By a Newsnet reporter
Labour’s proposals for further devolution have been dealt a blow after facing searing criticism from a host of prominent academics writing for the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
Academics, including Professor John Curtice and Dr Nicola McEwen, have expressed doubt over the extent of the proposals and their attractiveness to voters Labour is hoping to lure away from the Yes campaign.

In his contribution, Professor Curtice pointed out that the plans would “fall well short” of the powers that the majority of people in Scotland would like and highlighted the internal tension within the party that has led to such weak proposals.  Dr Nicola McEwen also criticised the proposals as “a difficult sell” in the face of Westminster’s austerity agenda and welfare cuts and slammed the plans as “surprisingly lacking in detail”.

The comments follow the publication of findings of Johann Lamont’s devolution commission which was set up to look at what extra powers Labour would be prepared to devolve to Scotland in the event of a No vote in the referendum.  The commisison has proposed handing Holyrood limited control over income tax and the devolution of some aspects of welfare policy including Housing Benefit and Attendance Allowance.

However the Scottish Labour leader faced almost immediate criticism with opponents pointing out that the plans adversely impacted Universal Credit, which would remain in the hands of Westminster.  When pressed on this point in a TV interview, Ms Lamont found herself completely unable to explain how this would operate in practice.

The most damning criticism of the plans was made by Charlie Jeffery, Director of Edinburgh University’s Academy of Government, who focused on the “comparative modesty” of Labour’s proposals – and raised the embarrassing prospect of Labour’s plans for more devolution being less bold than even the Tories’ plans.

Mr Jeffery also highlighted the internal struggle between Labour’s pro and anti-devolution factions – which have led to the watering down of the final proposals compared to those in the Devolution Commission’s interim report.

Chair of Devo Plus, Ben Thomson, has already expressed his disappointment at the proposals, describing them as simply “tinkering” and “lip service towards real devolved powers”.

Johann Lamont’s plans had already been thrown into chaos after the proposals for the devolution of limited aspects of welfare policy unravelled within a day of publication – and left Ms Lamont totally unable to answer even basic questions on the subject.

In what some were describing as a “train crash” of an interview on the BBC, the Scottish Labour leader appeared not realise the implications of her own proposals, repeatedly floundering when asked basic questions.

In another TV interview, Ms Lamont was again unclear on the implications of one of her key policies when she appeared not to know how much her own income tax proposals would raise. 

Asked how much a 5p increase in the top rate of income tax would raise, the Scottish Labour leader said, “We think it’s something like one hundred million pounds … you could get 3000 nurses for that”.  Challenged that the £100m figure was for the whole of the UK, and the actual figure was closer to £10 million, Ms Lamont said; “I don’t think it is ten million”.

Commenting, SNP MSP Linda Fabiani said:

“Just a day after its publication, Johann Lamont’s devolution proposals have come apart at the seams.  This latest expert opinion is a damning indictment of Labour’s weak proposals which simply won’t give Scotland the powers we need to create a better society.

“Experts have rightly highlighted the astonishing lack of detail in Labour’s proposals – but it’s Johann Lamont’s failure to bring forward major new powers that will most concern people in Scotland.

“It has even been suggested that Tory proposals for devolution could go further than Labour! This is a huge embarrassment for Johann Lamont ahead of Labour’s conference this weekend.

“Johann Lamont obviously doesn’t have the nerve to stand up to the anti-devolution faction in her party who are against any new powers for Scotland.  It is now even clearer than before that only a Yes vote will give Scotland the powers we need to grow our economy and create a fairer, more equal society.”


Russell Ramsay
2014-03-19 23:21

I would think that the Scottish press will want to be on the winning side in the referendum. This is the second time that the Daily Record has given outright preference to the Yes side on a major news day.
2014-03-19 23:35

10 million will not gets us 3000 nurses, in fact when you account for pay, benefits, job costs and administration, you would be lucky to get 200 nurses. Now I know that Lamentable has problems with wee things like numbers and the truth, but even a wee child knows this does not add up.
2014-03-19 23:51

In Labour’s plane of existence you do get 3000 nurses and pfi contracts are great value for money and trams are a cost effective way to ease congestion!
2014-03-20 01:46

Labour are never good with numbers Darling and Brown are prime examples.
2014-03-20 15:03

In order that he did not miss out on lucrative, taxpayer- funded second home allowances, Darling made four separate second home designations covering three different properties in the space of as many years.
The biggest shock came two weeks into the expenses scandal when it emerged that Darling had charged the taxpayer for the cost of working out his complicated financial affairs, putting his accountant’s fees on his office allowances!
Aye he knows the numbers OK, when it suits him.

2014-03-19 23:49

The fact is the detail is irrelevant to Labour as there is no intention of introducing these powers in the very unlikely event of NO. Scots must recognise, that responsibility and accountability to shape a country our children and grand children will be proud of can only become a reality, if we grasp the nettle and take full control by voting overwhelmingly YES in September.
2014-03-20 02:57

With high earners leaving, and the disincentive to new investment, there is a good chance the Scottish government would actually end up losing money under these proposals.

So the main new ‘power’ is one that can never be used!

Labour’s plans are a total joke.
They won’t even devolve air passenger duty!

It’s not even about gaining an advantage, when Scotland is already at a disadvantage in some areas, and new powers would only help to level the playing field..

I think there will be quite a few more votes heading towards YES after this.

Independence is simple and normal in comparison.
We don’t wait any longer for the powers we need…
We simply take them.
2014-03-20 08:03

My gift to you Frodo Baggins is the light of Elendil, may it light your way in dark places when all other lights go out.
To you Legolas, I gift the bow of the Galadhrim, to suit your woodland skill.
To you Samwise, I give the gift of Elvish rope and a small box with soil and seed from my orchard.

My gift to you Scotland, is the power to shoot yourselves in the foot with an asymmetric tax system which can only be used to the disadvantage of your country.

Yeah, and Samwise Ganges thought he got the bum deal…
2014-03-20 12:02

Haha – brilliant Breeks!
Though the geek in me has to correct Elendil to Earendil.

I’m sure a super-geek will be along in a minute to put the two wee dots above the ‘a’.

We’ll not mention Hindu Sam – bloomin’ autocorrect : )
2014-03-20 12:23

2014-03-21 10:49

I was going to write more – “… the little ginger Hobbit then pulled out his impractically large Claymore and turned the air blue with some ancient tongue not spoken in those parts. Fearing this a sign that Orcs were nearby, everyone dived for cover, and the tartan clad hero found himself alone, so turned for home muttering to himself about an obsolete fellowship broken beyond repair.”

2014-03-20 09:11

My plea to Johann, “Don’t resign, you’re doing a splendid job”. Anyone else caught in this situation, as leader (cough) of Scottish Labour would have had the gumption to do a very public resignation having had their proposals watered down to this ludicrous load of nonsense. Even having read what bits I’ve managed to access, I can’t understand how it’s meant to work. Its incomprehensibl  e and unworkable tripe and Johann’s “clear” explanation must have added to the Yes vote and made Newsnet Scotland’s poll out of date already!
From The Suburbs
2014-03-20 10:05

Fully qualified hospital nurse starting salary is £21,500 x 1000 = £21.5 million and that’s before employers NI and pension contributions not to mention overheads.
2014-03-20 14:55

And a big penny drops in relation to Labour’s PFI policy …

2014-03-20 10:10

Two thirds of Scots want the Scottish Parliament to have full fiscal autonomy.We can only have that if we vote YES.If we vote NO,we won’t get any significant new powers.Ever.
Alien Act
2014-03-20 10:38

Someone should tell her that the lack of nurses in Scotland is caused not by a lack of funding, but a shortage of qualified nurses.
Perhaps we could use the money to pay a better wage in the NHS Scotland after independence and encourage qualified people to come here.
2014-03-20 14:59

Don’t forget that Johann Lamont is a member of the same Holyrood Labour Group which had when in government, Andy PFI Kerr as its Finance Minister. His grasp of finance was such that he signed PFI contracts which oblige all future Scottish Governments to paying off huge amounts of debt for the next 30 years!

Numbers are obviously not Labour’s strong point. Quite apart from Lamont’s personal weakness on simple arithmetic, she has appointed none other than Subway Gray as her Group’s Finance Spokesman. Mind you, it could have been worse, she could have appointed James Kelly!
2014-03-20 16:43

Do these interview equate to Greys Subway moment?

From the Guardian

“Senior sources said the decision to reject devolving APD was also influenced by the loud applause from BA boss Willie Walsh and Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary for Salmond’s policy of phasing out APD after independence”

You couldn’t make it up!

I wonder what Mr Walsh & Mr O’Leary have to say to that?

It appears they are included in the Bain principle!
2014-03-20 16:46

Scottish Labour are split right down the middle. The ScotLab MPs don’t want to give any new significant powers to Scotland for they know that rUK MPs would be demanding a cut in Scottish representation at Westmnster and that will, undoubtedly, mean some Labour seats being scrapped and their present incumbents placed on the dole. We can’t have that.

It is clear the Uk Labour
Auld Rock
2014-03-20 17:47

I don’t approve of ‘Blood Sports’ but I am going to enjoy the show this weekend in Perth’s Concert Hall, for I fear it’s going to be a blood bath. Maybe now those Labour voters who have not yet seen the light will at last realise why great Labour people like Denis Canavan, Charlie Gray et al have embraced the ideals of an INDEPENDENT Scotland.

Auld Rock

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