AS interminable consitutional debates return to our screens, Bill Jamieson takes a light-hearted look at TV’s usual suspects
Welcome to our new BBC Scotland nightly current affairs programme: Does Anyone Have A Clue What’s Going On?
On the one hand, we go round in circles. On the other hand we go in a straight line…
In the studio will be Gordon Brewer as Sarah Smith takes a break to compete with Brian Taylor in the new Scottish Celebrity Come Dancing (Brian’s the one with the turquoise sequins).
BREWER: Good evening! The studio format’s been changed for the new programme to accommodate our rotating panel of experts, sitting over there in the two spinning carousels.
A special welcome to Mungo Mackay, emeritus professor of constitutional change, University of Lesmahagow; Doctor Donny Decimal of the Fraser of Allander Institute; Glencoemassacre1692 the well-known nationalist blogger, and Mona Chyle MP, of the Fight Austerity Rob Roy Centre. Unfortunately Professor John Curtice could not be with us this evening but we have instead Peter Kellner, the YouGov pollster with his finger on the pulse.
The nation has decided – and the direction of travel has never been clearer! An overwhelming unity of purpose has settled on Scotland. As the 56 SNP MPs take their seats at Westminster, it’s been reported that David Mundell, the new Scottish Secretary, has confirmed his government will take the Smith Commission proposals forward.
But is it so simple? David Cameron has not ruled out the devolution of more powers, including more tax powers. Mungo Mackay, tell the nation – where are we, exactly?
MUNGO: It could well be, Gordon, on the one hand it’s full steam ahead for more powers. On the other, the Smith proposals could be history as I speak! They look set to be debated in the Commons – and that amendments may be tabled.
BREWER: This looks like a Tory tactic to dish the SNP. Will the SNP oppose Tory amendments even though they may propose more powers?
MONA CHYLE: Nae votes wi’ the Tories!
KELLNER: Our polls show the two sides are running neck and neck on this one. You can’t put a cigarette paper between them.
BREWER: What about a White Paper?
DONNY DECIMAL: We shouldn’t rule out other options.
BREWER: A Royal Commission? A Constitutional Convention? A Treasury White Paper? How would that go down with SNP supporters?
GLENCOEMASSACRE: B! ***&%$ ***k! We won the vote!
MUNGO: I think we have to be clear between the various options, Gordon, they’re not all the same.
BREWER: So what’s the difference?
DONNY DECIMAL: That’s why we’ll need a UK Federal Constitutional Convention.
MUNGO: Or a Royal Commission.
DONNY DECIMAL: Or a White Paper on fiscal autonomy. All this and a firm eye on the clock given all the dangers of drift and uncertainty.
Bear in mind too the need to ensure any changes to Barnett Consequentials are consistent with the undertakings in the “No Detriment” clause. That’s why Nicola Sturgeon has suggested full fiscal responsibility could take several years to negotiate and implement.
MONA CHYLE and GLENCOE MASSACRE: Years? YEARS??
MUNGO: It’s like having two trains on the line. There’s the Calman train. Now there’s the Smith train …
BREWER: … and now there’s a third train …
DONNY DECIMAL: … coming out the sidings and no driver …
BREWER: One’s steam, one’s diesel and the other’s biofuel …
MUNGO: … and no Fat Controller.
BREWER: It’s a shambles! This could take years!
DONNY DECIMAL: But the clock’s ticking. The new Scottish Variable Rate powers will be replaced next April by a Scottish Rate of Income Tax. The UK rates of income tax will be reduced by 10 per cent and then increased by the SRIT as determined…
MUNGO: But all these could be replaced by changes to the Smith Commission! The SNP vote last week, coupled with the prospect of further SNP gains in Holyrood next year, may brook little delay in “getting on with it”. Sorry to be a bore.
GLENCOEMASSACRE: Aye right!
MONA CHYLE: When do we get to vote doon Tory austerity cuts?
KELLNER: Our polls show a dead heat on delay versus immediate action…
MUNGO: Might I raise the concerns of business…?
DONNY DECIMAL: Must you? They’re aye moaning.
MUNGO: If they don’t know what the tax rates are, or the tax bands, or the top rate or the changes to the business rate, no-one will invest…
MONA CHYLE: Them’s with broadest shoulders should bear the greater burden…
DONNY DECIMAL: What we need is more public spending to lift the growth rate…
MUNGO: And who will set the borrowing limits? And the interest rate, and the Barnett changes…
DONNY DECIMAL: …with no detriment!
MUNGO: And who in England will sign up to that?
MONA CHYLE: We need immediate action!
DONNY DECIMAL: If we knew what immediate action is.
MUNGO: It’s the referendum all over again. Over and over.
KELLNER: Our polls show both sides are neck and neck.
MUNGO: The road ahead is clear. On the one hand, we go round in circles. On the other hand we go in a straight line…
DONNY DECIMAL: …round in circles –
MUNGO: Mundell will have to meet with the Prime Minister. The PM will need to talk to Osborne. Downing Street will have to meet with Sturgeon. And all this before the Queen’s Speech on the 27th of May.
DONNY DECIMAL: The big question remains: who moves first?
MUNGO: Don’t know…
KELLNER: Ah! Don’t Knows could be the last-minute game changer.
MUNGO: This is tricky. We’ve never been here before.
DONNY DECIMAL: Yes we have. I was on the telly last week.
GLENCOE MASSACRE: For all of two minutes. And you were still pish.
MONA CHYLE: Can we switch over to Strictly now? My money’s on Sarah.
KELLNER: Our polls show a dead heat with Brian Taylor.
MUNGO: It’s going to go and on.
DONNY DECIMAL: And round and round.
BREWER: And that’s all we have time for on tonight’s Does Anyone Have A Clue What’s Going On? Tomorrow we’ll have five different experts with the carousels spinning in opposite directions. Good night, Scotland – and good luck!