Smithy: the Phenomenon

B1ypbT-IgAA_6Ln.jpg-largeBy Mike Small

The ICM polls out today clearly show that the public mood in Scotland far outstrips the cautious contrived narrowness of the establishment stitch-up we’ve all just witnessed.

But there’s a danger that the reality of the Smith Commission gets lost amongst the hyperbole, and a new ‘more powers’  consensus is created. ‘More powers’ is like ‘cheap beer’, surely that can’t be a bad thing you surly uncompromising wode-tainted Nat?

‘You do remember you lost, don’t you?’

Crusty old 19th C theorist Hegel distinguishes between the ‘phenomenon’ and the thing itself. So the moon as itself is different from the phenomenon of the moon – cheese, moon dance, the Man on the Moon etc.

The Smith Commission itself needs to be distinguished from the phenomenon of the Smith Commission.

In gushing unquizzical terms BBC Radio Scotland today interviewed Lord Kelvin, who seemed delighted with himself. He oozed self-satisfaction as he joked and giggled through it like he’d just organised a surprisingly successful jumble sale. He was completely convinced that his commission was a direct continuity of the participatory process of the referendum experience.

At one point he described the Scottish Parliament as ‘an experiment’ that he’d managed to be made permanent.

If we’re not careful all the verve and energy of the Yes movement will be dissipated as our politicians weigh, filter and dilute the energy and radicalism of our time, commission by commission, report by report, compromises by compromise.

The gulf between this smug procession of half-baked nonsense and the aspirations and ideas explored during through Yes movement is not some short policy hop – it’s a chasm between a self-organised empowered citizenry and a neutered and hopelessly compromised political elite. The whole ‘Home Rule’ campaign reeks of this messy subterfuge.

A new story is being told and we need to guard against it as media outlets coalesce around to celebrate and Iain Gray calls it a “transformative package”. The danger is that this shambles becomes seen to be something it clearly isn’t through our dubious media filter.

Each day that passes it looks worse.

Deborah Orr calls it ‘reactionary populism’. Iain Macwhirter is scathing: “What the Smith Commission has produced isn’t remotely ­devolution max or federalism. It is an exercise in control-freak ­minimalism that will serve to lock Scotland in economic decline. The proposals to hand control of income taxes to Scotland, but not the full range of taxes like national insurance, wealth taxes, oil and gas revenues and so on, is a transparent fiscal trap.” Read it in full here.

It looks increasingly like a handful of politicians gathered all the energy of the Yes movement and bundled it into a botched stitch-up. I have no idea whatsoever what the Greens or the SNP were doing amongst this.



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43 replies

  1. Totally agree about the stitch up that is the Smith fiasco and the dangers that come from it if it’s not challenged effectively. I think the SNP and Greens had to be there politically. They’ve done it. Now they need to be just as ruthless in being honest about it as the unionist machine is. They need to be clear that it is what it is and nothing like meaningful in any positive way. That will allow them to highlight its shortcomings and reveal it for the insulting con trick on Scots it really is.
    We all as individuals have a part to play in helping that process gain momentum and prevent the unionist establishment from imprinting their version of events on people unfettered.

  2. I’m still pretty much a novice when it comes to Politics so I do not understand the Green/SNP game here. I believe they had to go along with Smith, they even had to sit through all the negotiations and try not to fall asleep, knowing that it was all just crumbs from the table dipped in arsenic. And now they have to not cry foul too much for fear of a hostile media painting them as bad losers (again) but where and when do we get the passion? I’m not talking about grandstanding I mean passion for social justice that can never be delivered under Smith’s proposals…even if they are passed at Westminster.

    I thought we were going to take Westminster by storm in 2015 with the energy and enthusiasm of a newly politicised electorate..I assumed, as many clued up campaigners did, that once the Smith Commission spewed out it’d bile, that enthusiasm would be joined with an almost unstoppable ire that would sweep aside all who stood against it!

    But no, we appear to have business as usual and as this article is pointing out an acquiescence which is dismal.

  3. I suspect you are right Rob.I think 50% of Scots want to go on a new journey. But at least half our countrymen can’t be bothered packing their cases. Do you know why? Its because they have been spoon fed a diet of endless self loathing and insecurity. They are the I don’t like change types. The ones who just want to be alive ,but don’t want to live. Innertia is the disease of the unionist Scot. Its hard to cure as it requires a will to change. Without a will to change this nation is doomed.

    • I voted no, yet feel quite secure and have managed to avoid self-loathing so far. I love change, professionally and personally, I just didn’t want the independence change. I don’t require to be cured Jock. It’s called choice.

      • I’d be very interested to know why you considered it necessary to include the word “Jock” in your penultimate sentence. It’s not the sort of terminology I associate with your practice in Tannochbrae.

      • The inevitable, and predicable, effect of your No vote is that you and I will pay a shed load more tax. Thanks for that
        This can now only be avoided within the Union if there is full Devomax.
        I probably wouldn’t support another indyref at this point, although that could change.
        I would support a Devomax referendum

      • ???? I called him Jock because that’s the name he posts under (assuming it is a he). Here at the Tannochbrae Alternative Therapy Centre we always try to use our patients’ names. I could have called him Big, I suppose, but that would have been overly familiar.

        I don’t understand why a no vote will lead to more tax. I actually wouldn’t object to paying more if it helps to preserve services, but none of the parties going into the 2015 election are taking about significant general taxation hikes. The SNP is just as likely to put up taxes as anyone else.

  4. maybe the SNP and Greens had to show willing – BUT they now have to highlight front and centre the absolute nonsense that smith is (like Ian Mcwhirter did) . I think it probably was in the plan so that they can go full blooded into the 2015 GE on a manifesto of Devo Max and more powers and representing Scotlands interests when the labour had to be dragged kicking and screaming to this point. The worry is from another perspective and the lack of pragmatism and grown up thinking by the YES parties and sorting out a YES alliance for the GE in 2015. Surely to god they can act with some commonsense and get their heads together and share out the seats – even if it is only a few seats and possibly more for show and the bigger picture than realistically winning the seat.

  5. I don’t know what I’m more depressed by, the media narrative about Smith being a great step forward or the apparent evaporation of the Yes alliance. I feel the Yes alliance should be holding meetings and events up and down the country declaiming against Smith to counteract the MSM narrative and arguing against its pitfalls and for FFA – or independence.

    I heard that the Cabinet intervened on Tuesday to limit much of Smith.

    Why then is the ‘Smith commission’?

  6. There is lots of time and it’s all on our side. The #Smithpish goes to the Tories in Commons and Lords before it comes back to us. It may never see the light of day; more good news. If it all comes through do not change Tax rates as they are a poison chalice much like existing 3p powers.

  7. If it’s true, as it is most likely to be, that the Smith Commission’s proposals were sent to Downing Street before the announcement and they were slashed to bu**ery, then the unionistas have consigned whatever hope there ever was of a acceptable deal straight into the dustbin.

    They set-up a commission – by Lord Smith’s own statement to the BBC this morning, before the referendum was held or the result was known. He then said bizarrely, that he told Cameron he would take it on but did not want his name associated with it until there was a NO vote!

    If there is not some kind of trip-wire pointer in this that things were going nicely in the NO camp, it’s really hard to think what could be more evident of manipulation and to top it all it was being done against a background of the most positive YES polls produced.

    Somebody’s pulling our strings and it ain’t in the interests of democracy. Now it’s followed by crass stupidity and cynicism as they try stuff us back into our box. GE 2015 will be a ‘YES Parties’ landslide.

  8. Stitch up yes, but certainly not botched, It’s all going the way it’s intended. It’s our job to highlight it for what it is, unfortunately tricky while the media continue to do what they do.

  9. I really hope some academic institution is doing a comprehensive independent analysis of the submissions made to the Smith Commission. Scotland needs to know what people were telling Lord Kelvin.

    • You know, I was thinking that too.

    • Graeme, I wanted to respond to your previous comment in response to the happy No voter, DrFindlay, but for some reason the Reply button is missing there. I would imagine said DrFindlay used the name Jock in his own response to ‘bigjock’ because it seemed to be the name of the person he was responding to: ‘bigjock’/Jock. Seems a reasonable assumption to me.

    • Check pages one and two of today’s ‘National’. Lead story ‘The trap hidden in Scotland’s new powers’, Economist warns of ‘spiral of cuts’.

      Pretty scathing stuff lead by a Scott Lavery of Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute. There’s also comment in support by Stephen Boyd Asst. Sect. of the STUC and reiteration of the warnings of economist/tax expert Richard Murphy on the subject.

  10. As we prepare our strategy for the General Election, I wish I felt more confident that the pro Scotland campaign will be readier this time for the UK government and its supporters’ dirty tricks. At the referendum, we were grossly and unfairly outclassed by the UK’s relentless repertoire of lies, scare stories and attempts to destabilise our campaign. Will there be a high powered resource this time to rebut and challenge these more convincingly, and to manage the agenda on our behalf? Otherwise it will be the same old story once again. The UK will stop at nothing!

    • We were not grossly and unfairly outclassed, we just had the MSM against us. They have pulled the ‘Vow’ out of their backsides and it cannot happen again. I am hoping Wings or other campaigning group will take up the matter legally.

  11. The Greens and the SNP had to be there to avoid the MSM accusing them of petulance. We are not finished at all, we have only just begun. At our last local Yes meeting the enthusiasm of the young to continue was the most encouraging thing I’ve witnessed in many a long time.

  12. Couldn’t agree more MIke. Endless chipping away at powers gifted, through an endless series of commissions and committees. The public then drip fed by media spin, its painful stuff and intended to dissipate momentum.

    Bollocks to the Smith recommendations, we’re not interested in gifted chump change. If they can’t or more probably won’t deliver home rule as the media and the more unscrupulous of BT lead us to believe, then they need to be forced to admit it publicly – LOUD and CLEAR, that their intent was always thus far and no farther for devolution.

    The devo journey has reached the destination always intended by Westminster – the long grass.

    • “Endless chipping away at powers gifted, through an endless series of commissions and committees. The public then drip fed by media spin, its painful stuff and intended to dissipate momentum.”

      Exactly what happened in the 1970s. And it worked.

      Our task is to make sure it doesn’t work this time. Proper Devomax is the lever

      • People were fed headlines by the media and almost certainly didn’t read the fine print. Devo Max, near federalism were the headlines – the fine print read ‘we promise to propose and look at more (unspecified) powers. How many read, understood or even cared the fine print existed? We live in a headline society and those pricks in the media and Whitehall know that. Well done them, they convinced just enough bodies in that final fortnight.

        Now they have to deliver and that is where the lie will come unglued, for we won’t let the public, the press or those state representatives who sold the lie forget.

      • I agree with Macart, the more powers on offer by Smith Commission is in the long term a dangerous road for the SNP to take. Macart says “The devo journey has reached the destination always intended by Westminster – the long grass”. Derick’s reply “Our task is to make sure it doesn’t work this time. Proper Devomax is the lever”.
        Devomax is just a name invented by politicians/commentators. It can mean anything, depending on whoever uses it. Unionists can call the Smith Commission recommendations ‘devomax’. Who can argue. There is no acceptable (to all) definition. ‘Devolution’ has never been properly defined and never will be, what chance ‘devomax’.
        Devolution (for Scotland) was called (by an English Tory, in late 1990s, cant remember who) ‘constitutional vandalism’. In a UK context I cannot argue with this. It came about as we all know as a Labour solution to the rise in Scottish nationalism. Although spun by Labour as an improvement to the UK constitutional structure it had the opposite effect. This was predictable. When you split the governance of a country asymmetrically there is bound to be tensions arising between the old and newly created parliament, over who is responsible for what. There is also the ill thought through consequences first noted by Tam Dalziel, still unresolved. At the time of the creation of the Scottish parliament, devolution was seen by nationalists as a step on the road to independence. To many unionists they thought the same.
        Post the referendum I think the tables have turned. The dangers posed by ‘devolution’ are now a problem for the SNP. Unionists parties never set out to trap Scottish nationalists with devolution, they are not that bright. But there is, in devolution a real danger to both sides of the argument. Because of its illogicality there will never be balance between Edinburgh and London governments. The SNP have to be very careful over how to handle this present part of the independence journey. There is a real danger that the SNP will do well at next years GE and again in 2016. Why do I think that winning a majority of Scottish seats in 2015 and 2016 is dangerous? Because an SNP government will be running a parliament with limited ‘enhanced’ powers. That the ‘issue’ of Scotland’s constitutional arrangements is seen by unionists as put to bed for a generation, and during that time the SNP as the devolved government of Scotland, carrying out Westminster’s austerity programme will be become recognised as part of the establishment.
        2 years ago I thought the position of the SNP post the referendum should have been better considered and articulated, win or loose. This never happened. Now we have a surge of supporters and members with an expectation that one more push will be enough. That is dangerous and naïve nonsense.
        Instead of being seen as a party trying to make The Smith Commission recommendations ‘work’, the SNP should consider their future relationship with the UKs parliament Scottish branch at Holyrood.

  13. What did anyone expect from a millionaire ex banker, now semi-retired on £363k/yr as part time SSE chair. “Santa’s little helper” to the Westminster establishment.

  14. Dr Finlay. Maybe you are the exception. However there are plenty of can’t be bothered no voters out there. I have met and spoken to them. At least 25% voted no as they have no interest in changing anything. The others like yourself have put your trust in Westminster and for that you should feel angry and guilty.

    • Blimey. Anger and guilt as well as self-loathing and insecurity. We clearly need to invest more in mental health services here at Tannochbrae. Janet’s “pull yourself together sessions” on Thursday afternoons are no longer enough it seems. You’ll forgive me if I take your probability sampling techniques with a grain of salt. In any event, you may not like it, but voting passively for the status quo is a perfectly valid political position and attacking people for it is unlikely to make them change their minds.

      • Those of my relatives who voted “No” are remarkably gloomy and apologetic about it. I’ll send them along to see Janet.

      • I’ll tell her to make more scones.

      • Thats the problem Dr Findlay, a No vote wasn’t for the status quo.

        All unionist parties offered further devolution in the event of a No vote, Scotland was going to change under either circumstance.

        Why I’m disappointed with the Smith Commission is that it goes no further in some cases and significantly less in other cases in devolving more powers than has been suggested by each of the three main unionist parties.

        That this has been trumped up by the media and others as significant new powers is a blatant lie as the majority of unionist parties actually suggested more devolution within their own independence reports.

        Tell me, does Janet employ the ‘stiff upper lip technique’ in her classes ?

      • Oh no. Here at the Tannochbrae Aesthetics Centre every second Thursday, Janet injects lip fillers to plump up the upper lips of local ladies. Her troot poot has a well deserved reputation.

  15. What’s needed is a clear show of YES campaigning by all parties as being nothing less than a united front, and a declared position that this is the status-quo in Scotland.

    There’s no doubt that a formal YES movement of all political parties is crucial in my opinion.

    Each political party should appoint a high placed individual to a YES team and that YES team should be the one formal unified face of the future campaign for Scottish independence. This support from all YES political parties must become a daily feature and we now at least have two papers in Scotland who would support that.

    Let’s show the rest of a gob-smacked world that we at least have the wherewithal to pick ourselves up and re-group under a single banner.

  16. Any thoughts on the Unionist extraordinary lack of concern for their voters and constituents. Apart from, they hate the SNP and that blinds them.

    Any political psychologists out there?

  17. Brian they won the match! Why would they care what happens after that. Their sole purpose was victory at any cost.

  18. EVEL will be implemented before Smith – which is good because EVEL will result in a bigger step towards independence.

  19. Smith Commission recommendations are not going to see the light of day if there is the usual Red and Blue Tory agglomeration at Westminster after May 2015 – less than 10% of the Calman recommendations ever made it forward to become part of the 2012 Scotland Act Amendment bill.

    The SNP and the Greens can now say they played the game the Westminster way with Smith, they entered the negotiations openly stating they expected the promise of Full Fiscal Autonomy to be fulfilled, as promised by Gordon Brown. So what do the Scottish people wish to do? Be sidelined after May 2015 for another twenty years by voting Labour, as happened in 1979 ,or see progress towards what the majority of Scots state they wish in poll after poll, FFA for Scotland and a new Union settlement by voting SNP.

    The political position in the run up to May 2015 has nothing to do with independence and everything to do with just who is best situated in Scotland to ensure Smith and more is delivered to Scotland by Westminster.

    The Yes campaign is over, there is a need to focus on what is best for Scotland, people involved in the Yes campaign have a major role to play. If you want Devo-max delivered by Westminster there is only one feasible option, return as many SNP MP’s as possible. John Redwood writing in Conservative Home is already skid marking his pants at the idea of 40 odd SNP MPs holding the balance of power in a hung UK Parliament and what that will imply.

    I have a simplistic view – May 2015, put the squeeze on Westminster by voting SNP; May 2016 vote for who your heart desires for Holyrood. The reason is simple, the make up of Holyrood in 2016 will inform the actions of SNP MP’s at Westminster. Some times you just need to keep disciplined and focused on the goal. Even Dr No will see the merit in that and if he really cares about Scotland and wishes, as part of 70% of Scots polled seeking FFA/ Devo-max, he could put his shoulder to the wheel and vote SNP in May 2015.

    Keeping the argument polarised in terms of ‘Yes and No’ and ‘SNP or Greens’ benefits no one who actually is seeking the best for Scotland and allows Westminster to continue to ignore the wishes of the majority of the Scots electorate for FFA.

    The SSP and others need to think carefully as to just what they are wishing for in May 2015 and the damage they may do to their own cause as well as of Scotland.

  20. There is only one way to change anything. That’s to kick labour out at Westminster and return an SNP Scottish majority. Then for the SNP to form a majority at Holyrood. Trying to tinker with the union is a complete waste of time as its not Scotland that decides what we get its the unionist rogues in London. Like it or not its back to campaigning for full independence. Those that voted no can do what the hell they like but they are not getting my support. I am not the same as them we might as well be Leapords and Zebras. Trying to imagine we are all working for the same thing is naive and counter productive. They want a strong UK I want Scotland to be equal to the RUK in the world. Equality cannot happen in the UK as the weighting favours London and England 10/1. With those figures only the arithmetically illiterate think equality is achievable. The unionists simply will not allow Deco Max and the Smith Commision has just proven that.

  21. I’d like to follow up on what Graeme Purves said at the top of this thread, that he wished some academic body would look at all the representations from civic bodies across Scotland sent to Smith and do some kind of analysis or report. As we need to know what the ‘settled will’ was.

    I think this is a great idea but I think that maybe this should take the form, as someone has suggested on Wings, of a reconvened Constitutional Convention rather than an academic report. Invite all those who sent representations to attend the Convention and work out what the ‘settled will’ is, and how workable are the policy suggestions, or what it would take to reach the aims articulated. RIC, Commonweal, STUC, SVOC, Andy Wightman, etc. We should not allow the momentum of the Yes movement to be derailed and defused by the blind alley that Smith is leading us up.

    MacWhirter is right that the recommendations of Smith, as gerry-mandered by London Unionists, will leave us more imprisoned than when we started. That was indeed Cameron’s plan – to box us in even more completely in the aftermath of the referendum.

    If such a broad civic Convention could be assembled proposing far more radical powers than Smith and clearly backed up by popular support (63% want more than Smith according to a recent poll) it would give the SNP a powerful stick with which to hit the Unionists with at Westminster. It might also form the election manifesto of a wider Yes Alliance should the Convention itself decide to field candidates in GE15 under that banner in some sort of electoral pact with the SNP.

    We should be proactive, not reactive. Take our destiny in our own hands, and not passively wait for crumbs to fall from Westminster. It’s our future, it’s our Scotland. We, the people, must set the agenda.

    Who’s with me?

  22. Smith has admitted he bowed to the lobbyists as far as corporation tax was concerned – it’s a Westminster trait; but there again he’s a Westminster place-man. So we got what we expected, much ado about nothing wrapped up in perfidy.

  23. Couldn’t agree more with you Mike, what the hell were the Greens and SNP doing taking part in this fiasco ?

    All they seem to have done is allow unionist commentators to claim that the Smith proposals have the backing of all Scottish parties, including her government.

    Sometimes I despair with some SNP decisions.

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