No detriment and the weakness of Smith

We’ve heard much about no detriment this week, with the Scottish Government and most members of the Smith Commission being at odds, unsurprisingly, with the UK Government, about the design and impact of the new Fiscal Framework for Scotland given the limited devolution of further powers.

The Smith Commission report was not what we, as Greens, wanted. It didn’t go far enough to give Scotland the powers it needs to create an economy and society fit for the future. It was always going to lead to the situation we see now, perhaps even more so with a Tory government.

The astonishing bad faith of the unionist parties during the Smith process has put Scottish workers in a position where we’re left with the Westminster government seeking to impose financial hardship on Scotland for political ends.

The reality is that we need a full package of macroeconomic powers for Scotland, the powers Greens demanded during the Smith process and which were vetoed by the unionist parties. These powers include control over corporation tax, tax and regulation of the energy sector (particularly North Sea oil and gas), renewables infrastructure support, research councils, control over immigration such as being able to reintroduce the post-study work visa, employment and trade union laws, and so much more.

These are the powers we could use to rescue our renewables industry from savage and cynical Tory cuts. They are the powers we will use to reindustrialise Scotland, providing good jobs for all. They are the powers we could use to ensure Scotland’s population has the skills and expertise it needs for its future. And they’re the powers that will help to save us from the next global recession.

Instead, what we see happening is a UK government doing its damnedest to make Scotland pay for daring to think outside the box. Just this week the UK government has found extra cash to mitigate council cuts in wealthy areas of the south of England. It is clear that this is a government committed to taking from the poor and giving to the rich. The Smith powers always left Scotland open to this sort of attack. An attack that is little more than the UK government gouging Scotland. 

HM Treasury is taking every opportunity to undermine the Scottish budget. And it is a significant concern that while the UK Government retains control of factors influencing the Scottish population (such as immigration policy) there could be serious downsides to a deal which is too heavily based on population factors.

Some degree of risk transfer is inevitable, and is fair. But with risks must come opportunities, and even the full implementation of Smith would leave serious constraints on the freedom of the Scottish Parliament to make decisions affecting either the economy or demographic factors. We must avoid having the UK transfer all the risks to Scotland, while retaining control of the policy levers.