HAVING lost its bid for Scottish independence, the SNP wants the next best thing. The party’s proposal to Lord Smith’s commission on greater devolution for Scotland is a “devo-max” package that would see Holyrood in charge of almost all taxes – including North Sea oil revenues – and of policy-making on everything apart from defence, foreign affairs and currency.
But new figures from the think-tank Fiscal Affairs Scotland (FAS) have dealt the Nationalists’ plan a blow. In a report published yesterday, FAS warned that Scotland would find itself billions of pounds worse off if it was to rely on oil revenues.
During the referendum campaign, the SNP’s argument for autonomy was based on prices of more than $110 a barrel. The current price is below $85. The reality of the Nationalists’ plan to base the Scottish economy on the oil reserves in the North Sea would be a £5 billion cut in annual budgets, within or outwith the Union.
Unionist politicians yesterday attacked the SNP for the financial flaws in its pitch to the Smith Commission.
The Nationalists’ position is unsustainable. Their opening gambit is flawed and requires a rethink. But unionist parties, too, must be prepared to move beyond their opening pitches. Politicians of all parties, both unionist and nationalist, must ditch the combative rhetoric of the independence referendum campaign and be open to compromise.
For the Smith Commission to succeed, all participants must be willing to concede ground. Opening bids cannot be red lines, they should be starting points from which all are prepared to move.
It is important for all to remember that, while 55 per cent of Scots voted against independence, there is a real appetite for a stronger Scottish Parliament.
The late Edwin Morgan’s poem Open the doors!, written to mark the official opening of the Scottish Parliament building in 2004, contains words about public expectations of our politicians that those negotiating might find useful:
“A nest of fearties is what they do not want.
“A symposium of procrastinators is what they do not want.”
The Smith Commission is a real opportunity for Scotland. Those selected to participate must remember this. They must put the interests of Scotland before those of their parties.
The referendum campaign was frequently ill-tempered and almost tribal. There can be no excuse for the Smith Commission’s work to be carried out under those same rules of engagement.
Scots overwhelmingly want greater devolution to Holyrood. Politicians, whether unionist or nationalist, will pay the electoral price for failure to deliver significant new power to the Scottish Parliament.
Cathedral charge is simply wrong
A plan to introduce an admission fee at one of Scotland’s most magnificent places of worship makes no sense.
From next April, Historic Scotland will charge those visiting Glasgow Cathedral, whether they are there to view the gothic architecture or to pray.
Many of the landmarks overseen by the heritage body are of interest as historical ruins, and an admission fee that might help cover the costs of upkeep makes sense.
Glasgow Cathedral, however, is a living, breathing church. As well as being used by locals, it provides a place of worship for anyone visiting Scotland’s largest city. And for many of those with loved ones in the nearby Royal Infirmary, the cathedral offers a valuable place for quiet contemplation.
The leader of Glasgow City Council, Gordon Matheson, said there have been “significant concerns” over the plan to charge for admission, and a petition demanding the decision be overturned has attracted hundreds of signatures.
We hope that Historic Scotland takes note and acts.
Glasgow Cathedral is a spectacular building, a jewel in the architectural crown of its city. But it so much more than a mere tourist attraction. It is important those who seek to practise their faith are not charged for doing so. It would be unthinkable for someone in spiritual need to be turned away because he or she was short of the price of admission.
The plan to charge is wrong. It stands in conflict with the cathedral’s valuable role as a welcoming place for those who need comfort in their darkest moments.