Smith Commission

The Smith Commission was a direct result of the leaders of the UK’s three main parties making ad hoc promises in a desperate attempt to avert a Yes vote.  However, we do not believe that this had any overall effect on the outcome given that they were more than matched by the unrealistic promises of the Yes camp.   Despite the SNP choosing the date of the referendum, having a favourable question, being well funded and receiving a great deal of assistance from the Scottish civil service, it lost by a significant margin. It is therefore illogical, unfair even, to give further leverage to a minority driven campaign for independence. 

The Devolution Settlement and two subsequent Scotland Acts did not adequately involve the people of Scotland and have caused a great deal of division, expense and anxiety.  Steps must now be taken to make sure that the majority of the electorate are supportive of whatever is decided.     

Throughout the referendum campaign the biggest complaint was Westminster. Thankfully there are now signs of reform there including MP recall and the devolution of more power to the cities and regions. Scotland was once very well served by volunteer councillors and we welcome the move towards creating much more local autonomy in England. We think that this is a significant and long overdue initiative and we strongly believe that it should be replicated in Scotland.  However, any reforms will need time to feed through and giving additional powers to Scotland at present is premature.  Devolved powers are already extensive and cover the things that most affect our daily lives.  Health, education, transport, enterprise, agriculture, planning and justice are all controlled from Edinburgh. Treating Scotland separately would also risk splitting the United Kingdom into four disjointed and competing factions.

Holyrood has become a miniature version of Westminster with similar faults and it is over-staffed; Scotland’s 188 parliamentarians are numerically responsible for only 22,421 voters whereas English MPs are responsible for 72,414.

Further Scottish devolution would add to the pressure for an English parliament which would further weaken the Union. It would also be used to ratchet up the pressure for yet another independence referendum in Scotland. It has become abundantly clear that the SNP will settle for nothing less than full independence irrespective of the economic and societal harm that this might cause. 

There is now a window of opportunity to consider reforms along similar lines to the rest of the UK.  However the public must be given a say in all of this.  They had no hand in designing the original Devolution Agreement and the two subsequent Scotland Acts also passed them by.  We are now in the internet age and it is plainly unacceptable to exclude the public from this process.  For any settlement to be successful it will require the input and full support of those who will have to live with it.   

We propose that the roles of MPs and MSPs are combined and their number set to match the number of constituencies.  We would then have 73 MSPs sharing their time between Westminster and Holyrood. Debating UK wide issues in London and devolved issues in Edinburgh, Scottish politicians would no longer vote on English domestic issues. 

The Scottish Progressives strongly believe that providing a more straightforward and cost-effective system of government would be warmly welcomed by Scots.  We also favour constituent based MP recall, an impending Westminster reform which Scotland should adopt.  Giving the electorate more control over their elected representatives would offer much more scope to improve Scotland than simply extending the present rotten system. 

Rather than politicians devolving more power to Holyrood, a far reaching and public consultation is now needed. The Scottish Progressives hope that the Smith Commission will lay the foundations for this to take place.  More than two million Scots voted to remain in the Union but their wishes will count for nothing if we hand over even more power to a government intent only on separation.   A clear majority plainly wish to retain the Union and every effort must now be made to bring this episode to a speedy conclusion whilst retaining the UK for future generations.  

Read our letter to Lord Smith here