Sunday, 20 September 2009

An Evolution of Devolution #ldconf

This morning I was in the hall bright and breezy for the Future of Devolution debate which was moved by Alistair Carmichael MP. When I say bright and breezy not quite early enough to hear Alistair moving the motion, after all it isn't every day one turns forty, but present for the rest of it.

It started with Simon Hughes moving an Amendment calling for:

"Urgent initiatives to address the democratic for England, and the replacement of the Barnett formula for allocation funding to the countries of the UK with a needs-based formula."

This was accepted by the Welsh and Scottish Lib Dems who were the movers of the motion. But as the MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark pointed out, there is a desire for more power in England. It may end up with a devolution to a 4th larger nation, but that is an issue the details of which need to be addressed. If we as Lib Dems with our Federal nature don’t deal with it, it will play up to the cause of English Nationalism, rather than the reverse case as put by some of our opponents.

There then followed a stream of familiar Scottish faces, some excellent Welsh ones and a few English ones. First up for Bev Hope who pointed out quite correctly that "Scotland doesn't need independence, doesn't want independence, and wouldn't benefit from independence". She also said we have to set out our stall clearly as we are up against as very clear and concise message, we need to lose the jargon and tell the people in accessible terms what we want for them, and for them to have.

She was followed by another first time speaker at Federal Conference who bookmarked his speech in Welsh, as he said the language of heaven. He called for the need for respect for Wales, so that people would stay or come home to Wales rather than being lost to jobs in London. Urging us all to chose a different devolution for a better future.

Kevin Lang the PPC for Edinburgh North and Leith was the next to speak. He said that now was the time to have the debate on independence because under a proper debate (i.e. not the national soliloquy) with proper and true analysis we would win the argument of what Scotland wants and needs. We should therefore support a referendum so that we can put this issue to bed for a generation.

Frank Kindel from the NE of England, welcomed Simon's amendment but stated that the people of NE England didn't want to have one form of government from Westminster replaced with another. If there was to be a move to devolution in England it had to address those issues. Roger Roberts of Abercowry then rose to speak of the need that even with devolution we have to address the issue of borders. The people of North Wales rely on the hospitals of Liverpool, also tend to use Manchester and Chester. The net result is that although they have their own provisions given by the Welsh Assembly they have to work with the neighbouring region which is in a different country for some of their provision. The issue of devolution doesn't merely end at the borders, something that those that want independence often overlook. He also pointed out that we should trust the Tories especially on powers for the devolved bodies, nor for that matter on anything else. He called for us to embrace an evolution of devolution.

George Lyon MEP for Scotland then pointed out that Donald Dewar had said that devolution was a process not an event. But what was a shame in Scotland was that the minsters on both side of the border were no longer talking to one another, things were being dealt with in isolation which wasn't in the best interests of Scotland. If the SNP were prepared to work with the UK Parliament they could have a booming voice in Europe but they don't and only have their three voices. The SNP are wanting the UK to fail in Europe and Scotland to fail in the UK for their own selfish ends.

Mark Hunter MP for Cheadle pointed out that the opening lines of the motion:

"Conference believes that Scotland and Wales are distinct nations with distinct identities and longstanding political, cultural and social identities."

Applied to England too and must not be overlooked.

Kirsty Williams AM summating welcomed the amendment bringing the English devolution question to the motion. But added it would be presumptuous for the Welsh and Scottish parties to tell the English party how to best go about doing that. She called on them to get it together for next time and bring the debate to the floor. Now there is a challenge if ever I heard one, and one that fits into our Federalist nature.


  1. Is anybody actually speaking for England and the English?

    I read the usual "regional" drivel from a "North Westerner", but little else.

    Every MP misrepresenting an English constituency should be ashamed of him/her self.

    Not a chance of that emotion though. The LibLabCon coalition is institutionally Anglophobic.

    Each LibLabCon MP has "I hate England" written through him/her like a stick of rock.

  2. Yet more mixed up thinking form the Illiberal Democrats.

    ANy view son dropping the abolition of tuition fee's Stephen?

  3. Yes. Tuition fees should be implemented in Scotland. The English can no longer pay for the benefits Celts enjoy.

    BTW the Barnett Formula is merely the tip of the iceberg sinking England. Jobs have been pouring into Scotland. HMCR's bank account is now in RBS's hands since being removed from the Bank of England. Tuition fees for English students are administered by a Scottish company, to add insult to injury. Unclaimed baby bonds are run by a Scottish friendly society. Add the movement of shipbuilding and armed services jobs as well as many others from England to Scotland and the benefits to Celts at English expense are increased substantially.

    The English pay, but have no say. If the UK is to survive then it must be as a fully federal system with each devolved national parliament having full fiscal control over its respective nation, including the nation of England. The UK government can then be funded from each devolved government. Any shortfall can then be negotiated between the respective devolved parliaments.

    Full clarity will result so we can all see whom is poncing off who.

  4. Hi guys sorry I've just around to looking at the comments, busy day.

    Neil, first off as you know I am one of the few who has allowed your comments through as I believe in free speach. But your rhetoric is always the same and always off topic promoting your own agenda, hence forth I am considering it spam unless it directly is relevant to the issue at hand.

    I have given you prior warning, so you should not have any complaint that the above post has now been deleted.

  5. Stephen, first off the motion had the amendment to include the issue of English devolution. But as Kirsty William said in her summation, it is not for the Scots or Welsh to tell the English how to go about it, though of course we are examples of practise. Though I do echo the call for the English Party to bring a motion to conference and lets have an update on policy to move that debate on.

    Wardog, it appears we cannot win. We have Scots calling for a referendum for the people from the platform and we are called illiberal. I'm bemused.

    As for what is paid for in Scotland, yes the Barnett formula needs revisiting. Even the man himslef says so. However, how the money that any region of the UK ends up getting is spent it up the the adminstration of that region, or should be. We can and should survive with different spending priorities in the devolved areas. I'm all for decentralising that ability to the people who know best.

    Stephen you are forgetting one thing in you list of things. The Scottish Banks (including the RBS), and indeed the largest Building Society are now largely owned by the UK people.

  6. The final thing I need to address is the issue of Tuition fees which I am doing seperately.

    It remains policy to do away with Tuition fees. The issue is we have to be honest with the British people about what in the current climate we can afford. The Lib Dems for the last three General Elections have been the only party with a independent fully costed and audited manifesto. We intend to do so again. What our spending priorites are is currently a far too dynamic issue.

    We are not going to promise the earth like the Tories and not unveil details on some areas until late next year after the election. We are not going to say we'll do nothing. The people deserve honesty, they have been tightening their belts and the public purse needs to do likewise.

    What we are looking at is those that are most vulnerable and how we can help them. We want to keep as many of our pledges to them as possible and looking at how we can afford to do so. Students, the low paid and the elderly are key areas that fit into the group we want to help as best we can. It may come in stages, it may come intially where the greatest need is. We have to be aware, honest and blunt.

    We are in a mess financial, though not as Cameron says 'bankrupt'. We will do all we can, nothing has changed as far as policy is concerned apart from votes at Conference this week. We have many long term policies that we have yet to implement even after years of powersharing in Scotland, it does not make them any less a policy.

  7. Only just got round to seeing this - I actually submitted an amendment to this motion calling on our Federal Policy Committee to bring forward proposals on addressing the centralised and unaccountable nature of government in England, but it was rejected by conference committee. Hopefully this subject will return at a future conference.