Pete (pjc50) wrote,

Smith commission

Quick review of

First section is basic constitutional bugfixing. In particular para 21 prevents the Scottish parliament from being abolished. It gets some, but not all, of the powers relating to its own establishment and election.

Para 18 v important: "It is agreed that nothing in this report prevents Scotland becoming an independent country in the future should the people of Scotland so choose". Door not closed.

Para 19 transfer of administrative powers: could transfer of executive but not legislative power cause strange results?

Intergovernmental machinery: mostly meetings about meetings and agreements about agreements.

Para 32 devolution of the Crown Estate. This is a big one, relating to shoreline management and its natural resources including renewable energy, oil and gas, and fishery infrastructure. Having watched "On Weir's Way" I've seen how some of the more remote villages are literally built on the shore and depend on Crown Estate infrastructure such as piers.

First sign of an anti-Nat trap in that this power should be further devolved to local authority areas. Difficult to object to this in principle, but what are the revenue/cost implications? Will profitable bits of the Crown estate no longer subsidise unprofitable bits in different local authorities?

Para 36 BBC accountable to Holyrood. This is going to be hilarious. I predict outrage from some of the more vehemently anti-Nat BBC staff.

Para 38 OFCOM: probably beneficial to rural broadband. Similarly devolved accountability for marine agencies (boring to me, probably important to the Islands) and OFGEM (potentially a big plus for renewables).

Pensions and Universal Credit reserved. Power to twiddle with housing a bit. Again this is more likely to devolve costs. If the SG has to get involved with the Universal Credit IT disaster that could be expensive.

Devolution of disability payments on the other hand is a big one. That was a major campaigning point, at least locally - the unfairness of ATOS and the dire economic and physical condition of disabled people. There is also a general power to top up benefits.

Small section on embryology and genetics, Dolly the Sheep passim.

Para 63 tribunals: big power, very welcome and very sensible given the separate Scottish legal system. This seems to include employment tribunals, which have been sabotaged lately in E&W by the introduction of fees.

Para 65 public sector bid for rail franchises! It's not clear if this is limited to rail franchises in Scotland only, or whether ScotBahn will be able to bid for the entire ECML. As Laura points out, this comes immediately after the ECML has been reprivatised and handed to Virgin and the ScotRail franchise has also just been renewed. This is an important power but will take a while to take effect. Also, at Scotland's own expense.

Para 66 road signs woo yay big deal there guys

Para 68 sounds like a mess.

Oil and gas devolution! But only for onshore. And some fracking licenses have already been granted and are presumably non-revokeable. We now get to have the argument over jobs vs environment on fracking in the Scottish parliament.

73, 74 small but important bits of anti-poverty power.

Devolution of income tax! Again this is a big one, and it carries a large potential downside as well. Now we get to have arguments about tax competition and disputes over residency.

Most other taxes reserved: boo! Can't say I'm surprised. Devolution of income tax and some of VAT is better than I was expecting.

Air Passenger Duty: another one of those issues like air rifles which I find it hard to get excited about either way.

Para 95 Mandatory Free Lunch: while it might be possible to set things up so that there's no change in the budgets on the day of transfer, this won't be the case in the future. One side of the border will end up doing better than the other. Scotland gets the downside risk as well as the possible upsides of this. This is the large carpet under which the details, and a few potential landmines, have been swept. Needs further analysis.

Unstated assumption: the Smith Commission is not a legislative body. This package will need to be legislated by whoever wins Westminster in 2015. That might be a Tory-UKIP coalition wrestling with a possible Euro referendum, or it might be Labour government with a confidence and supply deal from the SNP.
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