The devolution settlement is holding us back - Lorna Slater

Minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity, Lorna Slater. Picture: PAMinister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity, Lorna Slater. Picture: PA
Minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity, Lorna Slater. Picture: PA
​This year is the 25th anniversary of the Scottish Parliament. It’s a major milestone and a chance to reflect on where we are and where we are going.

Devolution has been a game changer. It still gives me a sense of pride that I feel whenever I am in our parliament’s chamber.

There is no doubt of the benefits it has brought to people in Scotland. It has allowed us to do so much to change our country, whether it is child poverty tackling measures like the groundbreaking Scottish Child Payment or the introduction of free bus travel for young people.

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Yet, despite the many achievements, devolution is in retreat, with the Tories centralising power in Westminster, and the constraints of the settlement are becoming more obvious than ever.

Last week’s UK Tory budget has only made things tougher by doubling down on years of Westminster-imposed cuts rather than providing the investment that is needed to tackle the cost of living crisis and protect our climate.

These are really difficult times for millions of people, and it is those on the lowest incomes who are being hit hardest by a UK government that is prioritising tax cuts for the best-off over the NHS and other public services that we all rely on.

It’s the same when it comes to our planet. We have made really important changes, with record funding for nature restoration and walking, wheeling and cycling as well as ending permission for new incinerators.

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But we do not have the powers or resources to address our fundamentally broken energy system or halt the drive for even more oil and gas drilling.

That gap between the important steps we are taking and the transformative action that we want to be able to deliver is something I come up against every day in my role as a Minister, and, regardless of who is the next Prime Minister, it is likely to get worse.

Just think how different these last 14 years could have been if we’d had the powers of a normal independent country, and if the biggest decisions impacting us were made by governments we elect here in Scotland.

At its heart independence is about representation. It’s about taking decision making closer to the people who are impacted by those decisions and ensuring that we get governments we vote for.

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With a series of 25th anniversary events planned, we need a national conversation on how we deliver not only for people today but for generations to come.

Devolution has been a great leap forward for Scotland, but have to be honest about its shortcomings. And we have to redouble our efforts to build a modern and independent democracy for the next 25 years and beyond.

Lorna Slater is Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity

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