Friday, December 12, 2014

The White Report.

What the newspapers made of it all.

There was a survey carried out recently that showed the twenty richest and the twenty poorest areas in Europe.  London was one of the richest. Germany seemed to have a lot. The north of England had five ‘poor’ zones, Wales and Northern Ireland one each.
Scotland had neither.

Unemployment  in GB is at its lowest level for 28 years. OK so much of that will be zero hours contract and minimal wage jobs but it is a sign that the economy is starting to breathe again. The house market  in London has gone frankly bonkers, prices spiralling out of control.
Like they didn’t learn that lesson last time.

So bearing all that in mind, I read the highlights of the report from the Smith  Commission this week. I didn’t understand much of it.  I don’t think anybody is supposed to.  Many of the ‘yes’ voters believe that the only reason folk voted no was the last minute offer of greater devolution of power to the Scottish Parliament. This offer was made by all three UK parties to the people of Scotland. And Lord Smith was given the job of  bringing a document to the table – within eight weeks.

Would you let this man a) walk your dog
                                       b) sell you a used car
                                       c) run the country

Second thing to bear in mind is that we have a nationalist majority in the Scottish Government. A conservative government in Westminster  and Scotland only has one Conservative MP. That might be due to the dreadful mess of the labour party and its apparently unelectable leader Ed Milliband.

                                                              Jim Murphy who looks a bit like......

                                           a man who gets things done....

 But there is a  young  Scot rising fast through the ranks. He looks like Voldemort so he might be able to pull the country together again.

So who is Lord Smith  of the Smith report exactly?

He is a rather charismatic, smiley individual. He was in charge of the organising committee for the Glasgow commonwealth games.  With his other hat on, he is a professional chairman currently of the UK Green Investment Bank. He is also Chancellor of the University of Strathclyde and a Director of Standard Bank Group. He is Chairman of Children in Need, Chairman of the National Museums of Scotland, Chair of Glasgow’s Riverside Museum Appeal, and Vice-Chair of the Kelvingrove Appeal. He was born and educated in Glasgow,  knighted in 1999, went to the House of Lords in 2008, and was appointed Knight of the Thistle in 2013. That does not hurt.

He still talks like a Glaswegian.

So he was the natural man to turn to when the government (Westminster ) were searching for somebody to steer Scotland towards the newer more independent state while keeping the union intact.

All the major parties contributed to the report. Three nationalists councillors burned it on sight. So you can imagine what the white paper looks like when all parties got their say; far right, far left, green, nationalist, unionist,, down right  bonkers.

                                         This chappie  might be better at running the country....

Who said that the duck billed platypus was designed by a committee?

So here’s the highlights.  Just enough to give you the gist.
The conservatives  want all  tax revenues including  income tax, national insurance, corporation tax, capital gains tax, fuel duty, air passenger duty and inheritance to remain payable to Westminster. Unless there is a reason not to (unspecified). Holyrood would be responsible for all public spending and would pay Westminster for certain services, (unspecified). Holyrood will also have power to borrow money.

Meanwhile labour want Holyrood to be able to raise 40% of its budget by increasing the tax-varying powers. Not necessarily the tax rate… but it sounds rather like it. They reckon it will bring in another £2 billion.  (defo sounds like a rise in tax rate to me!). And reading further down Holyrood will have the power to raise higher rates of tax. Again all other taxes will remain under the power of Westminster, including corporation tax.
The Barnett formula will continue. That is the formula that tries to distribute public spending around the four nations of the UK. Which mean every person on Scotland is sponsored by Westminster to the tune of £1700 per year.

Liberal Democrats? Holyrood should have enough fiscal power to raise most of what it spends. Barnett should be retained.  But Westminster will retain the power to spend in defence and social protection (?) and equity (?).
Does social protection mean the police (Scottish anyway) or the Health Service (Scottish anyway) or Social Work?

The greens think Scotland should be in control of all powers of tax. And should be able to borrow what they like from who they like. Without limits set by Westminster.

All this will be interesting as the SNP‘s membership has increased by 100’s of percent  since the referendum. From the extreme left to the extreme right – their only uniting factor is independence. And the majority of the country voted against that.

With regard to our welfare state, the Conservatives think Scotland should have powers over all welfare spending (including retiral and pensionable ages).  Labour think that housing benefit and attendance allowance should be devolved but all the rest should remain under Westminster control. The Liberal Democrats said that there should be one system for all in the UK. (At the moment in Scotland we have free care for the elderly if they can’t pay, free prescriptions and drugs. The rest of the UK does not). The Greens want most of the Scottish welfare system to come under the control of Scotland whereas the Scottish Conservatives said something about Scotland should contribute towards the UK welfare benefits bill. ( I think they might have sussed that we get a very big slice of that cake!)

So will we represent ourselves in the EU?
What about defence and foreign affairs? Here’s a quote about the Greens contribution to the White report. ‘Scotland should be represented in UK overseas delegations and "Scotland's perspective" to be taken into account in UK international negotiations’
And what about Wales? Northern Ireland? Are they not getting a say?

The range of options on finance, currency, regulation, debt management and employment law are frightening. And confusing.

As is the statement ‘human rights law should be devolved’

And "a degree of flexibility" in immigration and asylum rules. Is that the far right getting their nasty little oar in?

These are to be considered a starting point only but I’d love to be a fly on the wall.
Reactions from the leaders of the parties are : 'It's a good deal' / Powers are 'disappointing/ 'best of both worlds.
From my chit chat around town, the thought of the tax rate being in the hands of Holyrood is making a few think again about any further devolution.
Just as a footnote before you fall asleep, I was at my accountant yesterday for my yearly …whatever it’s called.  His opinion ? Common sense has gone out the window. Nothing upsets an economy like uncertainty.
                                          Two faced but legitimately so.

I hope it’s a Zaphod Beeblebrox situation. You know where  power struggles amongst politicians and other useless twerps grabs all the media so that the somebody sensible somewhere can get with the important stuff without the twerps interfering.


Oh and Alex Salmond, after resigning from leader of the SNP and from his job as First Minister of Scotland has now decided to stand for the Westminster parliament.  In a seat that voted overwhelmingly ‘no’. As the present incumbent said ‘we took pleasure in rejecting him at the referendum and we’ll take just as much pleasure in rejecting him again.
But it means Alec is still on the TV, spouting forth.  

I am going to put my head in a bucket, call me when it’s over.

Caro Ramsay  12 12 2014


  1. That sounds complicated and somewhat goofy as happens when politicians are involved. We have a much simpler system in the U.S. based on the Golden Rule. The one with the most gold rules. It's discouraging for the rest of us.

  2. Is there room for anymore heads in that bucket, Caro?

    And yes, Jono, gold definitely rules in the U.S., and it looks to become even more so over the next few years. I think I'll abandon Caro to her bucket, and jump in a foxhole and pull the hole in over myself for the next 5-10 years. Things were ugly when I was a kid, and it looks to be ugly again when I'm old. At least I can be thankful we don't have (much) black plague these days...