What is good for the Scottish goose should also be good for the Welsh gander, says Gareth Hughes.
David Cameron has endorsed giving more powers to Scotland, should they vote ‘no’ in September’s referendum. He said this on the back of a report from his Scottish party. saying amongst other things that the Treasury should hand complete powers over income tax to Holyrood. More particularly the setting of rates and bands for income tax in Scotland would be decided by MSPs. Mr Cameron is endorsing a move that his Government is refusing to grant to Wales.
If he is really serious about devolution he could back Andrew RT Davies, the Welsh Conservative party leader’s call for the full implementation of the Silk Commission proposals on income tax by removing the lock step that stops Wales varying the rates of tax in the individual tax bands. He could amend the Welsh bill going through both Houses of Parliament to put this into effect. But don’t hold your breath.
It’s dawning on Westminster politicians that a No vote is not a done deal. That’s why the Prime Minister is happy to endorse these latest proposal, which amount to devo max. How he must now regret his insistence on it being a yes/no referendum and no question on “devo max” a position that most Scottish voters support. But that’s by the by.
Belatedly the three Westminster are now competing with each other to offer more and more to Scotland. Gordon Brown believes that the pro-UK parties should introduce new devolved Scottish tax powers speedily in the event of a no vote in September. Now of course these offers are being made to bribe the Scots to stay in the Union. But if the proposals are sensible, they have equal validity for Wales.
The Conservatives having opposed all things devolved, have had a Damascus like conversion, they would now seem to be far away the most devolutionist of the unionist parties. Ok, they have recognized that devolution is here to stay. And now devo-max is an option that the Tories are happy to endorse. But what is good for the Scottish goose should also be good for the Welsh gander.
If Mr Cameron is able to convince the Scottish voter that he’s sincere, he undermines the SNP contention that a Tory Westminster government spells the end for further devolution. If the voters of Scotland believe him it’s a boost to the No campaign. But proof of that sincerity should not have to wait until September. Devolution is more than just about Scotland. The Prime Minister should set up the constitutional convention, as called for by Carwyn Jones, now.
Granting Scotland additional powers has implications for Wales, Northern Ireland and for England. The debate should start now, not after the event. It Scotland is going to have extensive powers over their finance their will be impact for Wales. Let’s debate it now.
The IWA is organising a conference on the implications of the Scottish referendum vote for Wales on the afternoon of September 11th at the Wales Millennium Centre. Details will be on the IWA website in the coming days