Labour’s influence on the Calman Commission appeared to be weakening today following calls from Scottish Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott for even more powers to be handed to Holyrood than previously recommended by the commission.
Mr Scott also sought the support of the SNP as he called for the nationalists to take part in the forthcoming talks on those new powers to be chaired by the latest Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore; the Lib Dem MP who replaced Danny Alexander in the role.
The marginalisation of Scottish Labour comes in the aftermath of the UK general election loss that saw the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats form an alliance at Westminster.
Labour, under Iain Gray, are currently floundering directionless and friendless as the other parties re-evaluate the ever changing body politic and begin their manoeuvring as each seeks to position themselves in readiness for next years Holyrood election. Labour on the other hand appear more intent on alienating everyone – unwise given the nature of the Scottish parliament where cooperation is essential.
The moves by the Lib Dem’s Scottish leader may be an attempt at placating Scottish voters who are sure to take a dim view of his party’s ‘unholy’ alliance with the Tories. It will also allow Scottish Lib Dems to contrast their support for major constitutional change, ‘Calman plus’, with the reticence of Labour who refused to implement any power transfers whilst in office, despite cross party support in Scotland.
Should the SNP agree to take part in talks they will almost certainly insist that full fiscal autonomy be considered. The Calman commission ruled out such a move citing ‘incompatibility with the current Union’ as their reason. However the changing economic realities of the UK and the growing feeling amongst the English electorate that Scotland is somehow ‘subsidised’ may make such a change inevitable.
The calls for full fiscal autonomy have gained momentum recently with respected Scottish business figures Dan MacDonald and Sir Tom Farmer issuing public statements in support of the move. Others who have called for fiscal powers to go beyond that advocated by Calman include former general secretary of the STUC Campbell Christie.
A major disagreement amongst the political parties of Scotland though remains a referendum. The SNP maintain that any constitutional change must be put before the Scottish people in a referendum, where all the options are available, including independence.
It is sometimes not appreciated and rarely reported, but unlike in England where the parliament is sovereign, it is the people who are sovereign in Scotland. Parties, including the SNP, can discuss, debate and agree to whatever changes they wish. However they should implement those changes only with the express approval of the Scottish electorate.