The Devo Plus group have published the third in their series of papers.
‘A New Union’ includes specific recommendations for the delivery of the long term constitutional relationship. They include:
- the Westminster Parliament permanently vesting the power to legislate for non reserved matters in Scotland to the Scottish Parliament;
- the Scottish Parliament established permanently to that it can only be dissolved if it so agrees;
- the authority of the Scottish Parliament to raise the majority of its expenditure recognised in statute; and
- means of adjustment to the agreement, and resolutions of dispute recognised in statute.
The key aim is to secure a constitutional framework whereby the Scottish institutions of government are permanent and exist in their own right – not simply for as long as a Westminster Parliament desires it. They argue this will give those who vote No in the referendum a secure route to greater devolution. It requires the parties who do not support independence to sign up to a Statement of the New Union, include the principles in their 2015 manifestos and then delivering in government.
There is a clever attempt to get around A.V. Dicey’s classic public law statement that ‘Parliament is not bound by its predecessor’. The mechanism is to use the Statute of Westminster 1931 precedent in relation to the dominions. They also point to the watering down of Dicey in recent years. This section reminded me of the classic first year law student essay that I and many others had to write. I suspect nice argument, but no, is the answer.
The focus as ever with Devo Plus is on process, not what the powers are to be used for. When they touch on substantive issues it is inevitably about tax. The concept of ‘moral hazard’ underpins Reform Scotland, the group’s backers, approach. I disagree that this should be the driver. However, it is a well argued paper and solid contribution to the debate.