Jim Sillars: Scots’ future in English hands

Pic: Ian Rutherford
Pic: Ian Rutherford
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Fact: more powers for the Scottish Parliament within the UK is for the English to decide upon. If Scots read English newspapers and listened to English radio, they would recognise the truth of that statement.

“More powers” is being punted by Westminster as a prize for Scotland voting No, leaving us with the idea that we will set out the extra powers we want, and get them.

But as English Tories were spelling out down there last week, any more for us will have to be considered in relation to two things: first, whether there will be a negative effect on the north-east and north-west of England, and second, there will have to be a reduction in the number of MPs from Scotland, as there was when the Holyrood parliament came into being.

This is not, let me emphasise, an anti-Scottish attitude from the English. There is a genuine problem for those two English regions in particular if Holyrood gets more substantial economic and financial powers. If, for example, we can lower taxes for business well below the rate in the north-east, what chance have the local councils there got of attracting investment to their communities? If we control VAT rates, and lower them substantially as well, we will have a great advantage over any region of England except London and the south-east. More power for Scotland and disadvantage for English regions is the equation that all within the UK would have to deal with.

The number of Scottish MPs at Westminster is something none of the No side want to mention either, although it can be a promise breaker, especially on the Labour side. To win a majority in the next general election, Labour has to woo the middle class in England, and top up what it gets from them with Scottish Labour MPs. But if, due to more powers to Holyrood, there are fewer Scottish Labour MPs, it makes it unlikely that any Labour leader can form a Westminster government. I cannot see English Labour cutting its throat to give us more powers.

So, from Labour we are going to get no more than has been talked about so far – 40 per cent control of the Holyrood budget, which means 60 per cent control from Westminster, giving Labour a case for holding on to most of its Scottish seats.

That “English” view is the reason why when asked about which extra powers a No would bring, Cameron gave no specific answers. One thing that Westminster does not want us to grasp is that any extension of power, is not a matter for us alone. If we vote No, we vote to remain in the United Kingdom, where we are a minority relying upon others to decide our devolution fate. Naturally, the English as the vast majority of the state’s population, will decide things, and do so by assessing and acting on their interests first. We would do the same. It is called state interests, and England has always operated on that principle.

We’re being let down by our own politicians

Isn’t it interesting that everyone on the No side says that, of course, Scotland can be a viable country, and then go on to explain how it will all be a mess if we take charge of it with a Yes vote? I know for years we have been told we are too wee, too poor, but now it seems that we must add to that tale of woe another one – that we are too stupid.

In that famous stair-heid fight between Johann Lamont, above, and Nicola Sturgeon on STV on February 25, Johann had this to say about her fellow citizens: “We are not genetically programmed in Scotland to make political decisions.”

That is the insult of the century. It has only one meaning – we are thick, too stupid to make decisions for ourselves that all others in this world do. Had, for example, Alex Salmond made that remark about, say, the English, Welsh, Irish, French, Germans or any other people, the media would have denounced him, and the demands for apologies would have been deafening. But it seems that no insult is too gross to fling at us.

Scotland just an added bit to UK

The Queen has now weighed in on devolution, as in the 1979 referendum. I wonder if she has ever reflected upon the message of her choice of title Queen Elizabeth II? As Scotland never had an Elizabeth on our throne, her title spelt out a truth – the UK is a fiction. It is the Kingdom of England with a Scottish add-on.