Imagine you had a blank sheet of paper to design an ideal constitutional solution for running Scotland. Would you design the system we have right now? Would you draw up a system that looks anything like the status quo?
Well, watching the BBC independence debate from Kelso last week I was stunned by the No Campaign’s Jenny Marra who said:
“If I was given a blank sheet of paper to draw up arrangements for our country, I think I might draw them up the way they are now”.
Here is the 25 second clip
To be honest I am not 100% sure what was meant by that. She went on to claim that this meant a devolved Scottish Parliament in the context of the Westminster system. However, that doesn’t clarify anything either.
Is that as good as it gets for Scotland and business?
Does she mean that Scottish Parliament’s current powers are an ideal situation? Does she mean that Scotland voting for a UK Labour government and getting a Conservative-led one is ideal? Or whilst generating more tax per head than the UK every year for 32 years and 9.9% of the UK tax take with only 8.4% of the population, Scotland should receive only 9.3% of the UK public sector budget to spend, including a higher cost for services like defence and foreign affairs?
Does she mean that the unelected House of Lords with no representation from the majority government of Scotland should have the power to remove powers from the Scottish parliament without so much as a by your leave?
They did exactly that when they voted as quietly as possible to remove Renewables Obligation Certification powers from the Scottish Parliament late last year.
Maybe she means it is an ideal scenario to have the UK’s only nuclear weapons arsenal (that the people of Scotland do not want) based just 30 miles from our most populous city. Or Scottish soldiers being ordered into an illegal war that the people of Scotland and our Parliament opposed?
North Sea revenue investment
Is it ideal that our oil revenues are handed over to the UK Government and spent outside Scotland, or that the UK is one of the only two oil rich nations not to have set up a sovereign oil fund? (the other was Iraq) Or that the UK Ministry of Defence won’t allow oil companies to extract oil from the west coast of Scotland because it gets in the way of nuclear submarine operations?
Can it be ideal that a lack of regulation of financial markets by Alastair Darling MP of the No Campaign has resulted in an austerity budget that will be imposed from Westminster for a generation, cutting growth and threatening vital public services?
Housing and property
Is it so wonderful being connected to an overheated property market that causes housing benefit payments to soar in London? The result is a bedroom tax that is not needed in Scotland, but must be imposed there as we have no say over the welfare system.
Infrastructure and investment
Is it ideal when the distant and dysfunctional Westminster Parliament invests billions of Scottish money in projects such as a high speed train (HS2) which politicians claim will end the North-South divide, despite the fact that it only goes as far as Manchester and Leeds and will actually damage Scotland’s economy? Is it ideal that Scottish airports claim Air Passenger Duty (APD) is stopping them from attracting direct flights and boosting Scotland’s economy, but nevertheless the Westminster Chancellor in his Autumn Statement raised APD in response to demand for direct flights to London airports?
More recently, is it ideal that after 300 years of contributing to building the reputation of the Sterling currency, apparently we have been using ‘English money’ all along and have no further right to it if we decide to be democratically self-governing?
There is an almost endless number of examples.
Scotland can do better than ‘OK’
The No Campaign’s slogan is ‘UKOK’. Well, ‘OK’ seems to be the extent of its ambition for Scotland too. This referendum is becoming a choice between those who have a plan to build a better Scotland and those who have no ideas, vision or plan. It’s a choice between two futures.
I could argue that the UK isn’t OK: that there are too many food-banks opening up, too much inequality, too much child poverty and so forth.
But let’s not focus entirely on the negative. I think we can agree that the status quo is not as ideal as Jenny Marra suggests. After all, even her Lib-Dem allies argue that the status quo has failed.
Comment: how would you change Scotland for the better?
Imagine you had a blank sheet of paper to design an ideal Scotland. What is the one key thing you would change about our country? Leave a comment and share the most important element of your positive vision for Scotland.