Independence: more questions than answers
EVER since we first began to hear of Devo Plus and Devo Max there has been a presumption that any such gaining of more powers for the Scottish Parliament must, of course, benefit Scotland. Indeed, the First Minister is clearly bent on putting such a second question on the ballot paper, seeing it as a step on the road to independence if fellow Scots are not prepared to go the whole hog.
But Margo MacDonald (New, 8 July) is right to argue that such a question should not be on the ballot paper, because it cannot be delivered by Scottish voters alone when it affects those living in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.
Quite apart from that small consideration, there is a fundamental objection to asking people to tick a box marked with some version of Devo Max or Plus, devised by some self-important group of people with no democratic mandate.
Take Devo Plus first. It calls for Scotland to take responsibility for all taxation except VAT and National Insurance, and for its own expenditure. Its enthusiasts are quite happy to do away with the Barnett formula, or any similar scheme, that draws funds away from the more prosperous areas of the UK to help the areas that need support. A think tank named Reform Scotland that pushes for Devo Plus, wants Scotland to be a low tax, deregulated economy with reduced public spending.
Ah, but I hear Nationalists saying, what about Scotland’s oil? I’d like to hear what Scotland will do for money when the oil runs out.
Then there’s Devo Max. This requires Scotland to have full financial autonomy, and an end to UK-wide redistribution. How this would serve social needs when, at the same time, big business is being offered low taxes to attract them away from other competing nations has yet to be explained.
Such a policy is sucking up to corporate power, just when we are all becoming more aware of the consequences of bankers’ greed and irresponsibility. It fails to recognise reality.
Even now, as the Red Paper collective points out, over four-fifths of large corporations in Scotland are externally owned. Nearly all the biggest employers in Scotland are UK-owned and controlled, quoted on the London Stock Exchange, or dependent on the 60 million UK market. How can anyone believe that a newly independent, five million population, could enforce its will on the financial sector more successfully? Alex Salmond assures us all would be well. We would have a seat on the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee. Has he asked them if that would be OK with them? No. Has he asked himself why should they, when we have just turned ourselves into a foreign country? No.
Left-wing Nationalists rely on an argument (which incidentally flies in the face of the facts) that Scotland is more social democratic than England, and therefore our whole social fabric would be made in that mould. There being no such thing as a money fairy, how exactly would it be paid for?
Pat Kane (Comment, 8 July) hopes for a living wage for all employees, and so do I. Does it not make him worry, though, that so many colleagues on the Yes Scotland campaign board come from sectors where the pay levels are notoriously low?
Maria Fyfe, Glasgow
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