Friday, 14 November 2014

Business for Scotland & Smith Commission part II

It has been pointed out to me that my previous post on this topic was a critique of the Smith Commission from the Edinburgh chapter of Business for Scotland (here). That's right: they made multiple separate submissions, presumably on the basis that the more they ask the Smith Commission to read the more they will help the process.

So I have now read the main Smith Commission submission (reference B00246 on SC website).  It's written by Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp who is full-time CEO of Business for Scotland and clearly has a lot of time on his hands.  So here we go again - extracts and translations follow

  • "This makes Business for Scotland the largest and most active and influential business group that campaigned in the Scottish Independence Referendum. Our 3,000 members see independence as a both the optimum form of Government for Scotland and also the best way to grow Scotland’s economy, create jobs, address inequality and increase shared prosperity for the people of Scotland."

    Translation: We're kind of hoping you haven't read Chokkablog on "Who do Business for Scotland represent" and so will take this assertion at face value.  We see no reason why we can't assert "member" numbers based on email sign-ups to a pledge even though that means as well as members of the general public with no business interests that figure is known to include a number of family pets.  Please don't ask us how many are "stakeholder members" who've paid their £100; we don't answer that question.

  • "In the last week of the campaign public polls showed a dramatic shortening of the gap between the YES and NO options with one poll showing a YES lead. We understand that more extensive and reliable canvassing returns for political parties showed a sizeable and growing poll lead for YES."

    Translation: of the 100's of official polls only one outlier ever showed a lead for Yes and that wasn't statistically significant.  So we're going to assert a "sizeable and growing" lead based on what we "understand" was the case.  Please ignore all other polls.

  • "in the face of what seemed a likely Yes vote"

    Translation: you might think "what seemed likely" was what the betting markets or all the other polls were saying but actually we are happy to assert based on approximately no evidence that a Yes vote seemed likely (Ed: are we getting away with this?)

  • "for more powers to be devolved to an extent that can be defined as Devo Max/home rule and as close to Federalism as possible within the confines of the UK."

    Translation: look we know the vow only said "extensive new powers" but we've srambled around and have found the words "Home Rule" mentioned once by G Brown and once by D Alexander.  We're not going to give you the context of those quotes and we're going to simply elide them with the vow in the hope you won't notice.  We'll also just throw in the term "Devo Max" despite the fact it's not in the Vow and we can't even find any out-of-context quotes to support it.  (Ed: we're not getting away with this are we?)

  • "If the Commission fails to do this, or the Westminster parties seek to water down or fail to implement the Commission’s recommendations, then the people of Scotland may decide to challenge the mandate to maintain the UK gained by the offer of extensive new powers."

    Translation: in case the threats in our other submission aren't clear enough; agree with our warped interpretation of what No meant or "the people of Scotland" (who we feel mandated to speak on behalf of, apparently) will revolt

  • "A survey carried out by YouGov on March 24th for The Times, when compared to another YouGov survey on September 5th for The Sunday Times, demonstrates clearly both the growing support for YES 34 - 45% when compared to No change, which declined from 24% to 15% support."

    Translation: there were hundreds of polls carried out. We will select two from which to extrapolate wildly.

  • "Increased devolution maintained steady support, falling slightly from 40% to 38%, but as previously mentioned had the advantage of not being critically scrutinised."

    Translation: when even our cherry-picked examples fail to support our argument for increased devolution we will dismiss this as not having had the advantage of being critically scrutinised.  Please ignore this observation when it comes to the rest of our thesis which is that this unscrutinised option was overwhelmingly supported. (Ed: this is getting silly now).
  • "Assuming that the Yes supporter, given that independence is not on offer, will support maximum devolution then adding the support for increased devolution in these polls would indicate that more than 3/4 of the population at the very least (and a significant majority of  No voters) support the promised modern form of home rule, near federalism and extensive new powers on offer."

    Translation: If you cumulate our unfounded and logically disconnected assertions  and ignore the point we've just made about the fact that these options haven't been scrutinised (in fact they haven't even been usefully defined) then we think we can get away with claiming 3/4 of the population support home rule.  Whatever home rule means.

  • "The definition of extensive new powers is the responsibility of the Smith Commission, but the starting point cannot be the previously stated promises of the Unionist parties, which lacked detail and any real commitment to extensive change. Those proposals offered the Scottish Government no more than 20-30% control of taxes raised, and given they were offered prior to the rise in the Yes vote in the polls, they were therefore effectively rejected during the campaign as not extensive enough by the Scottish voters."

    Translation: the vow has to be honoured but we insist you ignore any other promises made by the winning side because we assert that they were "effectively rejected"  (Ed; huh?).

  • "The Smith Commission should therefore not start its consideration from the point of view of what new powers can the Scottish government justify, but from the position that all powers should be devolved unless there is a mutually agreed reason for not devolving that power."

    Translation: please assume the vote was Yes and work your way back from there.

Now to be fair at this point the submission does actually knuckle down to some arguments around fiscal powers that are at least relevant and on topic.  I disagree with the extent of fiscal powers they argue for for reasons outlined in my previous Thoughts on Smith Commission blog post.  But moving on;

  • "With full fiscal responsibility all future debt generated in Scotland should be allocated to Scotland and all sovereign debt generated outside Scotland should be allocated to the rest of the UK. Scotland cannot exercise full fiscal responsibility when it is possible that a situation may arise where paying a population percentage of the debt interest on debts generated outside Scotland may severally impact on Scotland’s budget in years when Scotland’s accounts might be in surplus. Likewise all historical debt and share of debt interest payments should be allocated to Scotland’s accounts on a contribution basis, not a population percentage basis. In this way Scotland does not start to manage its own finances either paying interest on less debt than it actually generated, nor would it pay more than it was responsible for."

    Translation: we want to continue to share a currency but we don't want to participate in the wider principle of pooling and sharing that's required to make this work.  We basically want to have "accounting separation" such that we can engineer the economic conditions of independence whilst maintaining currency union.  We don't care that this argues for economic separation which clearly goes against the will of the Scottish people as expressed through the No vote.

  • "The Scottish Government must have full control over oil and gas taxation, revenues and policy; this must include the ability to create a Scottish sovereign oil fund to invest for the future and also to plan for the transition generations hence from domestic oil and gas production to other sources of energy and alternative economic activity in the North East. It is also vital that the blocking of west coast oil exploration and extraction be lifted so that the west of Scotland can benefit from the reserves that potentially lie off the Atlantic coast."

    Translation: It's our oil and we're keeping it so please ignore the bit of the vow that says "We agree that the UK exists to ensure opportunity and security for all by sharing our resources equitably across all four nations to secure the defence, prosperity and welfare of every citizen".  Oh, and we think you're choosing not to exploit the untold wealth that lies within our grasp because you'd rather pursue deeply unpopular austerity measures than admit it's there. (Ed: really?).

  • "Given that (under the current system) the Chancellor of the Exchequer sets a budget for the implementation costs of applying Government policy in England alone and then the Barnett formula sets the budgets for the rest of the UK with an element to address extra costs. With full fiscal responsibility the Scottish Government would not be forced to react to cuts in the English budget but would set spending priorities on the basis of taxation raised, and as explained with the R&D example above bespoke policies could lead to increased taxation revenues and therefore increased spending ability for the Scottish Government."

    Translation: we're hoping you haven't read the vow so you missed the bit that refers to "the continuation of the Barnett allocation" because we'd rather scrap it and be fully economically independent.  So please don't keep this element of the vow either (Ed: are you sure about this?).
  • "Obviously the currency union will be maintained and the Bank of England will continue in its current role, but given Scotland’s greater fiscal responsibility and the more federal/modern home rule within the UK structure of the relationship then it would seem natural that the Scottish government be granted a seat on the Bank of England monitory policy committee and be represented on most regulatory bodies."

    Translation: although we've argued for a level of "accounting separation" (including balance sheet separation) between Scotland and rUK that is incompatible with effective currency union, "obviously" we assume it will be maintained.  Basically we just want independence whilst continuing to share a single currency; you know, like the option that was rejected by all Westminster Parties during the campaign?

  • "The interlinked and interdependent nature of economic and fiscal powers means that a slow and piecemeal devolution process will not work."

    Translation: It's really complicated so best to rush it.

  • "Playing the Westminster party game of trying to figure out what percentage of tax raising powers would slow the Scottish population’s growing support for independence would create a halfway house between what powers Scotland needs to thrive and ultimately become the worst of both worlds."

    Translation: Forget the Edinburgh Agreement and talk of "working together" - we don't trust "Westminster parties" and never will.

  • "The Scottish Government needs to have control over immigration policy. This would, of course, require border control security and policy to be set by the Scottish Government and in the spirit of extensive/full fiscal responsibility Scotland would be responsible for the costs of its own border security. Given the need to consider interconnectivity, this would also require coastguard and maritime protection services to be fully devolved to Scotland, as many of Scotland’s borders are maritime borders."

    Translation: Forget all that stuff we said during the referendum about talk of borders being scare-mongering; even our version of honouring the No vote will require separate Scottish borders to be maintained.

  • "We believe that, to be binding, a referendum on EU membership leading to the UK’s exit must not just generate a simple majority across the whole of the UK but have a majority in each home nation. "

    Translation:  Just because it's inconsistent to argue that Scotland could vote to leave the UK without the rest of the UK voting on the issue whilst arguing that the rest of the EU can't vote to leave the UK without the assent of Scotland ... that won't stop us arguing it.

  • "If the power to veto an EU exit is not granted, then the UK that the Scottish population voted to stay within on September 19th will be deemed not to exist anymore."

    Translation: We know we can't really argue that the risk of a UK EU exit wasn't widely debated during the referendum but let's just ignore that and pretend the Scottish people weren't smart enough to make a balanced assessment of that risk.

  • "We will work in good faith to suggest and define powers and policies that will help Scotland thrive within the UK, but believe that if the powers promised are not delivered the Scottish people will be extremely disappointed and may wish to revisit the independence question again."

    Translation: We have argued here for a wildly exaggerated version of the vow in some areas and to directly ignore it in others.  We know that what we've asked for can't possibly be delivered and we're simply preparing the ground to cry foul whatever you recommend.  We exist with the sole aim of pursuing independence - it is not a means to an end for us, it is the end itself - so we really hope we get another referendum soon because it's what we exist for.

  • "We cannot have a constitutional fudge and end up with the worst of both worlds, especially give that Devo Max was not allowed to be officially on the ballot paper and so it was not fairly and democratically examined in the way that no change and independence were."

    Translation: We recognise this Devo Max interpretation we've spent out entire submission arguing for has not been "fairly and democratically" examined but - er - please do as we say anyway.

1 comment:

Terry Summers said...

These people have no regard for democracy, to them it is mertely a horse they ride into power and once their it can be discarded. GMK is a little less megalomaniac than DH as he only draws to himself the power to determine if the UK exists or not. DH has openly raised the spectre of UDI in much the same way as his master Alex Salmond. So much for Para. 30 of the Edinburgh Agreement.
These glib statements of what they and their supporters may do in certain circumstances are worrying, do you think they have any conception of the path that UDI would take Scotland and the rest of the UK down. A re-run of the Jacobite rebellions or maybe 20th century Northern Ireland. They may be smart and sophisticated enough to see these threats as gambits in a chess game, but a lot of their followers aren't that smart, I know as I have argued with them on line.