Prime Minister lays out Devolution Agenda
Dylan Macmillan spoke in Scotland to Scottish Conservatives, laying out a new devolutionary settlement for the eventuality that Scotland votes to remain in the United Kingdom.
Trust in politics is at an all time low. Cash for honours, the expenses scandal, and now Cambelgate have, successively, undermined opinion in politicians to the point now where people are seriously considering more radical alternatives such as an independent Scotland. It is our job to come together as politicians in this difficult time and do whatever it takes to ensure the security and togetherness of our United Kingdom, to the Conservative Party this means compromise and it means a new constitutional settlement for our nation. This country was founded as a brotherhood, old enemies made better friends and we have done far more together than we could ever have done apart. The UK stood as a bulwark against the twin terrors of Fascism and Communism, each responsible in their own ways for the deaths of many millions of people, in our unity there is strength and as a collective we are far more than the sum of our parts.
Recently there has been a lot of talk about the Scottish Independence Referendum, it is my intention as Prime Minister to prevent the Yes result that would break up our union, that is why I am proud that Conservative MPs, MSPs, and members stand with their opposite numbers from all pro-union parties. But cross-party consensus on this issue may not be enough to get us over the line, everyone knows how quickly polls can change afterall. What this country needs right now is something more radical, what this country needs is devo-max for Scotland along with reciprocal deals for Wales and Northern Ireland. Today I will outline the Government’s pitch to three of the United Kingdom’s four members in the hope that through a slightly different relationship with each other we may in fact remain whole and as a family of nations. This legislation will be tabled by Her Majesty’s Government after the Scottish Referendum if Scotland votes to remain a member of the United Kingdom and will have our complete support through the Houses of Parliament.
The Scottish Parliament is one of the most powerful devolved legislatures in the history of the United Kingdom, it is however due an upgrade in terms of what it can and cannot do. Scotland needs to be able to compete and forge its own destiny within the United Kingdom, that means it needs the power to make real economic decisions that have the power to give you a degree of fiscal autonomy from the rest of the United Kingdom. Under this Government’s proposals the Scottish Parliament shall be given complete discretion over all matter of Income Tax; your MSPs will have the power to set the rates, the thresholds, and the allowances, for every single Scottish taxpayer. Furthermore the Scottish Parliament shall be given the power to lower or raise Corporation Tax by 5% from the UK baseline set in the Chancellor’s Budget. That means that Scotland will be able to choose whether to cut Corporation Tax to attract jobs, or whether to raise it and spend it on the issues that matter most to the Scottish Government. These powers are not granted lightly, but the Scottish people deserve the right to have a shot at re-energising an economy and a government budget that is statistically in a higher deficit than the rest of the United Kingdom.
Of course there’s more to a government and a parliament’s job than just setting taxes and counting the money. Governments are political in nature and they have an enormous say on the constitution of the area that they have jurisdiction over. As such it is high time that certain decisions were devolved to the Scottish people and their representatives as well. This government plans to give the Scottish Parliament complete control over the voting method used in Scottish Parliamentary elections subject to a two-thirds plus one vote requirement and control over the voting age, giving MSPs the ability to give the vote to 16 year olds if they so wish to. And then of course there will be a new provision in UK law added to ensure that the Scottish Parliament cannot be dissolved without an express referendum of the Scottish people. The Scottish Parliament, much like devolution, is a part of our constitutional framework and will continue to be so ad infinitum without a direct order to the contrary from the people of Scotland themselves.
The message here is simple, like the Conservative and Unionist Party that currently runs it Her Majesty’s Government is completely committed to the continuation of our United Kingdom, we will do whatever it takes to ensure that one of the oldest nations in the World remain intact and whole going forward into the new millennium. Unlike the Labour Party who want to use the Independence Referendum for political aims and risk the breakup of the UK to try and shore up their fragile polling north of the border the Conservative Party have a proven track record of working with other parties in the national interest. In 2010 when the chips were down and Britain needed leadership we swallowed our pride and worked with the Liberal Democrats in coalition, now in 2014 the chips are down again and we are working with the Lib Dems and a decidedly tepid Labour Party to ensure that our country continues as a family of nations. The whole of the United Kingdom wants to see Scotland succeed because when one part of the UK succeeds we all succeed, through our unity benefits reaped in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast benefit us all whether we live in any of those cities or none of them. Under this Government Scotland will be given the freedom and the autonomy that it needs to thrive throughout the 21st Century and beyond. Don’t buy the SNP lie that to succeed Scotland needs to isolate itself, and don’t buy the Labour lie that for Scotland to thrive it needs a Labour Government, the best way forward for Scotland lies in the Government’s plan for a new constitutional settlement and it rests firmly within the United Kingdom as one part of the family of equals.
Conservative MP for North East Bedfordshire
Leader of the Opposition
Prime Minister (2014)
Parliamentary Experience: Novice (21)
Media Experience: Capable (58)
Policy Experience: Novice (29)
This is a good overture from Macmillan. Honestly, I think this doesn't have too much force in Scotland - yet - on these complex issues you're always going to need more than a single speech with popular policies thrown about to gain support. I think where this does well it throwing those bones to the kind of people who originally supported you and are wondering if the compromises you're making in power are taking away the sheen: the statement of "I'm still that Macmillan" resonates strongly, and it's worthwhile because it will need to be sent out to the whole UK electorate who are, at least on the whole, warm to Macmillan.
As I said, just announcing popular policies does not win elections (if so, the magic formula to winning an election would be to run on a policy platform of 'nationalise everything, a referendum on the EU and bring back the death penalty' ...) but this is a strong first overture. I think this mostly works in putting Labour on the offensive now: we know what the Tories have to offer, we definitely know what the SNP want... so what're you going to do?