Martin Hannan: One vow that’s already broken

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It says everything about the coalition government that David Cameron can saunter up here and say he has delivered “the vow”, when it’s more like a shadow of the original promise.

Having accepted the result of the referendum, this SNP member waited to see what genuine devolution of powers would take place, only for the Smith Commission to water down what the vow suggested and for the coalition government to then water down what the Smith Commission recommended.

That’s a lot of watering down – more like liquidation, really.

I happily admit that some powers have been devolved to Holyrood, but far too much has been left in the control of UK ministers, particularly Universal Credit which I have predicted before will be a disaster for poor people across the UK.

After last week’s publication of the Bill we then had to suffer the likes of [Chief Secretary to the Treasury] Danny Alexander lecturing the Scottish Government about devolving power to local communities, not to mention the failed Labour leader Iain Gray claiming fatuously that we now have “home rule for Scotland,” and then adding “Scotland’s home rule journey can’t stop at Holyrood – it must carry on across Scotland’s towns and cities”.

What utter nonsense. Who in their right mind would allow councils to run things like local income tax and benefits policies when they can barely cope with the responsibilities they’ve already got?

The point is that with a couple of exceptions, namely Police Scotland and Education Scotland – I will come back to them next week – a lot of power has flowed out from Holyrood.

Indeed, in one area I have to point out that local councils have been handed vast powers, and that is in planning, arguably the most important power that local government has, and one which can be used to improve the economy of an area. And what have the councils done since the new planning regulations were passed by the Scottish Government in 2009?

Very little, actually, though I accept that the economic downturn prolonged by this coalition government has a lot to do with that.

It’s because councils do not use their powers to build more houses, for example, that we are so far behind the targets for new-build houses. The target for affordable houses – 30,000 across Scotland by 2016 – looks likely to be met, because the Scottish Government stepped in, but planning failures are one of the main reasons why the building of new houses has only recently started to pick up.

Far too often, builders are led up the garden path by flawed planning policies, and a case in point is the plan for 2000 houses at Cammo and Turnhouse. The council’s local development plan says that those houses can be built, but the effective campaign being waged by local people and the sheer idiocy of loading traffic on to failing roads, will mean the developers not being able to build a single home – because the council will bottle it in the face of public protest.

Far better that local authorities get on with making sensible proper plans for housing and infrastructure improvements so houses and roads can be built speedily and sensibly.

When councils start getting those basics right, then they can have more powers. But only then.

Generous Leslie leads the way

Congratulations and thanks to Leslie Benzies for his terrific gesture in buying St Stephen’s Church for the good of the community down Stockbridge way.

The Rockstar North supremo can afford it, I know, but nevertheless he has shown modern entrepreneurs a good example of what can be done with their wealth. Leslie has led the way, now other rich people must follow.

Ricky deserves praise for legal high actions

I suspect very few of us had heard of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), or so-called legal highs, until Edinburgh City Council’s report into these designer drugs emerged last week.

It was due for discussion at the health and social care committee this morning and it’s thanks to the committee convener, Councillor Ricky Henderson, above, that the report was compiled.

The sheer extent of NPS and their effect on people across the city is truly shocking. Ricky and his colleagues and the council’s partner agencies have taken on a massive task in tackling NPS. Let’s wish them luck.

Coalition hits the buffers yet again

When it comes to actually doing something practical for Edinburgh and Scotland, David Cameron’s Tory mob and their Liberal Democrat sidekicks are usually posted missing – unless they are about to lose a referendum, that is.

This SNP member is heartily sick of the coalition saying it has Scotland’s best interests at heart when it clearly does not.

Thanks to questions by Mark Lazarowicz, Labour MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, we know that HS2 will only be extended to Scotland decades hence and the East Coast railway company was always going to be privatised no matter how strong the case for keeping it in nationalised hands.

Thanks for nothing, CamClegg. More mistreatment of Scotland that won’t be forgotten.

SLOW ON THE UPTAKE

Hamish our pet Jack Russell terrier is one of those dogs who doesn’t quite understand the concept of “fetch”. Until the weekend, when the penny dropped. It only took six months.