Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Swinney squirms as Rennie quizzes him on SNP Calman dithering and delay

I've just been taking a wee look at yesterday's Scotland Bill Committee meeting at Holyrood which heard evidence from John Swinney and Bruce Crawford from the SNP Government.

Willie Rennie, the Liberal Democrat member of that committee, took them to task for the way in which they have behaved throughout the whole Calman process. They did next to nothing (and then, out of the blue, they come out with a whole series of demands that they hadn't thrown into the mix before.

To me, it's a bit like they're treating the constitutional process like putting up one of these pop up tent things, rather than actually looking at this rationally and with consideration.

When Calman was set up in 2007, the SNP had absolutely nothing to do with it. Had I been leading the party, I'd have made sure that I put a clear case to the Commission for exactly what additional powers they wanted. I'd have tried to get into the debate with ideas for greater powers.

But, no. The only engagement the Government had with Calman came in 2009 after they were dragged kicking and screaming to it by Jeremy Purvis as part of the Budget negotiations. As Tavish Scott explained at the time in an e-mail to party members:
The SNP have changed their position and will now engage with the Calman Commission. This is the best way to get extra powers for the Scottish Parliament. It will allow, for example, the Forth Bridge to be paid for without jeopardising every other transport project in Scotland. Professor John Curtice told the BBC on Sunday that this concession could be the "most interesting long-term consequence of all of this." 
At the time, though, the stuff the SNP Government sent to Calman was fairly limited - to do with tax powers anda report that came out of their National Monologue. Nothing about broadcasting, or the sea bed or the likes.

Fast forward a bit to the formation of the Coalition Government and Mike Moore as Secretary of State was seeking consensus on implementing the Calman Powers. Our normally sweet and mild mannered Finance Secretary Mr Swinney was talking about it being a poison pill. When the Bill was announced, he called it dangerous, and one of his colleagues described it as a dog's dinner.  So the SNP were against the Scotland Bill before they were for it, voting for the Legislative Consent Memorandum in March and their MPs didn't oppose it in the Commons last week.

Their thinking seems to be quite muddled. With one hand they say the Scotland Bill is dangerous, yet they support it. They want the borrowing powers but they also want to reserve the right to give the Coalition a kicking for not including powers they've only asked for in the last few weeks. It would be much more credible if they'd engaged with this from the start. Coming in at this stage with a list of demands seems to be a bit opportunistic, to be honest. Why didn't they want their ideas subjected to considered scrutiny by both Calman and the House of Commons and Parliament? You have to wonder.

David McLetchie asked Bruce Crawford if the Government would be filing formal amendments to the Bill in Holyrood and Crawford indicated that they probably wouldn't be. They know that without the Bill, they don't get the borrowing powers that they want - but, if the whole package was so dangerous and canine evening meal-ish,and they felt it wasn't in Scotland's best interests, why don't they oppose it.

The chomping sound you hear is the SNP trying to have its cake and eat it.

For a party that's so into the idea of independence, their grasp of detail, as we saw from Anne McLaughlin's knowledge of how many air bases we'd need in an independent Scotland is pretty ropey. It's not Anne's fault - the party as a whole doesn't seem to have thought it all through.

They've got themselves in a bit of a bourach, really, and Willie Rennie showed their lack of clarity up.


Anonymous said...

What rubbish Caron.

I can understand the bunker mentality in the LibDems just now but that's surely no excuse for your blog's new found sycophancy.

Did you forget that the SNP was returned to government with a strengthened mandate between their first submission and recent proposals?

If the Calman proposals were so good, why on earth did all the parties that supported them get such a kicking in May?

Just like the bad old days in the late 70s when David Steel could have forced the establishment of a Scottish Parliament as the price for the Lib-Lab pact so the LibDems could today force through the aforementioned's proposals for devolution as the price of the coalition.

Once more the Libs show their true colours when in a position of influence at Westminster.

Get your own house in order before you start pointing the finger elsewhere. Why are you not implementing the recommendations of the Steel Commission?

Anonymous said...

Fib Dems doing what they do best - making up BIG FAT PORKEIS!!


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