Devo Max for Scotland? Why not?

Financial Times, November 5, 2011:

Letters:  Salmond’s ‘devo max’ option is a camouflage device

From Sir Brian Barder.

Sir, You are surely unnecessarily alarmed by the Scottish first minister’s “shrewd” decision to include “devo max” (full fiscal autonomy within the UK) as an alternative to full independence for Scotland in the forthcoming referendum (“The ties that bind”, editorial October 29). Far from that being a trap, as you warn, it’s likelier to reflect Alex Salmond’s judgment that he’s unlikely to get a majority for independence in 2014 or 2015, with the devo max option a device to camouflage a humiliating defeat for independence.

“Full fiscal autonomy” for Scotland could describe a multitude of possible arrangements, none of which needs to frighten those of us who hate the idea of the amputation of Scotland and the disintegration of our country. Why should Scotland have any less internal self-government than, say, California or New South Wales? If the completion of the stalled devolution process for Scotland prompted demands for similar benefits for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, so much the better: the UK could then establish the safeguards and institutions of a full federation.

Brian Barder, London SW18, UK

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2011.

2 Responses

  1. Surreptitious Evil says:

    Mr Salmond said: “I am proposing independence. It is my job to define independence and I put that forward. It is not our job to define devo max, or fiscal autonomy.”
    Devo max currently gets high poll numbers because nobody knows what it is, few people (< 30%) want full independence and fewer (< 20%) are satisfied with the status quo. But nearly everybody has an opinion on the subject.
    Frankly, I’d go for the option that provides the fewest politicians. Say all elected MSPs, AMs, MLPs are also MPs. Sit one week ‘nationally’ and one week in Westminster (or any such combination that is relevant to the amount of business and efficient management). English MPs can sit in Westminster the rest of the time. And List MSPs, if it is necessary to retain them? They can be the Chief Execs of the local councils 🙂

    Brian writes: Thank you for this. I don’t think there’s any doubt about the meaning and implications of full independence, and it’s quite clear that ‘devo max’ means much greater devolved powers but short of independence — obviously the details would need to be negotiated separately between Holyrood and Westminster. I don’t share, or even understand, your stress on the need to reduce the number of politicians. Abolishing the present house of lords (with well over 800 members, not one of them elected except by each other), and substituting a federal Senate (maximum number needed: 80) would effect a massive reduction, leaving room for a smallish English parliament — say 200, still fewer than we have now. We already demand far too much of our MPs — requiring them to be constituency social workers and advice bureau staffers as well as our ‘federal’ legislators at Westminster, and giving them a dual role as you propose would make matters even worse. Can you point to any democratic federal system that doesn’t have completely separate elections at the federal and lower-tier levels? (Germany might be one — I must check!) I favour sharpening the distinction between the two, not blurring it.

  2. i albion says:

    “Devo Max” means having their cake and eating it, time England was “Devo Maxed !”

    Brian writes: Thank you for this. Actually I agree with you on both points. If one’s offered the opportunity to have one’s cake and eat it (or to put it less pejoratively, to have the best of both worlds), it is obviously stupid to reject it. And I entirely agree that it’s time for devolution to be extended to England, as a necessary but not sufficient condition for eventual movement to a fully fledged federation of the four nations of the UK.

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