Original article was first published on Christopher's blog (Thank you!)
Late but in Earnest: To the Smith Commission, with love from Catalonia
Dear Members of the
I live in Catalonia, one of millions of Scots living abroad.
Scots abroad are the ambassadors of Scotland. We talk about
Scotland to neighbours, friends and colleagues. We support Scotland in debates
about anything from football to fisheries. We promote Scotland, Scottish
products and places. We welcome Scots to our homes, and help Scots in need.
We could not vote in the Referendum, but by goodness we care
about the place we still call "home."
Situation in Scotland; Issues
1.1 Power, and
There is little that links the people of Scotland to those in
power in the UK.
Scottish affairs occupy very little of Westminster's time
and appear to be of little interest. This lack of interest comes from the top:
Prime Minister Cameron was absent from Parliament for debates on 6th May 2014:
Wales Bill/Scotland Wales symmetry, 25 Mar 2014: Disenfranchisement debate, 29
Nov 2012: Scotland and the union, 15/3/2011: Scotland Bill and 7/3/2011:
Scotland Bill. Between 2004 and 2010 he mentioned Scotland in the Commons an
average of just three times per year, including two years in which he never
spoke about Scotland at all (source: Hansard).
Local Government and local democracy is in a poor condition
in Scotland. The abolition of the Parish Councils, the County Councils, and the
District and Regional Councils has pushed democracy further and further from
the people. Politics in Scotland feels (excluding the brief moment of
sovereignty that was the Referendum) like a very distant place.
The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation showed us what we
already knew - there is deep, widespread poverty in Scotland. People who live
in Ferguslie Park, Possil Park or other deprived areas of Scotland are three
times as likely to be unemployed and if they are unemployed, almost five times
as likely to be sick and unemployed as folk living in the least deprived areas
Poverty needs local solutions, and the UK Government in
Westminster has shown itself to be unable to deal with Scotland's poverty.
The Westminster Government has followed its US allies into a
succession of wars, principally in the Middle East. It maintains and is about
to renew its Trident nuclear missile system, based close to Glasgow. The cost
of these adventures is awful in human lives. It is also economically
destructive. The Trident Commission Final Report, July 2014, states that the
cost of replacing Trident is "£2.9bn in 2012 figures, or 9.4% of the
defence budget" over 20 years.
Scotland’s share of £2.9 billion per annum over twenty years
(the Trident Commission predicts that the actual cash cost will rise to a
maximum £4bn per annum) is money that could be going to education, health or
the alleviation of poverty.
1.4 Oil, Gas,
The Scottish Parliament does not control licensing for oil
extraction in the North Sea...nor for fracking under the Scottish Central Belt.
The Scottish government does not control the tax revenues arising from these
activities, meaning that it cannot use licensing and taxation to manage
extraction, nor can the people of Scotland benefit in any way other than the
direct or indirect employment these industries create. This is a situation very
similar to the extraction of raw materials in the Global South, where nations
are left in poverty despite the extraction of valuable mineral wealth.
Scotland is poorly represented overseas. We had direct
experience of this here in Spain during the weeks before the Referendum when a
group of Scots in Spain had to ask the British Ambassador in Madrid, Simon J
Manley CMG, to cease tweeting comments against the Yes campaign. He replied
that he "articulated Her Majesty's Government's views on this
subject." [Source, letter from Simon J Manley, 24 June 2014]. He did not
articulate the views of many in Scotland.
The distinctly Scottish voice on foreign affairs, including
the Scottish orientation toward the Nordic states and the EU, and the Scottish
thinking on a range of topics from energy to migration are not adequately
represented by the UK’s Ambassadors.
1.6 EU and
Catalonia and Scotland have much in common, including a
positive view of the benefits of EU membership. This positive view is not
shared by many in England and there is now the real possibility that
Westminster could remove Scotland from membership of the EU, against its democratically
"We are all immigrants", the first line of The
Scots - a Genetic Journey (http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Scots-A-Genetic-Journey/dp/1780270321),
reminds us that Scotland has immigration needs that are not shared by England. We
have more universities per head than any other country in the world. Access to
these wonderful universities is being hampered by the UK-wide single policy on
immigration. Scotland has land that it could share and an ageing population
that needs balancing with younger people; we have space, and the need, for more
democracy in Scotland
People in Scotland should feel that they have a say in how
their local area, their region and their nation is run. Those in power locally,
regionally and nationally should know (not just morally, but constitutionally,
and legally) that they are responsible to their electors
Only the powers that absolutely have to remain at
Westminster should do so – the principle of subsidiarity. Westminster should
retain powers over foreign affairs and defence, within the provisos below. All
other powers - including all forms of taxation and State income generation, and
all forms of expenditure - should be devolved to the Scottish people and their
Scotland’s government should have a constitutional
requirement to reduce poverty. A simple threshold would suffice – for example,
to reduce poverty to the levels experienced in a basket of Nordic states.
Scotland's defence needs are simpler and cheaper than those
of England, with a focus on inshore patrols and no need for an A-bomb deterrent.
Scotland should enter a military alliance with England and Wales, with an
agreed level of participation by Scottish regiments, air force and navy units,
and an agreed budget. Scottish taxpayers would not have to support
Westminster's defence programme, and as a symbol of this new alliance,
Westminster should remove its Trident missile system from Scotland.
Scotland's wealth of natural resources should be used to
benefit the people who live there. Oil and gas licensing including licensing
for fracking, and all oil/gas taxation revenues should be managed in Scotland
by the Scottish Parliament, with a proportion representing the English
geographic share of oilfields in North Sea waters being paid to the Exchequer
in London. Tax revenues from hydro, wind, tidal, biomass and other renewable energy
systems should also be received and managed by the Scottish Parliament. The
levels of tax and subsidy should be set by the Scottish Parliament.
Scotland's viewpoint is different from that of England or
Wales. The UK should have formal structures through which Scotland's views on
foreign affairs are expressed, including a Scottish Foreign Affairs committee
in the UK Parliament, and a substantial, influential Scottish Foreign Affairs
office within the FO.
Scottish High Commissions - a form of Embassy - should be
established in countries with large Scottish communities and in countries such
as India with large migrant populations in Scotland. Their role would be to
promote Scottish trade and exports, promote Scottish interests in the country
and region, and to provide a hub for migrant families in Scotland and migrant
Scots abroad. Scottish High Commissions should be established in the USA,
Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Belgium (Brussels, EU), Spain,
United Arab Emirates, India, Pakistan, China, Australia and New Zealand.
The Commission could consider a settlement that allowed
Scotland to remain in the EU even if England chose to leave. The relationship
between the Channel Islands and England provides a constitutional model; one nation
outside the EU, the other inside, and both linked together by the Crown.
Scotland's distinct needs should be reflected in different
policies. Specific categories of permitted immigrant to Scotland should be
created so that students and young economic migrants from outside the EU could
live in Scotland. This is similar to the situation in Canada where individual
territories set immigration policies relevant to their needs, within an agreed
powers and responsibilities
Devolving powers and responsibilities to Scotland would
recover democracy there, and that in turn would mean a stronger society, a stronger
civil society, and a greater degree of social cohesion. These are social goods
with an economic value that will repay the investment in time and money
required to build them.
The necessary first steps are in the fields of taxation and
revenue generation, meaning that all taxation revenues from oil and gas, as
well as income taxes, land and corporation taxes, and sales taxes would flow to
a Scottish Exchequer. With this flow of funds Scotland could afford to build a
stronger democracy and to tackle the many causes of poverty.
With power over all forms of taxation and the economy, with
a peace dividend arising from a new arrangement for defence, and with a powerful
say in foreign affairs, Scotland could thrive. Without these powers it remains,
as now, at the whim of a Parliament focused on other issues, other places, and
Thank you for considering this submission.