It may seem difficult to believe now, with the SNP in its 12th year of dominance at the Scottish Parliament, but many Nationalists once viewed devolution with great scepticism.
When former party leader Alex Salmond agreed to campaign alongside Labour’s Donald Dewar and the Liberal Democrats’ Jim Wallace in the devolution referendum of 1997, he was considered by some colleagues to have fallen into a unionist trap. Labour’s George Robertson – shadow Scottish secretary before his party’s landslide election victory that year – had confidently declared that devolution would “shoot the Nationalist fox” and many of his opponents feared he might be right.
History tells us that Mr Salmond’s judgment was correct while Lord Robertson’s was not.
Since the SNP’s first Holyrood victory in 2007, the Scottish Parliament has acquired a number of new powers, the most significant of which has been the right to set and collect income taxes in Scotland. It is hardly surprising, then, that devolution often feels more like journey than a destination, with each step the current Scottish Government takes part of a steady march towards full independence. The Scottish Nationalists have been assisted in creating the notion of independence as an inevitability by unionist opponents who have struggled to create a compelling counter-narrative.
Later today, Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington – a man seen as outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May’s de facto deputy – will attempt to redress that balance.
At an event hosted by the Law Society for Scotland in Edinburgh, he will assert that devolution is not a “temporary stepping stone” to a different constitutional future. Devolution, he will say, has become the “settled state” where the UK has “strong devolved parliaments within a strong United Kingdom”.
With polls showing the prospect of Boris Johnson – front-runner in the current Tory leadership contest – as prime minister giving a boost to the Yes movement in Scotland, Mr Lidington may find his speech is akin to howling into the wind.
Whoever becomes the next prime minister will have to win back the trust of many Scots – Nationalists and unionists – who believe Brexit to be a colossal mistake.
That, we are bound to say, will take more than a few warm-worded speeches.
BACKING BLUE BADGE RIGHTS
Undoubtedly the most striking thing about the campaign to extend the right to blue badge parking to those caring for people with Motor Neurone Disease is that it is necessary at all.
Nobody would argue that MND doesn’t, in quick time, severely hamper the mobility of those with it.
Campaigner Gordon Aikman, a former political strategist who lost his life to this damnable disease, spent his final months ensuring that people with MND had a voice. Now, rugby hero Doddie Weir is continuing that work, turning his own painful experience of being diagnosed with MND into a catalyst for action.
The Scotsman has no hesitation in supporting Doddie and Conservative MSP Rachael Hamilton in their campaign to extend the Blue Badge Scheme to people living with MND. They want the Scottish Government to change the criteria for recipients of a badge so that they have automatic access rather than having to go through a lengthy assessment.
We believe this should find support across the political spectrum.