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Scottish Parliament/Westminster

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1 Scottish Parliament/Westminster
Learning Intentions To examine the areas of co-operation and conflict between Scottish and Westminster parliaments in the light of the SNP led Scottish Government taking office. Co-operation or conflict?

2 Devolution: The settled will of the Scottish people?
Reserved Powers The constitution Defence and national security Foreign policy Immigration UK fiscal and monetary policy Employment legislation Social security Transport and safety regulation Others e.g. nuclear energy, broadcasting Devolved powers Health Education Local Government Law Social Work and Housing Economic Development and Transport The Environment Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing Sport and the Arts The late Labour leader John Smith described devolution as the “settled will” of the Scottish people. He believed that the creation of a Scottish parliament would offer Scots the best of both worlds; control over the most immediate affairs, yet within the overall security of the UK. This may yet be the case. Most voters in Scotland voted for pro-UK parties in the 2007 Scottish elections. But there are undoubtedly tensions. The coming to power of the first ever SNP government in Scotland and the emergence of the SNP as the largest party in Scottish local government shows that there is a mood for change. It is likely that the SNP government will test the limits of Scottish decision making.

3 Grey Areas: Immigration
Immigration is clearly a reserved power But, Scotland will be the home for some who seek asylum in the UK It is Scottish local authorities’ education, housing and social work departments who will look after asylum seekers But the UK Home Office ultimately decides who stays and who leaves Scotland The so called “dawn raids” and the detention of families at Dungavel Centre have been controversial While immigration is clearly a UK issue, it has implications for Scotland. The children of asylum seeking families will often be housed in local authority accommodation and go to Scottish local authority schools. They will be cared for by the social work department of Scottish local authorities These arrangements have been agreed between Scottish local authorities and the Home Office. In 2005, 15 year old Amal Azzudin formed the Glasgow Girls. The Glasgow Girls protested against the deportation of the Vucaj family from their home in Drumchapel, Glasgow. The Vucaj family were asylum seekers from Albania. They claimed that their life was at risk if they returned to Albania, because of the Balkans conflict in the early 1990s, and wished to live in Scotland on a permanent basis. The family lived in Glasgow for five years while their application for asylum was considered by the UK Home Office. The Vucajs settled very well in Glasgow and the three children were highly popular and successful pupils at Drumchapel High School. In 2005, the media reported that the family were taken from their home in Glasgow early in the morning by a deportation team from the UK Home Office. They were taken to England where they were then flown to Albania. Supporters of the family alleged “inhumane” treatment of waking children, especially, at dawn, and at their physical removal from their home. In October 2006, the Scottish Executive reached a compromise with the Home Office on immigration. (see former First Minister, Jack McConnell with immigration minister Liam Byrne) The Vucaj case is a classic example of the complex interaction between policies reserved to Westminster (i.e. immigration and asylum) and those devolved to Holyrood. Dungavel, is used for holding asylum seekers whose applications have been refused prior to their removal. Glasgow Girls Part 5

4 Grey Areas: Nuclear Power
Energy is a reserved power But, planning is devolved The UK Government would like to renew Scotland’s two nuclear processing plants But the SNP Government may block planning permission…. Two of the UK’s nuclear processing plants in Scotland, Torness and Hunterston are due for renewal with the next few years. While Energy is a reserved power, planning is devolved. If the Scottish parliament will not co-operate with the planning application, the plants will be shut down. A survey by Friends of the Earth Scotland in May 2007 found that 72 MSPs (56%) oppose new nuclear stations while 24 (19%) support this option and 33 (25%) either failed to respond or were undecided. First Minister Alex Salmond said "As far as Scotland is concerned, I think we'll be saying: 'Nuclear power - no thanks'. "There's absolutely no chance of us allowing a new generation of nuclear power in Scotland.

5 Grey Areas: The West Lothian Question
Back in 1977, in debates over whether there should be a Scottish Parliament, Tam Dalyell MP (Lab) asked why it would be right that an MP from Blackburn in West Lothian could decide education policy in England, but an MP from Blackburn in Lancashire could have no power over education policy in Scotland. The question is not academic. In 2004, the UK Labour Government won a parliamentary vote to introduce top up tuition fees in England by 316 votes to 311. Without the votes of Labour’s MPs from Scotland, the bill would have been defeated. Is this fair on the English, who have no power over education policy in Scotland? There are two aspects to the West Lothian Question: How can it be right that MPs elected to Westminster from Scottish constituencies have no ability to affect the issues of their constituents which have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament, and If power over Scottish affairs is devolved to a Scottish Parliament, how can it be right that MPs representing Scottish constituencies in the Parliament of the United Kingdom will have the power to vote on issues affecting England (including those that don't affect Scotland), but English MPs will not have the power to vote on Scottish issues? The West Lothian question was first posed by Labour MP Tam Dalyell, in the 1970s. He warned that the creation of a Scottish parliament would create a serious constitutional anomaly. Labour relied on Scottish votes to pass contentious legislation which only applies in England, including two votes on foundation hospitals and two on university tuition fees. One fringe party, the English Democrats, is calling for an English Parliament to be created. Opposition to Gordon Brown’s Premiership is not because he is Scottish, but because he represents a Scottish constituency, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.

6 Grey Areas: Foreign Policy
Foreign Policy is a UK power. Scotland does not have it’s own foreign policy. But, Justice is a devolved powers and decisions made by Scotland’s Justice Secretary can have a major impact on UK foreign policy. In August 2009, Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny Macaskill released convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds. He was diagnosed as having terminal cancer with an expected three months to live. Lockerbie bomber freed

7 But US Senators, angry at Megrahi’s release, allege that this decision was in some way linked to a BP-influenced prisoner exchange deal agreed by then Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2007. UK Prime Minister David Cameron has attempted to heal UK/US relations in the light of Megrahi’s continued survival. There is no evidence that the Scottish Government acted improperly. No matter the rights and wrongs of the affair, devolved Scottish decisions do have a major impact on the rest of the UK. UK/USA Relations Prime Minister Cameron in the USA

8 The Scottish Government: On collision course with London?
The whole point of the SNP being in government is to make Scotland independent. Perhaps not today or tomorrow, but at some point. So, while Alex Salmond will co-operate with the UK Government on some things, perhaps confrontation is inevitable. The SNP’s reason for existence is Scottish Independence. The SNP is now the Government of Scotland. Yet, since becoming FM Alex Salmond has gone to great lengths to appear conciliatory to the UK Prime Minister. It is all part of the SNP’s strategy to lose the tag of “wreckers” and win the trust of Scottish voters. Salmond said that even a completely independent Scotland, led by the SNP, would keep the Queen as monarch and keep Bank of England set interest rates in Scotland. Alex Salmond co-operated with Gordon Brown on UK wide security issues. Terrorists, after all, do not appreciate the nuances of the devolved settlement, as we saw in the attempted bombing of Glasgow airport. At the same time though, the SNP will push for greater powers for the Scottish parliament. As SNP supporters will point out, there is little point in having an SNP government if it cannot push forward Scottish independence. Alex Salmond, as an SNP gradualist and shrewd political operator will be reasonable and co-operative with Westminster when he feels it is in Scotland’s interest, but will, at the same time, for political reasons, look to expose what he sees as the disadvantages of devolution and the benefits, for England as well as Scotland, of Scottish independence.

9 The “National Conversation”
The National Conversation is an online discussion set up by the SNP Scottish Government. It is part of the SNP’s plans to hold a referendum on Scottish independence. The minority SNP Scottish Government has published a White paper on a proposed referendum on Scottish independence. The ballot would ask voters whether they agree or disagree “that the Scottish Government should negotiate a settlement with the Government of a United Kingdom so that Scotland becomes an independent state". If passed by the Scottish Parliament, this referendum would take place sometime before 2010, as promised in the SNP manifesto. It is highly unlikely that the White Paper, as it stands, will be passed. The majority of MSPs are opposed to Scottish independence. Alex Salmond however, has played his delivery of this key SNP manifesto promise shrewdly. SNP activists, and presumably voters, would like independence, but they know most MSPs are against it. There are 129 MSPs. The SNP can count on the votes of only their 47 MSPs, plus presumably the two Green MSPs and the independent Margo MacDonald. So are most MPs at Westminster and it is up to Westminster whether a Scottish Parliament gets any more powers at all, far less independence. But, Alex Salmond is asking for a " national conversation" about independence. This could result in other options for devolution, such as a federal settlement, or greater powers over finance. Salmond claims that other options, short of independence, are possible, if the public, and the political parties seek them. Labour, the main opposition party smells a rat. It sees any extension of the Scottish Parliament's powers by the SNP as the "slippery slope" to independence. On the other hand, the party cannot be seen to be "anti-Scottish" and resist reasonable arguments for extending the Parliament's powers. Alex Salmond is playing a long game. He knows independence is not possible in this Scottish Parliament. Perhaps in the next one. He cannot do nothing about Scottish independence. What point would there be in a SNP Scottish government if he did? But, he must keep the possibility of independence on the agenda. Hence the "national conversation" and an olive leaf to other political parties. The First Minister will also try to extend the powers of the Scottish Parliament that little bit more, wherever he can, in a "gradual" move the slacken the bonds of the UK. Salmond has also been extremely active in his first 100 days in putting an SNP stamp on Scottish government. Abolition of bridge tolls. Stopping hospital closures. Ending student graduation fees. All popular policies. With the main Opposition party, Labour, embroiled in leadership tussles, Alex Salmond will have even more time to put his stamp on Scottish government. The National Conversation

10 Funding Is the Barnett Formula fair?
Scotland at the moment receives its money from Westminster. Finance Secretary John Swinney is given an annual block grant based on the “Barnett formula”. The SNP would like Scotland to raise all of its own money and not be dependent on Westminster. This arrangement is usually referred to as “fiscal autonomy”. Many in England look to Scotland’s free personal care for the elderly, no tuition fees and the abolition of prescription charges and think Scotland gets too much from Barnett! Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore MP Scottish Finance Secretary, John Swinney MSP Above, Scottish Secretary of State, Michael Moore MP and John Swinney, Scottish Finance Minister The perceived 'unfairness' of the Barnett Formula is often raised in association with the West Lothian Question. English MPs feel Scotland, in comparison to English regions, does too well from the Barnett formula. Decisions by the Scottish Parliament to defer university tuition fees and introduce free personal care for the elderly have fuelled the arguments about how Scotland is financed. The SNP claims that Scotland does worse from Barnett. It also feels that Scotland should not be given “pocket money” from Westminster’s Scottish Secretary of State. The SNP would like not just the ability to vary tax by 3p in the pound, but full “fiscal autonomy”. The Liberal Democrats have called for reform to the Barnett Formula too. Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Alistair Carmichael MP said: “When even Lord Barnett is disowning the Barnett Formula, it is clear it has to go. “There is an urgent need to reform the way in which Scotland’s budget is set. “A full Constitutional Convention to examine expanding the powers of the Scottish Parliament, including greater control over Scotland’s finances, is urgently needed. “It is clear this is far and away the most popular option with the people of Scotland. If Gordon Brown is serious about constitutional change and increasing democracy, he cannot fail to act.” Is the Barnett Formula fair?

11 The Calman Commission SNP response to Calman Commission
The Calman Commission was the Unionist parties response the National Conversation It examined whether the Scottish Parliament should get more powers within the UK It concluded that the UK Treasury should cut income tax by 10p in the £ for all workers in Scotland but that the block grant to Scotland be cut too. The Scottish Government should tax the Scottish people to meet the shortfall. Calman also supported more powers over air guns, drink driving and the speed limit. It also committed itself to ending the detention of children of failed asylum seekers. On 15 June 2009, the Commission on Scottish Devolution, usually referred to as the “Calman Commission” reported on its findings. Calman was the Unionist parties response to the SNP’s National Conversation. It aimed to see if, 10 years after devolution, there were new powers the Scottish Parliament could have, short of independence. Calman’s main conclusions are that Scotland should have greater powers over income tax in order to make its government more accountable. Calman said that the UK government should cut the rate of income tax by 10p across all tax bands in Scotland and Holyrood should make up the difference. Scotland would also get powers to regulate air guns, the national speed limit, and the drink-driving limit. Further new fiscal powers would cover air passenger duty, stamp duty land tax, the aggregates levy and landfill tax. It also recommends devolving to Holyrood, powers for the administration of Scottish elections, devolving the regulation of air guns, and creating "scope" for Holyrood and Westminster to agree changes to housing benefit and council tax benefit in Scotland. SNP response to Calman Commission

12 Referendum on Independence. Bring it On?
The SNP would like to hold a referendum on independence in 2011. Former Scottish Labour leader, Wendy Alexander, famously argued for the referendum to be held immediately. Labour, under Iain Gray, is now opposed to having a referendum as are the Scottish Conservatives and the Scottish Liberal Democrats. For the moment! Bring it on! Former Labour leader in the Scottish Parliament Wendy Alexander famously announced on tv in May 2007 that Alex Salmond should “bring on” a referendum on Scottish independence. This was widely believed to a gaffe of Alexander’s. Current Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray is not in favour of a referendum on independence. The SNP are pursuing a referendum in 2011 despite the fact the Referendum bill has little chance of success. A Neverendum?

13 The New British Politics
We now have a coalition Government at Westminster between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. Many would have expected confrontation between a Nationalist Scottish First Minister and a Unionist UK Prime Minister. The Conservatives have just 1 MP in Scotland. But, PM David Cameron stated that he wanted a “fresh start” with the Scottish Parliament. He visited the Scottish Parliament just days after becoming Prime Minister. A Fresh Start?

14 The Respect Agenda First Minister welcomes the Prime Minister
The Conservatives have to work hard to win the trust of the people of Scotland. That’s why I’m here. PM David Cameron. I’d rather have a respect agenda than a dis-respect agenda. FM Alex Salmond. First Minister welcomes the Prime Minister

15 Holyrood Demands FM Alex Salmond will want more substance in the run up to the 2011 Scottish election. He will want Westminster to compromise on; The fossil fuel levy Accelerated capital spending funds Knock on money from the Olympic Games Borrowing powers for the Scottish Parliament. The decision by Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg to hold the UK referendum on a new voting system on the same day as the Scottish Parliament elections (May ) was described as “ an act of dis-respect” by Scottish Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop.

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