragement of energy efficiency ï Transport
o Road transport, except aspects of road safety
o Rail transport, except aspects of grants for rail services, some strategic functions, the transfer of functions of passenger transport executives, and the promotion and construction of railways wholly within Scotland
o Marine transport, except ports etc., hazards to navigation and financial assistance for bulk freight services to the Highlands and Islands
o Air transport, except some matters to do with airports and aerodromes
o Transport of radioactive material
o Technical specifications for public passenger transport for disabled persons
o Carriage of dangerous goods
o Serving Scotland Better: Scotland and the United Kingdom in the 21st
o Social security
security schemes, except aspects of –
Social welfare services
Welfare services for the chronically sick and disabled
Payments towards maintenance of children
Industrial injuries benefit
promotion of the welfare of children in need
advice and assistance for young persons formerly looked after by local authorities
o Child support, except aliment
o Occupational and personal pensions o War pensions
- Regulation of the professions
- o Architects
o Specified health professions. The reserved professions are identified by reference to the Acts governing them. Consequently, regulation of new professions, such as pharmacy technicians, is not reserved.
o Employment and industrial relations, except agricultural wages
o Health and safety, including the Health and Safety Executive and the
o Employment Medial Advisory Service, but excluding some aspects of fire safety
o Job search and support, except careers services and aspects of Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise
- Health and medicines
- o Abortion
o Embryology, surrogacy and genetics
o Medicines, medical supplies and poisons
o Welfare foods
o Public lending right
o Government Indemnity Scheme
o Property accepted in satisfaction of tax and culture
o Judicial remuneration
o Equal opportunities legislation, except for the encouragement of equal opportunities and the imposition of duties on public office-holders
o Control of weapons of mass destruction
o Ordnance survey
o Timescales, time zones, and summer time, except the computation of periods of time, bank holidays, Term Days and Quarter Days
o Regulation of activities in outer space