Reform Scotland and its Devo Plus group have been calling for such an alliance for more than a year, and Monday’s announcement follows a series of specific proposals by each individual party. The proposals have included the devolution of responsibility for housing benefit, the devolution of the entirety of income tax along with a series of other taxes, and the permanence of the Scottish Parliament.
Unfortunately, none have combined all of these steps, and so none on its own could truly be labelled as a radical step towards full responsibility and accountability for Holyrood.
Here, the pro-UK parties are missing a trick. Monday’s social attitudes survey showed that almost two-thirds of Scots want tax and welfare to be controlled by Holyrood. This backs up every other recent poll on the subject, showing that the most popular option for Scotland’s constitutional future is not independence or the status quo, but something more like Devo Plus.
A truly radical and popular step forward would be to pick the best bits of the three proposals and put them together.
This would see Holyrood accountable for up to 70 per cent of what it spends, put Scotland in line with more decentralised countries and give Holyrood a platform to really deliver for our people.
Reform Scotland and Devo Plus
There was more than a little irony that the leaders of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Scottish Labour Party and the Scottish Conservatives chose to gather at the National Monument on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill to mark their joint support for more powers in the event of a No vote.
Construction on what is known as “Edinburgh’s Disgrace” began in 1826 as a memorial to those Scots who died during the Napoleonic Wars but was left unfinished little more than three years later due to lack of funds.
And given the different approaches of these parties to more powers for the Scottish Parliament, the chances of any of these paltry offerings being delivered is as equally remote. In the run-up to the 1979 referendum to establish a Scottish Assembly, the Tories promised a stronger devolution offering should this be rejected at the polls.
While a narrow majority of Scots voted for an assembly, this was not enacted due to the infamous 40 per cent rule and instead of an assembly we got 18 years of Margaret Thatcher’s government.
We would be very foolish to rely on promises from unionist parties, who have been dragged to the table as the independence polls narrow. Nothing being offered can match the full economic, social and other key powers that independence brings.