Devolution has been a disaster, and here are the reasons why - Brian Monteith

Is devolution a disaster? Unless you are a nationalist looking to see Scotland secede from Britain it is hard to answer in anything but the affirmative. Let me walk you through the options.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon welcomes Prime Minister Boris Johnson outside Bute House in last year

If you never wanted devolution because you were concerned Tam Dalyell was right that devolution was a motorway to independence without any exits then you must be seriously worried his prophecy looks like coming true.

If you wanted devolution because you thought George Robertson was right that devolution would “kill nationalism stone dead” then you must be seriously worried his prophecy could not be any more wrong.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Since devolution Labour has been eviscerated by the SNP, an outcome that is hard to believe would have happened had Holyrood not been available for the SNP to turn the volume control to eleven for their taxpayer-funded grievance-mongering and campaigning.

If you wanted devolution because you thought it would make the economy grow faster, our cultural opportunities grow deeper, our educational reputation grow wider, our health care services grow stronger – then disaster can’t begin to cover the poor outcomes.

Instead of devolution helping Scotland be faster, deeper, wider and stronger we have seen our economy, education, life expectancy and cultural achievements fall behind what has been achieved in England over the last twenty-one years. That SNP politicians are happy for services to fail shows they are not patriots but partisan zealots who put their party before country.

If you wanted devolution because you thought it would make the governance of Scotland more accountable to the people then you must be absolutely scunnered that under SNP Governments we have seen the police and emergency services centralised and local government diminished – while this government’s secrecy, through meetings without minutes, attempts to block and even end freedom of information requests, refusals of key witnesses to attend parliamentary committees and proposals for outlawing what can be said and thought in your own home – can only leave you in despair.

On practically any metric you consider the Scottish Parliament it has been disastrous unless of course you believe that by weaponising it as a Trojan Horse to help break up Britain. The bitter irony is those using devolution in this way are its greatest enemies, they do not believe in it – never have and never will. It was never good enough for separatists in the general elections throughout the seventies, eighties and nineties, they had to be persuaded to support it in the 1997 referendum, and even now after running our devolved institutions for approaching 14 years they still want to destroy it.

Every time that the SNP has cried out for more powers – and then received them – its ministers have failed to use them to good effect, even to the point of costing hundreds of millions in not delivering the welfare management they so stridently demanded and were given. When SNP finance ministers are handed additional powers over taxes they inevitably raise them and the revenues do not live up to their expectations – even falling below what they were before when lower.

From the perspective of any UK Government looking to build the unity of the country devolution has been an utter disaster. Having conceded every wish on the franchise, the question and the date that Alex Salmond requested for his referendum in an Edinburgh Agreement that was signed-off solemnly like an international treaty – and then hearing him (and Ms Sturgeon) telling everyone the vote was not just once in a generation, but once in a lifetime – the resulting repudiation of the result and repeated disrespect towards the democratic outcome has made fools of all those who appeased nationalism with devolution. Further appeasement will only harvest the same disastrous results.

Only once the political parties that believe it is to the Scottish peoples’ benefit to remain in Britain stop denying devolution has been a disaster can they come to terms with what is required to put the mistakes right. This is not to say devolution should be reversed; to attempt such a democratic volte face would be as divisive to Scotland as is trying to rip us out of the UK. What is needed is to consider what aspects of devolution have worked, what have failed and what reforms can help return the concept to its original good intentions.

Ultra vires escapades by Government Ministers that seek to turn Scots against Scots, never mind Holyrood against Westminster must come with a full financial penalty of sequestration and personal liability for taxpayer funds used. The life expectancy of Glasgow’s East End or Govanhill is not improved by international jollies to Brussels or New York.

Only three areas of the UK contribute a net surplus to the UK economy currently; London, the South East and East of England. The wasteful propaganda of repackaging UK initiatives and finance as Scottish when they are funded by taxes or debt paid for by the UK is delivering a fraud on the public.

The Scottish Parliament must return to prioritising the public services that it was meant to administer and improve – but to do this we must first excise the threat of nationalism from the institution.

At the weekend Conservative leader Douglas Ross said he would work with anyone to stop the separatists, immediately Labour’s Richard Leonard ruled it out unequivocally. How then does Leonard aim to come to power? Would he support a minority SNP party that has already ate his breakfast, lunch and dinner?

The parties that believe in Britain must speak to each other and do so openly or Tam Dalyell’s forecast will indeed come true.

Brian Monteith is editor of

A message from the Editor:Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.